The latest book I read was “Empress Orchid”. Once I started reading it I couldn’t put it down. I finished it in a week. I spent the Christmas holiday reading the book and the weekend. There were many nights that I stayed up way too late not able to put the book down, because I had to find out what happened next. One night, I had only 68 pages left and tried hard to finish the book, but it was 4 a.m., so the next day I spent five hours reading and finally finished Empress Orchid.
I found the book at a library. There were books for sale right as I walked into the library. I read the inside flap of the book and was intrigued. It was based on a true story. A concubine seduced the Emperor, gave birth to a son and ruled China. After reading this, I thought this has to be a really good book and it was.
Anchee Min is the author of Empress Orchid. She filled the book with rich details about the Ch’ing Dynasty, the time period (1852), appearance of the Forbidden City, and clothes the Empresses wore. Min’s writing talents took us inside Orchid’s desperation, agony, loneliness and strength. Reading about Orchid’s life as the fourth wife to Emperor Hsien Feng, I felt sorry for her, but understood that it would have been better then if she ended up with her retarded and heroin addicted cousin.
I didn’t know much about Chinese history and the era when Emperor’s ruled. Before reading
Empress Orchid, the only information I had about this type of governing was from watching the movie
Anna and the King. This movie had Jodie Foster, a British lady, who travels to Siam in 1862 to be the teacher to the King’s children. The King was played by Chow Yun Fat, who has 68 children and many, many wives and concubines.
Married to more than one woman, I can’t imagine one man being able to satisfy each one of them. Emperor Hsein Feng had seven wives. She wasn’t getting any satisfaction from the Emperor for months, so she had to take matters into her own hands. Orchid learned the “fan” dance and bribed her way into the Emperor’s bed. However, it wasn’t the “fan” talents that won Orchid the Emperor’s presence day after day. She impressed him by just being herself. It wasn’t long before Orchid became pregnant, had a boy and was named Empress.
Life as an Emperor’s wife was not all that grand. Orchid spent many, many days alone and longed for her husband then when she had all his attention she worried about the other wives revenge due to being jealous. After Orchid became pregnant, she constantly wondered if one of the other wives was going to try to make her have a miscarriage. She managed to have her baby, but had to deal with first wife interfering with raising the boy and her mothering skills were the opposite of Orchid’s.
The Emperor died, but named his only son, Tung Chih, his successor before his death. Evil lurked every where in the Forbidden City. Su Shun was one of those evils. His goal was to be the Emperor of China and he made every dirty attempt to accomplish this. However, Orchid was an intelligent woman and a determined mother, who was going to make sure her son ruled China.
Min continued Empress Orchid’s incredible life in
The Last Empress. Of course, I ordered it right away. I haven’t received it yet, but I can’t wait to read it and see what other obstacles Orchid experienced as the Empress of China.