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The Empress and Mrs. Conger: The Uncommon Friendship of Two Women and Two Worlds


By the author of the critically acclaimed "Imperial Masquerade: The Legend of Princess Der Ling" [Hong Kong University Press 2008]

In winter 1902, in the ruins of post-Boxer Uprising Beijing, two women from two different worlds joined hands in friendship—the former concubine and legendary tyrant Empress Dowager Cixi, and the Midwest-born, devoutly Christian diplomat’s wife Sarah Pike Conger.  Together, they made history. 

Grant Hayter-Menzies reveals for the first time the story of two women from worlds that could not seem farther apart—imperial China, the American Midwest—who found common ground before and after one of the greatest clashes between East and West, the fifty-five day siege of the Beijing foreign legations known as the Boxer Uprising.

The Empress and Mrs. Conger traces the parallel lives of Empress Dowager Cixi and American ambassador’s wife Sarah Pike Conger, which converged to alter their perspectives of each other and each other’s worlds: Mrs. Conger’s growing love for China through her efforts to befriend, learn from and help Chinese women, the Dowager’s growing appreciation, through Mrs. Conger, of the need for reform and the usefulness of cooperation with the West for the good of China.


Hong Kong University Press catalog listing (Spring 2011)

**NEW** "Power/Play: China's Empress Dowager" - September 24, 2011 - January 29, 2012 Freer/Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. A compelling and immersive exploration of the Empress Dowager Cixi through 35 glass-plate negatives (collection of Princess Der Ling), two original prints presented to President Theodore Roosevelt and his daughter in 1904 and 1905, and film clips.

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Grant Hayter-Menzies at the Forbidden City

Empress Dowager Cixi and Sarah Pike Conger
The Arthur M. Sackler and Freer Gallery of Art: the National Museums of Asian Art at the Smithsonian

REVIEW: Jonathan Chatwin, The Asian Review of Books (May 7, 2011)

REVIEW: "Portraits of Cixi", Chitralekha Basu, China Daily (June 5, 2011)

REVIEW: "Understanding Sarah", Natalie Appleton, BC Bookworld (June 2011)