Tag: Threads of Silk

Who Writes History – Conversations With Jung Chang

Who Writes History – Conversations With Jung Chang

jung chang hk lit festAs exciting as it was to meet Amy Tan, I was actually more excited to meet Jung Chang at the Hong Kong Literary Festival. I am obsessed with her book Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China. I have been fascinated by Empress Cixi for years, and it was while I was researching for Threads of Silk, that her book was released. Empress Dowager Cixi became my research bible when it came to Cixi. I read many other books about her, including several contemporary accounts, but Jung Chang’s approach, bringing so many sources together in one place, was a godsend. I have read the book several times front to back and then have gone back and read and research certain chapters and passages more times than I can count. I was so happy that she was kind enough to sign my well-loved copy of Empress Dowager Cixi, but she also accepted a copy of Threads of Silk, which really made my heart soar.

I have written and spoken many times about how wonderful her book is, but I am often met with skepticism. Cixi has a reputation, in the East and the West, of being a controlling, manipulative, traditionalist who held China back and is blamed for many of China’s problems during the 19th century. Yet in Empress Dowager Cixi, Jung Chang paints a much more complicated picture of Cixi, one that gives her far more credit for China’s sudden leap into the modern age during her reign.

empress dowager cixi jung chang

She credited Cixi with everything modern that China has today, from the electricity to the railroad, to the iron used to build the buildings. She also talked about Cixi was, in many ways, a feminist. She set up China’s first schools for girls and outlawed footbinding (even though the practice stayed in vogue until the communist era). She was not perfect, but Cixi would be the first person to admit to that. Her role in the Boxer Rebellion is something that she cannot escape, but she never tried to. She apologized, formally, for her role in the rebellion, and did her best to learn from her mistakes. Her reign post-Boxer Rebellion were some of China’s most prosperous and peaceful years. In fact, the foreign powers welcomed her back to the Forbidden City after the Boxer Rebellion. Even though the Boxer Rebellion was specifically a rebellion against foreign influence, the Western powers wanted Cixi back on the throne.

Many have called Jung Chang’s book about Cixi “revisionist,” as if that is a bad thing, so I asked her, “What do you say to critics who call into doubt the version of Cixi that you present in the book?”

“What wrong with revisionism?” she asked. Indeed, if the history we have been fed is wrong, why should it just be accepted because it is old? Why shouldn’t it be revised? She went on to say that, “People who doubt what I have written here should keep an open mind.”

It was truly a joy to meet Jung Chang and get to hear what she personally thought about the empress and her book. She also hinted that her next book will be about China’s first elections, which were also arranged by Empress Cixi before her death, so I can’t wait to read that.

Have you read any of Jung Chang’s books? Let me know what you think of them in the comments.

 

Behind the Story – Empress Cixi

Behind the Story – Empress Cixi

If you have read any of my books, it’s pretty easy to see that China’s last empress, the Dowager Empress Cixi, is a recurring character. Who was Empress Cixi and why do I write about her?

Empress Cixi was born in 1835 to a poor and unimportant Manchu family, but she didn’t remain in obscurity for long. When she was only 16, she was among several young ladies selected as a consort for the Xianfeng Emperor, but only a 6th rank consort. It took her three years to climb to 5th rank, but the following year, in 1855, she gave birth to the emperor’s only son, the future Tongzhi Emperor, and was elevated to 2nd rank, second only to the empress, Cian.

When the Xianfeng Emperor died in 1861, he appointed 8 ministers to serve as joint regents until his son came of age (who was only six years old at the time). Most scholars agree that this was a poor decision (though making poor or even disastrous decisions was what he did best), but no one could have predicted what happened next.

Cixi, with the support of the emperor’s closest brother, Prince Gong, staged a coup. Together they outsmarted the ministers, had them executed or banished, and Cixi and Empress Cian were made co-Regents with Prince Gong as Prince-Regent.

Empress Cian had no interest in politics, but she was an excellent manager of the Inner Court of the Women, so Cixi effectively ruled China in the name of her son alone, with Prince Gong serving as an advisor and diplomat, until he came of age in 1873. Cixi again took over the regency when Tongzhi died in 1875. She stepped aside again in 1889 when her nephew and adopted son the Guangxu Emperor came of age, but after he attempted to have her killed in 1898, she once again stepped in to rule and placed him under house arrest until both of them died in 1908.

This is just a quick and dirty summary of her life, but suffice to say she was a brilliant and complicated woman. While she was villainized by many both during her life and after her death, Pearl S. Buck, who was alive and living in China during the last years of Cixi’s reign, said in her forward to her novel about Cixi, Imperial Woman, that those who hated Empress Cixi were “more articulate than those who loved her.” She also said that decades after Cixi died, she “came across villages in the in-lands of China where the people thought that she still lived and were frightened when they heard she was dead. ‘Who will care for us now?’ they cried.”

