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3.70  ·  Rating details ·  5,577 ratings  ·  426 reviews
La inceput de secol VII, in familia guvernatorului de provincie Wu se naste un copil harazit unui nume plin de speranta: Lumina. Insa Lumina este, in ciuda nadejdilor familiei sale, o fetita. Inca de mica ea anunta un destin aparte: la un an, dintre toate obiectele asezate in jurul sau, ignora podoabele si maruntisurile femeiesti si alege o jucarie rece ca gheata: sabia ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 336 pages
Published November 2014 by Polirom (first published 2003)
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Average rating 3.70  · 
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 ·  5,577 ratings  ·  426 reviews

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A few reasons why I recommend this book:

-The tale of the one and only female emperor in the history of China.

-A Machiavellian heroine who is determined to create her own destiny, against all odds.

-The forbidden romance between a young crown prince and one of his royal father's widows.

-The gorgeous backdrop of the Tang Dynasty, when the imperial China was at her peak.

-Deadly power struggle within both the harem and the court.

-The complicated family saga of both the Royal Family and the Wu clan,
I've a penchant for literature written with an eye on the grander scale of things. Most probably it comes with my preoccupation with critiquing the canon, albeit through far less flimsy bases than prose and universality and all that invisible-hand jazz. In return for paying attention to fields that are not required for the common range of English (history, politics, decolonization, gender dichotomy, all that fun stuff people like to pretend are subsidiary instead of the power generators of ...more
This book was lushly written, with a meticulous eye for detail, but it was little impersonal and distant for me. Although the twisted politics were interesting, I wasn't engaged at all with any of the characters. It was a bit like being underwater, hearing a conversation from another room.

There was actually far too much detail about certain ceremonies - I started thinking about the paraodic detail in The Princess Bride while I was reading - and not enough information on the people involved. I
Thomas Alexander
Jul 23, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There's a story behind my reading this book. I am, by habit a reader of 'genre fiction' which means stories about Spaceman Gort and the Flying Death Pygmies of Planet Bimbotron and things like that. At the Barnes and Noble I typically shop for books at, the Spaceman Gort section is crammed far into the back, covered in cobwebs, and filled with a droning voice that tells you how ashamed you should be for reading this drivel.

Perhaps I exaggerate.

On the way to Spaceman Gort and the lovely ladies of
Oct 28, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book took on a whole new take of Chinese History. It portrayed an important historical figure in a personal and never before seen way. Empress Wu was the first woman emperor to ever take the throne. It was traditionally carried on by heirs of the previous emperor, but during the Tang Dynasty, the emperor lacked the capability to successfully control the nation without the help of Wu Ze Tian (the empress). And when the emperor passes away, the only person that the nation could be entrusted ...more
My carriage was already traveling through eternity. I was tiny, alone, and naked. I was moving toward, a god, and an empire.

There’s something deeply compelling about someone’s rise from obscurity to power, be they evil or good, especially if the obscurity is great and the power is immense. When that rise to power involves a woman who raises herself to a position no woman was ever meant to hold, well, count me in.

This is a fictionalized account of a piece of, apparently often neglected, Chinese
Heyrebekah Alm
Aug 16, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
What an awful book! I am so disappointed, because I read The Girl Who Played Go a few years ago and thought that was fantastic.

The writing in this book is just far too lush and overwrought. It feels like the author put so much effort into crafting each dramatic sentence that she forgot to put in any kind of plot or sympathetic characters. Granted, the main character was a pretty horrific person in her lifetime, so Shan Sa didn't have much to work with there as far as making her likeable. But the
Jun 24, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There's a story behind my reading this book. I am, by habit a reader of 'genre fiction' which means stories about Spaceman Gort and the Flying Death Pygmies of Planet Bimbotron and things like that. At the Barnes and Noble I typically shop for books at, the Spaceman Gort section is crammed far into the back, covered in cobwebs, and filled with a droning voice that tells you how ashamed you should be for reading this drivel.

Perhaps I exaggerate.

