Princess Der Ling

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

"Princess" Der Ling (Chinese: 德龄, pinyin: Dé Líng) (1885 – 1944) was a Han bannerwoman, the daughter of Yu Keng (裕庚). Yu Keng was a member of the Hanjun Plain White Banner Corps(正白旗) and according to his daughter 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, as well as for his unvarying support of the Empress Dowager Cixi. In 1905, Yukeng died in Shanghai. YuKeng's story is retold in the movie Dai noi kwan ying.

Yu Keng's daughters Der Ling and Rong Ling (1882–1973, the future Madame Dan Paochao of Beijing) therefore got a western education, having studied dance in Paris with Isadora Duncan.Upon return from France, Der Ling became the First lady-in-waiting to Empress Dowager Cixi, as well as a translator. She 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 down her unique experience in court in her memoirs Two Years in the Forbidden City, which were published in 1911, and wrote about the experience through her next seven books. "Two Years" gives historical insights into life at court and Der Ling's service to the Dowager Empress, essentially a world that has disappeared.

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.



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

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