The Fragrant Concubine

Genre: Historical Fiction

For Fans Of

Memoirs of a Geisha, Empress Orchid, The Last Empress

Book Summary

There are many versions of the legend of the Fragrant Concubine.

It is true that in 1760 the Chinese Emperor Qianlong conquered Turkestan and that a Muslim woman from that region was sent to the Forbidden City as his concubine. It seems she was something of a favourite, being promoted twice and given many gifts.

But other stories have grown up around her.

In China they say that her body emitted an irresistible natural fragrance and the Emperor was besotted with her. She was homesick, but he gave her many gifts to remind her of home and at last she fell in love with him and they lived happily ever after.

But in her homeland they say that the woman was named Iparhan and born to a family of rebels. Brought to court by force, she kept daggers hidden in her sleeves to protect her honour. At last she took her own life rather than submit to the Emperor’s desire for her.

I found myself wondering which woman was the real Fragrant Concubine. Which ending was true: the sad one or the happy one?

This novel is about what might have happened.


Editor’s Choice book reviewed by the Historical Novel Society
"I enjoyed the human drama, the love and hurt, the scheming for revenge, rivalries and loyalties in the Forbidden City. Reading this novel was a moving and wonderful excursion into a different time."

Emma Darwin, award-winning author of The Mathematics of Love and A Secret Alchemy.
"A passionate story, richly imagined in the spaces of real history. Melissa Addey meticulously evokes a strange, beautiful and harsh society."

Professor James Millward, author of A Uyghur Muslim in Qianlong’s Court: The Meanings of the Fragrant Concubine
"Melissa Addey has given us a new take on the cherished but controversial legend of ‘the Fragrant Concubine,’ one that weaves together the many conflicting versions of the story and plausibly embraces how romance might have blossomed between the brilliant Manchu monarch and his fragrant Muslim consort."

About the Author

I write historical fiction and some non fiction on various topics. My historical fiction is currently based in China in the 1700s, in the Forbidden City.
During 2016 I was the Leverhulme Trust Writer in Residence at the British Library: creating mini exhibitions, writing two books and running workshops. I'm currently doing a Creative Writing PhD at the University of Surrey.
If you'd like a free historical novella, just visit my website:

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