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Jung Chang – Empress Dowager Cixi

One of the best books I have ever read. If your into Chinese history I fully recommend you buy this book it is a real eye opener.

Based on newly available, mostly Chinese, historical documents such as court records, official and private correspondence, diaries and eyewitness accounts, this biography will revolutionize historical thinking about a crucial period in China’s—and the world’s—history.

Born in 1835 into a family of Manchu government officials, she entered the Forbidden City as a concubine to the emperor Xianfeng. Although graded third rank, her standing in court improved in 1856 when she bore a son, a helpful move for a woman in China, even today.

In this groundbreaking biography, Jung Chang vividly describes how Cixi fought against monumental obstacles to change China. It was she who abolished gruesome punishments like “death by a thousand cuts” and put an end to foot-binding.

Chang comprehensively overturns the conventional view of Cixi as a diehard conservative and cruel despot.

Cixi reigned during extraordinary times and had to deal with a host of major national crises: the Taiping and Boxer rebellions, wars with France and Japan—and an invasion by eight allied powers including Britain, Germany, Russia and the United States.

She died in 1908, having poisoned Guangxu with arsenic the day before, thus creating what was to be the final vacancy on the Dragon throne. It was filled by the child Pu Yi, the last emperor: in 1911 the empire fell and Pu Yi abdicated the following year.

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