Puyi or Pu Yi (simplified Chinese: 溥仪; traditional Chinese:
溥儀; 7 February 1906 – 17 October 1967), of the Manchu
Aisin Gioro clan, was the last Emperor of
China and the twelfth and
final ruler of the Qing dynasty. When he was a child, he reigned as
the Xuantong Emperor (Chinese: 宣統帝; Manchu: gehungge yoso
China and Khevt Yos Khaan in Mongolia from 1908 until
his forced abdication on 12 February 1912, after the Xinhai
Revolution. From 1 to 12 July 1917, he was briefly restored to
the throne as emperor by the warlord Zhang Xun.
In 1932 after the occupation of Manchuria, the state of
established by Japan, and he was chosen to become "Emperor" of the new
state using the era-name of Datong (Ta-tung). In 1934, he was declared
the Kangde Emperor (or Kang-te Emperor) of
Manchukuo and ruled until
the end of the
Second Sino-Japanese War
Second Sino-Japanese War in 1945. After the People's
China was established in 1949,
Puyi was imprisoned as a
war criminal for 10 years, wrote his memoirs and became a titular
member of the
Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference
Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and
the National People's Congress.
1 Names and titles
2.1 Emperor of
2.2 Eunuchs and the Household Department
2.3.1 The Articles of Favourable Treatment of the Great Qing Emperor
after His Abdication
2.4 Brief restoration (1917)
2.5 Life in the Forbidden City
2.7 Expulsion from the
Forbidden City (1924)
2.8 Residence in
2.9 Captive in
2.10 Ruler of
2.11 Later life (1945–1967)
3 Death and burial
4 Portrayal in media
5.2.1 Adopted Sons
6.1 Paternal side
6.2 Maternal side
7.1 By Puyi
7.2 By others
8 See also
11 External links
Names and titles
Puyi's name is romanized in English as either "Puyi" or "Pu-yi". This
naming is in accordance with the Manchu tradition of avoiding the use
of a person's clan name and given name together, but
is in complete contravention of Chinese tradition, whereby the given
name of a ruler was considered taboo and ineffable. Using a former
emperor's personal name (or even using a
Chinese character from the
name) was a punishable offense under traditional Chinese law. However,
Puyi lost his imperial title in 1924, he was officially styled
"Mr. Puyi" (Mr. Pu-yi; simplified Chinese: 溥仪先生; traditional
Chinese: 溥儀先生; pinyin: Pǔyí Xiānsheng) in Chinese. His clan
name "Aisin Gioro" (simplified Chinese: 爱新觉罗; traditional
Chinese: 愛新覺羅; pinyin: Àixīnjuéluó; Wade–Giles:
Ai4-hsin1-chüeh2-lo2) was seldom used.
Puyi also adopted other names – his zi (字; courtesy name) was
"Yaozhi" (Chinese: 耀之; pinyin: Yàozhī), and his hao (號;
pseudonym) was "Haoran" (Chinese: 浩然; pinyin: Hàorán).
Puyi is also known to have used a Western given name, "Henry", which
was chosen by him from a list of English kings given to him by his
English-language teacher, Scotsman Reginald Johnston, after
for an English name.
When he ruled as Emperor of the Qing
Dynasty from 1908 to 1912 and
during his brief restoration in 1917, Puyi's era name was "Xuantong",
so he was known as the "Xuantong Emperor" (simplified Chinese:
宣统皇帝; traditional Chinese: 宣統皇帝; pinyin: Xuāntǒng
Huángdì; Wade–Giles: Hsüan1-t'ung3 Huang2-ti4) during those two
periods of time.
Puyi was also the last ruling Emperor of China, he is widely known
as "The Last Emperor" (Chinese: 末代皇帝; pinyin: Mòdài
Huángdì; Wade–Giles: Mo4-tai4 Huang2-ti4) in
China and throughout
the rest of the world. Some refer to him as "
The Last Emperor
The Last Emperor of the
Qing Dynasty" (Chinese: 清末帝; pinyin: Qīng Mò Dì;
Wade–Giles: Ch'ing1 Mo4-ti4).
Due to his abdication,
Puyi is also known as "Xun Di" (Chinese:
遜帝; pinyin: Xùn Dì; literally: "Yielded Emperor") or "Fei Di"
(simplified Chinese: 废帝; traditional Chinese: 廢帝; pinyin: Fèi
Dì; literally: "Abrogated Emperor"). Sometimes a "Qing" (Chinese:
清; pinyin: Qīng) is added in front of the two titles to indicate
his affiliation with the Qing Dynasty.
Puyi ruled the puppet state of
Manchukuo and assumed the title of
Chief Executive of the new state, his era name was "Datong" (Ta-tung).
Emperor of Manchukuo
Emperor of Manchukuo from 1934 to 1945, his era name was "Kangde"
(Kang-te), so he was known as the "Kangde Emperor" (Chinese:
康德皇帝; pinyin: Kāngdé Huángdì, Japanese: Kōtoku Kōtei)
during that period of time.
His Imperial Majesty
Your Imperial Majesty
Son of Heaven
Son of Heaven (天子)
Puyi in 1922
Empress Dowager Cixi
Empress Dowager Cixi on her deathbed,
Puyi became emperor
at the age of 2 years and 10 months in December 1908
Guangxu Emperor died on 14 November. Titled the
Xuantong Emperor (Wade-Giles: Hsuan-tung Emperor), Puyi's introduction
to the life of an emperor began when palace officials arrived at his
family residence to take him. On the evening of 13 November 1908,
without any advance notice, a procession of eunuchs and guardsmen led
by the palace chamberlain left the
Forbidden City for the Northern
Mansion to inform Prince Chun that they were taking away his
Puyi to be the new emperor. The toddler Puyi
screamed and resisted as the officials ordered the eunuch attendants
to pick him up. Puyi's parents said nothing when they learned that
they were losing their son. As
Puyi cried, screaming that he did
not want to leave his parents, he was forced into a palanquin that
took him back to the Forbidden City. Puyi's wet nurse Wang Wen-Chao
was the only person from the Northern Mansion allowed to go with him,
and she calmed the very distraught
Puyi down by allowing him to suckle
one of her breasts; this was the only reason why she was taken along
as only she could calm
Puyi down. Upon arriving at the Forbidden
Puyi was taken to see the Dowager Empress Cixi.
I still have a dim recollection of this meeting, the shock of which
left a deep impression on my memory. I remember suddenly finding
myself surrounded by strangers, while before me was hung a drab
curtain through which I could see an emaciated and terrifying hideous
face. This was Cixi. It is said that I burst out into loud howls at
the sight and started to tremble uncontrollably. Cixi told someone to
give me some sweets, but I threw them on the floor and yelled "I want
nanny, I want nanny", to her great displeasure. "What a naughty child"
she said. "Take him away to play."
His father, Prince Chun, became Prince Regent (摄政王). During
Puyi's coronation in the
Hall of Supreme Harmony
Hall of Supreme Harmony on 2 December
1908, the young emperor was carried onto the Dragon Throne by his
Puyi was so frightened by the scene before him and the
deafening sounds of ceremonial drums and music that he started crying.
His father could do nothing except to quietly comfort him: "Don't cry,
it'll be over soon."
