Empress Dowager Cixi

The Concubine Who Launched Modern China

Chang, Jung

Book - 2013
Average Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5.
Empress Dowager Cixi
In this ground-breaking biography, Jung Chang vividly describes how Empress Dowager 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, telegraph, and an army and navy with up-to-date weaponry.

Publisher: New York :, Alfred A. Knopf,, 2013
Edition: First American edition
ISBN: 0307271609
Branch Call Number: B-Ci499c 2013
Characteristics: xiii, 436 pages, 24 unnumbered pages of plates :,illustrations (some color), maps ;,24 cm


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Mar 27, 2015
  • nerowolfgal rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Many of the early biographies that were written about Cixi were written by Chinese enemies who could heap nothing but blame and scandal on a woman who dared to rule, or were outright lies made up by writers to make their story sensational for the European markets or for political reasons.
The story of a seventeen year old girl brought into the harem along many others, who ten years later was ruling China in her own right is an incredible story. That fact that she had the common people and most of the nobles supporting her for her decades long reign is even more wonderful. She brought China into the modern world with medicine, science, trade, railways, and many other advances. ( When most of the educated people of China believed China was the literal middle of the world, she was already studying world maps and knew precisely where the major powers were.) Much of this book was written using the newly released Chinese Imperial Archives, which are available for the first time. Unfortunately there is little on her early years in the Harem, it was a strictly "forbidden" place and no records were made. Even so this is a story more incredible than any blockbuster movie.

Sep 21, 2014

I could hardly put this book down. I enjoyed the historical facts and the day to day tidbits of life. I liked the writing style,and a few good pictures. This book makes me want to read more of the authors' books.

Apr 13, 2014
  • D060607210 rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Author clearly has an agenda, and minimizes many of the Empress' mistakes and downright wicked behaviour, but overall it is a great book about a tremendous woman who was a victim of unbelievably greedy imperialism, all while trying to make positive changes in an ancient society comprising one third of the world's population.

Apr 13, 2014
  • GLNovak rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

This biography was quite interesting. I learned more of the chronology of Chinese history than I ever had before, and learned that the Dowager Empress might not have been as evil and vicious as I had thought. She is portrayed here as quite the forward-thinking reformer who managed to remain at the top for years through her abilities to analyze situations and steer through all perils. It was a hard read because of the unusual way of including research into the body of the narrative. Sometimes I had to go back to see if they were the author's words or quoted. No footnotes to speak of and a section of 'Notes" at the back meant to support the author's quotes in the narrative. I did enjoy seeing the various photos included, and my interest certainly has been piqued to look further into Cixi's life and record.

Apr 05, 2014
  • SeattleSaul rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

A well-written work by a China historian. Chang opens up the curtain on a subject that requires knowledge of China and the language and that is otherwise inaccessible to most Western readers. Chang is obviously a Cixi fan, and takes pains to show her in the best light while pointing out her inevitable human errors, some of which are hard to rationalize.
Cixi has been reviled in other publications, and perhaps she deserves this counterpoint.
Read this book with an open mind and heart.

Mar 17, 2014

"Presents an epic portrait of the 19th-century empress that provides coverage of the coup that rendered her regent after her husband's death, her defiance of centuries of traditions and formalities and her role in introducing Western political ideas and technologies." Biography and Memoir March 2014 newsletter http://www.libraryaware.com/996/NewsletterIssues/ViewIssue/1622705f-5af4-4dc2-9e26-3b28d1be098f?postId=f56cf88e-7093-4fd9-bfa7-93d497929bcc


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