Regular price: $31.47

Free with 30-day trial
Membership details Membership details
  • A 30-day trial plus your first audiobook, free
  • 1 credit/month after trial – good for any book, any price
  • Easy exchanges – swap any book you don’t love
  • Keep your audiobooks, even if you cancel
  • After your trial, Audible is just $14.95/month
In Cart

Publisher's Summary

The critically acclaimed author, Anchee Min, paints a fresh portrait of the last Chinese empress in this brilliantly fictionalized tale set during the waning days of the empire.

Seventeen-year-old Orchid belongs to an aristocratic family that has fallen on hard times. Unexpectedly, she is chosen as one of the emperor's lesser concubines. Within the Forbidden City are thousands of women hoping to bear the emperor a son and become his empress. Orchid, determined and resourceful, schemes her way into the royal bed and seduces the emperor. But as the opium trade erodes the might of the Ch'ing dynasty, Orchid find herself at the center of a crumbling nation.

A colorful depiction of one of history's least understood women, The Empress Orchid is another enthralling masterpiece for Anchee Min.

©2004 Anchee Min; (P)Recorded Books, LLC

Critic Reviews

"Powerful and brilliantly conceived....[An] insightful, magnetic, and quietly revolutionary resurrection of a remarkable woman." (Booklist)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


  • 3.9 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
  • 4 Stars
  • 3 Stars
  • 2 Stars
  • 1 Stars


  • 3.7 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
  • 4 Stars
  • 3 Stars
  • 2 Stars
  • 1 Stars


  • 4.0 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
  • 4 Stars
  • 3 Stars
  • 2 Stars
  • 1 Stars
Sort by:
  • Overall

Empress Orchid

This is a great story. Some people have complained that the narrator was reading too slowly and pausing for too long. I think that they overlooked the fact that the story was from the perspective of an old Empress Orchid recounting the story of her youth and the slower reading and pauses fit in with that scenario. This was a very interesting audio book.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Loretta
  • Cedar Park, TX, United States
  • 03-09-04

Great Insight

I couldn't put this book down. I loved learning about the Manchu religious philosphies and way of life. I always wondered why the Chinese didn't act as quickly as Westerners during times of war and now I know about their beliefs and customs that influenced their decisions. Very good read and I am looking forward to the next 2 volumes. HURRY UP ANCHEE MINN!!

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Deborah
  • New York, NY, USA
  • 11-07-06


This was a great book. I loved it and would listen to it again. The narrator was annoying because you can hear her swallowing and it was a little disgusting, but the book was so well written and so interesting, I could not wait to get back to the story every evening. I don't know anyone who read it or listened to it that did not love it. Do order this.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Historical fiction china

Loved it. Had lots of interesting information and a plot that kept you wanting to listen! Great listen - or read!

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Fabulous Story Ruined by a Terrible Narrater

The Empress Orchid is a fascinating look into the inter workings of China's Imperial Court. However, the narrator was absolutely the worse I've ever heard. I almost never complain about the narration, but this narrator is terrible. Not a single sentence was completed without loud slobbery swallowing. I read the other reviews which criticized the narrator, but I was interested in the story so I knew what I was getting. Why or why do producers of audiobooks allow such terrible narrations.

Background on the stories reveals that the writer and others are trying to rehabilitate the last Empress Dowager. Apparently, in the 1900's stories about Empress Dowager Cixi's cruelty and manipulations were highly exaggerated to make a good story. Somewhere in the middle is probably the truth.

Great story if you can tolerate the narrator.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

HORRIBLE narration

This might be the best book in the world, I'll never know because I couldn't get beyond the ragged breathing & salavating of the reader. My fault, I should have previewed it prior to my purchase... next time I'll know better!

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Susan
  • The Woodlands, TX, United States
  • 04-22-04

Wonderful story

This is a great story set in a difficult time in Chinese history. It was very descriptive of the culture and of the practices of the time. People have said that the narrator is slow, but that I believe that it just underscores the fact that everything moves much more slowly in China. Everything is done at a different pace and the traditions and customs are most important, whether or not they are practical.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Narration drove me batty

I agree with the previous reviews rergarding the narration- there was very annoying mouth noises and the narrator sounded as thought she was bored to tears while reading, or just arrogant. I also did not appreciate her attempts at trying to sound masculine for the male part of the text and childlike for the youth part of the text. It was almost comical. I frequently found myself mocking her aloud while reading.

The story seemed interesting and historically accurate, and I think I will actually have to read the book to be able to enjoy this story.

*note-- the preview didn't capture the fullness of the profoundly irritating narration, which is why I purchased it. Next time I will read the reviews as well.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Good story, bad narrator & editng

I very much enjoyed the story and generally enjoy audiobooks. However, in this particular recording every few seconds you can year the narrator swallowing her spit. Its very disgusting and distracting. Because of it I found it very difficult to finish the book. Who ever edited this book should have done a better job, a narrator cannot speak & swallow at the same time, it would have been easy enough but time consuming to edit out the swallowing noise.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Lynn
  • Loudonville, NY, United States
  • 12-21-07

Empress Orchid

I enjoyed the story (I have a daughter from China) and the descriptive way it was written. However, I was very unhappy with the narrator...she sounded like she had a mouth full of saliva and her swallowing was audible (no pun) and distracting.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful