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Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who…
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Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China (edição: 2013)

de Jung Chang (Autor)

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6772926,359 (4.03)43
"In this groundbreaking biography, Jung Chang vividly describes how Cixi fought against monumental obstacles to change China. Under her the ancient country attained virtually all the attributes of a modern state: industries, railways, electricity, the telegraph and an army and navy with up-to-date weaponry. It was she who abolished gruesome punishments like "death by a thousand cuts" and put an end to foot-binding. She inaugurated women's liberation and embarked on the path to introduce parliamentary elections to China. 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. Jung Chang not only records the Empress Dowager's conduct of domestic and foreign affairs, but also takes the reader into the depths of her splendid Summer Palace and the harem of Beijing's Forbidden City, where she lived surrounded by eunuchs--one of whom she fell in love, with tragic consequences. The world Chang describes here, in fascinating detail, seems almost unbelievable in its extraordinary mixture of the very old and the very new. Based on newly available, mostly Chinese, historical documents such as court records, official and private correspondence, diaries and eyewitness accounts, this biography will revolutionize historical thinking about a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. Packed with drama, fast paced and gripping, it is both a panoramic depiction of the birth of modern China and an intimate portrait of a woman: as the concubine to a monarch, as the absolute ruler of a third of the world's population, and as a unique stateswoman." -- Publisher's description.… (mais)
Membro:erwinverb
Título:Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China
Autores:Jung Chang (Autor)
Informação:Knopf (2013), Edition: 1st Edition, 464 pages
Coleções:Sua biblioteca
Avaliação:
Etiquetas:to-read

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Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China de Jung Chang

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Inglês (27)  Sueco (1)  Espanhol (1)  Todos os idiomas (29)
Mostrando 1-5 de 29 (seguinte | mostrar todas)
This is a well researched biography by the author better known for Wild Swans. Cixi was the most powerful woman in Chinese history effectively exercising executive power over the largest state in the world for most of the period between 1861, when her young son became Emperor Tongzhi, and 1908 when she died. The role of the concubine in the Chinese imperial hierarchy could be very powerful if she was the mother of the emperor, and she exercised power in the early years of this period with her husband's Empress, Zhen, a much weaker figure personally and politically, though apparently they got on well. Tongzhi assumed power for himself for just a couple of years before he died, possibly of syphilis, in 1875. The next Emperor was Cixi's adopted son (actually nephew) Guangxu, another boy over whom she could exert influence and rule herself (though there no real other candidates for the imperial role). She struggled to bring China into the modern age through bringing in trains, telegraphs and industry through more positive relations with foreign countries. There were several foreign invasions with nearly all the Western powers, plus Japan, invading and obtaining chunks of Chinese territory in the name of trade and economic expansion. So the difficult balance for Cixi was to learn from the west to bring China into the modern age, while patriotically fighting their imperial pretensions against Chinese territory. This contradiction was most clearly demonstrated in the nationalist Boxer uprising in 1900. After nearly being dethroned, she managed to draw on deep wells of support and come back to power, instituting what by Chinese standards, a fairly radical programme of reform, including abolishing footbinding and torture, a wider curriculum for mandarins beyond the Confucian classics and including travel abroad, promoting education for women, legal reform and even an outline for a form of parliamentary democracy, albeit still with imperial executive power ultimately still intact. Historians differ over the interpretation of these events, with the author challenging the traditional view that Guangxu was behind these reforms and Cixi conservatively opposing them. Jung Chang's interpretation seems more likely given the thrust of her life and policies over the decades of her rule and Chang considers that "Few of her achievements have been recognised and, when they are, the credit is invariably given to the men serving her. This is largely due to a basic handicap: that she was a woman and could only rule in the name of her sons – so her precise role has been little known." Cixi seems a fascinating and contradictory figure, a mixture of the Medieval and modern, a cautious reformer but with a capacity for ruthlessness that shocks on occasion. ( )
  john257hopper | Jul 31, 2021 |
I loved this book - i love history of China, I love the history of England, I love the history of colonialism. My favorite way to read history is through biographies because it tells the story in a way that is compelling. This book informs of the main events, the opium wars, Japan's rise, transition from old to new systems, rebellions, the reigns of power, the rise of the han and the end of the manchu, in the best way. So good - this is one of my favorite books.

As a tangent years after i finished this I found myself in Beijing on a work trip (trying to fix a machine I'm not like an important business person), and found myself at the summer palace where much of this takes place. Took me a few hours to figure out it was the same place from the book but what a thrill! They unfortunately did not have the well that the empress had that one princess drowned in on any of the tourist maps, at least not the English language one I had. ( )
  Giganticon | Dec 8, 2020 |
This book is SO GOOD. (The audio was also great.) I feel like I actually got to know the empress intimately, as well as getting a sweeping look at Chinese history and its role in the geopolitical landscape. I found the ways she had to work within the dynastic system fascinating, and I can't imagine the intelligence and unwavering will she had to have to get things done and see them through. I looooooved this. ( )
  bookbrig | Aug 5, 2020 |
Read 2015 ( )
  sasameyuki | May 8, 2020 |
It is really impossible to review this book without access to the original sources (which I don't have) or the ability to read Chinese (which I don't have). This is clearly a revisionist biography, but whether the very positive reappraisal of Empress Dowager Cixi as a founder of modern China is based on a realistic or an optimistic view of the Empress is impossible to say. Its clear that Jung Chang wishes to show the Empress in the best possible light, and readers should be aware that this is close to a hagiography - but, as I say, that doesn't necessarily make it untrue. As a reader, you have to willingly suspend any disbelief that she may have been more despot than reformer, more xenophobe than xenophile, more tyrannical than kindly, as the constant flow of subjects to the execution grounds might suggest, and accept the author's word, and let her tell her story