Puyi's wet nurse, Wang Wen-Chao, was the only one who could console
him, and therefore she accompanied him to the Forbidden City.
not see his biological mother, Princess Consort Chun, for the next
seven years. He developed a special bond with Wen-Chao Wang and
credited her with being the only person who could control him. She was
sent away when he was eight years old. After
Puyi married, he would
occasionally bring her to the Forbidden City, and later Manchukuo, to
visit him. After his special government pardon in 1959, he visited her
adopted son and only then learned of her personal sacrifices to be his
Puyi's upbringing was hardly conducive to the raising of a healthy,
well-balanced child. Overnight, he was treated as an emperor and
unable to behave as a child. The adults in his life, except for his
wet-nurse Wang Wen-Chao, were all strangers, remote, distant, and
unable to discipline him. Wherever he went, grown men would kneel
down in a ritual kowtow, averting their eyes until he passed. Soon the
Puyi discovered the absolute power he wielded over the eunuchs,
and he frequently had them beaten for small transgressions. As an
Puyi had his every whim catered to while no one ever said no
to him, making him into a sadistic boy who loved to have his eunuchs
flogged. The Anglo-French journalist Edward Behr wrote about
Puyi's powers as emperor of China, which allowed him to fire his
air-gun at anyone he liked:
The Emperor was Divine. He could not be remonstrated with, or
punished. He could only be deferentially advised against ill-treating
innocent eunuchs, and if he chose to fire air-gun pellets at them,
that was his prerogative.
— Edward Behr
Puyi later commented about his childhood that: "Flogging eunuchs was
part of my daily routine. My cruelty and love of wielding power were
already too firmly set for persuasion to have any effect on me."
The British historian
Alex von Tunzelmann wrote that most people in
the West know Puyi's story only from the 1987 film The Last Emperor,
which downplays Puyi's cruelty considerably, as the real boy-emperor
was far more vicious than his cinematic counterpart, which creates
misunderstandings that the young
Puyi was merely very spoiled.
By the age of 7,
Puyi had emerged with two sides to his personality;
the sadistic emperor who loved to have his eunuchs flogged, expected
everyone to kowtow to him and enjoyed puppet shows and dog fights, and
the boy who slept at night with Wang, suckling her breasts, and
content to be loved for just once in the day. Wang was the only
person capable of controlling Puyi; once,
Puyi decided to "reward" a
eunuch for a well done puppet show by having a cake baked for him with
iron filings in it, as
Puyi said "I want to see what he looks like
when he eats it". With much difficulty, Wang talked
Puyi out of
Puyi had to visit five former imperial concubines who were
his "mothers" to report on his progress, all of whom he hated, not the
least because his "mothers" prevented him from seeing his real mother
until he was 13. Their leader was the autocratic Empress Dowager
Longyu, who conspired successfully to have Puyi's beloved wet nurse
Wang expelled from the
Forbidden City when he was 8, on the grounds
Puyi was too old to be breast-fed.
Puyi especially hated
Longyu for expelling Wang.
Puyi later wrote "Although I had many
mothers, I never knew any motherly love."
Puyi noted that to travel from just one building to another in the
Forbidden City or for a stroll in the gardens, he was always
surrounded by "large retinue" of eunuchs and that:
"In front went an eunuch whose function was roughly that of a motor
horn; he walked twenty or thirty yards ahead of the party intoning the
sound '... chir ... chir ...' as a warning to anyone who
might be waiting in the vicinity to go away at once. Next came two
Chief Eunuchs advancing crabwise on either side of the path; ten paces
behind them came the centre of the procession. If I was being carried
in a chair there would be two junior eunuchs walking beside me to
attend to my wants at any moment; if I was walking they would be
supporting me. Next came an eunuch with a large silk canopy followed
by a large group of eunuchs, some empty-handed, others holding all
sorts of things: a seat in case I wanted to rest, changes of clothing,
umbrellas and parasols. After these eunuchs of the Imperial Presence
came eunuchs of the Imperial tea bureau with boxes of various kinds of
cakes and delicacies ... They were followed by eunuchs of the
Imperial dispensary ... at the end of the procession came the
eunuchs who carried commodes and chamberpots. If I was walking, a
sedan-chair, open or covered according to the season, would bring up
the rear. This motley procession of several dozen people would proceed
in perfect silence and order".
Puyi never had any privacy and had all his needs attended to at all
times, having eunuchs open doors for him, dress him, wash him, and
even blow air into his soup to cool it.
Puyi delighted in
humiliating his eunuchs, at one point, saying that as the "Lord of
Ten Thousand Years" it was his right to order a eunuch to eat
dirt, recalling: "'Eat that for me' I ordered, and he knelt down and
ate it". At his meals,
Puyi was always presented with a huge
buffet containing every conceivable dish, the vast majority of which
he did not eat, and every day
Puyi wore new clothing as Chinese
emperors never reused their clothing. The eunuchs had their own
reasons for presenting
Puyi with buffet meals and new clothing every
day, as Puyi's used clothes made from the finest silk were sold on the
black market while the food that
Puyi did not eat was either sold or
eaten by the eunuchs themselves.
Puyi had a standard Confucian education, being taught the various
Confucian classics and nothing else.
Puyi later wrote: "I learnt
nothing of mathematics, let alone science, and for a long time I had
no idea where
Beijing was situated". When
Puyi was 13, he met his
parents and siblings, all of whom had to kowtow before him as he sat
upon the Dragon Throne. By this time,
Puyi had forgotten what his
mother looked like. Such was the awe that the Emperor was held
that his younger brother
Pujie never heard his parents refer to Puyi
as "your elder brother", rather he was always just the Emperor.
Pujie told Behr his image of
Puyi prior to meeting him was that of
"...a venerable old man with a beard. I couldn't believe it when I saw
this boy in yellow robes sitting solemnly on the throne". It was
Pujie would join
Puyi in the
Forbidden City to provide
him with a playmate, though
Puyi was notably angry when he discovered
his brother was wearing yellow – the color of the Qing – as he
believed that only Emperors had the right to wear yellow, and it had
to be explained to him that all members of the Qing family could wear
Eunuchs and the Household Department
A quotation from
Puyi best summarizes the eunuchs:
No account of my childhood would be complete without mentioning the
eunuchs. They waited on me when I ate, dressed and slept; they
accompanied me on my walks and to my lessons; they told me stories;
and had rewards and beatings from me, but they never left my presence.
They were my slaves; and they were my earliest teachers.
The eunuchs were all slaves who did all of the work in the Forbidden
City such as cooking, gardening, cleaning, entertaining guests, and
all of the bureaucratic work needed to govern a vast empire and
serving as the emperor's advisers. The eunuchs spoke in a
distinctive high-pitched voice and to further prove that they were
really eunuchs had to keep their severed penises and testicles in jars
of brine that they wore around their necks when working. The
Forbidden City was full of treasures, which the eunuchs were
constantly stealing and selling on the black market. The business
of government and of providing for the emperor created further
opportunities for corruption and virtually all of the eunuchs engaged
in theft and corruption of one sort or another.
