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.
About the Author
Jung Chang was born in Yibin, Sichuan Province, China, in 1952. She left China for Britain in 1978 and obtained a Ph.D. in linguistics from the University of York in 1982, the first person from the People's Republic of China to receive a doctorate from a British university. She lives in London with her husband, Jon Halliday, with whom she wrote "Mao: The Unknown Story".
**A Barnes & Noble Best New Nonfiction Book of 2013**
**A New York Times Notable Book of 2013**
“A fascinating and instructive biography for anyone interested in how today’s China began.” —Library Journal (starred review)
“In [Chang’s] absorbing new book….her extensive use of new Chinese sources makes a strong case for reappraisal. Since none have made use of a full range of sources in both languages, there has been no truly authoritative account of Cixi’s rule. Her story is both important and evocative….What makes reading this new biography so provocative are the similarities between the challenges faced by the Qing court a century ago and those confronting the Chinese Communist Party today….there is much to learn here from the experiences of Empress Dowager Cixi.” —Orville Schell, The New York Times
“Jung Chang’s book dives into a genuinely fascinating figure: a fierce imperial consort who rules behind the thrones of two successive Chinese emperors and helped ease china into the twentieth century….a fantastic Machiavellian tale by the author of the definitive Mao biography.” —New York Magazine
“The author of “Wild Swans” sets out to rehabilitate the reputation of a woman who, she argues, helped modernize China….While Chang acknowledges Cixi’s missteps—such as allowing the Boxers to fight against a Western invasion, which led to widespread slaughter—she sees her as a woman whose energy, farsightedness, and ruthless pragmatism transformed a country.” —The New Yorker
“A largely new—and to me, mostly convincing—interpretation. Chang makes a unique claim for Cixi, summed up in her subtitle: “The Concubine Who Launched Modern China.”…Jung Chang has written a pathbreaking and generally persuasive book.” —Jonathan Mirsky, The New York Review of Books
“[Chang has] trained her sleuthing skills and piercing pen on the common concubine who rose to rule china, and what she’s uncovered is nothing short of imposing….as painstaking in detail as it is sweeping in scope….Chang’s new tome is certain to become the standard by which all future biographies of the Dowager Empress are measured.” —Katie Baker, The Daily Beast
“Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China seems likely to garner plaudits not only from students of China but from anyone interested in world affairs and China's role therein....This is a rich and fascinating book that never relaxes its hold on the reader despite the marshalling of a mass of complex historical details seen through the prism of Cixi. One cannot help but feel there are still many more books waiting to be written about this fascinating period in Chinese history.” —Jane Haile, New York Journal of Books
“It was a biography by Jung Chang and her husband Jon Halliday that finally toppled Mao Zedong from his creaking pedestal. Now she has demolished another myth. The Empress Dowager of China…was not the scheming, vicious, reactionary she-monster of fond imagination but the force behind what she calls ‘the real revolution of Modern China’….what a colourful tale it is….This is history at its most readable by an author with a point of view.” —George Walden, London Evening Standard
“Cixi’s extraordinary story has all the elements of a good fairy tale: bizarre, sinister, triumphant and terrible.” —The Economist
“‘Although I have heard much about Queen Victoria,” her Chinese contemporary, the Empress Cixi once remarked, ‘I do not think her life is half as interesting and eventful as mine.’ It is a judgment that is hard to dispute….the tumultuous story of her reign remains astonishing.” —James Owen, Telegraph
“The times that Cixi dominated were critical to the shaping of modern China, a country that resembles the Qing autocracy in many ways, though without the empire’s relatively free press and anticipated suffrage. The top echelons of Chinese politics remain as male-dominated and vicious as ever, and Cixi remains as gripping a subject.” —Isabel Hilton, The Guardian
“When an author as thorough, gifted, and immersed in Chinese culture as Chang writes, both scholars and general readers take notice.” —Margaret Flanagan, Booklist
“An impassioned defense of the daughter of a government employee who finagled her way to becoming the long-reigning empress dowager, feminist, and reformer….In an entertaining biography, the empress finally has her day.” —Kirkus Reviews