Princess Der Ling

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Yü Derling, Princess Derling
Rudeling.jpg
Spouse Thaddeus C. White
Full name
Yü Der Ling
Father Yü Keng
Born 8 June 1885
Died 22 November 1944 (aged 59)

"Princess" Der Ling (Chinese: 裕德龄, pinyin: Yù Délíng) (1885 – 1944) was a Han bannerwoman, the daughter of Yü Keng (裕庚). Yü Keng (as Der Ling spelled his name; in modern pinyin it would be spelled Yu Geng) was a member of the Hanjun Plain White Banner Corps(正白旗), and according to his daughter he was a Lord. This is of some doubt. After serving as Chinese minister to Japan, he was appointed minister to the French Third Republic for four years in 1899. He was known for his progressive, reformist views; for his determination to educate his children, including the girls, in western schools, which was highly unusual in their generation; and for his unvarying support of the Empress Dowager Cixi. In 1905, Yü Keng died in Shanghai. Yü Keng's story is told in the movie Dai noi kwan ying. According to Der Ling's biographer, Der Ling's mother had an American father and a Chinese mother. However, in the book, whatever her background, she is repeatedly referred to by other people as a Manchu.

Yü Keng's daughters Der Ling and Rong Ling (1882–1973, the future Madame Dan Paochao of Beijing) received a western education, learning French and English, and studying dance in Paris with Isadora Duncan. Upon their return to China, Der Ling became the First lady-in-waiting to the Empress Dowager Cixi, as well as interpreting for her when she received foreign visitors. Der Ling stayed at court until March 1905. In 1907, Der Ling married Thaddeus C. White, an American. Der Ling had a brother, Xunling (ca. 1880–1943), who studied photography in France and later took the only photographs of Empress Dowager Cixi still in existence.[1]

Using the title of Princess, which would create controversy for her in both China and the United States in the future, Der Ling wrote of her experiences in court in her memoir Two Years in the Forbidden City, which was published in 1911. She states in her book that the status of Princess, which the Empress Dowager had given her, was valid only within the palace. As the Guangxu Emperor, who was under a form of house arrest, never confirmed the title, it was not valid in the outside world. Two Years provides unique insights into life at the Manchu court and the character of the Empress Dowager Empress, a world that ended abruptly with the 1911 revolution that overthrew the Manchu or Qing dynasty. Der Ling continued to write and published seven more books.

A biography of Der Ling, "Imperial Masquerade: The Legend of Princess Der Ling," by Grant Hayter-Menzies, was published in January 2008 by Hong Kong University Press.

Works[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Power|Play: China's Empress Dowager, exhibition at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, September 24, 2011–January 29, 2012

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