Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China

Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern ChinaFor close to forty years the Dowager Empress Cixi ruled the empire of China beginning in 1860 She is alternatively described as either pragmatic, shrewd, sensible, just and gracious or meddlesome, cunning, underhanded and selfish She is documented throughout Chinese history as a scapegoat for the turmoil inflicted from the beginning of her rule to the beginning of the Republic Research by Jung Chang has proven that is not the case Throughout her reign in the name of her adopted son, the emperor, there was constant internal upheaval and rioting as well as wars with various western powers and Japan, earning China the world s contempt for a country once highly respected for its size and kindheartedness Cixi was known for both her decisive action and sagacious moves in governing as well as her ability to wait years to strike vengeance Western society viewed her as a Catherine of Russia, an Elizabeth of England, and a Cleopatra, as one of the great woman rulers in history She had no problems battling the misogynistic society in which she dwelled, where most of her decisions were ignored by incompetent men on her council She was a champion of women s rights as early as 1903 This review could be many paragraphs long detailing all of her accomplishments and risk taking behavior, but that would spoil most of the book Cixi deserves the admiration of her country History should be rewritten. In total contravention to informed opinion, this author holds The Dowager Empress Cixi in awe and considers her a reformer I was looking forward to what the author of Wild Swans Three Daughters of China might have to say about Cixi I was disappointed that not much of her premise holds up The Dowager s actions, as cited in this very text, contradict the author s premise.Women s roles in history are obscured and underrated Cixi is not obscure and takes on her shoulders the centuries of tradition and resistance to change that put China in a weak position to deal with the modern world Jung Chang gives no information to show that Cixi s leadership did anything to reverse this trend What she does show is that Cixi is a consummate politician.Cixi lucked out in producing the first male child for the Emperor Xianfeng and was befriended his wife the empress Upon the emperor s death, Cixi aligned with Empress Zhen and they plotted their way to power Upon the death of her son, the Emperor Tongzhi, on whom her position depended, she adopted her three year old nephew who became Emperor Guangxu She controlled him and wheedled his power away from him When he became an adult, discredited and imprisoned him She later murdered him, for the good of China of course None of her power was used to reform China It seems to have been used to appoint people who would perpetuate her own power and kill others who may have threatened it As could easily be predicted, she was against the Boxer rebels until they were effective then she supported them and then when they were squelched by the westerners, she cozied up to the westerners She promised China a constitutional monarchy after her death, of course.The text is often a paean that contradicts Cixi s life and actions Page 344 tributes Cixi s sense of fairness penchant for consensus This hardly fits the narrative to this point, the most dramatic example being Jade the Emperor Guangxu s favorite concubine for whom there was no room in the flight from the Boxers Jade did not obey Cixi s orders to commit suicide, nor did Cixi notice the consensus of the eunuchs who did not step forward to push her into the well p 279 as she had ordered Cixi had to order specific Eunuch to do this, who would surely not have done it had he thought he had a choice On p 354, after a whole book showing how Cixi excluded Han Chinese from the inner councils of running their own country, we learn that she was not given to racial prejudice.The last section, on the Real Revolution of Modern China is replete with examples of how the text, itself, discredits the thesis that Cixi is a reformer In this reform period Cixi is enjoying her new western friends, to whose countries China is indebted they shower her with gifts and attention Cixi p.326 issued an edict banning foot binding and approached the implementation with characteristic caution not her style to force drastic change and it took a generation i.e regime change because Cixi was prepared to wait Later, on p 371 Jung Chung calls foot binding a practice to which Cixi put an end It took a boycott p 349 of a reception by her British friends for her to issue an edit banning bastinado the beating of prisoners to death Future eliminations use various other methods and were covered up.The book is good for its easy to follow chronology The descriptions of the pageantry crimson ink, seals and boxes eunuch life the education of young emperors the culture of outbursts weeping, banging heads on the floor, prostration for apology and the mundane what pipe attendants do and how they are trained are excellent The photographs, like the cover are great.Are Cixi s mistakes, for which she apologized, greater than Mao s, for which he didn t p.373 Jung Chang, who was on the receiving end of Mao s mistakes considers Cixi s minimal compared with her achievements From this