The LA Review of Books blog has a spiffy new layout, and they’ve also promoted me to co-editor of the China Blog. My latest post is now up at the site—a discussion of new writing on the Empress Dowager Cixi, who has long been blamed for all of China’s troubles in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries:
Cixi entered the imperial household as a concubine before rising to serve as co-regent for her young son upon the Xianfeng Emperor’s death in 1861; when her son died in the mid-1870s, she installed her toddler nephew on the throne, assuring herself another regency period. Cixi, therefore, was de facto ruler of China for almost all of the latter half of the nineteenth century, an era when the country faced unprecedented foreign threats and mostly failed to handle them. Even before her death, which would come only three years before the Qing Dynasty fell, Cixi found herself the object of blame for the country’s troubles.
To find out why I think this is unfair—but only partially—read the rest of the post here.