2013 Festival

The Concubine who Launched Modern China

Published: August 14, 2019 by source

Jung Chang in conversation with Caitríona Crowe.

Empress Dowager Cixi; The Concubine Who Launched Modern China is Wild Swans author Jung Chang‘s first book in eight years, and tells the extraordinary story of a concubine who rose through the ranks by producing an heir and on the death of Xianfeng in 1861, installed herself as sole regent for her son. She went on to rule China for 47 years. Under her stewardship the ancient country attained all the attributes of a modern state: industries, railways, electricity, telegraph, and an army and navy with up-to-date weaponry. It was she who abolished gruesome punishments like ‘death by a thousand cuts’ and put an end to foot-binding. She inaugurated women’s liberation, and embarked on the path to introduce parliamentary elections to China. Jung Chang comprehensively overturns the conventional view of Cixi as a die-hard conservative and cruel despot.

Caitríona Crowe is head of Special Projects at the National Archives of Ireland.

Recorded at Dublin Castle, Printworks venue on 28th September 2013.