Books in Conversation: Jung Chang in Conversation with Anne Chao


Internationally known for the bestselling Wild Swans and Mao: The Unknown Story, Jung Chang has returned with her first book in eight years. Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China (Random House) is the biography of the extraordinary woman who single-handedly dragged China into the modern age.

Empress Dowager Cixi is the most important woman in Chinese history. She ruled China for 47 years and brought a medieval empire into the modern age. At the age of 16, in a nationwide selection for royal consorts, Cixi was chosen as one of Emperor Xianfeng's numerous concubines. When Xianfeng died in 1861, their 5-year-old son, Tongzhi, became the next emperor. Cixi at once launched a palace coup, ousted 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 male officials.

In this biography, 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, the telegraph, an army and navy with up-to-date weaponry. She developed foreign trade and diplomacy and established an entirely new education system.



Asia Society Texas Center
1370 Southmore Blvd.
Houston, TX 77004


$8 general admission; $5 Asia Society Texas Center members.
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