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Empress Orchid (Empress Orchid #1)

3.87  ·  Rating Details ·  18,101 Ratings  ·  1,102 Reviews

To rescue her family from poverty and avoid marrying her slope-shouldered cousin, seventeen-year-old Orchid competes to be one of the Emperor's wives. When she is chosen as a lower-ranking concubine she enters the erotically charged and ritualised Forbidden City. But beneath its immaculate façade lie whispers of murders and ghosts, and the thousands of concubines will stoo

Kindle Edition, 356 pages
Published (first published 2003)
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Jul 29, 2007 Bookshop rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I can't say exactly whether this book is a work of fiction or a biography. It tells the story of Ci Xi, China's Last Empress (the one who arranged the ascend of China's Last Emperor, Pu Yi) in her own voice. Ci Xi has always been portrayed as a ruthless, evil woman with insatiable thirst for power and, in this book, she's described as a simple and sensuous woman who wants the best for her husband, a mother who wants her son to have what's rightfully his, and a I-don't-know-what who wants the bes ...more
After my negative review of The Twentieth Wife A Novel, Mintzi recommended The Last Empress as a superior alternative and I thought I might as well read the prequel first.

"Empress Orchid" started off pretty strong -- Orchid, like Mehrunissa from "The Twentieth Wife," is a poor girl who miraculously rises to be the emperor's wife but unlike Mehrunissa, is not a goody-goody Mary Sue heroine. Chosen from among thousands of young women as the emperor's fourth concubine, Orchid discovers that palace
Crystal Starr Light
Nov 07, 2013 Crystal Starr Light rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Crystal Starr Light by: Iset
Bullet Review:

This was a lot of fun to read. I'm always interested in new cultures and new time periods, so this was perfect for me. I loved Orchid; she's the independent, strong-willed female protagonist we're always promised and never get. There were some dry sections, along with a lot of narration and not so much action, but I still enjoyed this heartily.

Full review:

Orchid is a young woman who moved from Wuhu with her family and father's body to Peking. Living in destitution, her best chance
Sara Zovko
Sep 02, 2016 Sara Zovko rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Odlična, odlična, odlična knjiga!
Stroga pravila i običaji carske Kine i jedna žena koja se od siromaštva do carice probila isključivo pomoću svoje pameti i dosjetljivosti.
Spletke, ubojstva, enusi, carske priležnice i slom carske Kine, sve ispričano kroz oči carice Orhideje. Njezini strahovi, ljubav i osjećaji i razmišljanja opisani su jednako sjajno i istančano kao i velike carske povorke ili detalji na noktima ili haljinama.

I read this book several years ago, and I thought it was about time for a re-read, especially since I remembered it as being a good read. What I found interesting was the differences from how I remembered it. It was shorter than I recalled, and more brutal and heart-wrenching.

What I enjoy the most about Empress Orchid, and Anchee Min’s writing in general, is her skill at description. She knows how to turn a phrase in an interesting and quirky way that grabs the attention and at the same time fee
Oct 07, 2015 Randee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: asian-books
I enjoyed this story. It's the first time I've read author, Anchee Min, and I think she crafted an interesting look at China in the mid 1800's. The Forbidden City where the Emperor and his wives, concubines and eunuchs lived has always been of interest to me. I like stories about palace intrigues and this was a good one. I will read the sequel and other books I can find by the author. I picked it up on a whim as I was looking for a different book on the shelves of my library and my intuition was ...more
I really wanted to love this book. I loved the author's autobiography (RED AZELEA) and her novel (KATHERINE)about a foreign English teacher in China, so I expected EMPRESS ORCHID to bring together her amazing talent for prose narrative in English, enhanced with her first-hand research of Chinese sources, to bring to life the mis-judged history of Empress Dowager Tz'u Hsi. [return][return]I anticipated some embellishments, but the total re-creation of Tzu Hsi as "Orchid", into a kind of modern wo ...more
Jul 17, 2009 Kirsty rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book follows the story of Tzu Hsi (known as Orchid) who enters the Forbidden City as one of the Emperors concubines at the age of seventeen. Over time she seduces the Emperor and bears his son, which means an immediate rise in rank to 2nd Empress (1st Empress is Nuharoo). We see her struggle to keep the Emperor's interest whilst battling with Nuharoo to be allowed to raise her child herself (normal custom is for the first Empress to take over). When the Emperor dies, and names Orchid's son a ...more
Mar 05, 2014 Nicole rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book intrigued me because of the summary I read on the inside flap, how this person seduced the emperor. It was even more appealing that this was basically a documentary of a person’s life. It provided a nice reprieve from the modern Chinese novels that I had been reading recently.

