Empress Orchid Analysis

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This paper reviews a book, “Empress Orchid” by Anchee Min. The setting of “Empress Orchid” was in Ch’ing dynasty from 1835 to 1908. It depicted the life journey of a young village girl, Orchid Yehonala who later became the last Empress of China. She was the eldest child of Hui Cheng Yehonala, a governor of a small town called Wuhu, in Anhwei province. However, he was dismissed from his position due to his failure in suppressing the Taiping peasant uprisings. This disgrace caused him to fall sick. Consequently, Orchid’s family faced bankruptcy due to his piled up medical bills. In order to save her family from poverty and annul her engagement with her slope-shouldered cousin, Orchid decided to compete in the Selection of Imperial Consort to…show more content…
Finally, alongside Empress Nuharoo, she became the Empress of China after her son, Tung Chih succeeded the throne. The author tried to keep the events in the book historically accurate by doing thorough research and translating the decrees, edicts and poems from the original documents. There were a few main issues raised in the book. Firstly, it discussed the gender inequality in Ch’ing dynasty. In the patriarchal society, women were considered inferior to men and hence, were treated unequally. They were expected to stay home, serve their husbands wholeheartedly and bear sons (Ebrey, n.d.). They were prohibited from meddling in public affairs. This explained why Empress Orchid would sit behind a gauze curtain when meeting the officers. The semitransparent partition symbolized the separation between male and female. During court proceedings, Empress Orchid tried to listen but speak lesser to avoid criticism. Gender inequality was also manifested in the book through Emperor Hsien Feng’s unfair treatment towards his children. He seldom visited his daughter, Princess Jung since she was born. He planned to marry her off to a Tibetan tribal chief once she turned thirteen. On the other hand, the birth of Prince Tung Chih was
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