Imperial Woman by Pearl S. Buck
Cixi was the last empress of China who outlived not only the emperor, but her son. At a young age, when she was known as Orchid, she was chosen to be a concubine for the current emperor. Her cousin was already a consort to the emperor. Orchid was able to find her way into the good graces of the emperor and soon was carrying his child. All hoped it would be a boy. The baby born to her cousin had been a girl, so there was still hope that a male heir would be born.
During all of this there was change and strife in the land of China. Ideas were changing and people became dissatisfied with the way things were ruled in the country. More and more foreigners were showing up, building their buildings, and bringing strange gods to the land.
The emperor was not long-lived. He died when his son was only five years old. Orchid, or Cixi, and her cousin, aided in ruling the land of China until the young emperor reached age. Despite having reached a ruling age, Cixi still held a lot of power in the land of China. At first, she hated foreigners, but decided to work with them to some degree. Her son died and she had to choose another to be emperor, but did not let go of much power. She played an important part in the ruling of China until her death in 1908.
What I liked
This is a historical fiction about real people. Cixi was real. She really did do a whole lot of ruling at a time when women weren’t doing a whole lot of ruling. In the book Cixi admired Queen Victoria, but the two never met, that I recall. Cixi’s rule was really the end of an era. It wasn’t too long after her death that China adopted much different ruling practices.
I admire the fact that Cixi came from pretty much nothing and was able to be elevated to the rank of empress. There was still a lot of tradition in the world this time which stated you had to be some sort of noble to get into a position like empress. You couldn’t just be the daughter of a merchant and be the queen of England one day. I admire the previous rule of China for this fact, even though there are a whole lot of things not to admire about it.
There was definitely a lot of great history in this book.
What I didn’t like
I didn’t particularly like the empress in the book. She seemed very ruthless. Maybe it’s because I’m not necessarily down with the idea of ruthless women. I certainly wouldn’t do anything and everything, regardless of feelings and others, to get and maintain power for myself. I also don’t really like the system that was in place. It all seemed very cat-fighty. The woman who had the emperor’s heart first, didn’t get to be the empress because she had a daughter instead of a son and that’s just unfortunate. Their whole world was determined by who had a daughter and who had a son. You could be promoted or put away just because of a penis. That’s not fair.
I also don’t really like the idea of polygamy at all. While the emperor wasn’t technically married to all of his concubines, he still had multiple women and I’m just not cool with that. It shouldn’t be a promoted habit for a man to go around sleeping with as many women as he wants, while he has a family.
Cixi rules all…
Would you ever be someone’s concubine?
Should ruling a country be a privilege only people from certain backgrounds can aspire to? Keep in mind, we do the same thing in the United States. Our presidents have money, lots of it. You can’t run for president on thirty-thousand dollars a year.