Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Empress Dowager Cixi

Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern ChinaEmpress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China by Jung Chang
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Once again, Chang amazes me with her ability of translating the incondensable - a life - onto pages. Cixi's image, characterized by most as ruthless and power-hungry, is slightly mediated in this biography, and her life's history compellingly and very readably spelled out. I turned to the first page as a stranger to her policies but closed it bearing sufficiently more knowledge concerning her life (albeit power-skimming the final 100 pages). Of course, Cixi's heartbreak over the eunuch An Dehai is tragic and her vengeance further proof of her bitter streak, an unforgettable tale in the book. Her humble beginnings are astonishing considering the level of power to which she rose later on in life.

Perhaps Chang will never outdo Wild Swans, but Empress Dowager Cixi is nonetheless a telling biography of a woman whose legacy is tarnished with murders/grabs for power but is nonetheless an important figure in Chinese history who sought to not only modernize China but also give women more power and prevent the irrational belligerence of men from hurling China into war.

Meeting Jung Chang (yes!) and getting my copy signed was the ultimate cherry on top.

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