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Two Years in the Forbidden City

3.50  ·  Rating Details  ·  109 Ratings  ·  23 Reviews
The author of the following narrative has peculiar qualifications for her task. She is a daughter of Lord Yu Keng, a member of the Manchu White Banner Corps, and one of the most advanced and progressive Chinese officials of his generation. Lord Yu Keng entered the army when very young, and served in the Taiping rebellion and the Formosan war with France, and as Vice Minist ...more
Paperback, 196 pages
Published August 25th 2008 by Tutis Digital Pub (first published 1911)
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Grace Tjan
Apr 05, 2010 Grace Tjan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Chinese history buffs
A fascinating record of a vanished world replete with details that are made even more poignant by its imminent passing: the elaborate meals, the hand-embroidered imperial gowns, the oft-flogged eunuchs who were both lackeys and powers behind the throne, the dizziness-inducing kowtows, formal court ceremonies that were contests of physical endurance, the sickly Emperor and his concubines, all which were soon to be rendered obsolete by the 1912 revolution. Der Ling's account of her two years as a ...more
A wonderful reading of this fascinating story. Princess Der Ling tells of two years of her life with the Dowager Empress. She became court interpreter, thanks to her education in France and England, and tried delicately to influence the Empress and to push her to make reforms.

Often what was not said by Der Ling was just as important and interesting as what was said; Der Ling treads a delicate line between gossip and revelation with perfect diplomacy.

I enjoyed this very much.
“Is there a king in England? I had thought that our Empress Dowager was Queen of the world.”

So says one of the court ladies to the author.

It’s a fun book, but through all the considerable effort of the author shines the plain fact that Cixi was horrible and terrifying to be around. The power of her whim was mitigated by nothing. The author had been lucky to be her favorite – that’s all; who knows how it might have ended up for her if this little episode in her life got stretched longer than thos
Plot: C (If this was actually Der Ling's journal every interesting, political, controversial, and unflattering passage has been excised, leaving only bland descriptions of clothing, polite conversations, and pass-times.)

Writing: D (The original author, Der Ling, had excellent English, French, and Mandarin. So this edition has either been edited from English or translated from Mandarin by an editor who has very poor English. This edition was also written with the understanding that someone in the
LittleAsian Sweatshop
Der Ling is a controversal figure. She was a lady in waiting for the last Dowenger Empress of China before she left the service to marry an American. After her marriage, she capitalized on her "princess" title (there is some dispute over this; the title is an honorific only within the Imperial court) and touted her friendship with the Dowenger Empress and her "influence" on the Emperor.

Taking all this into account, this "biography" reads more like a stuck-up 16 year old girl's diary than somethi
May 02, 2015 Josh rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: librivox, biography
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ramona Tudosa
It was an interesting book, although it won't win any literary prizes any time soon. It is beautiful in its very detailed portrayal of life at the Chinese court where old traditions and superstitions were just as strong in the 1900s as ever before. Having visited the places described in the book myself, I cannot help but relieve the whole experience through the eyes of the Empress Dowager whom I find both fascinating as well as frustrating and narrow-minded (blame it on her being caged in the Fo ...more
Jul 27, 2014 Kelley rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: review
This is an insider's view into the royal court of the Dowager Empress of China Cixi from around 1903 to 1905. The book is filled with many mundane details of daily life, which actually composes the bulk of the book. Every detail of holidays and how they were celebrated at court is covered inexhaustibly. Yet there are a few moments of that are interesting from a historical perspective, but those are limited in scope. The Empress's view of the Boxer Rebellion is insightful as is learning more abou ...more
Jul 28, 2015 Lily rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
a fansinating vanished true experience in the imperial court. It's good to know more about that history.
Jan 27, 2014 Jenny rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some good first-hand information and stories on Empress Dowager Cixi. Very interesting to see the Qing Dynasty history through Eurasian's eyes.
Ke Huang
Apr 07, 2011 Ke Huang rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The description was very detailed, it reminds me of the mother-daughter relationship described in the essay of the ETHNIC CANON. I think she was mean to the eunuchs and she seems to really like the empress dowager. She seemed to be mean to the girls that were jealous of her. she had the goal to change things but couldn't. I guess it's like the girl at DEVIL WEARS PRADA. I liked how she thought she made a difference. The story felt episodic. It could be an interesting cinematic production.
Baron Greystone
Jun 09, 2010 Baron Greystone rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating book that gives a first-hand account of Imperial life towards the end of the Chinese empire. Pre-dates the events in "The Last Emperor;" the Empress Dowager in this book selected Pu Yi as Emperor while she was on her deathbed.

