Academic journal article Journal of Third World Studies

Chang, Jung. Empress Dowager Cixi the Concubine Who Launched Modern China

Academic journal article Journal of Third World Studies

Chang, Jung. Empress Dowager Cixi the Concubine Who Launched Modern China

Article excerpt

Chang, Jung. Empress Dowager Cixi The Concubine Who Launched Modern China. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013, pp. 436.

Historical revisionism has become common across Chinese history in recent decades. Now, it is the turn of the infamous Empress Dowager Cixi (1835-1908) of the late Qing dynasty. Jung Chang has produced a well written, but controversial biography of the Dowager Empress. This book is provocative and definitely worth reading even if one does not agree with the author's conclusions.

Jung Chang maintains that Cixi was a modernizer who selectively brought in Western technology to make China stronger. Cixi is also presented as a proto-nationalist who was mistrustful of Western powers and Japan in particular. The author tries to demolish the famous stories that Cixi opposed all railroad building and misused naval funds to build a palace shaped like a ship. Chang uses a considerable amount of archival sources in the book both in Europe and China. Numerous Chinese languages works appear in the bibliography. Despite its strengths, Empress Dowager does have some drawbacks.

Cixi was the concubine of Emperor Xianfeng (1861-1861) and bore him a son who became Emperor Tongzhi (1862-1875). After his death, Cixi's nephew Guangxu (1875-1908) became Emperor. Both Emperors came to the throne as toddlers and died at a relatively young age. Cixi did regency work during their minority period and then stepped aside. …

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