Marina Warner's The Dragon Empress
At the age of sixteen, the beautiful and elegant T’zu-hsi entered the Forbidden City in Peking. The daunting walls, enormous buildings and massive pillars loomed around her as she walked deeper and deeper into its confines. She entered the palace as a timid young girl, but it was from within these walls that she would keep her claws around all of China. Marina Warner describes the life of this ruthless enchantress in The Dragon Empress, an essential read for understanding Chinese culture during the 18th and early 19th centuries.
Tz’u-hsi, also known as the empress dowager, ruled all of China from 1861 to 1908. It is ...view middle of the document...
The palace life is described in great detail, from the concubines to the over 3,000 eunuchs attending only the emperor.
Marina Warner writes in brief, concise sentences, and at other times she describes a scene almost as if she saw it with her own eyes. “Like Baldur the Beautiful he would stand, flushed, before them as they hit him with the blades of their swords and shot at him with arrows or even cartridges, and in his trance, feel not a thing” (Warner, 179). This is one of my favorite images that Warner describes in her book. She uses clear and understandable language, which helps to understand the many facts and thoughts she imbeds in her writing.
This book is very useful for those interested in details. Marina goes into a lot of detail regarding every aspect of Tz’u-hsi’s life, the palace, and the politics of the time. This is definitely not a book for those who are looking for a brief overview of her life. It provides intimate descriptions and serves to bolster concepts of Chinese culture.
The photographs in this book are invaluable. You are able to see what Tz’u-hsi actually looked liked, the eunuchs who attended her, and the graceful Chinese art and architecture within the palace walls. The gruesome and mutilated feet of the upper class are shown, along with...