Santa Ana, CA
Empress Dowager Cixi (1835-1908) stands in the center of modern Chinese history. While most commonly understood as a politician, this formidable matriarch was also introduced to Western audience or reader as a connoisseur, patron and even creator of art in the early twentieth century, a phenomenon that interestingly fell unnoticed in modern scholarship.
This exhibition is the first of its kind in the United States to explore the empress dowager’s roles beyond politics. It has been organized through a groundbreaking partnership with the Summer Palace Museum in Beijing. Upon viewing this exhibition, it will become clear that Cixi not only led politics, but also art of China at the crossroads of tradition and innovation. The exhibition reconstructs the matriarch’s everyday life in the Summer Palace, presenting her multi-faceted roles of politician, matriarch and connoisseur of various arts through four different sections and over 100 objects that have never before been seen in the United States.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.
Whether or not you go, Imperial Woman: The Story of the Last Empress of China, by Pearl S. Buck brings to life the amazing story of Tzu Hsi, who rose from concubine status to become the working head of the Qing Dynasty. Born from a humble background, Tzu Hsi falls in love with her cousin Jung Lu, a handsome guard—but while still a teenager she is selected, along with her sister and hundreds of other girls, for relocation to the Forbidden City. Already set apart on account of her beauty, she’s determined to be the emperor’s favorite, and devotes all of her talent and cunning to the task. When the emperor dies, she finds herself in a role of supreme power, one she’ll command for nearly fifty years. Much has been written about Tzu Hsi, but no other novel recreates her life—the extraordinary personality, together with the world of court intrigue and the period of national turmoil with which she dealt—as well as Imperial Woman.