After his marriage,
Puyi began to take control of the palace. He
described "an orgy of looting" taking place that involved "everyone
from the highest to the lowest". According to Puyi, by the end of his
wedding ceremony, the pearls and jade in the empress's crown had been
stolen. Locks were broken, areas ransacked, and on 27 June
1923, a fire destroyed the area around the Palace of Established
Puyi suspected it was arson to cover theft. The emperor
overheard conversations among the eunuchs that made him fear for his
life. In response, he evicted the eunuchs from the palace. His own
brother, Pujie, was rumored to steal treasures and art collections and
sell to wealthy collectors in the black market. His next plan of
action was to reform the Household Department. In this period, he
brought in more outsiders to replace the traditionally aristocratic
officers in order to improve the accountability. He appointed Zheng
Xiaoxu as the minister of Household Department and
Zheng Xiaoxu hired
Tong Jixu, a former Air Force officer from the Beiyang Army, as his
chief of staff to clean up the act. However, the reform did not last
Puyi was forced out of the
Forbidden City by Feng
On 10 October 1911, the army garrison in Wuhan mutinied, sparking a
widespread revolt in the Yangtze river valley and beyond, demanding
the overthrow of the
Qing dynasty which ruled
China since 1644.
The strongman of late imperial China, General Yuan Shikai, was
dispatched by the court to crush the revolution, which he was unable
to do, as by 1911 public opinion had turned decisively against the
Qing, and many Chinese had no wish to fight for a dynasty which was
seen as having lost the Mandate of Heaven. Puyi's father, Prince
Chun, served as a regent until 6 December 1911 when Empress Dowager
Longyu took over following the Xinhai Revolution.
Empress Dowager Longyu
Empress Dowager Longyu endorsed the "Imperial Edict of the Abdication
of the Qing Emperor" (清帝退位詔書) on 12 February 1912 under a
deal brokered by Prime Minister
Yuan Shikai (a general of the Beiyang
Army) with the imperial court in
Beijing and the Republicans in
southern China. At the crucial meeting in the Forbidden City, Puyi
watched the meeting between Longyu and Yuan, which he remembered as:
"The Dowager Empress was sitting on a kang [platform bed] in a side
room of the Mind Nature Palace, wiping her eyes with a handkerchief
while a fat old man [Yuan] knelt on a red cushion before her, tears
rolling down his face. I was sitting to the right of the Dowager and
wondering why the two adults were crying. There was nobody in the room
besides us three and it was very quiet; the fat man was sniffing while
he talked and I could not understand what he was saying ... This was
the occasion Yuan directly brought up the question of abdication".
Under the "Articles of Favourable Treatment of the Great Qing Emperor
after His Abdication" (清帝退位 優待條件), signed with the new
Republic of China,
Puyi was to retain his imperial title and be
treated by the government of the Republic with the protocol attached
to a foreign monarch. This was similar to Italy's Law of Guarantees
(1870) which accorded the
Pope certain honors and privileges similar
to those enjoyed by the King of Italy.
Puyi and the imperial court
were allowed to remain in the northern half of the
Forbidden City (the
Private Apartments) as well as in the Summer Palace. A hefty annual
subsidy of four million silver taels was granted by the Republic to
the imperial household, although it was never fully paid and was
abolished after just a few years.
Puyi himself was not informed in
February 1912 that his reign had ended and
China was now a republic
and continued to believe that he was still the Emperor for sometime
afterwards. In 1913, when the
Empress Dowager Longyu
Empress Dowager Longyu died,
Yuan Shikai arrived at the
Forbidden City to pay his
respects, which Puyi's tutors told him meant that major changes were
The Articles of Favourable Treatment of the Great Qing Emperor after
The document is dated 26 December 1914.
After the abdication of the Great Qing Emperor, his title of dignity
is to be retained by the Republic of
China with the courtesies which
it is customary to accord to foreign monarchs.
After the abdication of the Great Qing Emperor, he will receive from
the Republic of
China an annual subsidy of 4,000,000 silver taels.
After the reform of the currency this amount will be altered to
After the abdication of the Great Qing Emperor, he may, as a temporary
measure, continue to reside in the Palace (in the Forbidden City), but
afterwards he will remove himself to the Summer Palace. He may retain
After the abdication of the Great Qing Emperor, the temples and
mausoleums of the imperial family with their appropriate sacrificial
rites shall be maintained in perpetuity. The Republic of
China will be
responsible for the provision of military guards for their adequate
As the Chong Mausoleum (崇陵) of the late Emperor Dezong (the
Guangxu Emperor) has not yet been completed, the work will be carried
out according to the proper regulations (relating to imperial tombs).
The last ceremonies of sepulture will also be observed in accordance
with the ancient rites. The actual expenses will all be borne by the
Republic of China.
The services of all the persons of various grades hitherto employed in
the Palace may be retained; but in future no eunuchs are to be added
to the staff.
After the abdication of the Great Qing Emperor, his private property
will be safeguarded and protected by the Republic of China.
The imperial guard corps as constituted at the time of the abdication
will be placed under the military control of the War Office of the
Republic of China. It will be maintained at its original strength and
will receive the same emoluments as heretofore.
Puyi soon learned that the real reasons for the Articles of Favorable
Settlement was that President
Yuan Shikai was planning on restoring
the monarchy with himself as the Emperor of a new dynasty, and wanted
Puyi as a sort of custodian of the
Forbidden City until he
could move in.
Puyi first learned of Yuan's plans to become
Emperor when he brought in army bands to serenade him whenever he had
a meal, and he started on a decidedly imperial take on the
Puyi spent hours staring at the Presidential Palace
across from the
Forbidden City and cursed Yuan whenever he saw him
come and go in his automobile.
Puyi hated Yuan as a "traitor" and
decided to sabotage his plans to become Emperor by hiding the Imperial
Seals, only to be told by his tutors that he would just make new
ones. In 1915, Yuan proclaimed himself Emperor, but had to abandon
his plans in the face of popular opposition.
Brief restoration (1917)
See also: Manchu Restoration
In 1917 the warlord
Zhang Xun restored
Puyi to the throne from July 1
to July 12.
Zhang Xun ordered his army to keep their queues to
display loyalty to the emperor. During that period of time, a small
bomb was dropped over the
Forbidden City by a Republican plane,
causing minor damage. This is considered the first aerial
bombardment ever in East Asia. The restoration failed due to extensive
opposition across China, and the decisive intervention of another
warlord, Duan Qirui.
Life in the Forbidden City
Reginald Johnston arrived in the
Forbidden City as Puyi's English
tutor on 3 March 1919.
Puyi had never met a foreigner prior to
this, recalling: "I have never seen foreign men. From the magazines, I
noticed they had big mustaches. The eunuchs said the mustaches were
very hard and a lantern could be hung at its ends". President Xu
Shichang believed that the monarchy was going to be restored in China
sooner or later, and to prepare
Puyi for the challenges of the modern
world had hired Johnston to teach
Puyi "subjects such as political
science, constitutional history and English". Johnston was allowed
only five texts in English to give
Puyi to read, namely Alice in
Wonderland and translations into English of the "Four Great Books" of
Confucianism; the Analects, the Mencius, the Great Learning and The
Doctrine of the Mean. However, Johnston disregarded the rules, and
Puyi about world history with a special focus on British
history. Johnston also told
Puyi so much about his native Scotland
Puyi eventually expressed the desire to visit the "Scotland the
Brave" that his tutor spoke of with such pride and love. Besides
history, Johnston taught
Puyi philosophy and about what he saw as the
superiority of monarchies over republics.
Puyi remembered that the
piercing blue eyes of his tutor "made me feel uneasy ... I found him
very intimidating and studied English with him like a good boy, not
daring to talk about other things when I got bored ... as I did with
my other Chinese tutors".
