Empress Dowager CIXI: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China

Empress Dowager CIXI: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China


By (author) Jung Chang

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  • Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group
  • Format: Hardback | 464 pages
  • Dimensions: 170mm x 236mm x 40mm | 880g
  • Publication date: 29 October 2013
  • ISBN 10: 0307271609
  • ISBN 13: 9780307271600
  • Illustrations note: 16 pages of photographs
  • Sales rank: 61,273

Product description

A "New York Times" Notable Book Empress Dowager Cixi (1835-1908) is the most important woman in Chinese history. She ruled China for decades and brought a medieval empire into the modern age. At the age of sixteen, in a nationwide selection for royal consorts, Cixi was chosen as one of the emperor's numerous concubines. When he died in 1861, their five-year-old son succeeded to the throne. Cixi at once launched a palace coup against the regents appointed by her husband and made herself the real ruler of China--behind the throne, literally, with a silk screen separating her from her officials who were all male. In this groundbreaking biography, Jung Chang vividly describes how Cixi fought against monumental obstacles to change China. Under her the ancient country attained virtually all the attributes of a modern state: industries, railways, electricity, the telegraph and an army and navy with up-to-date weaponry. It was she who abolished gruesome punishments like "death by a thousand cuts" and put an end to foot-binding. She inaugurated women's liberation and embarked on the path to introduce parliamentary elections to China. Chang comprehensively overturns the conventional view of Cixi as a diehard conservative and cruel despot. Cixi reigned during extraordinary times and had to deal with a host of major national crises: the Taiping and Boxer rebellions, wars with France and Japan--and an invasion by eight allied powers including Britain, Germany, Russia and the United States. Jung Chang not only records the Empress Dowager's conduct of domestic and foreign affairs, but also takes the reader into the depths of her splendid Summer Palace and the harem of Beijing's Forbidden City, where she lived surrounded by eunuchs--one of whom she fell in love, with tragic consequences. The world Chang describes here, in fascinating detail, seems almost unbelievable in its extraordinary mixture of the very old and the very new. Based on newly available, mostly Chinese, historical documents such as court records, official and private correspondence, diaries and eyewitness accounts, this biography will revolutionize historical thinking about a crucial period in China's--and the world's--history. Packed with drama, fast paced and gripping, it is both a panoramic depiction of the birth of modern China and an intimate portrait of a woman: as the concubine to a monarch, as the absolute ruler of a third of the world's population, and as a unique stateswoman.

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Author information

Jung Chang is the best-selling author of "Wild Swans, "which "The Asian Wall Street Journal "called the most widely read book about China, and "Mao: The Unknown Story "(with Jon Halliday), which was described by "Time "as "an atom bomb of a book." Her books have been translated into more than forty languages and sold more than fifteen million copies outside mainland China, where they are both banned. She was born in China in 1952 and moved to Britain in 1978. She lives in London.

Review quote

"A fascinating and instructive biography for anyone interested in how today's China began." --"Library Journal" (starred review) "In [Chang's] absorbing new book....her extensive use of new Chinese sources makes a strong case for reappraisal. Since none have made use of a full range of sources in both languages, there has been no truly authoritative account of Cixi's rule. Her story is both important and evocative....What makes reading this new biography so provocative are the similarities between the challenges faced by the Qing court a century ago and those confronting the Chinese Communist Party today....there is much to learn here from the experiences of Empress Dowager Cixi." --Orville Schell, "The New York Times" "Jung Chang's book dives into a genuinely fascinating figure: a fierce imperial consort who rules behind the thrones of two successive Chinese emperors and helped ease china into the twentieth century....a fantastic Machiavellian tale by the author of the definitive Mao biography." --"New York Magazine" "[Chang has] trained her sleuthing skills and piercing pen on the common concubine who rose to rule china, and what she's uncovered is nothing short of imposing....as painstaking in detail as it is sweeping in scope....Chang's new tome is certain to become the standard by which all future biographies of the Dowager Empress are measured." --Katie Baker, "The Daily Beast " ""Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China "seems likely to garner plaudits not only from students of China but from anyone interested in world affairs and China's role therein....This is a rich and fascinating book that never relaxes its hold on the reader despite the marshalling of a mass of complex historical details seen through the prism of Cixi. One cannot help but feel there are still many more books waiting to be written about this fascinating period in Chinese history." --Jane Haile, "New York Journal of Books" "It wasi