Education About Asia: Online Archives

The Last Empress: A Novel

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Novelist Anchee Min, who was born in Shanghai in 1957, wrote an earlier novel, Orchid. This book is a continuation of the story of the rise to fame and power of Orchid, who was the Noble Consort to the Xianfeng Emperor (d. 1861) and mother of the Tongzhi Emperor (1856–1875). When her son ascended the throne, she was given the title of the Empress dowager Cixi, that is, mother of the reigning emperor. She never had the title “empress,” which belonged to Xianfeng’s primary wife, who became known as the Empress dowager Cian, since she shared “motherhood” with Cixi. Nor was Cixi the last empress in China. That title goes to the Puyi Emperor’s wife (1906–1967), the Empress Gabulo Wang Rong (1906–1946), when they
were married in 1922.

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