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Dragon Empress: Life and Times of Tz'u-hsi, 1835-1908, Empress Dowager of China Hardcover – 26 Oct 1972
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Marina Warner largely portrays Empress Dowager Cixi in a bad light. Unlike Sterling Seagrave’s biography that describes Cixi as an illiterate woman, who had no experience in politics, Marina Warner portrays her as an intelligent woman who knew how to rule. When she was the favored concubine of Emperor Xianfeng, she mostly ruled during his reign and criticized him for being a coward. During her reign as regent, she was shown to be morally corrupt, indulging in earthly pleasures such as picnics, boat rides, and theater. She was portrayed as so evil that sometimes it almost seemed very cartoonish, and at times I found it utterly comical and unbelievable.
Overall, there is not much new in this biography. It portrayed Empress Dowager Cixi in the traditional light. There was so much negativity about her that I honestly questioned its validity in some aspects. When I looked at the sources that the author mentioned, I found that some of them were questionable. However, it was very easy to read. I also loved the illustrations and thought it enhanced the reading experience. Therefore, it was an entertaining read. However, I suggest that you should read it with caution. The best and most balanced biography of Cixi to date that I have read is Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China by Jung Chang. After you finish reading the biographies by Marina Warner and Sterling Seagrave, immediately read the biography by Jung Chang in order to form a well-rounded portrait of the Empress Dowager.
"Now look at me, I have 400,000,000 people all dependent on my judgment."
Now THAT is a monarch.
This review is for the 1972 Macmillan edition...
Blurb: "From 1861 to 1908 the Celestial Empire was ruled by the iron hand of a woman -- the Empress Dowager Tz'u-hsi. She was opportunistic, malicious, ruthless, and xenophobic. While her determination held the empire together for nearly 50 years, her reactionary, Sino-centric view of the world plunged China into poverty and civil war, encouraged foreign invasions, and ultimately brought about the end of the Ch-ing Dynasty."
A handsome production from Macmillan: cloth over boards with a sewn binding, 271 pp with b&w illustrations throughout, 2.25 pounds, with end notes and an index.