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The son of Empress Dowager Cixi, Tongzhi attempted political reform in the period of the Tongzhi Restoration . His reign name is a contraction of the classical phrase tonggui yu zhi (同歸與治), which means "to reform/restore together a state of order", although it has been interpreted as "to rule the state with an united mother/son team" (母子同治天下), which fits the description, as his mother, Empress Dowager Cixi, wielded the real power and ruled behind the scene. The Chinese political phrase "listening to political discussions behind a drawn curtain (垂簾聽政)", was based on events that happened during this period and is still used today.
Tongzhi became an emperor of the age of five when his father, Emperor Xianfeng passed away. His mother, Empress Dowager Cixi, his senior mother, Empress Dowager Ci'an, and his uncle, Prince Gong, became regents after getting rid of the former regent, Sushun.
Tongzhi married Lady Alute from a Mongol clan and died of smallpox at the age of 19. He had no sons to succeed him. There are those who say Tongzhi died from STD, in particular Syphilis (due to his alleged affairs with prostitutes outside of the palace), and that the smallpox diagnosis was given only because the mere discussions of STD in China is a taboo, even in present day. However, such an allegation cannot be substantiated with credible evidence.
A few months after Tongzhi's death, Empress Alute committed suicide.
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