2004, 1st edition; Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, New York; hardbound with black boards and gilt lettering along spine; very good condition, appears unread; dust jacket very good.
Empress Orchid (2004) is a novel by Anchee Min which was first published in Great Britain in 2004. It is written in first person and is a sympathetic account of the life of Empress Dowager Cixi - from her humble beginnings to her rise as the Empress Dowager.
Names within the story are different in spelling but retain the same pronunciation - allowing the reader to identify each relevant character to his or her real life counterpart.
Empress Orchid was also a 2006 nominee for the Richard and Judy Best Read of the Year Award.
The novel follows the life of a young Manchu girl named Orchid Yehonala. The story begins with the death of her father who was once a governor of Wuhu. His death left Orchid, her two siblings and her mother in poverty. His family travel to his birthplace Peking with his coffin for burial. Once in Peking, they move in with a distant uncle and his mentally retarded and opium addicted son Ping (also known as 'Bottle').
Orchid gets a chance to better her life when Emperor Hsien Feng issues a decree stating that he is looking for "future mates". Orchid is eligible because she is Manchu and that her father was the rank of "Blue Bannerman". She is chosen as the Imperial consort of the fourth rank. Her official title is Lady of the Greatest Virtue. There are a total of 7 Imperial consorts, and over 3000 concubines within the Forbidden City. Nuharoo is pronounced Empress, ranking her first out of the 7 Imperial consorts.
Once in the Forbidden City, Orchid befriends a eunuch called An-te-hai, who is assigned as her servant along with numerous other eunuchs and maids. A friendship begins to form between the two, and she appoints him as her first attendant.
As the months pass, Orchid becomes more desperate.