Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China

Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China

Jung Chang

Language: English

Pages: 464

ISBN: 0307456706

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

A New York Times Notable Book
An NPR Best Book of the Year

In 1852, at age sixteen, Cixi was chosen as one of Emperor Xianfeng’s numerous concubines. When he died in 1861, their five-year-old son succeeded to the throne. Cixi at once launched a coup against her son’s regents and placed herself as the true source of power—governing through a silk screen that separated her from her male officials.
        Drawing on newly available sources, Jung Chang comprehensively overturns Cixi’s reputation as a conservative despot. Cixi’s extraordinary reign saw the birth of modern China. Under her, the ancient country attained industries, railways, electricity, and a military with up-to-date weaponry. She abolished foot-binding, inaugurated women’s liberation, and embarked on a path to introduce voting rights. Packed with drama, this groundbreaking biography powerfully reforms our view of a crucial period in China’s—and the world’s—history. 















referred to in the decree that launched the Reforms on 11 June. Unbeknownst to her, these petitions had both been ghost-written by Kang. Evidently, Kang and Cixi were thinking very much alike. As Learning Companion Xu was cited in the imperial decree, Kang ghosted another petition for him, which urged the emperor to install Kang ‘as a close adviser on all new policies’. The ventriloquist then did the same for Kang’s most-noted associate, a brilliant essayist called Liang Qichao. With Cixi’s

hundreds of thousands of followers. (Shandong was famous for the male population’s fondness for martial arts, particularly a kind of fist-fighting similar to boxing.) This society blamed all the ills of the country and the hardship of their lives on foreigners, and vowed to drive them out. They were dubbed ‘the Boxers’ by the foreign press. People joined the Boxers for many different reasons. Some hated the Germans who had destroyed their homes – a hatred they now directed at all foreigners and

Windsor. The housekeeper, Mrs Henderson, wrote to her superior, ‘It is very dainty about its food and won’t generally take bread and milk – but it will eat boiled rice with a little chicken and gravy mixed up in it and this is considered the best food for it.’ Her superior seemed somewhat annoyed and scribbled on the back of another, similar letter, ‘A Chinese dog that insists on chicken in its dietary!’ Mrs Henderson was instructed: ‘…after a little fasting and coaxing he [sic; Lootie was

Philippines.4 In summer 1907, Japan all but completely annexed Korea. The Korean king was forced to abdicate in favour of his son: he had not been quite obedient enough to his Japanese ‘adviser’ – none other than former Prime Minister Itō Hirobumi. A new agreement between Korea and Japan now made Itō the Resident-General, and spelt out that the Korean king could not make any decision without his authorisation. Itō was to be assassinated by a Korean nationalist two years later, as he ‘won the

Westerners high regard for 5.6; backs sending teenagers to America for education 6.1; Tianjin riot, 1870 and 8.1; Viceroy of Zhili 8.2, 23.1, 26.1; Cixi consults on issue of envoys kowtow 9.1; Cixi discusses stragety for modernisation with 11.1; slave-labour trade and 11.2; purchase of ironclad ships, role in 11.3; argues for introduction of railway 11.4; asks for permission to build textile factories 11.5; proposes letting Xinjiang go 12.1; Sino-French War, 1884, negotiator during 12.2, 12.3,

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