Empress Cixi: The Creator of Modern China

Monday 3 July 2017

'The Birth of Modern China' was the subject of the fascinating talk given by Dr Jung Chang at the Exeter and District English-Speaking Union June Supper Event. She is best known in this country as the author of “Wild Swans” which received international recognition. The book charts the mixed fortunes of three generations of women in China, the author's grandmother, mother and herself. See main photo of Dr Jung Chang with Branch Chairman Paul Waterworth

Jung Chang was born in Sichuan Province in China, her parents both being officials in the Communist Party. Being amongst Mao Zedong’s elite, life for her and her family was benevolent compared to others. Jung became a member of Red Guard but, in 1966 things took a turn for the worse when the family was humiliated and later imprisoned when her father criticised Mao Zedong. During this era, books were banned and Jung who had always wanted to write took to doing so in her head.

In 1978 Mao died and Jung was one of 14 students who won Scholarships to come to the UK to do a degree and subsequently stayed here.  Her mother came to England for 6 months and during this time Jung learnt about her family history.

Jung’s fascinating talk largely focused on the subject of her third book, the Dowager Empress Cixi. Jung’s view is that it was Cixi, the Emperor’s concubine, who introduced reforms towards the end of the 19th century which started to bring China into line with the modern world.

Dr Jung signing books at the event.

Members who attended the event.

Members at the event.

Anyone interested in attending Exeter ESU events or becoming a member should contact the Membership Secretary Margaret Guyver on 01392 491898.


This story was submitted by the ESU Exeter branch. Please click here for information on this branch and its upcoming events.