Empress Orchid: A Novel

Empress Orchid: A Novel

by Anchee Min
4.2 89

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Overview

Empress Orchid: A Novel by Anchee Min

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: he must rule the court and conceive an heir. 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 1852 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.

This is an epic story firmly in the mold of Anchee Min’s Becoming Madame Mao. 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780618068876
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 02/03/2004
Pages: 352
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.31(d)

About the Author

Anchee Min was born in Shanghai in 1957. At seventeen she was sent to a labor collective, where a talent scout for Madame Mao’s Shanghai Film Studio recruited her to work as a movie actress. She came to the United States in 1984 with the help of actress Joan Chen. Her memoir, Red Azalea, was named one of the New York Times Notable Books of 1994 and was an international bestseller, with rights sold in twenty countries. Her novels Becoming Madame Mao and Empress Orchid were published to critical acclaim and were national bestsellers. Her two other novels, Katherine and Wild Ginger, were published to wonderful reviews and impressive foreign sales.

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Empress Orchid 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 89 reviews.
yeni More than 1 year ago
In regards to the last anonomous reviwer, this book is classified as a fiction. Min has every right to express or portay Empress Orchid in her view. However, you seemed almost convinced (maybe even brainwashed from Chinese history which tends to blame everything on the women) that it is Empress Orchid is a negative person. For example, how many thousands of years has the women been responsible to bring sons to the family and it is still going on today!!! Look at all the babies girls being thrown away just so families can have a son to bear their last name! Yet, it was never the sons fault!!! Bound by tradition, Orchid fought her way to save China, and try to help her son become Emperor. Perhaps it was ShunShim that poisoned Guang-Xsu? How was it provened it was Empress Orchid? Please enlighten us with your fact!!! Dont forget, its a fictional novel! Either you enjoy it for its sensitivity, or you are just ONE-Minded!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The elaborate details of the Qing Dynasty¿s court life and etiquette made this book extremely enjoyable as I have been very interested in this particular dynasty since I was young. Moreover, this book was written in the form of Cixi¿s autobiography, making it even more intriguing as you can imagine yourself to be in her shoes and think the same thoughts as she did. However, there are some inaccurate historical details in this book that left me quite fustrated such as how Lin Zhe Xu destroyed opium after the Opium Wars. In Anchee Min¿s book, he set fire to 20000 cases of opium and that the burning pit was as large as a lake. That is the most common misconception anyone can ever have about the Opium Wars. Commissioner Lin did not set fire to the opium cases, he in fact dissolved the opium into sea after chemically treating it with sulphur, etc such that it could no longer serve as an addicitve drug. That was the biggest sorepoint of the entire book.
rtpana More than 1 year ago
I gave this book 3 stars because it did keep me entertained and was a fast read at the airport. However, many story lines were left without a conclusion - for example: I spanked the Emperor and now I would be punished - then nothing - was she punished? How? There are also some unjustified pseudo-passions that lead to nothing. An admirer risks getting sealed in the Emperor's grave while she is deciding whether to live or die. Really silly.
HistorianIL More than 1 year ago
This is an interesting peek into the life of what it must have been like for a woman chosen as a concubine - or wife - of a Chinese Emperor. She has to bend with the whims of her husband, who is shared amongst as many partners as he pleases. She may not even be able to raise her own son, if she is not the #1 wife, designated as Empress. Also a very intriguing historical read of the frustrations of the Chinese court and the inability of the emperor in the mid-1800s to stop the invasion economic control of foreigners into his own domain.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
entertaining and easy to read, great to learn more about imperial life in the XIX century China.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love to read a book that transports you into the story. This book does that beautifully. I was no longer in my humble home in south east Texas, I was walking in lavish gardens and gilded halls of the Forbidden City. Anchee Min holds her readers captive from the first page to the last. I never wanted this book to end. One of my new favorites.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of my favorites
StacieRosePittard More than 1 year ago
Very interesting story. The author (Anchee Min) did a fantastic job of bringing history to life. She managed to paint a clear picture of imperial life and custom, as well as the general political atmosphere of China at the time. Empress Tzu Hsi is a rather controversial historical figure, and Min did a great job of advocating for a perspective of Tzu Hsi that is not often considered, while still sticking to historical accuracy. The pages were packed with well researched history, yet there was not a feeling of being overwhelmed by boring facts. I really enjoyed this book, and learned a great deal from it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I for one am very disappointed in the style of writing. I love to read stories about china and japan. I have read almost all of Lisa See's books and would recommend them over Anchee Min any day of the week.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book very much. very entertaining.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book awhile ago. So forgive me for not getting into so many details as I would like. But I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading about different cultures. But its very well written. I couldn't put it down. And that I can remember.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I didnt want it to end......
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book covers an interesting historical period in Chinese history, and I was fascinated by Min's description of the Forbidden City. Given all that she endured and accomplished, the main character should have been interesting, but instead her voice is very flat and her relationships with other characters remain one-dimensional. I skipped the last 40 pages or so - really didn't care what happened to the narrator.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really enjoyed this amazing story
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If u like this read the twenty first wife
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Had me at the first chapter