The Last Empress by Daniele Varè Essay

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The Last Empress by Daniele Varè

The Empress Dowager Tzi-his (1835-1908) was a unique ruler unlike any other China had ever seen. She is considered to be one of the most influential people in Chinese history, a rarity in the male dominated Chinese world. The empress dowager exerted great power over the Chinese empire and influenced the political structure in ways it had never been influenced before, making many great reforms that she believed would help the Chinese people.

Born on November 29th, 1835, Tzi-hsi was named Yehonala after her tribe. Her father, Huei-cheng died when she was a child and her family took care of her until she was sent to Emperor Hsien-Feng’s court as a concubine. Although Hsien-Feng had many wives and
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The Last Empress by Daniele Varè does an excellent job of portraying these events in detail as well as providing cultural background in which to better understand the events and the circumstances of her life. The vivid depiction of the Empress Dowager gives intimate details of Tzi-his’s life, her personality and the motivations that drove her to propose the reforms and ideas that she did. It provides an in depth look into her life through social and political spheres in which she existed. The King’s College History Department in its review said:

Varè is successful in writing this primarily because she does not attempt to judge wherther the actions of the empress were good or bad. The strict reporting of the facts with very little speculation makes this book extremely useful…Her point of view is that even if she did do many things that were negative along with some that were positive this only goes to show she is human. (1)

Varè does do an excellent job of portraying the life of the Empress in an objective manner. So often it is easy to judge historical figures by their actions, but what is important to remember is that they were only doing what they knew, and what they thought was best for the country. The Empress Dowager was doing what she thought was best, and although her decisions did not necessarily result in the best of circumstances for China, she was a very influential figure regardless.


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