Hitspoker Empress Dowager Cixi The Concubine Who Launched Modern China:Hitspoker
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Empress Dowager Cixi The Concubine Who Launched Modern China:Hitspoker

Jung Chang
1#
Jung Chang Published in September 24, 2018, 7:09 pm
 Empress Dowager Cixi The Concubine Who Launched Modern China:Hitspoker

Empress Dowager Cixi The Concubine Who Launched Modern China:Hitspoker

Price:£6.99

Martin
2#
Martin Reply to on 30 April 2018
Jung Chang gives a great account of an oriental Enlightened Despot - a monarch bent on reforming and modernising her country to ensure that it survives the modern world. {European Enlightened despots 125 or so earlier included Frederick the Great of Prussia, Catherine the Great, Maria Theresa of Austria).

The tragedy was when she died her reform programme was not continued and that pro-Japanese factions weakened the country leading up to Japanese expansion and eventual invasion of China.

Being a woman she has been given a really bad press and her achievements ignored by historians. In China today she has yet to be rehabilitated. It will surely happen ... one day.
S Riaz
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S Riaz Reply to on 4 January 2014
This is an absolutely fascinating biography. Subtitled, "the Concubine who launched modern China" it takes you from 1835 to 1908 and tells the story of a young woman who first entered the Forbidden City at the age of 16. Chosen as a concubine to the Emperor Xianfeng, she was entered in the court register as, "the woman of the Nala family" - too lowly to even be given a name of her own. However, she had already helped her family raise funds, when her grandfather was imprisoned and her help in the crisis had become a family legend. Her father said, "this daughter of mine is really more like a son!" which was praise indeed, and she was certainly intelligent and capable. However, her willingness to voice her opinion was not appreciation by the Emperor; who resented her suggestions and she was not favoured. Luckily, the Empress Zhen, head of the harem, protected her and, even more in her favour was the fact that she gave birth to the Emperor's only living son, Zaichun. When the Emperor died, Cixi and Zhen organised a coup to control power through Cixi's son.

This then is the story of how a woman effectively ruled China. Cixi was eager to create amicable relations with the West and asked whether foreign trade and an open door policy was a bad thing for her country, as her husband has always asserted? She took the first steps towards modernisation and was eager to find out about other ways of life and methods of government. However, things were never easy. Cixi was to face opposition, tragedy, wars, and the loss of power when her son (and later adopted son) came of age. She was never able to fully rule, certainly not in her own name, or even to receive men without a screen between her and them and resented these restrictions. This biography takes us all the way through her life; with its amazing ups and downs, successes and tragedies, her ambitions and desire to push China from medieval times into the modern age. I have to admit that I know nothing about this period of history, so, if there are mistakes I would be unable to spot them. However, simply as a fascinating biography, it is an informative and enjoyable read.
Anne
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Anne Reply to on 17 June 2015
The Empress Dowager Cixi lived at the end of nineteenth century and the turn of the twentieth. She was the concubine of one emperor and the mother of the next after seizing power. With two interruptions she ruled China for the rest of her life but always in the name of male emperor at the time and often from behind a screen so that she never saw the officials who enacted her decisions. She was an absolute ruler who recognised that China's isolation had made it very backward but who then had to struggle to modernise against the weight of inflexible tradition.

I knew very little about China at this time (or at any time) and I felt that the author aimed this book very successfully at the general and rather ignorant Western reader. She is very clear in her explanations and repeats information when necessary. She concentrated on the personalities rather than the strategy and the details so that it made for an interesting and understandable read. To understand the period in detail and the implications of what the empress did and didn't do you would need to do some additional reading around the events but for a general understanding this book is excellent.

Although I thought that the writing style made the content very accessible I do have to say that I found that the author had an obvious affection for this woman who was, despite everything good that she does, a bit of a monster. The book is clear about the murders she ordered and the beatings and torture that were very much a part of court life. It is true that these things were expected and that they were necessary for her to keep power but the woman was a tyrant who overthrew the rightful emperor and used any method possible to maintain her position - this is evident from the content of this book but the author never makes it explicit.

I really enjoyed this history/biography and found that I was devouring it like a novel - some of this was because I genuinely didn't know what would happen next, unlike most European histories that I read. It is great to have such an easy way to learn about a new culture and its history. I recommend this book to all who enjoy history whether or not they know anything about China.
Meret99
5#
Meret99 Reply to on 22 August 2017
So controversial as to polarize opinion - but thats what makes this entirely new defence of Empress Cixi's hitherto much maligned rule so interesting. The author has delved into thousands of original manuscripts in Mandarin to back her perspective, which must surely appeal to scholars - whether critics or admirers. Feminists, historians and lovers of non fiction are sure to be intrigued by Cixi's complex personality and take the study further themselves. An extremely enjoyable read!
F1Hertz
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F1Hertz Reply to on 22 April 2016
I particularly enjoy reading Jung Chang's books who is a particularly good at relating historical stories in a free flowing form, leaving nothing out or out of context. It is refreshing to get the perspective from a Chinese author and she has clearly spent a great deal of time researching this subject. This book will appeal to both those seeking history and those wanting just a good read. The history of Empress Dowager Cixi is an essential part of understanding modern China and provides the how's and why's behind this great nation's relationship with the wider world.
laura mcfadden
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laura mcfadden Reply to on 7 April 2018
Very well written and informative book. I was more interested in Cixi and not so much on the political side of things. But I gave it 5 stars because anyone interested in politics would find this book excellent. The photos were a big bonus and very interesting.
wendyredrobin
8#
wendyredrobin Reply to on 29 February 2016
For those of you whose only reference to the Dowager Empress is Flora Robson in 99 days in Peking, this is an absolute eye opener. Jung Chung once again manages to take historical fact into a spellbinding narative and makes you care about Cixi and all her flaws.

Worth reading if only to gain a perspective on the political geography of Asia in the late 19th and into the early 20th Centuries
K Brown
9#
K Brown Reply to on 29 May 2016
A superb book detailing an important period in history when East met West with cataclysmic results which have many echos in todays world. Cixi was one of the most powerful women in the world and was deeply involved in the politics of China for many years. Too little is known of her in the wast in my view and this book gives an enthralling and entertaining insight inot her life. I do hope someone does a good biopic of her life at some point, it would make a wonderful film.
Adam Dare
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Adam Dare Reply to on 13 January 2014
This book demythologises much of our received wisdom about the ignorance, cruelty and despotism of Dowager Empress Cixi (Tzu Hsi.) Much of the mythmaking that derives from the Maoist narrative is also demolished. The book paints a largely sympathetic portrait of a deeply thoughtful and intelligent woman who effectively saved China from being carved up in toto by great powers. She began phases of modernisation in the teeth of tradition and vested interests to try to create a constitutional monarchy. The book is vibrant and interesting - a thoroughly good read.
Fran
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Fran Reply to on 27 October 2013
Beautifully written and well researched, historically accurate rethink of the place of this woman in history. It is interesting to note that male historians are being very emotive and do not like having their assumptions questioned. In my opinion, as an historian Jung Chang does an excellent job of using the available documentation to support her viewpoint of how the Empress Dowager coped with the constraints of an archaic male dominated society in order to bring China into the modern world.
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