Guangxu, the second to last emperor of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), is best known for his unsuccessful attempt to modernize China by instituting reforms to the system of government in 1898. The so-called Hundred Days Reform aimed to adopt a constitutional monarchy.
The reforms turned out to be short-lived, just like the emperor himself. On November 11, 1908, the 37-year-old emperor died suddenly in the Summer Palace where he had been under house arrest since 1898, when the Empress Dowager Cixi launched a coup against him. Even though the death was officially announced to be caused by disease, it has been the subject of speculation.
Even in his own day, the cause of death was disputed. The emperor’s doctor’s diary recorded that Guangxu had “spells of violent stomach ache”, with his face turning blue. Such symptoms are consistent with arsenic poisoning. Actually, three persons were suspected behind the murder. The empress, her eunuch Li Lianying, and general Yuan Shikai, who betrayed Guangxu in the last days of the reforms and directly caused their failure.