We’re running a photo series this week called “Beauty Talks” by Nicole Chan — exploring the shifting standards of female beauty in a rapidly changing China.

The last empress Cixi is infamous for her lavish lifestyle and extreme conservatism. Even at the brink of the empire’s collapse, Cixi seemingly remained oblivious to much of dissatisfaction plaguing the nation. Just as Eve is viewed as the “first woman,” Cixi can be viewed as the last. Cixi’s fall from grace echoes man’s fall from paradise as it marked the end to dynastic rule in China. Here, she clings to an apple: a homonym of peace. But as the snake whispers in the ear, she looks forward, oblivious to the fruit rotting between her gilded fingers.

Model: Chen Qinrui (Cherry)

Photo Assistants: Dana Meyers, Roman Chen