Thursday, February 28, 2013

Empress Orchid by Anchee Min

One day, when I was whatsapping my mom, she mentioned she was reading a book about China's last empress. For some reason, I thought of Wu Zetian instead of Cixi. This is why I regret not taking Chinese history.

But because of this, when my family came over and passed me a luggage of stuff, I found this book inside. I guess my mom thought I wanted to read it. It's a good thing too, because this is an awesome book!

Empress Orchid follows the titular Orchid as she enters the Forbidden City to be one of the Emperor's wives. She does this mainly to escape marrying her cousin, but she's soon caught up in the intrigue, and tries to win the heart of the emperor. Around her, news of the "barbarians" from the West keep arriving, and China is humiliated again and again.

Orchid (or Cixi), was admirable. She's a strong woman, who's even better at governing than her husband. I loved reading about how she learnt about governing and drafting edicts herself, turning herself from a naive country girl to a woman who could manipulate the courts. And when you see who she's against, well, I couldn't help but admire her.

Apart from Orchid, there are other characters, like the other Emperess Nuharoo (Empress Ci'an), who is more concern with Buddhism than material things. Yet, she has spies and seems to be quite adept at navigating the court herself (but she's hates anything to do with governing). There's also her son Tung Chih, the only son of the Emperor and a little boy that sounds like a brat. I wish Orchid could discipline him more, but she's overruled by the "official mother", Nuharoo.

The only thing that I didn't like was how they spelt the Chinese words. I think that not everything is Mandarin, so I can overlook it.

According to the author, she has tried her best to keep things historically accurate. This just means I now have a renewed interest in Chinese history. Someone please remind me to get books on this when I get back to Singapore.


  1. I have always found Chinese history interesting. I need to find this book. Thanks for reviewing it.

    1. It's really good! I hope you get the chance to read it!



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