On the way to Spaceman Gort and the lovely ladies
The Empress is a poetic tale that gives one an in-depth look into the life of Empress Wu. The ruthless tactics used on the throne may shock one, but the author constructs the novel so that one understands the culture of the time. This book can get tedious at times with detail, but the overall story is strong and a person interested in Chinese history will enjoy the vivid descriptions!
Jan 10, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was a good book. I don't feel much moved but I always enjoy anything with strong female characters.
Bryn Hammond
Jul 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: imagined-fiction
The ‘great man theory’ of history is out of fashion, and I don’t know how often historical fiction, either, sets out to portray greatness – whatever that is – in the political sphere. In this book I found myself convinced I was in the presence of greatness, a person I want to call great, and to add to that uncommon experience, she’s a woman.

If any of that sounds easy, I don’t think it is. At a point in this book it dawned upon me that in historical fiction, I haven’t met a great woman before –
Sharon L
i learned a lot reading this book. it was fascinating in my foreign eyes.

but empress Wu was a scary character. you can almost say that no matter how.much she had, she always wanted more, and that's dangerous.

although being historically interesting,the book was also full of drama and at times drag on. too long. and none of the chatacters was actually likable.

Wu was amazing- power driven, smart, calculative, and once in a while showing emotions- emotions that were fake in my eyes. she was a
Aug 17, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was unimpressed by this novel. The narrator's voice seemed very authentic, as though she actually wrote it back in AD 680, but unfortunately that meant that it was exceedingly dry, mostly consisting of lists of what was in her many parades, how much gold she used building monuments, who she decided to have exiled or beheaded, etc. The most sexy parts (where characters get seduced and so forth) was sullied by the fact that the narrator seemed to have no emotions.

Actually, the lack of emotion
Stef Rozitis
This was an enigmatic and original piece of work, allowing a historical figure, the Empress Wu to tell her own story, all through her own perspective, including her birth, childhood the many twists and reversals of her climb to power, the bitter clinging to that power and even what happens after her death.

About the first half of the book is about her dogged determination to thrive against all the odds- as a cast down nobody sent to the provinces to live with unsympathetic relatives, she has rice
I was very excited to see that someone had written a novel about Empress Wu, 武则天 my favourite Chinese historical figure. Empress Wu is the only woman to reign China as an Emperor ruling from 690-705AD as head of her own dynasty. It is my hope to be able to write a popular history book about Wu Zetian. Last year I wrote a very long essay about her use of religion in legitimising her rule and I was thrilled to see that all these events were mentioned in this novel! This book was only the fourth ...more
Mar 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: actual-favorites
Coming soon...
I enjoyed Empress because it plunged me into another world in which Wu Zetian, China’s only female emperor, narrates her life during the Tang dynasty. After the election results on Wednesday, I was in a state of shock; anxious and appalled, I couldn’t concentrate on reading a novel for days. When I finally picked up Empress on Saturday I was drawn into a far-away, detailed setting and was able to forget real life for a while, and for that I’m grateful.

I preferred the beginning of the book over
Michelle Merriman
When I bought this book years ago, I couldn't make it through the first chapter. I was young (...well, younger) and the abstract concept of womb memories wasn't something I necessarily felt capable of grasping. But I picked it up a long time later and I'm thankful I never got rid of it in my adolescent naivete because this book is a force, in language, in storytelling, in characters; it's a truly lush, decadent and engrossing piece of narrative. I am fascinated by any culture not closely related ...more
Jan 14, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Abundance" in 7th Century China. The rigid palace protocol and machinations to gain power were virtually identical. Apparently the French peasants took a page from the Chinese book during the Reign of Terror, as parading heads on sticks was much in vogue during both eras. Other similarities include the outrageous hairstyles and over-the-top dressing. But the randy Bourbon kings had nothing on the emperors of China, who kept as many as 10,000 concubines at one time!

In sum, the underlying theme
Dec 30, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People interested in Chinese history
The author Shan Sa is a native Chinese woman. She wrote this book in French, and it was then translated into English (and other languages). What amazed me was the beauty of the language Sa used to describe the opulent scenes in an ancient Chinese palace in the 7th century A.D. The historical detail was amazing, including descriptions of life within the palace, rituals and beliefs, day to day life in ancient China, how commoners outside the palace survived, how the government was run, and so on. ...more
Judi Easley
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
To be rated/reviewed closer to this month's book club meeting

I had a very hard time getting through this book and even harder time settling on how to rate/review it. I am reluctant to give one star ratings for a few reasons...but...while I appreciated the author's ambition in telling the story of this controversial woman, and felt that the translation was extremely well-done, this was not the book for me. If I hadn't been the one who nominated it for my book club, I probably would have stopped
“To other women the choice of clothes was a form of ingenious exhibition, a shameless seduction. To me, dresses were like a breastplate that I put on to set off to war against this life."

