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JUNG CHANG / Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China
Hillside Club
Berkeley, CA
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From the author of Wild Swans and Mao: The Untold Story

Empress Dowager Cixi (1835-1908) is the most important woman in Chinese history. She ruled China for decades and brought a medieval empire into the modem age.

At the age of 16, in a nationwide selection for royal consorts, Cixi was chosen as one of the emperor's numerous concubines and sexual partners. When he died in 1861, their 5-year-old son succeeded to the throne. Cixi at once launched a palace coup against the regents appointed by her husband and made herself the real ruler of China -- behind the throne, literally, with a silk screen separating her from her officials who were all male.

ln this ground-breaking biography, Jung Chang vividly describes how Cixi fought against monumental obstacles to change China. Under her the ancient country attained virtually all the attributes of a modern state: industries, railways, electricity, telegraph, and an army and navy with up-to-date weaponry. lt was she who abolished gruesome punishments like 'death by a thousand cuts' and put an end to foot-binding. She inaugurated women's liberation, and embarked on the path to introduce parliamentary elections to China. Chang comprehensively overturns the conventional view of Cixi as a die-hard conservative and cruel despot.

Cixi reigned during extraordinary times and had to deal with a host of major national crises: the Taiping and Boxer rebellions, wars with France and Japan -- and the invasion by allied powers including Britain, Germany, Russia and the United States. Chang not only records the Empress Dowager's conduct of domestic and foreign affairs, but 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. The world Chang describes, in fascinating detail, seems almost unbelievable in its extraordinary mixture of the very old and the very new.

Based on newly available, mostly Chinese, historical documents such as court records, official and private correspondence, diaries and eye-witness accounts, Empress Dowager Cixi revolutionizes  historical thinking about a crucial period in China's -- and the world's -- history. 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 wor1d's population, and as a unique stateswoman.

Jung Chang is the best-Selling author of Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China (which the Asian Wall Street Journal called the most read book about China), and Mao: The Unknown Story, which was described by Time Magazine as 'an atom bomb of a book'. Her books have been translated into more than 40 languages and sold more than 15 million copies outside mainland China where they are both banned. She was born in China in 1952, and came to Britain in 1978. She lives in London.

7:30 PM at the Hillside Club (2286 Cedar Street, Berkeley)
Tickets: $15 general, $8 students; $20 at the door
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Location

Hillside Club (View)
2286 Cedar Street
Berkeley, CA 94709
United States


Categories

Arts > Literary
Other > Political

Kid Friendly: No
Dog Friendly: No
Non-Smoking: Yes!
Wheelchair Accessible: Yes!

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