Maram grass on sand dunes in front of more grass and pine wood. Wooden path is lightly covered by sand, winding through the foreground.
Book Reviews

Empress Dowager Cixi: A Biography to Read with Me

Dowager Empress Cixi revolutionised China, despite numerous obstacles in her way, including the inferior view of women at the time. Read this empowering biography with me, going behind the scenes and discovering what Cixi was really like, not just the common misconceptions. Jung Chang’s writing will keep you hooked all the way through as we travel through the years that shaped Empress Dowager Cixi, and that she used to shape China.

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My thoughts so far…

This exact minute, I’m on page 270. Shhh, no spoilers! I picked this book up at the train station book shop while going on holiday. This book pulled me in and won’t let go until I turn the very last page.

I find it refreshing – not only because it’s a different style from my usual reads – but because it shows me a scene I’ve never seen before. History at schools would be restricted to the usual topics. But this? This takes us to another corner of the world, but behind the scenes.

About the Book and Cixi

The book’s official name is: Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China and it was written by Jung Chang. Published in 26 September 2013, it is now in bookstores around the world and has amazing ratings. For example, Waterstones rates it an astounding 5/5 overall and Amazon comes in close at 4.6/5. While those ratings can speak for themselves, I think I owe a bit more explanation on why this book is key to peeling away many, many prejudices.

So, to dive in…

Cixi with an attendant and eunuch

Firstly, the press has not been kind to Cixi. At all. People portray her as a villanous and manipulative ruler throughout the years, and Jung Chang’s book does not been skirt over this. Rather, she addresses each situation as it came, and we soon realise, that this Empress deserves a different reputation. Including things such as outlawing footbinding, Cixi demonstrates amazing skill for ruling justly and fairly, while avoiding dangers involving other countries.

While she has been thought of before as conservative, she created many projects to modernise the China. Even while still keeping the country happy! Including introducing telegrams, she oversaw the first railways during her rule. But why people thought she was conservative, can actually be understandable. She and Emperor Guangxu, her adopted son, discussed many more revolutionisations between them, when he realised the need for modernisation. Then, he came for advice and to talk over ideas.

This was after the devastating war with Japan, during Cixi’s retirement which she’d had little to no knowledge of due to her son’s choices to not involve her in state affairs.

While she was by no means a perfect leader, her shortcomings are far less than her achievements, fairness and strengths. So overall she proved to be a much better ruler than many others.

For more search results and Kindle Versions of the book, look on this link for more of Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China.

I hope you enjoyed today’s post. This was definitely more of a deep subject we talked about, but no matter your thoughts, have a nice day and I’ll see you next week!

Before you go…

On the Featured Image

This photo was taken a few years back, on holiday.

Maram grass grows on these sand dunes in front of more grass and a pine wood. A wooden path is lightly covered by sand, winding through the foreground.