Empress Dowager Cixi, who effectively controlled the Manchu Qing Dynasty from 1861 to 1908, was responsible for transforming China from a medieval to a modern state. At the age of 16, she was chosen as one of the emperor’s concubines; after his death in 1861, she launched a palace coup against the regents appointed to rule for their five-year-old son. Working from court records, official and private correspondence, diaries and eye-witness accounts, Jung Chang, bestselling author of Wild Swans, and Mao: The Unknown Story, has written a groundbreaking biography of the dowager empress. On the day of its publication, she talks to Colin Thubron, President of the Royal Society of Literature, about how Cixi fought against monumental obstacles to change China, how she abolished foot-binding and inaugurated women’s liberation, and how she fell in love with one of her eunuchs, with tragic consequences.
We are grateful to the Legatum Institute for sponsoring this event.
Recorded on Thursday 3 October 2013.