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About the book
  • Published: 1 July 2014
  • ISBN: 9780099532392
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 528
  • RRP: $19.99

Empress Dowager Cixi

The Concubine Who Launched Modern China




From the bestselling author of Wild Swans and Mao: The Unknown Story, the extraordinary story of the woman who single-handedly dragged China into the modern age

From the bestselling author of Wild Swans, comes the extraordinary story of the woman who brought China into the modern age.


In this groundbreaking biography, Jung Chang vividly describes how Empress Dowager Cixi – the most important woman in Chinese history – brought a medieval empire into the modern age. Under her, the ancient country attained virtually all the attributes of a modern state and it was she who abolished gruesome punishments like ‘death by a thousand cuts’ and put an end to foot-binding. Jung Chang comprehensively overturns the conventional view of Cixi as a diehard conservative and cruel despot and 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 – with one of whom she fell in love, with tragic consequences.

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.

‘Powerful’ Simon Sebag Montefiore
‘Truly authoritative’ New York Times
‘Wonderful’ Sunday Times
Shortlisted for the James Tait Black Biography Prize

  • Pub date: 1 July 2014
  • ISBN: 9780099532392
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 528
  • RRP: $19.99

About the Author

Jung Chang

Jung Chang is the internationally bestselling author of Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China; Mao: The Unknown Story (with Jon Halliday); and Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine who Launched Modern China. Her books have been translated into over 40 languages and sold more than 15 million copies outside Mainland China where they are banned. She was born in China in 1952, and came to Britain in 1978. She lives in London.

Also by Jung Chang

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Praise for Empress Dowager Cixi

“If there is one woman who mattered in the history of modern China, it is the empress dowager Cixi…[Her] conventional image is queried in this detailed and beautifully narrated biography, which at long last restores the empress dowager to her rightful place. Chang’s book relies heavily on the vast holdings in the imperial archives in Beijing... She has a wonderful eye for the telling detail and excels at unravelling palace intrigues and corridor politics.”

Frank Dikotter, Sunday Times

“In this vivid biography, as colourful and intricate as the embroidery on a Chinese robe, [Jung Chang] uses new evidence and meticulous research to cast a spotlight on the amazing woman she regards as the mother of modern China…This is a rich, dramatic story of rebellions, battles, plotting, rivalry, foreign invasion, punishment and forbidden love.”

Bel Mooney, Daily Mail

“Filled with new revelations, it's a gripping and surprising story of an extraordinary woman in power. Using Chinese sources, totally untapped by western books, this reappraises one of the great monstresses of modern history... Jung Chang's revisionism means that this book reveals a new and different woman: ambitious, sometimes murderous, but pragmatic and unique. All of this adds up to make Empress Dowager Cixi a powerful read.”

Simon Sebag Montefiore, BBC History Magazine

“Chang has a proven Midas touch... Empress Dowager, by returning to female experience in the style of Wild Swans yet focusing, like Mao, on a controversial ruler, should appeal to fans of both.”

Jeffrey Wasserstrom, Financial Times

“Chang has a proven Midas touch... Empress Dowager, by returning to female experience in the style of Wild Swans yet focusing, like Mao, on a controversial ruler, should appeal to fans of both.”

Jeffrey Wasserstrom, Financial Times

“A captivating cradle-to-grave biography”

VOGUE

“In this vivid biography, as colourful and intricate as the embroidery on a Chinese robe, [Jung Chang] uses new evidence and meticulous research to cast a spotlight on the amazing woman she regards as the mother of modern China…This is a rich, dramatic story of rebellions, battles, plotting, rivalry, foreign invasion, punishment and forbidden love.”

Bel Mooney, Daily Mail

“An absorbing read.”

Josh Neicho, Independent on Sunday

“This is an important book, drawing attention to a period in China's history that has received little, and usually only negative, attention. Chang writes with verve, energy and evident concern for the country in which her books are proscribed and her family was made to suffer during the Cultural Revolution.”

BBC History Magazine

“An absorbing read.”

Josh Neicho, Independent on Sunday

“An engaging and informed political biography … is sure to make waves around the world.”

Holly McKenzie, Press Association

“Well-researched and provocative… Spirited.”

Rana Mitter, New Statesman

“Page-turner of a biography.”

Chris Patten, Mail on Sunday

“A captivating cradle-to-grave biography… Jung recreates this complicated eighteenth-century world in the clearest possible terms.”

Jo Ellison and Violet Henderson, Vogue

“Jung Chang is valiant to try to rescue the empress from her wild detractors: Cixi was no more a monster than most other insecure absolutists.”

Felipe Fernandez-Arnesto, The Times

“A page-turning story.”

Catholic Herald

“One of the most engaging and informed political biographies I have ever read.”

Lincolnshire Echo

“[It] will revolutionise historical thinking about a crucial period in the history of China and, indeed, the world.”

Mary Lussiana, Country & Town House

“Reminds us how China's past influences the present.”

John Kampfner, Observer

“I was... enticed by the cover, a very rare photograph of the imperial consort in her finery, artfully deflecting her eyes from the camera lens (normally she 'received' from behind a screen, invisible), trailing fingernails several inches long beneath shields of gold, rubies and pearls... Engrossing.”

Ronald Frame, Herald

“Although most of Cixi's previous biographers have demonized her, others have been more measured. This is a spirited, if partisan contribution.”

Isabel Hilton, Guardian

“Chang has a novelists eye for the small detail, enthralling with her story of how a mere concubine .. came to power in China … both well researched and hugely accessible.”

Business Post, Ireland

“Jung Chang is a vivid guide… She has a novelist’s eye for the telling detail.”

The Economist

“Utterly beguiling.”

Brighton & Hove Independent

“Jung Chang comprehensively overturns the conventional view of Cixi as a diehard conservative and cruel despot... This biography may revolutionise thinking about a crucial period in China's history.”

Asian Art Newspaper

“Jung Chang charges her revisionist narrative with great energy and conviction.”

Iain Finlayson, The Times

“This is an important book, drawing attention to a period in China's history that has received little, and usually only negative, attention. Chang writes with verve, energy and evident concern for the country in which her books are proscribed and her family was made to suffer during the Cultural Revolution.”

BBC History Magazine

“Fascinating… A depiction of the birth of modern China and an intimate portrait of a woman, this is history writing at its best”

Ben Ridgeon, Haverhill Echo

“A beautifully narrated biography… Chang has a wonderful eye for the telling detail”

Frank Dikotter, Sunday Times

“Groundbreaking.”

Jersey Evening Post

“Chang turns the harridan into a heroine.”

Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, The Times

“Filled with new revelations… Gripping and surprising… Powerful.”

Simon Sebag Montefiore, Blackmore Vale Magazine

“Absorbing… Chang has a novelist’s eye for small detail… Chang weaves a suspenseful, anecdote-laden tale.”

Nadine Oâ??Regan and Anna Carey, Sunday Business Post

“One of those rare non-fiction books that reads like a novel without compromising the quality of research – we couldn’t put it down”

Topping & Co. Bookshop, Bath Chronicle

“One of the most important authors of our age, in that she has shown China to the world.”

Catholic Herald

“This is an electrifying description of the birth of modern China and an intimate portrait of an extraordinary woman”

Olivier Philip Ziegler, Good Book Guide

“Chinese political history can be a tough nut to crack, but Chang weaves in and out of Cixi’s biography with an ease that is almost as astounding as the events themselves”

Rosemary Maccabe, Irish Times


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