Rethinking Empress Dowager Cixi through the Production of Art


This essay commences with an overview of recent revisionist scholarship about Empress Dowager Cixi (1835-1908) who in her lifetime and thereafter gained a reputation as a formidable opponent of the modernization process in late Qing China. It reviews both past and present studies about the Empress’s political behavior, considers her changing image in more recent historical writing in and outside China, and then focuses on her interest in art and material culture. Discussion of the Empress’s involvement in drama, garden and palace decoration, fashion, and photography introduces the four articles in this journal issue.

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