Inca o carte a lui Anchee Min in care perspectiva conteaza. Si din nou lupta pentru putere, the struggle behind the courtains si umanizarea unui personaj aparent negativ, cum a incercat si in Becoming Madame Mao. Empress Orchid si continuarea sa, The Last Empress, se ridica la nivelul Shogun-ului. Poate e chiar un pic peste, pentru ca in Shogun avem personaje care se aseamana cu oameni care chiar au existat, in timp ce Anchee Min isi bazeaza romanele pe persoane reale si pe fapte care nu doar se aseamana cu realitatea, ci chiar s-au intamplat.

My sister was no longer slim and beautiful. Folks back in Wuhu used to say, ‘When a woman is  married and gives birth, she turns from a flower to a tree.’ Rong was a bear.

Yung Lu stood before me in his purple satin court robe. My heart’s ice began to melt in the spring sun. Like ghost lovers, our meeting places had been in our dreams. At dawn we would slip back into our human skin, but the dreams continued. In my costumes and makeup, I would imagine my head against his chest and my hands feeling his warmth. I walked the steps of a gracious empress, yet I felt the passion of a village girl.

I hadn’t opened any doors since becoming an empress. In a dream I opened a door. I was surprised to see that red and pink flowers covered my entire courtyard. A heavy rain had fallen. The flowers were whiped down, but they still appeared full of vitality. Their wet heads drank the water from puddles. One by one the flowers began to rise like court officials. Their fragrance was strong, a mixture of gardenias and rotten vegetables.

Such tactics of manipulation were not something I wished to teach my son, but they were necessary to his survival as Emperor. Guang-hsu had inherited Tung Chih’s vulnerable empire, and I saw it as my duty to prepare him for the worst. As the saying went, ‘The devil that can hurt you is the devil you don’t know.’ The damage would be even worse if the child were to be betrayed by his parent or guardian–a lesson I learned with Tung Chih’s death.

I could only say that it was exactly what life was about: a mystery in which one can never know where one truly is.

I had little confidence in our military might. The court wasn’t wrong in describing me as one who ‘got bitten by a snake ten years ago and has since been afraid of straw ropes’.

I made sure that Lan would not let her feelings of frustration run away with her. ‘We are the ladies of masks,’ I told her. ‘Cloaking ourselves in divine glory and sacrifice is our destiny.’

The day after his burial, I dreamed of his return. He was with Hsien Feng. Both men looked to be twenty again. Prince Kung wore purple, and my husband was dressed in his white satin robe.
‘To live is to experience dying and is worse than death’, my husband said in his usual depressed tone.
‘True’, Prince Kung said, ‘but „living death” can also be interpreted as „spiritual wealth”.’
I followed them in my nightgown as they talked to each other. I understood the words, but not their meanings.
‘The understanding of suffering enables the sufferer to walk on the path of immortality’, my husband went on. ‘Immortality means the ability to bear the unbearable.’
Prince Kung agreed. ‘Only after experiencing death can one understand the pleasure of living.’
Still in the realm of my dreams, i interrupted them.’But there is no pleasure in my living. To live means only to die over and over. The pain has become impossible to bear. It is like a continuous punishment, a lingering death.’
‘Dying over and over gives you the rapture of being alive’, my husband said.

I looked at myself in the mirror and a saying came to mind: ‘The ship sinks when a female goes on board’. I had never believed it before. On the contrary, I had intended to offer myself as proof that it wasn’t true. But the thought persisted: Hsien Feng’s ship sank! Tung Chih’s ship sank! And now Guang-hsu’s–all with you on board!

The duet of Kang Yu-wei and Liang Chi-chao was picked up by the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune and the London Times. ‘All Dowager Empress Tzu Hsi knows is a life of pleasure-seeking, and all Yung Lu knows is a lust for power. Has the Empress ever spared a thought for the good of her country? A tortoise cannot grow hair, a rabbit cannot sprout horns, a cockerel cannot lay eggs, and a withered tree cannot produce blossoms, because it is not in her nature to do so–we cannot expect what doesn’t exist in her heart!’

‘The way to win a war is to know your enemy so well that you can predict his next move’, Sun Tzu wrote in The Art of War. I could hardly predict my own next move, but realized that it would be wise to learn from my enemies.

I would have also let Pearl know that there are truths a mother knows about her child that she can never share with anyone else. The fact that I had been proud of Guang-hsu didn’t mean that I didn’t know his limitations. I had challenged his potential with all my might. Submitting myself entirely to his call for reform was a personal decision I had made. I had thrown the dice, prepared to lose everything, and I had.

When I learned that Yung Lu had fainted on his way to join us in Tientsin, I sent a message wishing him renewed health and requesting that he come as soon as he was able. The moment Yung Lu entered my private car, accompanied by his doctor, he smiled and said, ‘I got kicked out by the god of death!’ He tried to sound as if he had never been sick. ‘Maybe it was because I hadn’t eated and Hell wouldn’t accept a hungry ghost.’

One foreign minister later described my facial expression as ‘in between crying and smiling’

Watching my body abandoning itself was a terrifying experience. Yet there was nothing I could do.

‘”The silkworm labors, until death its fine thread severs.”‘ I recited the first line of a thousand-year-old poem.
Sir Robert finished the verse: ‘”The candle’s tears are dried when it itself consumes.”‘

The depressing thing about dying is its dreariness. People around you no longer tease or joke, and they keep their voices low and walk on tiptoe. Everyone waits for an end, and yet the days stretch on.

This must be how drowning felt. The water was warm. My lungs felt salted. My spirit welcomed the eternal darkness.