Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China

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Nevertheless, She Persisted: The Empress Dowager Cixi Outmaneuvers Them All

Field of Interest/Specialty: Literature & Art
Posted On: 04/22/2019

With Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China, author Jung Chang (Wild Swans and Mao: The Unknown Story) has compiled a compelling portrait of she who would be queen, the mother of 19th-century Emperor Tonghzhi and kingmaker after his untimely death at age 19. Historical accounts of Cixi's life vary drastically, ranging from the "Dragon Lady" image based largely on a text known to be a forgery and the accounts of two sensationalist journalists to this carefully researched and masterfully related biography of this enigmatic and powerful woman. Empress Dowager Cixi made a study of policy and statecraft, and carefully manipulated and outmaneuvered powerful men surrounding the imperial court in the late Qing Dynasty. Cixi became regent and de facto ruler of China on two occasions, after carefully crafted plots, subterfuge, and an actual coup that was either daring of diabolical, depending on one's point of view. While Cixi has been credited with the fall of the Qing, Chang explores how Cixi brought China into the modern era, sometimes kicking and screaming.
Chang leans toward a sympathetic but open-minded portrayal of a woman much scorned but also much envied for her political savvy; however, she provides her readers with a broad enough view to offer them an opportunity to decide for themselves--something most earlier accounts did not offer.
She has the lyrical writing style of a fiction writer combined with the ability to find the human drama behind the political and military conflicts. This was an engrossing read that helps to satisfy the hunger of those yearning to learn more about the influence of women in China's history.