The fascinating, implausible life of Tsu Hsi, or “Orchid,” was reviled by the revolutionary Chinese, but here it receives a sympathetic treatment from Min ( Red. Empress Orchid tells the story of Tzu Hsi, China’s longest-reigning female ruler and its last Empress. According to Min, for decades Chinese schoolchildren have . Empress Orchid [Anchee Min] on *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. From a master of the historical novel, Empress Orchid sweeps readers into .

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Want to Read saving…. Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Preview — Empress Orchid by Anchee Min. To rescue her family from poverty and avoid marrying her slope-shouldered cousin, seventeen-year-old Orchid competes to be one of the Emperor’s wives. When she is chosen as a lower-ranking concubine she enters the erotically charged and ritualised Forbidden City.

Orchid trains herself in the art of pleasuring a man, bribes her way into the royal bed, and seduces the monarch, drawing the attention of dangerous foes. Little does she know that China will collapse around her, and that she will be its last Empress.

Paperbackpages. Published April 11th by Mariner Books first published To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Empress Orchidplease sign up.

This book is about the life of Empress Dowager Cixi, but not written by Dowager herself. My question is, how did the writer Anchee Min know all the details about the empress’ life and how much can we trust the accuracy of the events? The author, like all writers of historical and biographical …more It’s historical fiction, so of course it wouldn’t be written by the Empress herself. The author, like all writers of historical and biographical fiction combines facts and mixes it with fiction.

It appears she did her research, even reading primary sources and documents. From the publisher’s website: Q You did extensive research for Becoming Madame Mao and lived through the Cultural Revolution in China, which added a special intensity to your descriptions. Did similar experiences inform Empress Orchid? A Details are extremely important to me. The most challenging thing has been to get the facts and get them right.

There are sometimes several contrasting versions of a single incident involving Empress Orchid, and many sources are false or inaccurate. I went through documents not only in the Forbidden City, but also medical, accounting, and police records. My reading on the lives of eunuchs, maids, palace tutors, imperial warlords, and generals helped me gain crucial perspective. The Empress’s food and herb manuals and her opera manuals also revealed a lot about her character.

Q Remarkably, you and your father were able to gain access to documents in government-guarded storerooms in Beijing. Would you describe how it happened? A Well, I had to get my hands on the facts, but no official in Beijing would risk his career to open the door for me.

Empress Orchid

So I tried the “back door. Anyway, I got in. The place where all the ancient documents are stored is treated with strong chemicals, so I was told not to stay inside for more than half an hour.

But I didn’t want to leave. I read the Empress’s original decrees or copies of decrees, I can’t be sure. I was choking on the fumes, but I was glad I stayed. The evidence was compelling that she was a fitter ruler than anyone else of that time. There was a reason her regime lasted for forty-six years. See 1 question about Empress Orchid…. Lists with This Book. The setting is China’s Forbidden City in the last days of its imperial glory, a vast complex of palaces and gardens run by thousands of eunuchs and encircled by a wall in the center of Peking.


In this highly ordered place — tradition-bound, ruled by strict etiquette, rife with political and erotic tension — the Emperor, “the Son of Heaven,” performs two duties: To achieve the latter, tradition provides a stupendous hierarchy of hundreds of wives and concubines.

It is as a minor concubine that the beautiful Tzu Hsi, known as Orchid as a girl, enters the Forbidden City at the age of seventeen. It is not a good time to enter the city.

The Ch’ing Dynasty in has lost its vitality, and the court has become an insular, xenophobic place. A few short decades earlier, China lost the Opium Wars, and it has done little since to strengthen its defenses or improve diplomatic ties. Instead, the inner circle has turned further inward, naively confident that its troubles are past and the glory of China will keep the “barbarians” — the outsiders — at bay.

Within the walls of the Forbidden City the consequences of a misstep are deadly. As one of hundreds of women vying for the attention of the Emperor, Orchid soon discovers that she must take matters into her own hands. After training herself in the art of pleasing a man, she bribes her way into the royal bedchamber and seduces the monarch. A grand love affair ensues; the Emperor is a troubled man, but their love is passionate and genuine.

Orchid has the great good fortune to bear him a son. Elevated to the rank of Empress, she still must struggle to maintain her position and the right to raise her own child.

With the death of the Emperor comes a palace coup that ultimately thrusts Orchid into power, although only as regent until her son’s maturity. Now she must rule China as its walls tumble around her, and she alone seems capable of holding the country together. Like that best-selling historical novel, the heroine of Empress Orchid comes down to us with a diabolical reputation — a woman who seized power through sexual seduction, murder, and endless intrigue.

