The most powerful woman of her time, her actual power surpassed that of her contemporary, Queen Victoria. The Dowager Empress Cixi ruled as de facto empress of China, in the name first of her son and then of her nephew. When she stepped back and her nephew instituted many reforms, she returned to power to establish more traditional rule.
In this photograph, the Empress has dressed as the bodhisattva Guan Yin (Kwan Yin or Kuan Yin), also known as the Chinese goddess of compassion.
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Image: Getty Images / Hulton Archive / Apic