volume, I appreciate Cixi s political achievements for herself, but find achievements for China lacking. Jung Chang Vie Lukijan Mukanaan Kiinan Viimeisen Keisarinnan Cixin Loisteliaaseen Kes Palatsiin Ja Kielletyn Kaupungin Haaremiin Kirja Kuvaa Kiehtovalla Yksityiskohtaisuudella Maailmaa, Jossa Ikivanhat Traditiot Sekoittuvat Moderneihin TapoihinKiinan Viimeinen Keisarinna Cixi Nousi Jalkavaimon Asemasta Johtamaan Itsevaltiaana Yli Kolmannesta Maailman V Est St Cixi Ylitti Valtavia Esteit Johdattaessaan Keskiaikaisen Valtakunnan Moderniin Aikaan Cixin Valtakaudella Kiinaa Ravistelivat My S Monet Kriisit Taiping Ja Boksarikapina Sek Ranskaa Ja Japania Vastaan K Ydyt Sodat Kiinan Viimeinen Keisarinna Perustuu Vastik N Saataville Tulleisiin L Hteisiin, Kuten Hovin Arkistoihin, Kirjeenvaihtoon, P Iv Kirjoihin Ja Silminn Kij Iden Lausuntoihin I grew up loving Wild Swans, and I was excited to start reading this I kept seeing it in the window of book stores, enticing me Yet the actual read of the book was often a terrible slog The prose often felt rushed, and without any real life to it.The notation system is terrible Chang never uses clearly marked footnotes or endnotes They are there, but you never know where there is a reference to a source because there s never any indication in the text For a book making a lot of assertions that contradict received history, this is a frustrating failing.Although it s clear that Cixi has been the victim of a long and pronounced character assassination, this felt rather biased the other way Shocking acts, like the murder of the Emperor s favourite concubine, Pearl, by flinging her down a well, deserves somethingthan a paragraph, as does the eventual murder of Guangxu himself.It s very difficult to know, without being an expert on Chinese history, how to judge the accuracy of the book Cixi s life and work needs revision and an accurate accounting, but while the book presents some fascinating insight on the working of Chinese society at the time, it still feels quite flawed. How can such an incredible life story bejustsoboring Chinese empress Cixi led a fascinating life she wielded behind the scenes power over a third of the world s population for nearly the whole length of Queen Victoria s reign she fell in love with a eunuch, survived multiple assassination plots, and was rud to have poisoned several rivals, including her adopted son And yet this biography renders her life story utterly dull like Kirsten Ellis did in Star of the Morning The Life and Times of Lady Hester Stanhope, Chang takes an absurdly adventurous life and spoils it with dry, tedious prose I had hoped for so much better from the celebrated author of Wild Swans Three Daughters of China.The best parts are where Chang uses her personal knowledge of China to add depth to natural descriptions, such as Autumn is Beijing s best season, when the sun is no longer scorching, the biting cold has yet to descend, and no sandstorms from the northwestern desert are whipping the city, as they do habitually in spring Unfortunately, most of the language is not nearly so memorable.As a result of her ruthless methods, Cixi is often remembered as a tyrant, but Chang clearly finds her inspirational She was a giant, but not a saint Or, As Pearl Buck observed, those who hated her were simplyarticulate than those who loved her Her life certainly makes for a tale worth reading, but with so many biographies to choose from including Dragon Lady The Life and Legend of the Last Empress of China and Marina Warner s The Dragon Empress Life and Times of Tz u Hsi, Empress Dowager of China, 1835 1908 , you ll surely find a better teller My full review is at We Love This Book. In telling the story of Ci Xi, who effectively ruled China for the best part of 50 years as Dowager Empress, Jung Chang has the great advantage of being able to access primary and secondary sources in Chinese as well as English She has referenced a wide range of archival materials in European and Chinese collections, diaries, letters, books and articles Jung Chang argues that Ci Xi recognised early that China would need to modernise to just to survive against the invasions of the western powers, especially after the second Opium Wars in the 1850s Although Ci Xi had little formal education, she was highly intelligent and usually fair and politically astute and drove many of the changes towards modernisation in China through the second half o the nineteenth century up till 190, when she died.Her ability to exercise the level of power that she did was extraordinary, particularly given that, as a woman, she could have only restricted contact with men and seems to have left the imperial palaces in Beijing only in times of war or revolution Despite this she was intensely interested in the outside world, sent ambassadors to Europe and the United States and keenly read their reports She introduced the beginnings of an accessible education system, encouraged opening of China to foreign trade, and eventually accepted the introduction of railways resisted for many years because of the damage they would do to family graves along the train routes.In the early years of the twentieth century she sent out a mission to research electoral systems in democratic countries and took first steps to introduce democracy to China, though she didn t live long enough to steer it into