By Shan Sa
(Harper Perennial, Paperback, 9780061829604, 352pp.)
Publication Date: September 2009
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One of China's most controversial figures, Empress Wu was its first and only female emperor, emerging in the seventh century during the great Tang Dynasty to usher in a golden age. Throughout history, her name has been defamed and her story distorted. But now, after thirteen centuries, Empress Wu flings open the gates of the Forbidden City and tells her own astonishing tale—revealing a fascinating, complex figure who in many ways remains modern to this day.
Writing with epic assurance, poetry, and vivid historic detail, Shan Sa plumbs the psychological and philosophical depths of what it means to be a striving mortal in a tumultuous, power-hungry world. Empress is a great literary feat and a revelation for the ages.
Shan Sa was born in Beijing and had her first poems, essays, and stories published at the age of eight. In 2001 her novel The Girl Who Played Go won the Goncourt Prize. The author of Empress, she is also a celebrated artist who has had prominent exhibitions in Paris and New York.
“Luxurious and intelligent . . . part pageant, part politics as ballet; a lavish portrayal of life in early civilized China.”
-Alan Cheuse, NPR.org
“A compelling read and surprisingly easy to follow, given its exotic complexity.”
“Brilliant . . . illuminates the life and times of one of the ancient world’s most powerful, capable, and overlooked women.”