Min introduces the beautiful Tzu Hsi, known as Orchid, and weaves an epic tale about the country girl who seized power through seduction, murder, and endless intrigue. When China is threatened by enemies, she alone seems capable of holding the country together. Min introduces the beautiful Tzu Hsi, known as Orchid, and weaves an epic of a country girl who seized power through seduction, murder, and endless intrigue. Chapter One My imperial life began with a smell.

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A revisionist portrait of a beautiful and strong-willed woman. Min introduces the beautiful Tzu Hsi, known as Orchid, and weaves an epic of a country girl who seized power through seduction, murder, and endless intrigue. When China is threatened by enemies, she alone seems capable of holding the country together. She came to the United States in Questions for Discussion We hope the following questions will stimulate discussion for reading groups and provide a deeper understanding of Empress Orchid for every reader.

In what ways does Min develop a convincing voice in Orchid? How does Min make the Forbidden City come to life? Early in the novel, Orchid hears a beggar singing: "To give it up is to accept your fate. How does this song set the tone for the rest of the book?

Success in the Forbidden City rests heavily on loyalty. How does Orchid ensure that those around her are loyal? Can anyone truly be trusted within the walls of the city? How does this affect the society as a whole? Eunuchs play a vital role in the Forbidden City, and An-te-hai quickly becomes a guide for Orchid.

Why do you think An-te-hai is so eager to devote himself to her? What drives her determination to succeed? Do boundaries exist for how far the characters will go to secure attention, power, and affection? Why does Orchid risk her life to visit Big Sister Faun?

Does she have anything to lose? Orchid comments that Emperor Hsien Feng "was his own captive" Does Orchid escape a similar fate? What enables Orchid to be such a powerful ruler in a society dominated by men? How does she gain respect and remain strong amid the opposition she faces? Orchid comments: "The Emperor once told me that the Forbidden City was nothing more than a burning straw hut in a vast wilderness" What does the Emperor mean by this?

How is this statement illustrated throughout the novel? Min paints a picture of foreigners imposing their views on another culture. What light does she shed on Western interference with the Chinese imperial family structure?

How does this relate to more recent times? The Forbidden City is a highly ordered place, tradition-bound and ruled by strict etiquette. How would you handle such restrictions? In what ways do you relate to Orchid? What confines exist in your own life and society in general? Nuharoo tells Orchid: "To truly have something is to not have it at all" Do you agree with this statement? How does it apply to Orchid? To the other characters in the book?

In what ways is Orchid a heroine? 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. 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. 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.

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. Q Your seamlessly real depiction of the Forbidden City transports the reader inside its palaces and gardens.

A What affected her most was that she knew she was a woman, a concubine. Any wrong move would cost her her life. The price of her survival was a lot of personal sacrifice and suffering. For example, she was a passionate woman, widowed at the age of twenty-six.

From then on, she was forbidden to have a relationship with a man. She had to fight her need for intimacy, denying her own humanity. As with everything else in her life, such as her effort to revive China, she failed, but her struggle was heroic. She kept China in one piece until she died. Q What are Chinese schoolchildren taught about Empress Orchid? And how do history books around the world remember her? A She was considered "the enemy of the human race.

The execution of the concubine justified whatever was wrong. The most recent example was Madame Mao.

She was sentenced to death, while her husband was seen as the George Washington of China. Chinese and Western history books remember her negatively too, but the books provide very few facts. Q Empress Orchid and Madame Mao are both powerful personalities with a great deal in common. What characteristics drew you to them, and do you share those characteristics yourself?

I am female and Chinese, and at a very young age I learned that my culture disfavors females. Books hold up women as negative examples, such as Madame Mao and Empress Orchid.

I was drawn to them because I like to find out the truth. It started with Red Azalea, my first book, about growing up during the Cultural Revolution. I could not let the lies be the only record. It scared me to think that my daughter would be studying false history, and I felt obligated to do something about it.

Has the Chinese government taken an "official position" on you? What has your experience been when visiting your family in China each year?

But as long as there are no Chinese versions of my books, they feel safe. Q The conclusion of Empress Orchid is "the end of the beginning" and leaves your audience begging for a sequel. Can you give us an idea of what happens next? A After she was widowed, Tsu Hsi ruled for forty-six years. The material about this time is absolutely fascinating. She was forced to learn many things, including diplomacy. Keep in mind that China in the late s had been closed to outsiders for more than two thousand years.

Westerners were trying to force their way into the opium trade. Meanwhile, domestic rebels, the Boxers, wanted to overthrow the dynasty. The Empress performed a delicate balancing act, and as a result she single-handedly held the dynasty together. My next book will reveal more of her private character. She was a great politician, a clever strategist, and a caring mother and lover.

For Further Reading.


[PDF] Empress Orchid Book by Anchee Min Free Download (368 pages)

A man who does not like power will suffer from its cruelty. In this highly ordered place -- tradition-bound, ruled by strict etiquette, rife with political and erotic tension -- the Emperor, "the Son of Heaven," performs two duties: he must rule the court and conceive an heir. To achieve the latter, tradition provides a stupendous hierarchy of hundreds of wives and concubines. It is as a minor concubine that the beautiful Tzu Hsi, known as Orchid as a girl, enters the Forbidden City at the age of seventeen.


Empress Orchid





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