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Imperial Woman: The Story of the Last Empress of China (Oriental Novels of Pearl S. Buck) Paperback – December 1, 2004

4.5 out of 5 stars 360 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"A long, richly woven and to me, quite absorbing novel." -- The Nation

About the Author

Pearl S. Buck was born in West Virginia and taken to China as an infant before the turn of the century. Buck grew up speaking Chinese as well as English. She is the most widely translated American author to this day. She has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Prize for Literature. She died in 1973.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Moyer Bell and its subsidiaries; 1 edition (December 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1559210354
  • ISBN-13: 978-1559210355
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (360 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #158,091 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
Imperial Woman tells the story of Tzu-Hsi, the last Empress of China. It is well known that she was a formidable, fierce and cruelly efficient leader, but this story begins when she is a beautiful young teenager, vibrant, full of life, and deeply in love with her cousin, a handsome and stalwart guard at the Imperial Palace.
As was the custom in the day (as I learned from this book), the Emperor yearly picked a new crop of concubines from the daughters of the wealthy of China. It was considered a great honor to send one's daughter into whoredom at the palace, and the shocking details of how they were chosen and used make up the first part of the book. Our heroine, who is still known by her childhood name, Yehonala, is sent, along with her cousin Sakota--both are picked. On one inevitable night, Yehonala is sent to the Emperor's bedroom, and there loses her innocence forever, in more ways than one.
Swiftly becoming the Emperor's favorite, our heroine learns the intrigues of the palace, learning to trust nobody but to rely on only those closest to her. She consolidates her position by giving birth to the Emperor's only son, thus receiving the new name of "fortunate mother"--and a place of power higher than any woman in the palace.
But was the Emperor's son really his son? Can the formerly innocent concubine, fast becoming a political player worthy of anybody in today's world, stay alive to see her son crowned? Or will she be murdered in the truly baroque but terribly dangerous palace in-wars?
All is told in this fascinating book, written in Buck's simple but elegant style. This is one of her best, and well worth finding and reading.
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Format: Paperback
Though Tzu Hsi (pronounced Sue- Z) was the last Empress of China very little of her life-- both personal and private-- is known. Much as been written about this unfortunate woman; nearly all of it speculation and a good deal of it obscene. In her book "Imperial Woman" Mrs. Buck trys her hand at telling the story of Tzu Hsi and,in my opinion, comes about as close to the real woman as we're ever going to find. Tzu Hsi here is no cardboard figure but a flesh and blood woman with fear, ambition,helpless, cunning, triumphants, and deep loniless. All set mid-late 19th century China in a court, in a county, weak and rotting from the inside out while struggling to deal wth coming of the West and the 20th century. The characterization, dialogue, and discription are magnificent. A "must read"-- definatly!
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Format: Paperback
All about Tzu-Hsi, last empress of China, who reigned from the 1860's until her death in 1908. She reigned during a period of great transition in China, as the book goes on there is increasing pressure from outside - the nations of England, France, Russia, United States and others demand from China increased trade and the rights to allow their citizens to live in China and their priests & missionaries to travel wherever they please. Japan too is an ever present threat. The empress was unable to adapt to modern times, and rather than building modern ships and arms that would have enabled China to defend itself, all the taxes collected were spent on luxuries and palaces for her, only at the very end of her days after defeat did she accept the idea that China could not keep itself isolated from all the other peoples of the world and finally opened to the idea of sending Chinese abroad to study foreign ways.
The story begins with the teenager Yehonala, betrothed to Jung-Lu, she and her cousin Sakota are chosen to be royal concubines of the Emperor, a sickly and weak man who so far has been unable to produce an heir. Through sheer guile and ambition, Yehonala becomes the favorite, and produces a son for the Emperor (or is it his son?). When the emperor dies, she becomes Empress mother, regent for her still young son, and upon his death she seizes the throne and becomes Empress in her own right, first sharing the throne with her cousin Sakota, then finally alone. As Empress of China, Tzu-Hsi has absolute power and can raise people up or down, have them beheaded or bestow mercy according to her whim, but she is unloved and deeply lonely as the extremely powerful often are.
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Format: Paperback
IMPERIAL WOMAN is the fictionalized biography of the great Dowager Empress Tzu Hsi, the real power behind the throne during the reins of the last four emperors of China. The story starts with her as a beautiful Manchu teenager who, along with her cousin Sakota, is picked for the emperor's crop of concubines. Through guile and ambition, Tzu Hsi bears the male heir to the emperor she comes to control. When the emperor dies young, Tzu Hsi makes sure she and Sakota are named regents for the young child emperor.

Through keen intelligence, intrigue, and whatever other means necessary, Tzu Hsi holds the imperial throne through her son's childhood. Buck portrays a woman split between feelings of love for her family and what is the best for the empire, rather than what I gather is the historical feeling - that Tzu Hsi was some sort of evil spider spinning schemes from the center of her web in Forbidden City. Through all the machinations and years she is aided by Jung Lu, her former betrothed and the love of her life.

The Dowager Empress has the ultimate power, but Buck shows she is a servant of the opinions of her court advisors and in reality only rules the eunuchs and court ladies in the Forbidden City. She is a relic of the past in a time of great change and cultural upheaval in China, when it is besieged by western nations and ideas. The infamous Boxer Rebellion is the beginning of the end for Tzu Hsi, and she loses her spirit and resolve after this defeat and the death of her beloved Jung Lu.
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