Jung Chang’s biography of Cixi, Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China, is an excellent resource if you want to learn more about this fascinating woman. I read it several times in the years leading up to my release of Threads of Silk.

In my own writings, Empress Cixi pops up again and again. In Threads of Silk, I use her name because I tried to portray her as authentically as possible. In Murder in the Forbidden City and in the upcoming The Emperor’s Seal, I don’t name her because I wanted more leeway in how she was portrayed, but who is to say which version is the real Cixi? I don’t think any writer can really pin down a woman as complicated and contrary as Cixi.

While she has often portrayed as the quintessential cruel “dragon lady,” she was also a woman who loved photography, Pekingese dogs, opened the first schools for girls, and tried to abolish foot binding. She ended the method of torture and execution known as the “death by a thousand cuts” and allowed women to be opera singers. When she died she was on the cusp of establishing a Parliament in an attempt to give the people more say in their government and preserve the Qing Dynasty.

While many people tried to blame her for the collapse of the Chinese Empire, she was the only person who held it together for decades. While she lived, there was no organized concerted effort to overthrow her. Instead, out of respect, rebels and revolutionaries waited until she died before trying something new.

She was not a perfect ruler or a perfect person, but she was not the evil monster who single-handedly led China to disaster that many people like to pretend she was.

She was flawed and fabulous. 

Welcome to Spring

Welcome to Spring

Hello everyone,

gosh, yes, I know it has been so long since I posted, but I knew it would be harder to keep up with the blog after the baby came home.

But I have also been focusing on writing! I will have several new books coming out this year. Two are complete and are only waiting on editing and covers and others are still works in progress. But I am super excited to be launching several new book series this year! I hope you enjoy them. The best news is that you can even join my Street Team and have early and FREE access to my new books! All you have to do is agree to post a review in exchange. You can join my street team and find out more here.

And now the baby update, which I know is what you have been waiting for.

Our little girl is doing amazing. She is learning new things every day. Her favorite show is Daniel Tiger, which is really adorable. She recently had her third birthday, which we celebrated with some friends here in China. She went to see her first movie, which was Beauty and the Beast, my favorite Disney movie.

Here are some cute pictures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I promise I will blogging regularly again soon. Several people are waiting on book reviews from me and I even have some guest posts coming up. If you would like to submit a guest post, check out my submissions page.

Read the book that reviewers call

“Utterly Charming”

“Richly Woven”

“An absolutely amazing read from start to finish!”

Threads of Silk only $2.99 on Amazon!

Threads of Silk – Now Available for Pre-order!

Threads of Silk – Now Available for Pre-order!

FRONT FINALI am so excited to announce that my first novel is now available for pre-order! I first started writing Threads of Silk back when we lived in Hunan, and a lot of it was inspired by the people and things I came across while living there, especially Hunan embroidery. The book will be published by Red Empress Publishing. The cover artist was Cherith Vaughan. I love the cover so much. If you need a cover done, I highly recommend Cherith. She is a freelance commercial artist who is actively seeking new clients. Threads of Silk is now available for pre-order! Order it now to get it delivered directly to your Kindle on September 6th.

About Threads of Silk

When I was a child, I thought my destiny was to live and die on the banks of the Xiangjiang River as my family had done for generations. I never imagined that my life would lead me to the Forbidden City and the court of China’s last Empress.

Born in the middle of nowhere, Yaqian, a little embroidery girl from Hunan Province, finds her way to the imperial court, a place of intrigue, desire, and treachery. From the bed of an Emperor, the heart of a Prince, and the right side of an Empress, Yaqian weaves her way through the most turbulent decades of China’s history and witnesses the fall of the Qing Dynasty.

About Author Amanda Roberts

IMG_2607 (2)AMANDA ROBERTS is a writer and editor who has been living in China since 2010. Amanda has an MA in English from the University of Central Missouri. She has been published in magazines, newspapers, and anthologies around the world and she regularly contributes to numerous blogs. Amanda can be found all over the Internet, but her home is TwoAmericansinChina.com.

About Red Empress Publishing

Logo Embroidered smallRED EMPRESS PUBLISHING is a full-service publisher offering traditional and new services for our authors to help them succeed and stand out in an ever-changing market. The company is actively seeking submissions by women and people of color as part of the company’s philosophy of diversity and inclusion. They are currently seeking submissions in any genre of fiction but especially romance, mystery, fantasy and historical fiction. Authors can submit their books and request more information on Red Empress Publishing’s official website. For the company’s latest news and updates, visit Red Empress on Facebook and Twitter.

Buy on Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/Threads-Silk-Amanda-Roberts-ebook/dp/B01IJOW7KO

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