Friday, 6 March 2015

Empress Dowager Cixi: the concubine who launched modern China, by Jung Chang: some notes

I've been frantically trying to listen to Jung Chang's Empress Dowager Cixi this week, thinking that I couldn't renew my loan of it (I have it on e-Audio loan through Bolinda BorrowBox).  I've just been able to renew it for another three weeks, so I can calm down a little bit and even occasionally listen to other podcasts!

But I'm really enjoying this book so far.

I was in about year 9 at high school when Jung Chang's first book, Wild Swans, was published.  My mother and I were reading the same copy simultaneously - I had it during the day, and when she got home from work, I had to hand it over so that she could read it.  (I believe I perfected my ability to read while walking to and from school during that time.)

I also have a copy of Chang's biography of Mao, but I haven't read that one yet.  It's so big that these days it would come under my personal purchasing rule of 'easier in eBook' (I have applied this rule to, for example, Alexis Wright's Carpentaria and Clare Wright's Forgotten Rebels of Eureka.)  I really do need to read the Mao biography at some point, to compare how Chang writes when her main subject is male, but I really like the way she writes about women.

I'm listening to segment 20 of 57 at the moment; having reached the point just after where Cixi's son, the Emperor Tongzhi (I think, I'm getting this information from Wikipedia) has died.  And this is one thing I find difficult about listening to this book instead of reading it: I have no idea how she's spelling the words (obviously there are issues in terms of romanisation, etc, as well - just think of the multiple ways westerners spell/have spelled Mao's name over the years,) and if there are footnotes or endnotes, I can't look them up.  There are times when I really want to know what Chang's sources are, and the only way I'll manage that is if I eventually get my hands on a hard copy of the book. (Okay, or an electronic copy that has managed referencing well.)

Which, this is me.  I'm enjoying listening to this - and the awesome kickass-ness that is Cixi - so much that if I do see it second hand, I will almost certainly buy it, despite the shelf space it will take up.

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