Dragon Lady - Dragon Lady The Life and Legend of the Last...

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Dragon Lady: The Life and Legend of the Last Empress of China . Sterling Seagrave, an investigative journalist whose family has lived in Asia for over two centuries, wrote his book to correct the tarnished image that two British journalists had falsely created about the Empress. He wanted to set the record straight. The court had given Tsu Hsi the affectionate nickname of Old Buddha in her old age. The term was flattering and not meant as an incarnation of the divinity. That was rather nice to find out after reading about the hatchet job Sir Edmund Backhouse did on her. He, alone, was most responsible for painting a slanderous picture of her as an iron-willed, over sexed concubine who was not only a murderer, but also a single-minded tyrant who was nothing more than a monster. It is the correction of the lies and setting the record straight that takes up most of this book. The British colony referred to the dowager Empress as "that awful old harridan" and "that odious woman." In the first chapter, at the close of the 19th century, they are pictured in all their decadent glory at a weekly garden party thrown by Sir Robert Hart, the Inspector General of Chinese Customs. It was they that were responsible for the Opium Wars and the Boxer Rebellion, not Tsu Hsi. In a chapter titled "Foreign Devils," Seagrave tells us: "when all the myths are stripped away, it was the deliberate mischief of a handful of Englishmen that led to the humiliation and death of Emperor Tao Kuang and his son, Emperor Hsien Feng, so that for the first time in more than a thousand years China's throne passed into the hands of a woman." One of these mischievous Englishmen was Dr. George Ernest Morrison, a physician who became the Peking correspondent of the Times of London. He was responsible for all the articles published about China. "As journalism's first China watcher, Morrison was responsible for many of the slanders and half-truths that continue to be believed to this day." Unfortunately his mastery of the language wasn't very accomplished and he was at the mercy of those who did speak it. His stories contained distortions and inventions provided by his Chinese-speaking assistants. One thing we can be grateful for is the private diary he kept that listed the males and females of the colony who had syphilis or gonorrhea. He was amused by the way the infections were passed around . . . and so are we. It is at the garden party that we get our first glimpse of Edmund Backhouse, a recent arrival on the scene. We find out that as a young man he was considered a "bad seed," to the despair of his parents. It seems he blew his inheritance trying to enter the homosexual circles of the Oscar Wilde set. Backhouse left England
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bankrupt only to appear in China in 1899. He applied for work as a translator in Chinese Customs and was turned down. He translated Chinese newspaper articles for the English press; that's how he came to Morrison's attention and the rest is history. Backhouse was a bitter and unhappy homosexual of the type who gives the rest of
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This note was uploaded on 08/27/2011 for the course HIS 340M taught by Professor Li during the Summer '11 term at University of Texas.

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Dragon Lady - Dragon Lady The Life and Legend of the Last...

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