The fascinating, implausible life of Tsu Hsi, or “Orchid,” was reviled by the revolutionary Chinese, but here it receives a sympathetic treatment from Min ( Red. Empress Orchid tells the story of Tzu Hsi, China’s longest-reigning female ruler and its last Empress. According to Min, for decades Chinese schoolchildren have . Empress Orchid [Anchee Min] on *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. From a master of the historical novel, Empress Orchid sweeps readers into .

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Behind the wall

My reecent trip to China in June still has a profound impact on my spare-time reading, and has ogchid meant that I am tackling an item on my bucket list, which is learning Mandarin. Or rather, I have no idea whether I shall master Mandarin, but Ancbee am giving it a go, and am enjoying this very much too.

As far as my reading is concerned, one of my main research interests as a professional art historians concerns the discousres of power and especially gender. First of all, reasons of biography- why is there such a divergence in naming this remarkable woman?

What is there in a name?

Review: Empress Orchid by Anchee Min | Books | The Guardian

Well, it turns out, rather a lot, and possibly in the context of late nineteenth-century China, even more than usual. The imn of a person signifies rank, status and profession, but also says much about family and political alliances. Much of this is familiar: A Seymour implied adherence to the reform movement, so the name places the bearer in a political camp already. Chinese names work differently, and certainly given names are subject to change at different stages of the lifecycle, especially of a woman.


And after that, of course, the writings by Pearl Buck, especially her Imperial Woman. Both women reigned on behalf of the 5-year old Tung Chi.

In a way, this first book offers Anchee Min the perfect showcase for her formidable narrative talents: When Cixi re-enters the Forbidden City, not just her emotional landscape,but her physical environment has changed dramatically, and Min uses the burning of the Summer Palace and the Flight to Jehol as a hinge anxhee which the narrative turns. The second book in the series, The Last Empressis for me the weaker of the two books, because the scale of the story has been upped so dramatically.

As a result, the close focus on the narrative voice of Cixi gets lost, and the gentle, often quite lyrical prose of the first book becomes hard and business-like; clearly, Min chooses a different voice for prchid protagonist because her protagonist has grown up, assumed power and is holding her own as a woman in the intensely masculine context of a beleagurerd Manchu Court.


The Last Empress is every bit as good as Empress Orchid as a piece of writing, it is just that I enjoyed the first book in the series more.

What interested me most? The construction of the persona of the Empress Dowager. At this stage, we still know so little about China in the late-nineteenth century- yes, there are sources, but while there are Western eyewitness accounts, fascinating for their insights into contemporary attitudes towards China, there are few alternatives to how these stories are told. Makes perfect sense, right? Julia Lovell, The Guardian 28 February The contemporary Western view of Manchu China: Edmund Backhouse and J.


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Empress Orchid (Empress Orchid, #1) by Anchee Min

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