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Empress Orchid by Anchee Min
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Empress Orchid (original 2004; edition 2005)

by Anchee Min (Author)

Series: Empress Orchid (Book 1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,014506,072 (3.68)94
Seventeen-year-old Orchid belongs to an aristocratic family that has fallen on hard times. Unexpectedly, she is chosen as one of the emperor's lesser concubines. Within the Forbidden City are thousands of women hoping to bear the emperor a son and become his empress. Orchid, determined and resourceful, schemes her way into the royal bed and seduces the emperor. But as the opium trade erodes the might of the Ch'ing dynasty, Orchid find herself at the center of a crumbling nation.… (more)
Member:KellyPetit
Title:Empress Orchid
Authors:Anchee Min (Author)
Info:Mariner Books (2005), Edition: Reprint, 368 pages
Collections:Your library
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Empress Orchid by Anchee Min (2004)

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English (47)  Swedish (1)  French (1)  All languages (49)
Showing 1-5 of 47 (next | show all)
A very readable account of the early life of the Dowager Empress Cixi. From relatively humble beginnings, she is selected as one of the concubines of the rather feeble, uninspiring Emperor.
In the harem of the Forbidden City, there is rivalry...sometimes murderously so...among the womenfolk. Jealous over sharing her husband...and limited in the contact she gets to have with her own son, as the official wife takes precedence....Orchid's life is difficult.
Yet as enemy nations wade in, as the Emperor falls ill and as palace officials jockey for position, her world becomes yet more difficult.
Informative, rather horrific in places... Anchee Min falls into the trap of many historic novels on strong women, where the heroine feels a rather TOO 21st century, all-action female.
But all set to read the sequel... ( )
  starbox | Jun 12, 2021 |
Empress Orchid is ten times more interesting to me because it’s about an actual Chinese empress, the Empress Dowager Cixi. While it’s a fictionalized account of her life and we have no way of really knowing if she was actually like the woman Min wrote about, I enjoyed this imagined version of her. Orchid was strong and smart, passionate about her country and her family, but she was also uncertain most of the time in an environment where she could be killed at almost any time. It’s a great story and I’m eager to read the sequel as it explores more of her journey from a young woman with almost no power to the most powerful woman in China. ( )
  jobinsonlis | May 11, 2021 |
Empress Orchid is the first part of the story of the last Chinese empress, Ci Xi, a woman who is not portrayed kindly by the official Chinese history.

The official history tends to paint Ci Xi as an overly conservative, power-hungry manipulator who fulfilled the prophecy that the Empire would be brought down by a woman. Not so in this book by Chinese author Anchee Min, who defected to the west in the eighties. The story is told in the Empress' own voice, which increases the reader's disposition to sympathize with her. In this volume, Orchid is an imperial concubine who is just trying to ensure survival for herself and her family in a court filled with endless intrigue and ceremonials.

In the middle of the 19th century, the once mighty Manchurian Qing dynasty is struggling to maintain its rule over China. European military and economic invasions and the Taiping peasant rebellions are threatening to bring down the curtain on the 5000 year-old empire. Yet, the Emperor's court retreats deeper into isolation, ceremonial tradition and etiquette, as if that protected them from the military power of their opponents. It is in this time that a 17 year old impoverished Manchurian noblewoman Orchid is selected as one of Emperor's Hsieng Fen's seven wives.

Immediately, a power struggle ensues between the Emperor's concubines competing for his favor. Orchid is quite adept at this game, using her intellectual power and erotic skills to rise higher on the social ladder. Yet, her love for the Emperor is portrayed as genuine and passionate. Eventually, she is able to give him a son, further improving her standing but also making more enemies among the courtiers and the concubines. As the Emperor's health deteriorates, a struggle for his succession and the continuing existence of China turns into a struggle for survival for Orchid and her son in a giant mixture of politics, tradition, religion, love and passion...

