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Empress Orchid (Empress Orchid #1)

3.87  ·  Rating Details ·  18,587 Ratings  ·  1,123 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 ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published April 11th 2005 by Mariner Books (first published 2003)
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K
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
...more
Crystal Starr Light
Oct 08, 2013 Crystal Starr Light rated it really liked it
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
...more
Sara Zovko
Aug 23, 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.
Iset

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
...more
Randee
Apr 22, 2014 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
coffeedog
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
Kirsty
Feb 17, 2008 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
Nicole
Jul 10, 2012 Nicole rated it really liked it
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
...more
Chris
Oct 07, 2010 Chris rated it really liked it
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
...more
Hilda
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
...more
Sweetdhee
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
...more
Elizabeth
Sep 03, 2008 Elizabeth rated it really liked it
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
...more
Elena
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
...more
Orient
Jan 05, 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
Serena
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
...more
Katsumi
Oct 05, 2012 Katsumi rated it really liked it
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
Fran
Jan 09, 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
...more
Lisa (Harmonybites)
May 26, 2011 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it liked it
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
Toni Osborne
Feb 04, 2009 Toni Osborne rated it liked it
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
...more
Tocotin
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
...more
J.S. Dunn
Oct 25, 2016 J.S. Dunn rated it really liked it
4.5
Devoured, and followed with the companion The Last Empress . Engaging, detailed, literate, and intelligent: what one wishes for in the best of historical fiction these days. A soap opera plot is unnecessary when the narrative is so full.

Min's personal history in China no doubt contributed immensely to the gravitas of the Empress 'voice' and the attention to physical detail, from weather to plants blooming in the appropriate months ( a shame how often an author throws in the name of a flower
...more
Alina Ciobanu
Jan 01, 2016 Alina Ciobanu rated it really liked it
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
Jan 02, 2016 Violeta Petrovska rated it it was amazing
Imase nesto volsebno vo knigava i pokraj mnogubrojnite fakti sto ni se dobro poznati....ja preporacuvam
Elketw
Apr 13, 2009 Elketw rated it it was amazing
Category: Books
Genre: Biographies & Memoirs
Author: An Chee Min

Novel ini menceritakan tentang kisah hidup seorang gadis Manchu yang bernama Anggrek Yehonala yang pada kemudian hari akan menjadi Permaisuri Cina yang sangat terkenal.

Awal cerita dimulai dengan cerita kematian ayah Yehonala yang sebelumnya merupakan Gubernur propinsi Wuhu. Meninggalnya sang ayah membuat Anggrek beserta Ibu dan kedua adiknya berada dalam kemiskinan. Keluarganya kemudian melakukan perjalanan yang panjang ke temp
...more
Trupti Dorge
Nov 22, 2008 Trupti Dorge rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Jackie
Sep 16, 2009 Jackie rated it liked it
Shelves: 2010-read
I had high expectations for this book after hearing so much about it on GoodReads. It sort of fell short of those expectations though. I give it 3 stars, which is not bad but I thought it was going to be a 4 to 5 star book.

The story itself was very good and it certainly started very well. Orchid is a very likeable character and because of her humble beginnings and barriers she has to battle you can’t help but like her. As woman living during the Ch’ing Dynasty in 1852 Orchid has many hurdles t
...more
Eliza
Jan 10, 2011 Eliza rated it really liked it
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
...more
Lilzgold
Oct 22, 2010 Lilzgold rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
After reading two of Lisa See's novels, I decided that I had to read another book set in China - I believe that I must have been going through a phase. Anyway, a quick search later and I found this: "Empress Orchid", a historical fiction about the girl who would eventually become the last Empress of China.

And guess what I found out after reading the book: this novel, and it's sequel, are controversial because Empress Orchid was a "classic villainess of Chinese History" which is far from how Anch
...more
Amanda
Sep 14, 2012 Amanda rated it liked it
Empress Orchid (in a nutshell) follows the life of the last empress of China, Cixi, from her teen-years, just before she became a concubine to the Emperor, until the death of the Emperor when she was about 30 years old. (Min's sequel, The Last Empress, picks up and covers the rest of Cixi's life.)

The book is written in first person, which always makes me dubious when writing about a historical person. Who can ever know what was going on in someone's mind? Especially someone as complex as Cixi. I
...more
Kelli
Aug 03, 2011 Kelli rated it it was amazing
The Empress Orchid, written by Anchee Min, is about the Ch’ing Dynasty in 1852. A concubine, Tzu Hsi known as Orchid as a child, was able to win the affections of the Emperor, Hsien Feng, and gave him a son then found herself the ruler of China. Reading about Chinese history and their royal families, this was fascinating.

The Empress Orchid and the other books I have read are the reason why I LOVE to read. For that moment as I’m reading a book, I can travel to another world, live in a fantasy or
...more
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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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“The sun doesn't just hang on one family's tree” 817 likes
“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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