Advertisement

A Game of Thrones in China: The Case of Cixi, Empress Dowager of the Qing Dynasty (1835–1908)

  • James J. Hudson
Chapter
Part of the Queenship and Power book series (QAP)

Abstract

Women who have served as regents or dowagers, counselling young boy rulers, predate the existence of written history. In 1478 BCE, Hatshepsut ruled for 20 years as regent to the boy pharaoh Thutmose III. Other examples from antiquity, during the height of the Roman Empire, include the reign of Cornelia Africana, mother of the Gracchi. Eleanor of Aquitaine and Margaret of Anjou wielded considerable influence at court in premodern Europe. Catherine the Great ruled over one of the most prosperous and dynamic periods in the history of Imperial Russia. Throughout history, women who ruled by direct means or as regents frequently challenged conventional gender norms of the day. Whether they know it or not, fans of the popular series Game of Thrones have been given a very realistic portrayal of this kind of gendered power in the character of Cersei Lannister. For fans and scholars alike, it is instructive to weigh her character against the legacy of one of the most well-known female regents in world history, China’s empress dowager Cixi. She was one of the last women in world history to rule as a dowager and is almost synonymous with the term. Cixi ruled China as a regent during the later years of the Qing dynasty (1861–1908).

Bibliography

  1. Backhouse, Edmund Trelawny. Decadence Mandchoue: The China Memoirs of Sir Edmund Trelawny Backhouse, edited by Derek Sandhaus. Hong Kong: Earnshaw Books, 2011.Google Scholar
  2. Bary, William Theodore de, and Bloom, Irene, et al (eds), Sources of Chinese Tradition, 2nd ed. Vol. I: From Earliest Times to 1600. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999.Google Scholar
  3. Beaton, Elizabeth. “Female Machiavellians in Westeros.” In Women of Ice and Fire: Gender, Game of Thrones, and Multiple Media Engagements, edited by Anne Gjelsvik and Rikke Schubart. New York-London-Oxford: Bloomsbury, 2016.Google Scholar
  4. Breen, Benjamin. “Why Game of Thrones Isn’t Medieval—And Why That Matters.” Pacific Standard, June 12, 2014. Accessed January 26, 2019 at https://psmag.com/social-justice/game-thrones-isnt-medieval-matters-83288.
  5. Brook, Timothy. The Troubled Empire: China in the Yuan and Ming Dynasties. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2010.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bruyn, Martyn de, “Machiavelli and the Politics of Virtù.” PhD diss., Purdue University, 2003.Google Scholar
  7. Chang, Jung. Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013.Google Scholar
  8. Charlier, Phillippe. “Qui a tué la Dame de la Beauté? Étude scientifique des restes d’Agnès Sorel (1422–1450).” Histoire des Sciences Médicales, Tome XL, N°3, (2006), 255–263.Google Scholar
  9. Chung, Sue Fawn. “The Much Maligned Empress Dowager Tz’u-Hsi.” Modern Asian Studies, 13:2 (1979), 177–196.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cooney, Kara. The Woman Who Would Be King: Hatshepsut’s Rise to Power in Ancient Egypt. New York: Crown Publishers, 2014.Google Scholar
  11. Crossley, Pamela. “In the Hornet’s Nest.” Review of Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China by Jung Chang. The London Review of Books, April 9, 2014.Google Scholar
  12. Ebrey, Patricia Buckley. The Cambridge Illustrated History of China. London: Cambridge University Press, 1996.Google Scholar
  13. Ebrey, Patricia Buckley. The Inner Quarters: Marriage and the Lives of Chinese Women in the Sung Period. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993.Google Scholar
  14. Esherick, Joseph W. The Origins of the Boxer Uprising. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987.Google Scholar
  15. Fairbank, John King, and Merle Goldman. China: A New History. Cambridge: Belknap Press, 2006.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Farmer, Edward. Zhu Yuanzhang and Early Ming Legislation: The Reordering of Chinese Society Following the Era of Mongol Rule. Leiden: Brill, 1995.Google Scholar
  17. Finn, Kavita Mudan. “Queen of Sad Mischance: Medievalism, ‘Realism,’ and the Case of Cersei Lannister.” In Queenship and the Women of Westeros: Female Agency and Advice in Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire, edited by Zita Eva Rohr and Lisa Benz. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019.Google Scholar
  18. Finn, Kavita Mudan. “High and Mighty Queens of Westeros.” In Game of Thrones versus History: Written in Blood, edited by Brian A. Pavlac. Hoboken: Wiley Blackwell, 2017.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Frankel, Valerie Estelle. Women inGame of Thrones: Power, Conformity, Resistance. Jefferson: McFarland and Company, 2014.Google Scholar
  20. Gjelsvik, Anne and Rikke Schubart, eds. Women of Ice and Fire: Gender,Game of Thrones, and Multiple Media Engagements. New York-London-Oxford: Bloomsbury, 2016.Google Scholar
  21. Hahn, David. “The Death of Lord Stark: The Perils of Idealism.” In Game of Thrones and Philosophy: Logic Cuts Deeper Than Swords, edited by Henry Jacoby. Hoboken: John Wiley and Sons, 2012.Google Scholar
  22. Hardy, Matt. “The Eastern Question.” In Game of Thrones versus History: Written in Blood. Edited by Brian A. Pavlac. Hoboken: Wiley Blackwell, 2017.Google Scholar
  23. Hicks, Michael. The Wars of the Roses. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012.Google Scholar
  24. Huang, Phillip C.C. “Development or Involution in Eighteenth Century Britain and China? A Review of Kenneth Pomeranz’s, The Great Divergence: China, Europe, and the Making of the Modern World Economy.” The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 61, No. 2 (May 2002), 501–538.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Jaspers, Karl. Origin and Goal of History, Abingdon, UK: Routledge Revivals, [1949], 2010.Google Scholar
