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Der Ling (whose Christian name was Elisabeth Antoinette), was born in Beijing in June 1885 and died in Berkeley, California in November 1944. She was a Manchu, the daughter of Yu Keng.

Yu Keng was a member of the Manchu Plain White Banner Corps. 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 his firm support of the Empress Dowager Cixi (29 November 1835 – 15 November 1908). Yu Keng's daughters Der Ling and Rong Ling (1882–1973) received a Western education, and studied dance in Paris with Isadora Duncan.

Upon her return from France in 1903, Der Ling became the First Lady-in-Waiting and translator to Empress Dowager Cixi . She stayed at court until March 1905. This book appeared in 1911, just before the fall of the Qing Dynasty and chronicles Imperial life in the Forbidden City from a now disappeared age.

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