This is a very easy read. Anchee Min's style is clear and to the point, though I wonder if sometimes she couldn't improve on the vividness of a scene by employing the "show" style of storytelling rather than the "tell" style. I think some scenes would lend themselves well to a more sensuous approach. I wonder also if certain things from the Empress' life aren't glossed over. She does nothing to spare the lives of sons and eunuchs of her defeated rival, a fact that is not concealed in the book, yet it seemingly presents her with no moral dilemma and does not fit the portrayal of her as an otherwise compassionate woman who prevents executions and cruel punishments. I guess you don't rise to be the most powerful woman in China by always showing mercy ... ( )
  matija2019 | Jan 8, 2019 |
Orchid has lived much of her life in poverty, but at seventeen, she is chosen to be one of the Emperor’s seven wives/3000 concubines, and is swept into a life or luxury, power and intrigue she never could have imagined. Being a concubine is not quite what she would have thought. And Orchid (a.k.a. Tzu Hsi) is not your usual 19th century Chinese woman.

This was really good. I don’t know very much Chinese history, so all this was new to me. She seems to be such an interesting, strong woman. This was fiction, though, so I don’t know for sure what details happened, but it is a great story. I believe there is a sequel, which I do hope to read as well. ( )
  LibraryCin | Jun 20, 2017 |
Empress Orchid by Anchee Min is the story of a girl who rises from poverty to the role of Empress Dowager of China. Told as a first person narrative, the book submerges the reader into her world. As such, the story appears as viewed through the lens of a camera - Orchid's eyes. What is beyond the frame - beyond her perspective - remains beyond the reader. History, biography, and all the makings of a soap opera surround Orchid and come together in an entertaining story.

Read my complete review at: http://www.memoriesfrombooks.com/2016/02/empress-orchid.html ( )
  njmom3 | Feb 26, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 47 (next | show all)
Anchee Minh describes the life at Court in meticulous detail. She seems to take a few historic liberties in composing her novel, but she does manage to convey the very restrictive and isolated nature of imperial life in Beijing more than a century ago. There is good coverage of the Western penetration of China and of the unwillingness and inability of the Court to respond to this challenge. The novel is [also] very well written.
added by sgump | editSoutheast Review of Asian Studies, Daniel A. Métraux (Dec 1, 2005)
 

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Information from the Russian Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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Mes révélations avec Tseu-hi débutèrent en 1902 et se poursuivirent jusqu'au bout. J'ai conservé le compte rendu exceptionnellement précis de mon association secrète avec l'impératrice ainsi qu'avec d'autres notes et messages d'intérêt que m'avait adressés Sa Majesté, mais j'eus l'infortune de perdre tous ces manuscrits et ces papiers. - Sir Edmund Backhouse (1910 et 1914)
En 1974, à la grande confusion d'Oxford et à la consternation discrète des spécialistes de la Chine de tous pays, Backhouse se révéla être un faussaire... L'escroc était dénoncé mais sa fiction constituait toujours un matériau de tout premier ordre. Sterling Seagrave (1992)
Un des sages de la Chine ancienne a écrit : « la Chine sera détruite par une femme. » La prophétie approche de son accomplissement. - Dr George Ernest Morrison (1892-1912)
Tseu-hi s'est révélée bienveillante et économe. Son caractère privé fut irréprochable. - Charles Denby (1898)
Elle fut l'incarnation du mal et de l'intrigue à l'état pur. - Manuel scolaire chinois (1949-1991)
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For my daughter, Lauryann, and all the adopted daughters from China
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The truth is that I have never been the mastermind of anything.
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Seventeen-year-old Orchid belongs to an aristocratic family that has fallen on hard times. Unexpectedly, she is chosen as one of the emperor's lesser concubines. Within the Forbidden City are thousands of women hoping to bear the emperor a son and become his empress. Orchid, determined and resourceful, schemes her way into the royal bed and seduces the emperor. But as the opium trade erodes the might of the Ch'ing dynasty, Orchid find herself at the center of a crumbling nation.

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