As the only person capable of controlling Puyi, Johnston had much more
influence than his title of English tutor would suggest as the eunuchs
began to rely upon Johnston to steer
Puyi away from his more
capricious moods. When the 14 year-old
Puyi had some western-style
clothing purchased to wear from a theater company, Johnston flew into
a rage, saying that
Puyi was wearing cheap clothing unworthy of an
emperor, and had
Puyi buy expensive clothes from a western-style
department store, telling
Puyi "If you wear clothes from a second-hand
shop, you won't be a gentleman, you'll be ..." with
he was unable to finish his sentence. Under Johnston's influence,
Puyi started to insist that his eunuchs address him as "Henry" and
later his wife Wanrong as "Elizabeth" as
Puyi began to speak
"Chinglish"-a mixture of Mandarin and English that was to be his
preferred model of speech.
Puyi recalled about Johnston: "I
thought everything about him was first-rate. He made me feel that
Westerners were the most intelligent and civilized people in the world
and that he was the most learned of Westerners" and that "Johnston had
become the major part of my soul". In May 1919,
Puyi noticed the
Beijing generated by the May 4th movement as thousands of
Chinese university students protested against the decision by the
great powers at the Paris peace conference to award the former German
concessions in Shangdong province together with the former German
Qingdao to Japan. For Puyi, the May 4th movement, which
he asked Johnston about, was a revelation as it marked the first time
in his life that he noticed that people outside the
Forbidden City had
concerns that were not about him.
Puyi could not speak Manchu; he only knew a single word in the
language, yili ("arise"). Despite studying Manchu for years, he
admitted that it was his "worst" subject among everything he
studied. According to the journalist S. M. Ali, Puyi
spoke Mandarin when interviewed but Ali believed that he could
understand English. Johnston also introduced
Puyi to the new
technology of cinema, and
Puyi was so delighted with the movies,
especially Harold Lloyd films, that he had a film projector installed
in the Forbidden City, despite the opposition of the eunuchs who
disliked foreign technology operating in the Forbidden City.
Johnston was also the first to argue that
Puyi needed glasses, as he
was extremely near-sighted, and after much argument with Prince Chun,
who thought it was undignified for an Emperor to wear glasses, finally
prevailed. Johnston, who spoke fluent Mandarin, closely followed
the intellectual scene in China, and introduced
Puyi to the "new
style" Chinese books and magazines, which so inspired Puyi, that he
wrote several poems that were published anonymously in "New China"
publications. In 1922, Johnston had his friend, the writer Hu
Shih, visit the
Forbidden City to teach
Puyi about recent developments
in Chinese literature. Under Johnston's influence,
the bicycle as a way to exercise, cut his queue and grew a full head
of hair, and wanted to go to study at Oxford, which was Johnston's
alma mater. Johnston also introduced
Puyi to the telephone, which
Puyi soon become addicted to, phoning people in
Beijing at random just
to hear their voices on the other end. Johnston also pressured
Puyi to cut down on the waste and extravagance in the Forbidden City,
noting that all of these eunuch slaves had to be fed. Johnston
Puyi that he could open doors for himself and did not need
eunuchs standing by idly all the time by the main doors of the palaces
just to open the door for him if he should happen to come along.
Puyi cut off his queue so he would look like a Western gentleman and
under Johnston's advice embraced the bicycle as the best way to move
about in the Forbidden City, retaining a lifelong enthusiasm for
cycling, though it is doubtful that the eunuchs working as gardeners
much appreciated Puyi's habit of riding through the flowers.
In March 1922, the Dowager Consorts decided that
Puyi should be
married, and gave him a selection of photographs of aristocratic
teenage girls to choose from.
Wenxiu as his wife, but
was told that she was acceptable only as a concubine, so he would have
to choose again.
Puyi then chose Gobulo Wanrong, the daughter of
one of Manchuria's richest aristocrats, who had been educated in
English by American missionaries in Tianjin, who was considered to be
an acceptable empress by the Dowager Consorts. On 15 March
1922, the betrothal of
Puyi and Wanrong was announced in the
newspapers, on 17 March Wanrong took the train to Beijing, and on
Puyi went to the Qing family shrine to inform his
ancestors that he would be married to her later that year. Puyi
did not meet Wanrong until their wedding and only knew her from the
In an interview in 1986, Prince
Pujie told Behr: "
talked about going to England and becoming an Oxford student, like
Johnston." On 4 June 1922,
Puyi attempted to escape from the
Forbidden City, having decided that he wanted to go to study at
Oxford, and planned to issue an open letter to "the people of China"
renouncing the title of Emperor before leaving for Oxford. The
escape attempt failed when Johnston vetoed it and refused to call a
Puyi was too frightened to live on the streets of
Pujie said about Puyi’s escape attempt: “Puyi’s
decision had nothing to do with the impending marriage. He felt cooped
up, and wanted out.” Johnston later recounted his time as Puyi's
tutor between 1919–1924 in his 1934 book Twilight in the Forbidden
City, which is one of main sources of information about Puyi's life in
this period, though Behr cautioned that Johnston painted an idealised
Puyi in his book, avoiding all mention of Puyi's sexuality,
that he was only an average student, his erratic mood swings, and the
practice of eunuch-flogging.
Pujie told Behr about Puyi's moods:
"When he was in a good mood, everything was fine, and he was a
charming companion. If something upset him, his dark side would
On 21 October 1922, Puyi's wedding to Princess Wanrong began with
the "betrothal presents" of 18 sheep, 2 horses,
40 pieces of satin and 80 rolls of cloth were marched from
Forbidden City to Wanrong's house accompanied by court musicians
and cavalry. Following Manchu traditions where weddings were
conducted under moonlight for good luck, an enormous procession of
palace guardsmen, eunuchs, and musicians carried the Princess Wanrong
in a red sedan chair called the Phoenix Chair from her house to the
Forbidden City under a full moon. Wanrong was taken to the Palace
of Earthly Peace within the Forbidden City, where
Puyi sat upon the
Dragon Throne and Wanrong kowtowed to him six times to symbolize her
submission to her husband.
Wanrong wore a mask in accordance with Chinese tradition and Puyi, who
knew nothing of women, remembered: "I hardly thought about marriage
and family. It was only when the Empress came into my field of vision
with a crimson satin cloth embroidered with a dragon and a phoenix
over her head that I felt at all curious about what she looked
like." After the wedding was complete, Puyi, Wanrong, and his
Wenxiu (whom he married the same night) went to the
Palace of Earthly Tranquility, where everything was red – the color
of love and sex in
China – and where emperors had traditionally
consummated their marriages. Puyi, who was sexually inexperienced
and timid, fled from the bridal chamber, leaving his wives to sleep in
the Dragon Bed by themselves. About Puyi's failure to consummate
his marriage on his wedding night, Behr wrote:
It was perhaps too much to expect an adolescent, permanently
surrounded by eunuchs to show the sexual maturity of a normal
seventeen year-old. Neither the Dowager consorts nor Johnston himself
had given him any advice on sexual matters – this sort of thing
simply was not done, where emperors were concerned: It would have been
an appalling breach of protocol. But the fact remains that a totally
inexperienced, over-sheltered adolescent, if normal, could hardly have
failed to be aroused by Wan Jung's [Wanrong's] unusual, sensual
beauty. The inference is, of course, that Pu Yi was either impotent,
extraordinarily immature sexually, or already aware of his homosexual
Wanrong's younger brother Rong Qi remembered how
Puyi and Wanrong,
both teenagers, loved to race their bicycles through the Forbidden
City, forcing eunuchs to get out of the way, and told Behr in an
interview: "There was a lot of laughter, she and
Puyi seemed to get on
well, they were like kids together." In 1986, Behr interviewed one
of Puyi's two surviving eunuchs, an 85-year-old man who proved
reluctant to answer the questions asked of him, but finally stated
about Puyi's relationship with Wanrong: "The Emperor would come over
to the nuptial apartments once every three months and spend the night
there ... He leave early in the morning on the following day and for
the rest of that day he would invariably be in a very filthy temper
Reginald Johnston arranged for the Marquis of Extended
Grace Zhu Yuxun, a descendant of the
Ming dynasty Imperial family, to
Puyi in the
Forbidden City in September 1924, which was the
first time the heirs of both the deposed Ming and Qing dynasties came
face to face.