I liked learning about the imperial court life by learning about the culture and the politics. It made me appreciate it more, and realize what a great loss the country suffered when Communism eventually made its
Andreea Ursu-Listeveanu
Mi-a placut de Orhideea asa cum i-a dat viata Anchee Min. Insa am sentimente amestecate dupa ce-am citit ca istoricii si biografii spun despre ea ca a fost manata de ura si de dorinta de putere, ca a fost cruda si sangeroasa, adica mai nimic din cum e Orhideea lui Min. Cu toate astea, am invatat o gramada despre istoria, traditiile si cultura Chinei despre care nu stiam nimic.
Feb 03, 2016 Orient rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: visiems istorijos freak'ams, tokiems kaip aš
Ši knyga pilna lygiagrečių istorijų ir emocijų,manau autorė atliko puikų darbą taip sustiprindama pagrindinės veikėjos piešiamą paveikslą. Kas man iš karto patiko: nors imperatorius turėjo daug žmonų ir sugulovių,Orchidėja nusprendė palikti pėdsaką istorijoje ir negyventi eilinio, pilko ir nežymaus imperatoriaus sugulovės gyvenimo. Knyga pilna svarbių detalių, kurios padeda susidaryti aiškų ir neapsakomą vaizdą į to meto gyvenimo būdą, Uždraustojo miesto aplinką. Įdomiai ir pritraukiančiai apraš ...more
Empress Orchid is the first book in a duology which follows Orchid Yehonala, or better known as Empress Dowager Cixi. In this first book we see her life as a young and poor Manchu girl, and how she decides to compete to become one of the Emperor's wives.

I really enjoyed this historical novel. I don't think I've ever read one set in China, and I know absolutely nothing about Chinese history and culture, so everything about this story was new and unexpected to me. The dangers Orchid has to face, a
Empress Orchid was one of those books which left me in the state of oblivion. To put it simply, the book wasn't impactful at all and simply forgettable.

This book tells the beginnings of Ci Xi, known here affectionately as Orchid. Because Orchid is the protagonist, Empress Orchid does boarder on being too one sided and opinionated.

For example, Orchid's 'rival', Nuharoo, is often depicted as childlike and less intelligent. She is, by Orchid's account a woman of leisure who is petty and resorts to
Mar 07, 2010 Hilda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: tears
Drama cinta dan kekuasaan selir muda Kaisar Hsien Feng... Indah, menawan, dan penuh intrik.

Tzu Hsi Yehonala, atau yang dalam bahasa Cina berarti anggrek adalah seorang Maharani, terlebih dia kaisar wanita yang paling lama berkuasa di Cina. Tapi Anggrek tidak mencapai posisi itu dengan mudah. Dia yang dulu hanyalah gadis desa, berhasil mendapatkan kekuasaan lewat rayuan, intrik politik, dan kecerdasan luar biasa.

Anggrek dulu hanyalah gadis berumur 17 tahun dari klan Yehonala, salah satu klan peng
The first grown-up movie (a movie with subtitles, adult themes, and not based on a comic book or video game) I ever saw was The Last Emperor. I saw it pre-high school. I can't remember why I wanted to see it. I can remember really wanting to see it and loving it. I still love it. So it should be no surprise that the first Anchee Min book I pick up is this one.

At this point, I should let you know that I know very little about Chinese history so I cannot judge this book on its historical accuracy
Sep 15, 2008 Elizabeth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: historical fiction junkies
I didn't enjoy this book as much as "Becoming Madame Mao" and "Red Azalea," and would be more apt to award it 3 and a half stars if that rating were available.

Regardless, the book depicts a fascinating time in Chinese history. Imperial China, deeply rooted in ritual and tradition, comes alive in Min's novel about the last Empress of China, Tzu Hsi. I enjoy rags to riches stories, but this one comes at a cost. Imperial life is lavish, yet stifling. The Forbidden City is a place of danger and intr
Anggrek (Tzu Hsi) adalah anak Hui Cheng Yehonala, mantan taotai (Gubernur) di sebuah kota kecil beranama Wuhu, di Propinsi Anhwei, propinsi termiskin di Cina.

Masa kecilnya tidak pernah mudah.
Terutama setelah ayahnya dipecat Kaisar Tao Kang karena tidak mampu menahan pemberontakan petani yang putus asa karena kemarau panjang.
Ayahnya mati dirundung malu.
Bahkan demi memakamkan ayahnya di kota kelahirannya, Peking, mereka meninggalkan Wuhu tanpa harta sedikitpun.

Di Peking, Anggrek mendengar tentang
This book is filled with drama, intrique, loyalty, corruption, forbidden love and mystery. The Forbidden City is a totally different world for the book's heroine, Orchid, who becomes one of the Emperor's wives at the age of 17. Ms. Min has written a spellbinding novel, with colorful and interesting characters, rich detail and a vivid, interesting history of China, complete with details on customs, rituals and distictions between the Manchu's and the Chinese. Orchid and her eunech, An-te-hai will ...more
May 26, 2014 Fran rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bpbg, 2014-books
So my friend set up a book group at the end of last year and I'm now part of a real-world, actual in-person book group - rather than various online ones that I've tried and found unsatisfying. This was our first pick (selection process is made by everyone putting a choice into a hat and then one being picked out).