I see on Wikipedia that some of the author's statements are disputed. That's as may be. I didn't read anything that would give me cause to doubt what she put down in this book.

In any case, highly recommended.
Brom Kim
Jul 01, 2008 Brom Kim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I downloaded this from the UVA E-books site. This is a nifty look into a vanished world. The author spent two years as a court lady to the Empress Dowager, one of the last Chinese monarchs, around 1900. The depictions of rituals, culture, architecture, food, history, and dress will interest those with a historical bent. Generally, this was a relaxing, low key, interesting read.
May 01, 2012 Kathy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating inside look at life in the Chinese court at the turn of the 20th century. The author seemed very taken with the Empress Dowager. The woman was complex--selfish, very kind to Der Ling, but later had her nephew, the Emperor, poisoned. Easy to read.
Mar 06, 2014 Bettie☯ rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Bettie☯ by: Wanda, Hayes, Sandybanks
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 17, 2012 Jams rated it it was amazing
A free LibriVox download.

As historically important as anything written by Laura Ingalls Wilder or Willa Cather. A very interesting description of life at court at the end of the Manchu Dynasty.

Feb 22, 2016 laipeen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: china
the last empress of china is perceived and depicted by historians as a tyrant, but this memoir paints the 'dragon lady' in a different light
Apr 06, 2015 Wendy rated it it was ok
Shelves: ebook, 2012
Free ebook from Gutenberg. Interesting historically and inciteful as to day to day court life. 1903 and 1904.
Mar 13, 2010 Travis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
Interesting perspective of what it was like in China at the turn of the 20th century.
Dewi V
May 18, 2012 Dewi V rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebook, english
downloaded this ebook from Project Gutenberg Library while I was reading The Last Manchu.
No wonder the bloody peasants revolted.
Jun 15, 2008 Caleb rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Dowager Empress Ci-Xi has proved to be a mysterious, yet infamous woman. Much has been written of her, portraying her as a ruthless & corrupt woman who had family members, including 2 emperors, her son & her nephew, murdered. However, in 1903, the western educated Lady Yu Derling, the daughter of the Chinese minister to Paris, as well as her mother, sister & brother begin serving in the dowager's court, with Derling filling the job as lady-in-waiting as well as intepreter, as she ...more
Jun 24, 2013 Velvetink marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
epub version
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"Princess" Der Ling (Chinese: 德龄, pinyin: Dé Líng) (1885 – 1944) was a Han bannerwoman, the daughter of Yu Keng (裕庚). Yu Keng was a member of the Hanjun Plain White Banner Corps(正白旗) and according to his daughter was a Lord. This is of some doubt. After serving as Chinese minister to Japan he was appointed minister to the French Third Republic for four years in 1899. He was known for his progressi ...more
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“Her Majesty to the theatre. The performance took place on a stage erected in the courtyard, and Her Majesty closed in one part of her veranda for the use of the guests and Court ladies. During the performance I began to feel very drowsy, and eventually fell fast asleep leaning against one of the pillars. I awoke rather suddenly to find that something had been dropped into my mouth, but on investigation I found it was nothing worse than a piece of candy, which I immediately proceeded to eat. On approaching Her Majesty, she asked me how I had enjoyed the candy, and told me not to sleep, but to have a good time like the rest. I never saw Her Majesty in better humor. She played with us just like a young girl, and one could hardly recognize in her the severe Empress Dowager we knew her to be.” 2 likes
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