Empress Dowager Tzu His Exposed in Sterling Seagrave's Dragon Lady
China’s great ancient empire has been the source of stories, fables, and fascination throughout the world for generations. The Asian culture has a long history of powerful leaders and ruthless battles making it one of the longest standing powers that the world has ever known. Yet, what took centuries to create was destroyed during the reign of a single ruler, plunging the country into chaos and confusion. The one who often is believed to have generated this collapse is the Empress Dowager Tzu His, the last Empress of China.
Until the end of her reign in the early 1900s, the life of the Empress was shrouded in mystery. Once people gained access to the court records, not long after the Boxer rebellion (1901), the “true” nature of the women was brought to the world. Sir Edmund Blackhouse, a European writer, gained access to this information and painted a less than favorable portrait of the Dowager saying: “Tzu His was of a ruthless, single-minded tyrant, an iron-willed, oversexed Manchu concubine who usurped power in 1861 to rule China with perversion, corruption, and intrigue for half a century, until her misrule caused the collapse of an empire that had endured more than two thousand years” (Seagrave 11-12). Many took Blackhouse’s reports at face value and it was not until later that people began to question the truth about China’s last royal leader.
The book Dragon Lady, by Sterling Seagrave, is more than just a biography of the Empress Dowager Tzu Hsi; it is a complex analysis of how the actions of royalty and politics played into China’s most trying times of modernization. Seagrave eliminates the myths and false stories about the Empress, using facts from multiple sources to provide a...