Robert Bickers

Boxing Clever

Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China


Jonathan Cape 435pp £20 order from our bookshop

It seemed like the end of the world. In rapid succession after 1898, northern China was assailed by catastrophic flooding, then drought, then by a millenarian peasant uprising, closely followed in the summer of 1900 by a punitive foreign invasion. Russian forces were rampaging across Manchuria, the ancestral heartlands of the Qing rulers of China; European, Japanese and American troops had stormed across the plains and entered Beijing, the heart of the empire of the Manchus. Foreign soldiers looted and raped their way through the capital. On 21 June the Qing court issued a decree recognising a state of war against the world.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Same trouble, different decade. Turns out this is not the first time has graced our humble cover.… ,
    • 'Gresham played an essential part in ensuring the stability of Tudor rule, in ways not always recognised in textboo… ,
    • Iris Murdoch was born one hundred years ago today. Thirty-six years ago, we published this interview with her ,
    • 'The official narrative has been that since the end of coal-burning in homes in the 1950s and the demise of heavy i… ,
    • 'Porter’s is a cacophonous vision that continually recalls the playwright Tony Kushner’s characterisation of Americ… ,
    • Lucy Moore makes her way through the Italian city of Otranto, discussing the origins of the Gothic and the legacy o… ,
    • .@NJCooper_crime's July crime roundup includes 'horrifying' and 'imaginative' new novels by @sarah_hilary,… ,