Historical fiction is a new area for me really, and I'm not sure this was the best book to start with. There are many things good and interesting about the book, but it didn't click fo
Toni Osborne
This is a fictionalized account of Empress Tsu His (known as Orchid) who was the power behind the throne of the Ch'ing Dynasty in the 19th century. According to the author the characters are base on real people and the events kept closed to the events in history. The decrees and poems were translated from the original documents:

In the 1850's European incursions and peasant rebellions were already undermining the Dynasty. At the same time Orchid born in to poverty came to the Forbidden City to be
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Jun 01, 2011 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those Interested in Chinese History
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Ultimate Reading List
The author, Amchee Min, was born in Shanghai and came of age in China during the Cultural Revolution, and still visits there regularly. Being able to read Chinese, Min was able to extensively research her period using primary sources. I therefore trusted her depiction of late Ching dynasty China is fairly accurate. This novel is told as the first person account of China's infamous "Dowager Empress," Tzu Hsi aka Red Orchid, who came to the Forbidden City as one of the Emperor's brides when she wa ...more
Well, this was kind of fun, except that I don't really believe in this version of Cixi. Why is that the authors of historical fiction are afraid to show their heroes as scheming, cunning, ruthless people they were, and end up excusing and sanitizing them? I doubt Cixi was this goody-goody girl in her youth; I don't want to say she must have been evil or anything of the sort, but she must have been cleverer and more entertaining than that.

I liked the details of the court life, and the relationshi
Alina Ciobanu
Jan 19, 2016 Alina Ciobanu rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the fictionalized story of the last empress of China, a very interesting insight into the life of the imperial court towards the end of the Qing dynasty. A world apart within the walls of the Forbidden City, dominated by the fight for power and influence.
Violeta Petrovska
Imase nesto volsebno vo knigava i pokraj mnogubrojnite fakti sto ni se dobro poznati....ja preporacuvam
Jan 15, 2015 Arely rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Esta es la historia de la última emperatriz de china". Cuando me dijeron que el libro trataba de eso, pensé que era sobre la caída de china y el inicio a la república, imaginaba que la emperatriz contaría las desgracias que había tenido que soportar a partir de la caída de la dinastía, la ubiqué más en esa época. Pero más bien, es la historia de la emperatriz desde adolescente, convirtiendo la historia más bien desde lo que sería la guerra del opio y unos pocos años después. Podríamos ubicar la ...more
Bhavya Gupta
Whenever I start a book from different culture, I get really excited. Because in the subtleties of the prose, I find a whole new culture.
Chinese culture always fascinates me. When I reached about 8% of the book, all I could think was... Let half of it be fantasy and the other half archaic because eunuchs' use and treatment, the concept of concubines, that's some crazy sh*t.
And then I read it was based on the life of a Chinese empress: Tsu Hsi
I didn't know what to feel :/

Having said that, I was
Oct 16, 2015 Kavita rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a fictional narrative of the life of Empress Tzu Shi. The story starts off with the death of her father and how the entire family has to live in poverty, dependent on their uncle. So when Orchid sees the opportunity to apply for the position of the Emperor's concubine, she goes ahead. She ends up being selected as the fourth wife and the rest of the story deals with how she claws her way up to the top, provides a son to the Emperor and takes power when his health starts failing.

I did not really get a feel for Orchid as a character/historical figure - perhaps because it was narrated to us as a past event and most of the sense of urgency and real feelings were muted.

It was very, very frustrating to read about Nuharoo from Orchid's perspective, though. For someone who was supposedly trained in the court, she was mindbogglingly ignorant of how the political winds shift and sway.

But man, royalty the whole world 'round do some weird ass shit:

When Orchid was being examined
Jan 12, 2011 Eliza rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I couldn't put this book down. I was surprised that I kept wanting it to keep going, keep telling her story. The story was really strong and covered a fair amount of her life without getting dull at the less exciting parts.

So the story covers the life of Empress Orchid, one of the last leaders of China's last dynasty, the Ch'ing Dynasty. It starts with her less than ideal life before becoming part of the Imperial household, when she is struggling with the prospect that she will have to marry he
Trupti Dorge
Aug 11, 2011 Trupti Dorge rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-own, favorites
Generally after I finish reading a book, usually on the very day itself, I open a blank word document and start writing my review. But the page for this book stayed blank for a very long time. I didn’t know what to write, from where to start. There were so many details, so many parallel stories and so many emotions in this book; I almost did not write this review for the fear of not getting it right.

Okay let’s give it a try.
This is the story of the last Empress of China called Yehonala or Orchid
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Anchee Min was born in Shanghai in 1957. At seventeen she was sent to a labor collective, where a talent scout for Madame Mao's Shanghai Film Studio recruited her to work as a movie actress. She moved to the United States in 1984. Her first memoir, Red Azalea, was an international bestseller, published in twenty countries. She has since published six novels, including Pearl of China and the forthc ...more
More about Anchee Min...

Other Books in the Series

Empress Orchid (2 books)
  • The Last Empress (Empress Orchid, #2)

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“I was happy not to be in his place. He could command my death, but not his. But then, what kind of power was his? He was a prisoner of himself.” 13 likes
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