The Dragon Empress: The Life and Times of Tz’u-Hsi, Empress Dowager of China, 1835-1980
History Book Club; First American Edition edition (1972)
Atheneum; 1st edition (1986)
From 1861 to 1908 a woman, Empress Dowager Tz’u-hsi, born the daughter of a minor mandarin, held the supreme power in China. Opportunistic, ruthless, malicious, she ruled over four hundred million people.
Marina Warner’s biography lays bare her complex personality: her extreme conventionalism; her hatred of ‘foreigners’; her passion for power and intrigue; her vanity and her delight in ritual; her extravagance and corruption and her love of gardens, painting and the theatre.
The Dragon Empress also portrays a China in rapid decline, civil war and foreign exploitation and invasion brought about the fall of the Ch’ing dynasty.
‘The picture of court life is endlessly fascinating… I still find myself gasping at her wit, her industry and her command of beautiful, plain English.’
‘A spirited narrative, every line bristling with brilliant detail.’