Reading this, was like drinking gold. The writing felt luxurious, compelling and very Chinese. I've lived in Hong Kong my entire life, my own mother is Chinese and very rarely have I read a novel that felt real, and unpretentious in employing 'nature' metaphors. These are commonly used in everyday life, but most
Apr 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very enjoyable. Written in an unusual, poetic style that doesn't quite pay attention to linearity and takes a...sort of a step back from the story, I guess. Though the POV is first person, deeply so, the perspective is distant, larger and grander in ways that seem third person omniscient at times. There is a uniquely Chinese quality here, something genuine that bleeds off the page. It's similar in style, lyricism, and scale to other novels of ancient China that I've read by different authors. ...more
Sherry H
Jan 24, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Oh, dear lord, this was a boring book.

Because the subject is historically significant, I felt obligated to keep reading. What a chore that was. I skimmed, and still had to finally throw in the towel without finishing the last 50 pages or so.

The story of the Empress is told in the first person, from before her birth until, well, I don't really know how it ended, do I? But since she narrated her time in the womb, and her birth, I assume the book ends with her description of her death and funeral,
Apr 01, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: asian
I've noticed that most poets are not particularly good at writing novels (they are much better at crafting short stories). Perhaps this is why I found Shan Sa's book something of a surprise. The author's voice is highly distinct. The writing is poetic, but don't let this fool you. Although the passages are often lyrical, Shan Sa has shown an admirable attention to detail. I fully agree with one of the other Goodreads reviewers, who made a connection between Sa's skill as a painter and her ...more
J.S. Dunn
Apr 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A caveat for grammar snobs: throughout 300+ pages, the word ' capitol' is misspelled. As capital, which of course is something else entirely. You'd think Big Phat Publisher Harper would have caught that, especially given the fad of bashing small imprints and indie published books for any error large or small,

but noooo! The blooper repeats all the way to the end. There are a few other typos as well; missing words, and the like. Guess the race-to- the-bottom has spread to line editing at big
This was an interesting read, at worst. At best, it was a great insight into the mind of a historical figure that until now has been known primarily as a manipulative, arrogant, greedy woman whose every move (mostly immoral in nature) were geared toward getting to the throne. Not knowing anything about the history of this time period or the woman herself, I can’t say myself which version is closer to the truth, though I’d be interested to know just what Sa discovered when she was doing the ...more
“I announced to the world the beginning of my dynasty, the Zhou dynasty. Its peace and prosperity would be inaugerated by the Era of the Celestial Mandate. Cheers from officials and shouts of joy from the people rang out.”

Empress is a novel about the life of Empress Wu, a fascinating woman who rose from the ranks of an almost commoner, to one of the 10,000 concubines during the Tang dynasty, and finally, to the title of Emperor herself. She was the first and only female emperor in Chinese
Daniella DeYoung
Empress by Shan Su follows the life of a Chinese woman born in 624 A.D. struggling to regain her family honor and high class. The reader follows Wu Zetian through a childhood full of naysayers who didn’t believe she would amount to anything. She died after years of serving as the wife of Emperor Gaozong of Tang, but most famously know as the first female empress of ancient China.
This book is so well written because of the poetic language the author uses throughout the novel to describe how the
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Shan Sa is a French author born in Beijing in 1972. The Girl Who Played Go was the first of her novels to be published outside of France. It won the Goncourt des Lycéens Prize in 2001 and earned critical acclaim worldwide. Her second novel to appear in English translation is "The Empress" (2006).

Shan Sa was born on October 26, 1972 in Beijing to a scholarly family . Her real name is Yan Ni Ni,
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“The moon in all her immaculate purity hung in the sky, laughing at this world of dust. She congratulated me for my carefully considered maneuvers and invited me to share in her eternal solitude.” 79 likes
“Endless moons, an opaque universe, thunder, tornadoes, the quaking earth. Rare moments of peace; forehead up against my knees, arms around my head, I thought, I listened, I longed not to exist. But life was there, a transparent pearl, a star revolving slowly on its own axis.” 71 likes
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