In the Hornets’ Nest

Pamela Crossley

  • BuyEmpress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China by Jung Chang
    Cape, 436 pp, £20.00, September 2013, ISBN 978 0 224 08743 8

Empress Dowager Cixi of the Qing dynasty is one of those historical figures who are renovated from time to time as the moment demands. In the first decade of the 20th century, she was either the vivacious tea hostess who had protected foreigners from Boxer mobs, or the murderous xenophobe who had set the rioters on them in the first place. In the 1960s and 1970s, she was one of a small collection of ‘powerful’ women newly discovered in Chinese history. And now she appears in the vanguard of stubborn Chinese opposition to foreign arrogance and encroachment. Since Sterling Seagrave’s Dragon Lady of 1992, Cixi has been the subject of or a major figure in a dozen books, as well as films and television series. Still, we evidently need more Cixi.

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