  26. Joseph, William A. Politics in China: An Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.Google Scholar
  27. Knecht, R.J. Catherine de’ Medici. Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2014.Google Scholar
  28. Kwong, Luke S.K. “Imperial Authority in Crisis: An Interpretation of the Coup D’état of 1861.” Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 17, No. 2 (1983): 222–223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kwong, Luke S.K. “Chinese Politics at the Crossroads: Reflections on the Hundred Days Reform of 1898.” Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 34, No. 3 (July 2000): 663–695.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Lewis, Mark Edward. China’s Cosmopolitan Empire: The Tang Dynasty. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2009.Google Scholar
  31. Li Yuhuang and Harriet T. Zurndorfer. “Rethinking Empress Dowager Cixi through the Production of Art,” in Nan Nu 14 (2012): 1–20.Google Scholar
  32. Lim, Louisa. “Who Murdered China’s Emperor a 100 years ago,” NPR, November 14, 2008. https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=96993694.
  33. Liu, Kwang-Ching. “The Ch’ing Restoration.” The Cambridge History of China, vol. 10: The Late Ch’ing, Part 1, edited by John K. Fairbank. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978.Google Scholar
  34. Mann, Susan L. Gender and Sexuality in Modern Chinese History. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Martin, George R.R. “George R.R. Martin: The Rolling Stone Interview: the novelist goes deep on the future of his books and the TV series they begat.” Interview by Mikal Gilmore. Rolling Stone, April 23, 2014. https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-news/george-r-r-martin-the-rolling-stone-interview-242487/.
  36. Martin, Thomas R., ed. “A Woman in Power: Empress Lu.” In Herodotus and Sima Qian, The First Great Historians of Greece and China: A Brief History with Documents. New York: Bedford/St. Martins, 2010.Google Scholar
  37. McMahon, Keith. “Women Rulers in Imperial China.” Nan Nu 15-2 (2013), 179–218.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Mitchell, Ryan. “Is China’s ‘Machiavelli’ Now Its Most Important Political Philosopher?” The Diplomat, January 16, 2015. https://thediplomat.com/2015/01/is-chinas-machiavelli-now-its-most-important-political-philosopher.
  39. Nienhauser, Jr, William H., ed. The Grand Scribe’s Records Volume IX: The Memoirs of Han China Part II by Ssu-ma-Ch’ien. Bloomington IN: Indiana University Press, 2010.Google Scholar
  40. Norrie, Aidan. “Female Pharaohs in Ancient Egypt.” In The Routledge History of Monarchy: New Perspectives on Rulers and Rulership, edited by Elena Woodacre, Lucinda Dean, Chris Jones, Russell Martin, and Zita Rohr. Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2019, 501–517.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Platt, Stephen R. Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom: China, the West, and the Epic Story of the Taiping Civil War. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2012.Google Scholar
  42. Pomeranz, Kenneth. The Great Divergence: China, Europe, and the Making of the Modern World Economy. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001.Google Scholar
  43. Quercia, Jacopo della, “A Machiavellian Discourse on Game of Thrones.” In Game of Thrones versus History: Written in Blood. Edited by Brian A. Pavlac. Hoboken: Wiley Blackwell, 2017.Google Scholar
  44. Rawski, Evelyn. The Last Emperors: A Social History of Qing Imperial Institutions. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Rhoads, Edward J.M. Manchus and Han: Ethnic Relations and Political Power in Late Qing and Early Republican China, 1861–1928. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2000.Google Scholar
  46. Roehrig, Catharine H., ed. Hatshepsut: From Queen to Pharaoh. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2005.Google Scholar
  47. Rohr, Zita Eva and Lisa Benz, eds. Queenship and the Women of Westeros: Female Agency and Advice in Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019.Google Scholar
  48. Schell, Orville and John Delury. “Western Methods, Chinese Core: Empress Dowager Cixi.” In Wealth and Power: China’s Long March to the Twenty-first Century. New York: Random House, 2013.Google Scholar
  49. Schulzke, Marcus. “Playing the Game of Thrones: Some Lessons from Machiavelli.” In Game of Thrones and Philosophy: Logic Cuts Deeper Than Swords. Edited by Henry Jacoby. Hoboken: John Wiley and Sons, 2012.Google Scholar
  50. Seagrave, Sterling. Dragon Lady: The Life and Legend of the Last Empress of China. New York: Vintage Books, 1993.Google Scholar
  51. Spence, Jonathan. The Search for Modern China, 3rd ed. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2013.Google Scholar
  52. Trevor-Roper, Hugh. The Hermit of Peking: The Secret Life of Sir Edmond Backhouse. London: Eland Books, 2011.Google Scholar
  53. Twitchett, Denis. “Kao-tsung (reign 649–83) and the Empress Wu: The Inheritor and the Usurper.” In The Cambridge History of China, Vol. 3, Sui and T’ang China, Part I, edited by Denis Twitchett and John K. Fairbank. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979.Google Scholar
  54. Tyldesley, Joyce. Chronicle of the Queens of Egypt: From Early Dynastic Times to the Death of Cleopatra. London: Thames and Hudson, 2006.Google Scholar
  55. Tyldesley, Joyce. Hatchepsut: The Female Pharaoh. London: Penguin, 1996.Google Scholar
  56. Zhao, Dingxin. The Confucian-Legalist State: A New Theory of Chinese History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • James J. Hudson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of HistoryUniversity of North Carolina at PembrokePembrokeUSA

Personalised recommendations