Puyi rarely left the Forbidden City, knew nothing of the lives of
ordinary Chinese people, and was somewhat misled by Johnston who told
him that the vast majority of the Chinese wanted a Qing
restoration. Johnston, a Sinophile scholar and a romantic
conservative with an instinctive preference for monarchies, believed
China needed a benevolent autocrat to guide the country forward,
leading him to favor a Qing restoration. Johnston was enough of a
traditionalist to appreciate that all of the major events in the
Forbidden City were determined by the court astrologers as life in the
Forbidden City was still decided by the way of the stars. The
Sinophile Johnston disparaged the superficially Westernized Chinese
republican elite who dressed in top hats, frock coats and business
suits as inauthentically Chinese and praised to
Puyi the Confucian
scholars with their traditional robes as the ones who were
As part of an effort to crack down on corruption by the eunuchs
inspired by Johnston,
Puyi ordered an inventory of the treasures in
the Forbidden City, which caused the
Hall of Supreme Harmony
Hall of Supreme Harmony to go up
in flames in a case of arson on the night of 26 June 1923 as the
eunuchs tried to cover up the extent of their theft. Johnston
reported on the next day he “found the Emperor and Empress standing
on a heap of charred wood, sadly contemplating the spectacle”.
The treasures reported lost in the fire included 2,685 golden
statues of Lord Buddha, 1,675 golden altar ornaments,
435 porcelain antiques, and 31 boxes of sable furs, though
it is likely that most if not all of these treasures were sold on the
black market before the building was set afire.
Puyi finally decided to expel all of the eunuchs from the Forbidden
City to end the problem of theft, only agreeing to keep 50 after the
Dowager Consorts complained that they could not function without
them. After expelling the eunuchs,
Puyi turned the grounds where
Hall of Supreme Harmony
Hall of Supreme Harmony had once stood into a tennis court, a
sport that he and Wanrong loved to play. Wanrong's brother Rong Qi
recalled: "But after the eunuchs went, many of the palaces inside the
Forbidden City were closed down, and the place took on a desolate,
abandoned air." After the Great Kanto earthquake on
1 September 1923 destroyed the cities of Tokyo and Yokohama, Puyi
donated jade antiques worth some £33,000 to pay for disaster relief,
and which led to a delegation of Japanese diplomats to visit the
Forbidden City to express their thanks. In their report about the
visit, the diplomats noted that
Puyi was highly vain and malleable,
and could be used by Japan, which marked the beginning of Japanese
interest in Puyi.
Expulsion from the
Forbidden City (1924)
On October 23, 1924, a coup led by the warlord
Feng Yuxiang took
control of Beijing. Feng, the latest of the warlords to take Beijing
was seeking legitimacy and decided that abolishing the unpopular
Articles of Favorable Settlement was an easy way to win the approval
of the crowd. The "Articles of Favourable Treatment" were
unilaterally revised by Feng on November 5, 1924, abolishing Puyi's
imperial title and privileges, and reducing him to a private citizen
of the Republic of China.
Puyi was expelled from the Forbidden City
that same day. He was given three hours to leave the Forbidden
City. He spent a few days at the house of his father Prince Chun,
and then temporarily resided in the Japanese embassy in Beijing.
Puyi left his father's house together with Johnston and his chief
servant Big Li without informing Prince Chun's servants, who followed
them in another car while two policemen joined on the sides of Puyi's
car, leading to a wild car chase through
Beijing as Puyi's chauffeur
tried to lose the servants' car before
Puyi was able to slip into a
jewelry store and into a carriage that took him to the Japanese
Puyi had originally wanted to go to the British
Legation, but the Japanophile Johnston had insisted that he would be
safer with the Japanese. For Johnston, the Japanese system where
the Japanese people worshiped their emperor as a living god was much
closer to his ideal political system than the British system of a
constitutional monarchy, and he constantly steered
Puyi in a
pro-Japanese direction. One of Puyi's advisers Lu Zongyu-who was
secretly working for the Japanese-suggested that
Puyi move to Tianjin,
which he argued was safer than Beijing, though the real reason was
that the Japanese felt that
Puyi would be easier to control in Tianjin
without the embarrassment of having him live in the Japanese Legation,
which was straining relations with China. On 23 February 1925,
Tianjin while wearing a simple Chinese gown and
skullcap as he was afraid of being robbed on the train.
Garden of Serenity in Tianjin
In February 1925,
Puyi moved to the Japanese Concession of Tianjin,
first into the Zhang Garden (張園), and in 1927 into the former
Lu Zongyu known as the Garden of Serenity (simplified
Chinese: 静园; traditional Chinese: 静園; pinyin: jìng
yuán). A British journalist, Henry Woodhead, called Puyi's court
a "doggy paradise" as both
Puyi and Wanrong were dog-lovers who owned
several dogs who were very spoiled while Puyi's courtiers spent an
inordinate amount of time feuding with one another. Woodhead
stated that the only people who seemed to get along at Puyi's court
were Wanrong and Wenxiu, who were "like sisters".
after Shanghai, the most cosmopolitan Chinese city, with large
British, French, German, Russian and Japanese communities. As an
Puyi was allowed to join several social clubs that normally
only admitted whites. During this period,
Puyi and his advisers
Zheng Xiaoxu and
Luo Zhenyu discussed plans to restore
Puyi as Emperor. Zheng and Luo favoured enlisting assistance from
external parties, while Chen opposed the idea. In June 1925, the
Zhang Zuolin visited
Tianjin to meet Puyi. "Old Marshal"
Zhang, an illiterate former bandit, ruled Manchuria, a region equal in
size to Germany and France combined, which had a population of 30
million and was the most industrialized region in China. Zhang
Puyi at their meeting and promised to restore the House of
Qing, which was made conditional on
Puyi making a large financial
donation to his army. As Zhang walked with
Puyi to his car at end
of their meeting, he noticed a Japanese spy who had followed
said in a very loud voice "If those Japanese lay a finger on you, let
me know and I'll sort them out", which was Zhang's way of warning Puyi
in a "roundabout way" not to trust his Japanese friends. Zhang
fought in the pay of the Japanese, but by this time his relations with
Kwantung Army were becoming strained. In June 1927, Zhang captured
Beijing and Behr observed if
Puyi had more courage and returned to
Beijing, he might have been restored to the Dragon Throne.
