With the Empress dowager By Katharine A. Carl

    I was initially drawn to this book because I was told it was one of the best primary sources in English on the court of Empress Cixi at the Summer Palace. I expected the facts, observations, and beautiful illustrations to be couched in a fair amount of racial prejudice and cultural chauvinism, which would only have been typical of the time.
    However, I was very pleasantly surprised. This was a beautifully woman-centred book. Not only was it written from the perspective of a woman, interacting with and describing other women, but its entire attitude towards its subjects was markedly feminine - i.e.: the author's predisposition was to give way and to make allowances. She acknowledged her own outsider status and ignorance of the host culture. She did not have the missionary tendency to make harsh judgments and impositions. She did not have any pretence towards being an observer from a superior civilisation.

    'The peculiar position of a Chinese Emperor [...] shuts him in his Palace like a Buddha in a temple. [...] When the Ruler of the Celestial Empire is a woman, the Palace becomes even more of a [...] shut-in shrine than in the case of an Emperor'.
    'The Palaces of Chinese Emperors are like towns'.
    'During the long Co-Regency of these two remarkable women, widows of the Emperor Hsien-feng, one led the life of a student; the other, the active, militant life of a ruler'.
    'One of [Her Majesty's] favourite historical characters is the Chinese Jeanne d'Arc, the warlike Maiden Whar-Mou-Lan, who went forth to battle in masculine guise, had many heroic adventures in her twelve years' service, and, through them all, remained a virgin pure'.
    p.163-4 when the ideal portrait is described
    Chapter 30 the Empress Dowager
    The entire chapter on the Summer Palace
    The Chinese are said to hate the foreigner. They certainly have not much reason to like him; nor to admire our much-vaunted civilisation. The European Christian soldier in China has burnt, destroyed, and killed with as much barbarity as the heathen, and in many instances has given the latter points in cruelty.
    Katharine A. Carl Compelling and eye opening. I found it to be very enjoyable and, even with some flaws and inaccuracies, it was good to read a sympathetic biography of a much maligned woman ruler. She was certainly not the monster that most histories paint her to be. On the contrary, she was a ruler with a heart for her country and a conviction few men before her held. Katharine A. Carl I enjoyed this book immensely. Carl is a very engaging writer, and I could easily imagine myself by her side, experiencing the same highs and lows that she does (she uses a lot of exclamation marks!) and empathizing with her when something does not play out the way she would have liked. It's also rather refreshing to read about a westerner's perspective of Cixi that wasn't completely negative and/or racist--hard to come by in the Empress Dowager's day and age. Katharine A. Carl

    This is an OCR edition without illustrations or index. It may have numerous typos or missing text. However, purchasers can download a free scanned copy of the original rare book from GeneralBooksClub.com. You can also preview excerpts from the book there. Purchasers are also entitled to a free trial membership in the General Books Club where they can select from more than a million books without charge. Original Published by: The Century co. in 1905 in 388 pages; Subjects: China; History / Asia / General; History / Asia / China; Travel / Asia / China; With the Empress dowager

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