To rescue her family from poverty and avoid marrying her cousin, 17-year-old Orchid competes to be one of the Emperor's wives. When she is chosen as a lower-ranking concubine, she enters the ritualised Forbidden City and is exposed to all the chaos, corruption, and treachery of the final days ...
of the Chinese empire, including the thousands of concubines who will stoop to any lengths to bear the Emperor's son. Orchid succeeds in bribing her way into the royal bed and seduces the monarch, drawing the attention of dangerous foes.
She does not know, however, that China will collapse around her and that she will be its last Empress. Chinese schoolchildren are taught that Empress Orchid destroyed China's 2,000-year-old imperial culture.
This imaginative account peers beyond the notoriety to the real woman and is wonderfully read by Pik-sen Lim.