Puyi's court was prone to factionalism and his advisers were urging
him to back different warlords, which gave him a reputation for
duplicity as he negotiated with various warlords, which strained his
relations with Marshal Zhang. At various times,
Puyi met General
Zhang Zongchang, the "Dogmeat General", and the Russian emigre General
Grigory Semyonov at his
Tianjin house; both of them promised to
restore him to the Dragon Throne if he gave them enough money, and
both of them kept all of the money he gave them to themselves.
Puyi remembered Zhang, the "Dogmeat General" as "an universally
detested monster" with a face bloated and "tinged with the livid hue
induced by opium smoking". Semyonov in particular proved himself
to be a talented con-man, claiming as an ataman to have several
Cossack Hosts under his command, to have 300 million roubles in the
bank, and to be supported by American, British and Japanese banks in
his plans to restore both the House of Qing in
China and the House of
Romanov in Russia. Semyonov claimed that he was only asking for
Puyi's financial support because of a temporary clash flow problem,
and promised that once his Cossacks took
Beijing he would repay all of
Puyi loaned him.
Puyi gave Semyonov a loan of 5,000
British pounds, which Semyonov never repaid. Another visitor to
the Garden of Serenity was General Kenji Doihara, a Japanese Army
officer who was fluent in Mandarin and was a man of great charm who
Puyi via flattery, telling him that a great man such as
himself should go conquer
Manchuria and then, just as his Qing
ancestors did in the 17th century, use
Manchuria as a base for
In 1928, during the Great
Northern Expedition to reunify China, troops
loyal to a warlord allied with the Kuomintang sacked the Qing tombs
Beijing after the Kuomintang and its allies took Beijing
from the army of Marshal Zhang who retreated back to Manchuria.
The news that the Qing tombs had been plundered and the corpse of the
Dowager Empress Cixi had been desecrated greatly offended Puyi, who
never forgave the Kuomintang as he held
Chiang Kai-shek personally
responsible for the sacking of the Qing tombs, while at the same time,
the sacking of the Qing tombs also showed his powerlessness.
During his time in Tianjin,
Puyi was besieged with visitors asking him
for money, which included various members of the vast Qing family, old
Manchu bannermen asking for financial help, journalists prepared to
write articles calling for a Qing restoration for the right price, and
eunuchs who had once lived in the
Forbidden City and were now living
Puyi himself was often bored with his life, and
engaged in maniacal shopping to compensate, recalling that he was
addicted to "buying pianos, watches, clocks, radios, Western clothes,
leather shoes and spectacles".
Puyi's first wife Wanrong began to smoke opium during this period,
Puyi encouraged as he found her more "manageable" when she was
in an opium daze. His marriage to Wanrong began to fall apart as
they spent more and more time apart, meeting only at mealtimes.
Wanrong complained that her life as an "empress" was extremely dull as
the rules for an empress forbade her from going out dancing as she
wanted, instead forcing her to spend her days in traditional rituals
that she found to be meaningless, all the more so as
China was a
republic and her title of empress was symbolic only. The
westernized Wanrong loved to go out dancing, play tennis, wear western
clothes and make-up, listen to jazz music, and to socialize with her
friends, which the more conservative courtiers all objected to.
She resented having to play the traditional role of a Chinese empress,
but was unwilling to break with
Puyi either. Puyi's butler was
secretly a Japanese spy, and in a report to his masters described Puyi
and Wanrong one day spending hours screaming at one another in the
gardens with Wanrong repeatedly calling
Puyi a "eunuch" – whether
she meant that insult as a reference to sexual inadequacy or not is
not clear. In 1928, Puyi's concubine
Wenxiu declared that she had
had enough of him and his court and simply walked out, filing for
Wenxiu left, a regular visitor to the court was
Puyi's cousin Eastern Jewel, described by Tunzelmann as "... an
urbane leather-clad cross-dressing spy princess".
In September 1931
Puyi sent a letter to Jirō Minami, the
Japanese Minister of War, expressing his desire to be restored to the
throne. On the night of 18 September 1931, the Mukden
Incident began when the
Kwantung Army blew up a section of railroad
belonging to the Japanese-owned South Manchurian Railroad company,
which was blamed on the warlord Marshal Zhang Xueliang, the "Young
Marshal" who took over
Manchuria in 1928 when his father, the "Old
Marshal" was assassinated by the Kwantung Army. Using this
incident as an excuse, the
Kwantung Army began a general offensive
with the aim of conquering all of
Manchuria with heavy artillery being
used to blast Zhang's barracks in Mukden.
Puyi was visited by
Kenji Doihara, head of the espionage office of the Japanese Kwantung
Army, who proposed establishing
Puyi as head of a Manchurian state.
Empress Wanrong was firmly against Puyi's plans to go to
Manchuria, which she called treason, and for a moment,
leading Doihara to send for Puyi's cousin, the very pro-Japanese
Eastern Jewel, to visit him to change his mind. Eastern Jewel, a
strong-willed, flamboyant, openly bisexual woman noted for her habit
of wearing male clothing and uniforms, had much influence on
Puyi. In the Tientsin Incident during November 1931,
Zheng Xiaoxu traveled to
Manchuria to complete plans for the puppet
state of Manchukuo.
Puyi left his house in
Tianjin by hiding in the
trunk of a car. The Chinese government ordered his arrest for
treason, but was unable to breach the Japanese protection. Puyi
boarded a Japanese ship, the Awaji Maru, that took him across the East
China Sea, and when he landed in Port Arthur (modern Lüshun) the next
day, he was greeted by the man who was to become his minder, General
Masahiko Amakasu, who escorted him to the train that took them to a
resort owned by the South Manchurian Railroad company. Amakasu
was a fearsome man who told
Puyi how in the
Amakasu Incident of 1923
he had the feminist Noe Itō, her lover the anarchist Sakae Ōsugi,
and a six-year-old boy, Munekazu Tachibana, who happened to be there,
strangled to death as they were "enemies of the Emperor", and he
likewise would kill
Puyi if he should prove to be an "enemy of the
Emperor". The American historian Louise Young described Amakasu
as a "sadistic" man who enjoyed torturing and killing people.
Behr commented that Amakasu's boasting about killing a six-year-old
boy should have served to enlighten
Puyi about the sort of people he
had just allied himself with.
Chen Baochen returned to Beijing
where he died in 1935.
Once he arrived in Manchuria,
Puyi discovered that he was a prisoner
and found that he was not allowed outside the Yamato Hotel he was
staying in, ostensibly to protect him from assassination. Wanrong
had stayed in Tianjin, and remained opposed to Puyi's decision to work
with the Japanese, requiring her friend Eastern Jewel to visit
numerous times to convince her to go to Manchuria. Behr commented
that if Wanrong had been a stronger woman, she might have remained in
Tianjin and filed for divorce, but ultimately she accepted Eastern
Jewel's argument that it was her duty as a wife to follow her husband,
and six weeks after the Tientsin incident, she too crossed the East
China Sea to Port Arthur with Eastern Jewel to keep her company.
In early 1932, General
Seishirō Itagaki informed
Puyi that the new
state was to be a republic with him as Chief Executive; the capital
was to be Changchun; his form of address was to be "Your Excellency",
not "Your Imperial Majesty"; and there were to be no references to
Puyi ruling with the "Mandate of Heaven", none of which was welcome to
Puyi. The suggestion that
Manchukuo was in theory at least to be
based on popular sovereignty with the 34 million people of
Manchuria "asking" that
Puyi rule over them was completely contrary to
Puyi's ideas about his right to rule based on the Mandate of
Heaven. The Lytton Commission appointed by the League of Nations
was due to arrive in
Manchuria soon to examine the Chinese complaint
made to the League Council that Japan had committed aggression by
seizing Manchuria, and presenting
Manchukuo as an exercise in
Wilsonian self-determination was calculated by the
Kwantung Army to
appeal better than archaic arguments about the Mandate of Heaven.
