E. Backhouse and J.O. Bland China Under the Empress Dowager (o/p). Classic work on
imperial life in late nineteenth-century China. It's based around the diary of a court eunuch,
which is now generally accepted to have been forged (Backhouse was the prime suspect; see
the review of Hermit of Peking by Hugh Trevor-Roper).
Rachel Dewoskin Foreign Babes in Beijing . Breezy account of an American girl's adven-
tures among the city's artsy set in the 1990s. The most interesting parts concern the author's
experiences working as an actress on a Chinese soap opera.
Jia Yinghua The Last Eunuch of China: the Life of Sun Yaoting . The title of this topic ba-
sically says it all: it's a fantastic peek at the colourful life of Sun Yaoting, who died in 1996
after rising from humble farmyard origins to the imperial court.
Jung Chang Wild Swans; Mao: The Untold Story and Empress Dowager Cixi: The Con-
cubine Who Launched Modern China . Enormously popular in the West, Wild Swans is a fam-
ily saga covering three generations that chronicles the horrors of life in turbulent twentieth-
century China. A massive and well-researched character assassination, Mao serves as an ex-
cellent introduction to modern Chinese history, as well as being a good read. Lastly, Cixi is
one of several recent books to paint the dowager in a more forgiving light, arguing that she
was more savvy, and less evil, than the world gives her credit for.
PuYi From Emperor to Citizen . The autobiography of the last Qing emperor, Pu Yi, who lost
his throne as a boy and was later briefly installed as a puppet emperor during the Japanese
occupation. He ended his life employed as a gardener.
HughTrevor-Roper Hermit of Peking: The Hidden Life of Sir Edmund Backhouse . Sparked
by its subject's thoroughly obscene memoirs, Hermit of Peking uses external sources in an
attempt to uncover the facts behind the extraordinary and convoluted life of Edmund Back-
house - Chinese scholar, eccentric recluse and phenomenal liar - who lived in Beijing from
the late nineteenth century until his death in 1944.
Cao Xueqing Dream of Red Mansions . Sometimes published under the English title Dream
of the Red Chamber , this intricate eighteenth-century comedy of manners follows the for-
tunes of the Jia clan through the emotionally charged adolescent lives of Jia Baoyu and his
two female cousins, Lin Daiyu and Xue Baochai. The Story of the Stone , a version published
in the West by Penguin, fills five paperbacks; the FLP edition, available in Beijing, is much
simplified and abridged.
ChunSue Beijing Doll . This rambling confessional details the teenage writer's adventures in
the indie music scene. With plenty of sex and drugs, it caused quite a stir when it came out
and was, predictably, banned.