And what a great story it is; Cixi rises from 6th rank concubine, to mother to the heir, to ruling "behind the screen" as joint regent, then the power behind the throne to the somewhat feckless Emperor. In all, close to 50 years in effective control. During this period, there are times of relative peace and harmony in the Empire; at other times the complete opposite, as China loses a disastrous war with Japan and the Boxer rebellion leads to an occupation of the Forbidden City by foreigners, and the Imperial Family has to go into internal exile

As such the tone of the book wobbles between relatively sober assessment of court life and administrative duties, and tele-novela style treason and plot. Still, its entertaining stuff, and for people such as myself, who only knew the basics of the end of the QIng Dynasty, its a good way to fill in the gaps and join the dots. Its well worth reading - but with a sceptical attitude ( )
  Opinionated | Aug 27, 2019 |
Mostrando 1-5 de 29 (seguinte | mostrar todas)
Chinese biography tends to render even its most colorful subjects in monochrome. Once the Communist Party has determined whether an individual worth writing about is hero or villain the biographer's task is to burnish or darken an image until its true outline is lost. Information that contradicts the chosen narrative is casually dismissed or simply omitted. There's no nuance, no debate, no shades of gray.

So there's particular excitement whenever fresh material on a key figure escapes China and obtains uncensored publication overseas, such as is promised by Chinese émigré Jung Chang's new biography "Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China." New access is claimed to "court records, official and private correspondence, diaries and eye-witness accounts."

But despite 35 years in England, Ms. Chang has not thrown off the habits of the regime from which she fled. There's a courtroom-style approach to her biographies; once she chooses a position every possible fact or argument, however spurious, is marshalled in support of that side.

...

During her lengthy unofficial reign, Cixi stands accused of usurping power, suppressing development and executing reformers who would have strengthened the empire against foreign encroachments. She is also supposed to have spent vital naval funds on the refurbishment of the Summer Palace and connived with the Boxer rebels to kill or drive out every foreigner in China.

Ms. Chang's Cixi is largely a mirror image of this figure: a campaigner for women's rights, an ardent supporter of modernization, a friend to foreigners and a victim of unfounded accusations. But her account is thin on references to reliable primary sources. It frequently quotes clueless foreigners (notably the British attaché Algernon Freeman-Mitford ) when their remarks happen to suit, as well as works by Chinese historians prevented by politics from publishing frank and accurate accounts. Rumors that appeal are passed on uncritically, while those that do not are dismissed as "just a story."

Professional historians are unlikely to take the book seriously, not least because we are frequently told what Cixi was thinking or feeling. And despite ample material, Ms. Chang doesn't possess the narrative skills to turn her story into a ripping yarn. The only suspense comes as the reader waits to discover how each of Cixi's crimes will be explained away.

adicionado por peternh | editarWall Street Journal, Peter Neville-Hadley (Web site pago) (Jan 20, 2014)
 
While Chang’s admiration can approach hagiography, her extensive use of new Chinese sources makes a strong case for a reappraisal.
adicionado por pbirch01 | editarNew York Times, Orville Schell (Oct 25, 2013)
 
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In spring 1852, in one of the periodic nationwide selections for imperial consorts, a sixteen-year-old girl caught the eye of the emperor and was chosen as a concubine.
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"In this groundbreaking biography, Jung Chang vividly describes how Cixi fought against monumental obstacles to change China. Under her the ancient country attained virtually all the attributes of a modern state: industries, railways, electricity, the telegraph and an army and navy with up-to-date weaponry. It was she who abolished gruesome punishments like "death by a thousand cuts" and put an end to foot-binding. She inaugurated women's liberation and embarked on the path to introduce parliamentary elections to China. 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. Jung Chang not only records the Empress Dowager's conduct of domestic and foreign affairs, but also takes the reader into the depths of her splendid Summer Palace and the harem of Beijing's Forbidden City, where she lived surrounded by eunuchs--one of whom she fell in love, with tragic consequences. The world Chang describes here, in fascinating detail, seems almost unbelievable in its extraordinary mixture of the very old and the very new. 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. Packed with drama, fast paced and gripping, it is both a panoramic depiction of the birth of modern China and an intimate portrait of a woman: as the concubine to a monarch, as the absolute ruler of a third of the world's population, and as a unique stateswoman." -- Publisher's description.

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