Furthermore, the Japanese were fearful of international isolation, and
contended that they had not violated the
Nine-Power Treaty of 1922
Kwantung Army had supposedly responded to the demands of
the local people to break away from China. The United States had
already announced the
Stimson Doctrine of refusing to "recognize any
treaty or agreement" that Japan might impose on
China which "may be
brought about by means contrary to the covenants and obligations of
the Pact of Paris [the Kellogg–Briand Pact]". The Japanese
contention was that
China "was not an organized state", but instead a
lawless region ruled by warlords; Japan would observe all of its
treaty commitments, but would react if the local people asked for
Japanese help. The Japanese historian
Akira Iriye wrote this
argument about self-determination and freedom for the people of
Manchuria was meant to make "an egregious violation of China's
territorial and administrative integrity ... compatible with the
Itagaki suggested to
Puyi that in a few years time
become a monarchy and stated that
Manchuria was just the beginning, as
Japan had ambitions to take all of China; the obvious implication was
Puyi would become the Great Qing Emperor again. When Puyi
objected to Itagaki's plans, he was told that he was in no position to
negotiate as Itagaki had no interest in his opinions on these
issues. Unlike Doihara, who was always very polite and constantly
stroked Puyi's ego, Itagaki was brutally rude and brusque, addressing
Puyi like he was barking out orders to a particularly dim-witted
common soldier. Puyi's chief adviser
Zheng Xiaoxu had been
promised by Itagaki that he would be the
Manchukuo prime minister, an
offer that appealed to his vanity sufficiently enough that he
Puyi to accept the Japanese terms, telling him that
Manchukuo would soon become a monarchy and history would repeat
Puyi would conquer the rest of
China from his Manchurian
base just as the Qing did in 1644. In Japanese propaganda, Puyi
was always celebrated both in traditionalist terms as a Confucian
"Sage King" out to restore virtue and as a revolutionary who was going
to end the oppression of the common people by a program of wholesale
His Imperial Majesty
Your Imperial Majesty
On the night of 24 February 1932, when
Puyi accepted the offer to
be Chief Executive of Manchukuo, a party was thrown to celebrate with
geishas being imported for the celebration, during which Itagaki
become very drunk, and forgetting that the geisha are entertainers,
not prostitutes, made outrageous sexual advances on the geisha,
fondling their breasts and vaginas, telling
Puyi that as a general he
could do anything he wanted to the geisha. During the party,
while Itagaki boasted to
Puyi that now was a great time to be a
Puyi was much offended when none of the geisha knew who
On 1 March 1932,
Puyi was installed by the Japanese as the Chief
Executive of Manchukuo, a puppet state of the Empire of Japan, under
the reign title Datong (Wade-Giles: Ta-tung; 大同).
Manchukuo was just the beginning, and within a few years time, he
would once again reign as the Emperor of China, having the yellow
Imperial Dragon robes used for coronation of Qing emperors brought
Beijing to Changchun. At the time, Japanese propaganda
depicted the birth of
Manchukuo as a triumph of Pan-Asianism, with the
"five races" of Japanese, Chinese, Koreans, Manchus and Mongols coming
together, which marked nothing less than the birth of a new
civilization and a turning point in world history. A press
statement issued on 1 March 1932 stated: "The glorious advent of
Manchukuo with the eyes of the world turned on it was an epochal event
of far-reaching consequence in world history, marking the birth of a
new era in government, racial relations, and other affairs of general
interest. Never in the chronicles of the human race was any State born
with such high ideals, and never has any State accomplished so much in
such a brief space of its existence as Manchukuo".
On 8 March 1932,
Puyi made his ceremonial entry into Changchun,
sharing his car with Zheng who was beaming with joy, Amakasu whose
expression was stern as usual, and Wanrong, who looked miserable.
Puyi remembered about his first time in Changchun:
"I saw Japanese gendarmes, and rows of people, wearing all sorts of
clothes; some were in Chinese jackets and gowns, some were in Western
suits and some in traditional Japanese dress, and they were all
holding small flags in their hands. I was thrilled and reflected that
I was now seeing the scene that I missed at the harbor. As I walked
past them Hsi Hsia [one of his ministers] pointed out a line of dragon
flags between the Japanese ones and said that the men holding them
were all Manchu "bannermen" who had been waiting for me to come for
twenty years. These words brought tears to my eyes, and I was more
strongly convinced than ever that my future was very hopeful".
Puyi also noted he was "too preoccupied with my hopes and hates" to
realize the "cold comfort that the
Changchun citizens, silent from
terror and hatred, were giving me". Puyi's friend, the British
journalist Woodhead, who covered his arrival in Manchuria, wrote
"outside official circles, I met no Chinese who felt any enthusiasm
for the new regime", and that the city of
Harbin was being terrorized
by Chinese and Russian gangsters working for the Japanese, making
Harbin "lawless ... even its main street unsafe after dark".
In an interview with Woodhead,
Puyi stated he planned to govern
Manchukuo “in the Confucian spirit” and he was “perfectly
happy” with his new position. An Italian journalist from the
Corriere della Sera
Corriere della Sera newspaper wrote: “I was unable to interview this
pale, tired prince who doesn’t like to talk, who is always plunged
in his meditations and who maybe regrets his life as a simple,
studious citizen. He has a fixed stare behind his black-framed
glasses. When we were introduced, he responded with a friendly nod.
But his smile lasted only a second. We could only await the word of
the Master of Ceremonies to give us permission to bow ourselves out. A
Japanese colonel, our guide, showed us the triumphal arches, the
electric light decorations and endless flags. But all this, say the
shopkeepers is "made in Osaka"”.
On 20 April 1932, the Lytton Commission arrived in
Manchuria to begin
its investigation to establish if Japan had committed aggression or
Puyi was interviewed by Lord Lytton, and recalled thinking
that at the time that he desperately wanted to ask Lytton for
political asylum in Britain, but as General Itagaki was sitting right
next to him at the meeting, he told Lytton that "the masses of the
people had begged me to come, that my stay here was absolutely
voluntary and free". After the interview, Itagaki told Puyi:
"Your Excellency's manner was perfect; you spoke beautifully".
The diplomat Wellington Koo, who was attached to the Lytton Commission
as its Chinese assessor received a secret message saying that
"... a representative of the imperial household in Changchun
wanted to see me and had a confidential message for me". The
representative, posing as an antique dealer, who "... told me he
was sent by the Empress: She wanted me to help her escape from
Changchun. He said she found life miserable there because she was
surrounded in her house by Japanese maids. Every movement of hers was
watched and reported". Koo said he was "touched", but he could do
nothing to help Wanrong escape, which her brother Rong Qi said was the
"final blow" to her, leading her into a downward spiral. Right
from the start, the Japanese occupation had sparked much resistance by
guerrillas, whom the
Kwantung Army called "bandits". General Doihara
was able in exchange for a multi-million bribe to get one of the more
prominent guerrilla leaders, the Hui Muslim general
Ma Zhanshan to
accept Japanese rule, and had
Puyi appoint him Defense Minister.
