What they say
Updated: 2011-05-06 07:50
"As a woman who ruled China for half a century during its most turbulent years, Cixi needed more than an iron fist. Decadence Mandchoue provides detailed information to help us understand this enigmatic woman in China's history.
"What impresses me most is that beneath the pornographic cloak lies a profound sadness, in line with traditional Chinese literature, which is often informed by the writer's self-imposed task of having to redeem the corrupted world, which often turns out to be an impossible mission. I found, unexpectedly, in Backhouse's book the sorrow wrought by life's impermanence. His ability to comprehend and convey complex Chinese literary themes so elegantly in another tongue is amazing.
"The Empress' alleged affair with Grand Secretary Ronglu is described with a sense of tragedy. From a literary point of view, the sense of a woman having to bury her love for the sake of her role as regent is extremely poignant."
Wang Xiaoge, novelist and translator
"I find the story of Backhouse's intimacy with Cixi totally unbelievable. I think many of the Westerners' so-called first-hand accounts of events that took place at the turn of the 19th century are problematic.
"The myth that Emperor Guangxu was murdered by Cixi is one Kang Youwei (1858-1927, pro-reformist scholar and thinker who advocated constitutional monarchy under Guangxu) propagated to the US public at that time and has since gained volume and color. But this tale of the emperor's poisoning is impossible and baseless."
Ma Yong, historian, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences
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