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Empress Orchid (Empress Orchid #1)

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  20,069 Ratings  ·  1,217 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
Kindle Edition, 356 pages
Published (first published 2003)
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Asteropê It's historical fiction, so of course it wouldn't be written by the Empress herself. The author, like all writers of historical and biographical…moreIt's historical fiction, so of course it wouldn't be written by the Empress herself. The author, like all writers of historical and biographical fiction combines facts and mixes it with fiction. It appears she did her research, even reading primary sources and documents.

From the publisher's website:
http://www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com/r...

Q) You did extensive research for Becoming Madame Mao and lived through the Cultural Revolution in China, which added a special intensity to your descriptions. Did similar experiences inform Empress Orchid?

A) Details are extremely important to me. The most challenging thing has been to get the facts and get them right. There are sometimes several contrasting versions of a single incident involving Empress Orchid, and many sources are false or inaccurate. I went through documents not only in the Forbidden City, but also medical, accounting, and police records. My reading on the lives of eunuchs, maids, palace tutors, imperial warlords, and generals helped me gain crucial perspective. The Empress's food and herb manuals and her opera manuals also revealed a lot about her character.

Q) Remarkably, you and your father were able to gain access to documents in government-guarded storerooms in Beijing. Would you describe how it happened?

A) Well, I had to get my hands on the facts, but no official in Beijing would risk his career to open the door for me. So I tried the "back door." I can't say more than this, because I don't want to get the person who helped me in trouble. Anyway, I got in. The place where all the ancient documents are stored is treated with strong chemicals, so I was told not to stay inside for more than half an hour. But I didn't want to leave. I read the Empress's original decrees (or copies of decrees, I can't be sure). I was choking on the fumes, but I was glad I stayed. The evidence was compelling that she was a fitter ruler than anyone else of that time. There was a reason her regime lasted for forty-six years.
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Aditi
“A man who does not like power will suffer from its cruelty.”

----Shan Sa


Anchee Min, a Chinese author, has penned an enlightening tale about the last empress of China in her book called, Empress Orchid that revolves around a young concubine of the last emperor of the forbidden city where the young lady is caught in the race against an heir to the king in order to rise above her mistress status, but once she becomes the empress, she gets tangled up in the war of jealously, rage, ugly politics,
...more
Bookshop
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
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
Sara Zovko
Aug 23, 2016 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.
Crystal Starr Light
Oct 08, 2013 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
...more
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 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
Cecily
The story of the Dowager Empress of China. It is mostly on her first few years as a concubine, with very little about the final years of the empire (but that's covered in The Last Empress). Nevertheless, very good at capturing the atmosphere and political intrigue. The story continues in The Last Empress (http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...).
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
Chris
Oct 07, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Kirsty
Feb 17, 2008 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
Orient
Jan 05, 2016 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
Nicole
Jul 10, 2012 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
...more
Zeta Dina
Aug 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kumski-klub-2017
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Hilda
Mar 07, 2010 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 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
...more
Vivone Os
KUMSKI BOOK CLUB READING CHALLENGE 2017 - 11
(a book set in Asia, a book about a historical event, a book by a female writer)
Iskreno, ne mogu se odlučiti je li mi se knjiga svidjela ili nije. Bilo mi je par divnih dijelova i Orhideja mi se svidjela jer je jaka žena koja je ustrajala unatoč svim nesrećama koje je doživjela.
Ono što mi se nije svidjelo i što me strašno uzrujavalo kroz cijelu knjigu bili su opisi kineskih običaja i tradicija. Sve jedna glupost za drugom. Ideja da car može imati 200 p
...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
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
Rusalka
Note to self: You have read this book. Twice. Do not forget again.

Mainly because of all the books I own, I'm kinda pissed I read this one twice. I never reread. Mainly as I have so many books to read. There are some I will reread, probably in a few years time as like a 20th anniversary since first read hurrah or something. But this one wouldn't make the list.

Look. It was fine. It was a story of a poor girl fallen from high background who managed to wiggle her way into the Forbidden City as a ch
...more
Cristina Daranuța
Ce dezamăgire...
Mi-am pus speranța în sfârșit...
Dar n-a fost să fie :(
Fran
Jan 09, 2014 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
Jackie
Sep 16, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Lisa (Harmonybites)
May 26, 2011 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
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
...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
LibraryCin
Orchid has lived much of her life in poverty, but at seventeen, she is chosen to be one of the Emperor’s seven wives/3000 concubines, and is swept into a life or luxury, power and intrigue she never could have imagined. Being a concubine is not quite what she would have thought. And Orchid (a.k.a. Tzu Hsi) is not your usual 19th century Chinese woman.

This was really good. I don’t know very much Chinese history, so all this was new to me. She seems to be such an interesting, strong woman. This w
...more
Alison Forde
The story of Empress Orchid should have been riveting. A life of intrique in dramatic times, novelised by an author who lived through turbulent political times herself. However I found it a very dull read. It's as if Min has pulled together a whole load of historical facts, with a little novelisation. The book does a good job of letting us into the world of obscene luxury and waste, the dullness of waiting, the fear of rejection, and undoubtedly Orchid was a remarkable woman who used the resourc ...more
Mochizuki
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
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Nothing But Readi...: Min, Anchee - Empress Orchid - Informal Buddy Read; Start: February 12, 2015 5 140 Nov 16, 2014 10:06AM  
SPOLER ALERT** The ending?!?! 2 48 Mar 23, 2014 10:58AM  
seru, serem, saru 3 55 Dec 26, 2008 10:50PM  
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603 followers
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)
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“The sun doesn't just hang on one family's tree” 815 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.” 17 likes
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