But reality tells a different story. Based on copious research, this is a vivid portrait of a flawed yet utterly compelling woman who survived in a male world, a woman whose main struggle was not to hold on to power but to her own humanity. Richly detailed and completely gripping, Empress Orchid is a novel of high drama and lyricism and the first volume of a trilogy about the life of one of the most important women in history.

Orchid, a young and whose beauty is compared to that of the orchid flower, finds herself caught up in the Imperial and royal court of the forbidden city, when a royal decree announces that the Emperor is looking for mistresses of pure blood, and since Orchid belonged from the Manchu community but with a mediocre background, she luckily gets chosen by the royal court and hereby commences her life in the palace, where mistresses plot against one another to win the trust of the Emperor by bearing him an heir.

And Orchid must join this race against fertility to make the king happy and to help herself in the royal court filled with jealousy, rage, rivalry and enmity both by the insiders as well as the by the outsiders.

Once again, luck plays in favor of Orchid, when she bears the Emperor a son, but sadly the Emperor’s failing health takes a toll on him and takes him away too soon from his dear ones as well as from his Empire. So to save the Forbidden city as well as her 5-year old son, who is not of age to rule a kingdom, Empress Orchid takes over the throne, and like they have forever criticized that she became the reason of downfall of the Chinese kingdom in the hands of the European invaders and rulers, this book tells the truth behind her downfall.

I’ve always been a fan of Oriental historical fiction, since they are so much rich with beauty, so many elements and oriental flavor that is riveting to read about. Although Min’s book about the last empress of China, which is a fictional story yet based on the real life account of the Empress, is really well layered with custom, culture and culture of the 19th century China, yet somewhere the central character, Empress Orchid, on whim this book is based on, is not at all well developed, rather, she lacks depth.


As for me, I failed to connect with the Imperial queen who became the sole reason for the downfall of the Forbidden city.

The writing style of the author is really articulate and laced with enough orcbid that will move the readers deeply. The prose is often lyrical and with a fairly fast pace, the story reads like some intriguing and mystifying fairy tale, only this fairy tale has no happy ending.

The dialogues are enchanting and realistic enough to let the readers relate t the characters’ voices and plights. There are lot of layers and multi elements that will keep the readers engaged till the very last page.

The backdrop of the Forbidden City is vividly painted with bright hues of colors, rich culture, superstitious customs, servants’ whispers, oriental flowers and ponds, everything easily comes alive right before the eyes of the readers. The author’s research is spot on, since the story delves deeper with accurate details about that era’s feel.

Sadly the characters took a back seat in this story. The story might abchee very rich, orcchid the characters are extremely dull unlike their bright background.

Empress Orchid – By Anchee Min by Qin Wang on Prezi

emprss The main character, Orchid, mepress a compelling protagonist, but both her back story as well as her journey fails drastically to give the readers a clear impression about her personality. Her journey is enduring, but she is the one who fails to connect the readers with her heart breaking journey.

The rest of the supporting characters mar the charm of this story. In a nutshell, the story is extremely absorbing to read about but sadly the characters steal away the limelight and make it look tremendously dull and boring.

Could have been a great book! I can’t say exactly whether this book is a work of fiction or a biography. Ci Xi has always been portrayed as a ruthless, evil woman with insatiable thirst for power and, in this book, she’s described as a simple and sensuous woman who wants the best for her husband, a mother who wants emprses son to have what’s rightfully his, and a I-don’t-know-what who wants the bes I can’t say exactly whether this oorchid is a work of fiction or a biography.

Ci Xi has always been portrayed as a ruthless, evil woman with insatiable thirst for power and, in this book, she’s described as a simple and sensuous woman who wants the best for her husband, a mother who wants her son to have what’s rightfully his, and a I-don’t-know-what who wants the best for China.

The book starts off well: I couldn’t put it down. However to wards the end, it gets rather dishonest: OK, perhaps I’m not being fair here but the images toward the end of the book are closer to Hillary Clinton among books and state documents rather than Imperial China where the Emperor has the absolute power.

All these are true accounts actually, it’s just the portrayal that I think is exaggerated. Unfortunately, the story ends when the son becomes the Emperor. The years following that, actually, are the most important ones which establishes her reputation as orchd powerful, ambitious, and intelligent Empress. Writing style, it’s nice and simple. Words and phrases flow well.

Everything can be summarized in the following excerpt from Julia Lovell’s review for the Guardian: Can get quite funny in the beginning. And the historical events, accurate or not, are quite harmless. Who says Asians are prudes?

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