any meaningful existence.For as long as she held power, she was opposed by conservative members of the governing elites in China, including members of the Manchu ruling families And through all this time, foreign powers mostly European, but also Japan and America were pushing hard for concessions for trade, for territory and for special concessions for their residents War was inflicted on China several times during this period, weakening the Chinese state further each time One of the things that appalled me was that after having invaded China, the western powers and Japan all demanded that the invaded country the victim, if you like, had to pay massive reparations to the invaders Here you can see the ugliness of nineteenth century imperialism well and truly on display.Anger against the foreign invaders was what drove the Boxer Rebellion 1899 1900 , and Ci Xi s anger at the foreigners ruthless behaviour led her to support the Boxers until she realised they were too destructive that they were a threat to general order, not just to the foreigners The poorly organised and armed Chinese were inevitably defeated, the foreign allied forces occupied Beijing, from which Ci Xi and court fled to Xian, where she stayed until the court returned to Beijing in early 1902 She acknowledged quite soon that her initial support of the Boxers was possibly the greatest mistake of her rule.I found this book easy to read, and could readily slot it into place in what I already know of Chinese history, culture and politics, where it helps to give another side to the mostly American or English histories of China that I have read up till now It is based on wide ranging research, and part of what makes the reading easy is that the author has a long notes section after the main text, in which sources are given for paragraphs and pages where they are needed, so that the reader is not confronted with continual referencing from within the text itselfI was the only one at the book club meeting for which I read this who has much of a background in history, and most of them found it hard going, with too much detail for their liking I would have likedof the wider social and political context within which Ci Xi operated Another friend who has just read it thought it was far too easy on the ruthless imperialist behaviours of the western powers and Japan.The main focus is on the woman herself, her lifestyle and her life as a female ruler cleverly manoeuvring her way through a male dominated, mostly conservative society, and with pressures for change building up before the revolutionary explosions of the twentieth century. 3.5 5 rounded up to 4 This was way outside of my usual reading fare I don t read a lot of non fiction and I read very few books set in China I am involved in a GR group, and we selected the Dowager Empress Cixi as an area of focus for the first part of the year, so I ended up reading this It was, unfortunately, the only book I managed to read on the topic, but it was fascinating.Dowager Empress Cixi was the last ruler from the Qing dynasty in China, and had been a concubine Imperial China seemed very strange to me, with its rigorous and occasionally nonsensical rules for everyone based upon their birth, sex and status The conflict with Japan is illuminated, and the scramble of the colonial powers for China was also handled through this very interesting biography.I d also heard of the Boxer Rebellion, but knew very little about it, so reading the sections about Cixi s ill advised and ultimately devastating efforts to use the rebellion against western attempts to seize control of China was really interesting The most interesting part of the book, however, was Cixi herself.Mostly uneducated and excluded from power by her sex, Cixi managed to consolidate authority and rule China for decades from behind the throne As a woman, she wasn t even allowed to meet directly with men The fact that she was able to gain and retain power, and in so doing begin to modernize China much against its will is a testament to her determination and fortitude She was utterly ruthless.If you are interested in biographies, interested in imperial China, or if you just like to read non fiction this is a fascinating choice. Empress Dowager Cixi The Concubine Who Launched Modern China by Jung Chang reads so smoothly like a novel but is strictly historical I haven t read a history book so well done in a long time Well done that keeps to the facts, not adding speculation, but adding what the what the surroundings clothing jewelry etc would look like So well done I felt like I knew the society of the times, dress, politics, dress, etc Very different culture but interesting I got this from the library and it was the audio book. 1850 1908 ,

Jung Chang simplified Chinese traditional Chinese pinyin Zh ng R ng Wade Giles Chang Jung, born March 25, 1952 in Yibin, Sichuan is a Chinese born British writer now living in London, best known for her family autobiography Wild Swans, selling over 10 million copies worldwide but banned in mainland China.See also

❰BOOKS❯ ✭ Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China Author Jung Chang – Uc0.info
  • Paperback
  • 524 pages
  • Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China
  • Jung Chang
  • Finnish
  • 19 October 2019
  • 9789511283973

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