Beyond the Book: Background information when reading The Last Empress

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The Last Empress

by Anchee Min

The Last Empress
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2007, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2008, 336 pages

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Dowager Empress Tzu Hsi (spelled Cixi in Pinyin; pronouced Tsoo Shee) had a bad reputation while she lived and after she died. However, in recent decades the tide of historical opinion has been shifting. Much of the West's view of Cixi comes from the writings of Edmund Backhouse (1873-1944) who claimed to have had close contact with the Empress over many years and portrayed her as a ruthless, extravagant, psychopathic nymphomaniac. However, in 1974 Backhouse was revealed to be an unmitigated fraud. Unfortunately, by that time, false information about the Empress had been in circulation in the West for many decades; with similar misinformation circulating in...

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