Imperial Consort Zhen (珍妃) (February 27, 1876 - August 15, 1900), posthumously known as Imperial Noble Consort Ke-Shun (恪顺皇贵妃), popularly, but incorrectly, known as the "Pearl Concubine", was a concubine of the Guangxu Emperor (b.1871-d.1908) of the Manchu Qing Dynasty in China.
Consort Zhen was the favourite consort of the Guangxu Emperor. She entered the Forbidden City in 1888. Soon after that, on February 25, 1889 she was granted the title of "Concubine Zhen" (Concubine Precious).
At the beginning, Empress Dowager Cixi very much appreciated Consort Zhen's talents, and hired China's top artisans to teach her painting and playing musical instruments. However, Consort Zhen urged the Emperor to be "strong and independent", and encouraged his attempts to reform and learn foreign languages. It was also said that Consort Zhen liked photography, and invited westerners into the Forbidden City to learn more about it. This explains the extant photographs of Consort Zhen, an unusual occurrence for an Imperial Consort. Her association with foreign customs, in addition to her peculiar habit of dressing in men's clothes, inspired even more disdain from Empress Dowager Cixi. Once, in response to her arrogant attitude, Empress Dowager Cixi teased Consort Zhen by calling her "Grandma Zhen". However, after her cooperation with Emperor Guangxu to stage a military coup attempting to force Empress Dowager Cixi giving up her power, Consort Zhen was imprisoned.
During the invasion of the Eight-Nation Alliance in 1900, the Imperial Court fled from the Forbidden City to Xi'an. Cixi ordered Consort Zhen to be taken out of the prison and brought in front of her. Cixi said: "I originally planned to bring you along with us. But you are young and pretty, and are likely be raped by the foreign soldiers on the way. I trust you know what you should do." Realizing that Empress Dowager Cixi meant to order her commit suicide, Consort Zhen begged Empress Dowager Cixi to allow the Emperor to stay in Beijing and negotiate with the foreign powers. Infuriated with her, Empress Dowager Cixi finally ordered Consort Zhen to be thrown into a well behind the Ningxia Palace in the north-eastern part of the Forbidden City.
However, according to Cixi's modern defender Sterling Seagrave, this dramatic story was invented by writer Edmund Backhouse, who was responsible for many of the myths about the empress. In actuality, Cixi left Peking before August 14. Seagrave says the Pearl Concubine's fate is unknown, but it is possible that she "was done in by the eunuchs on their own initiative, or flung herself down the well."