Much to the intense chagrin of
Puyi and his Japanese masters, Ma's
defection turned to be a ruse, and only months after
him Defense Minister, Ma took his troops over the border to the Soviet
Union to continue the struggle against the Japanese.
Pu Yi's edict of ascending the throne
The Showa Emperor wanted to see if
Puyi was reliable before giving him
an imperial title, and it was not until October 1933 that General
Doihara told him he was to be an emperor again, causing
Puyi to go, in
his own words, "wild with joy", though
Puyi was disappointed that he
was not given back his old title of "Great Qing Emperor". At the
same time, Doihara informed
Puyi that "the Emperor [of Japan] is your
father and is represented in
Manchukuo as the Kwantung army which must
be obeyed like a father". Right from the start,
infamous for its high crime rate, as Japanese-sponsored gangs of
Chinese, Korean and Russian gangsters fought one another for the
control of Manchukuo's opium houses, brothels, and gambling dens, with
the Russian gangs having a particular interest in going after Jewish
Manchukuo for extortion and kidnapping. There were
nine different Japanese or Japanese-sponsored police/intelligence
agencies operating in Manchukuo, who were all told by Tokyo that Japan
was a poor country and that they were to pay for their own operations
by engaging in organized crime. The Italian adventurer Amleto
Vespa remembered that General
Kenji Doihara told him
going have to pay for its own exploitation. In 1933, Simon
Kaspé, a French Jewish pianist visiting his father in Manchukuo, who
owned a hotel in Harbin, was kidnapped, tortured and murdered by an
anti-Semitic gang from the Russian Fascist Party. The Kaspé case
become an international cause célèbre, attracting much media
attention around the world, ultimately leading to two trials in Harbin
in 1935 and 1936, as the evidence that the Russian Fascist gang who
had killed Kaspé was working for the Kempeitai, the military police
of the Imperial Japanese Army, become too strong for even Tokyo to
ignore. In Asia, the rule of law is seen as one of the marks of
"civilization", which is why the Japanese and
Manchukuo media had
spent so much time disparaging the chaotic and corrupt legal system
run by the "Young Marshal", Zhang Xueliang;
Puyi was portrayed as
having (with a little help from the Kwantung Army) saved the people
from the chaos of the rule by the Zhang family. Manchukuo's high
crime rate, and the much publicized Kaspé case, made a mockery of the
Puyi had saved the people of
Manchuria from a lawless and
On 1 March 1934, he was crowned Emperor of Manchukuo, under the reign
title Kangde (Wade–Giles: Kang-te; 康德) in Changchun. A sign of
the true rulers of
Manchukuo was the presence of General Masahiko
Amakasu during the coronation; ostensibly there as the film director
to record the coronation, Amakasu served as Puyi's minder, keeping a
careful watch on him to prevent him from going off-script.
Wanrong was excluded from the coronation: her addiction to opium,
anti-Japanese feelings, dislike of
Puyi and growing reputation for
being "difficult" and unpredictable led Amakasu to the conclusion that
she could not be trusted to stay on-script. Though submissive in
public to the Japanese,
Puyi was constantly at odds with them in
private. He resented being "Head of State" and then "Emperor of
Manchukuo" rather than being fully restored as a Qing Emperor. At his
enthronement, he clashed with Japan over dress; they wanted him to
wear a Manchukuo-style uniform whereas he considered it an insult to
wear anything but traditional Manchu robes. In a typical compromise,
he wore a Western military uniform to his enthronement (the only
Chinese emperor ever to do so) and a dragon robe to the announcement
of his accession at the Temple of Heaven.
Puyi was driven to his
coronation in a Lincoln limousine with bullet-proof windows followed
by nine Packards, and during his coronation scrolls were read out
while sacred wine bottles were opened for the guests to celebrate the
beginning of a "Reign of Tranquility and Virtue". The invitations
for the coronation were issued by the
Kwantung Army and 70% of those
who attended Puyi's coronation were Japanese.
The Japanese chose as the capital of
Manchukuo the industrial city of
Changchun, which was renamed Hsinking.
Puyi had wanted the capital to
be Mukden (modern Shenyang), which had once been the Qing capital
before the Qing had conquered
China in 1644, but was overruled by his
Japanese masters, who insisted Hsinking was to be the capital.
Puyi hated Hsinking, which he regarded as an undistinguished
industrial city that lacked the historical connections with the Qing
that Mukden had. As there was no palace in Changchun,
into what had once been the office of the Salt Tax Administration
during the Russian period, and as result, the building was known as
the Salt Tax Palace, which is now the Museum of the Imperial Palace of
the Manchu State.
Puyi lived as a virtual prisoner in the Salt
Tax Palace, which was heavily guarded by Japanese troops, and Puyi
could not leave the palace without permission. Shortly after
Puyi's coronation, Prince Chun arrived at the Hsinking railroad
station for a visit, and this time Wanrong promised to behave as no
Japanese were involved in the ceremonies, and thus she was allowed out
of the Salt Tax Palace. As Prince Chun got off the train, the
Manchukuo Imperial Guards were there to greet him while
dressed in his uniform as Commander-in-Chief, wearing Japanese,
Manchukuo decorations while Wanrong wore the traditional
dress of a Chinese empress and kowtowed to her father-in-law.
Puyi's half-brother Pu Ren, who was 16 at the time, followed his
father to Hsinking and told Behr in an interview:
Puyi was outwardly very polite, but he didn't have a lot of respect
for his father's opinions.
Puyi badly wanted the whole family to stay
in Changchun. He wanted me to be educated in Japan, but father was
firmly opposed to the idea and I went back to Beijing.
Puyi was still
in pretty good spirits. He hadn't entirely given up the dream that the
Japanese would restore him to the throne of China.
— Pu Ren
Prince Chun told his son that he was an idiot if he really believed
that the Japanese were going to restore him to the Dragon Throne, and
warned him that he was just being used.
The Japanese Embassy issued a note of diplomatic protest at the
welcome extended to Prince Chun, stating that the Hsinking railroad
station was under the control of the Kwantung Army, and only Japanese
soldiers were allowed there, warning that the Japanese would not
Manchukuo Imperial Guard being used to welcome visitors
at the Hsinking railroad station again. In this period, Puyi
frequently visited the provinces of
Manchukuo to open factories and
mines, took part in the birthday celebrations for the Showa Emperor at
Kwantung Army headquarters and, on the Japanese holiday of
Memorial Day, formally paid his respects with Japanese rituals to the
souls of the Japanese soldiers killed fighting the "bandits" (as the
Japanese called all the guerrillas fighting against their rule of
Manchuria). Following the example in Japan, schoolchildren in
Manchukuo at the beginning of every school-day kowtowed first in the
direction of Tokyo and then to a portrait of
Puyi in the
Puyi found this to be "intoxicating", as he later put
Puyi visited a coal mine and in his rudimentary Japanese
thanked the Japanese foreman for his good work, who burst into tears
as he thanked the emperor;
Puyi later wrote that "The treatment I
received really went to my head."
Whenever the Japanese wanted a law passed, the relevant decree was
dropped off at the Salt Tax Palace for
Puyi to sign, which he always
Puyi signed decrees expropriating vast tracts of farmland to
be given to Japanese colonists and a law declaring certain thoughts to
be "thought crimes", leading Behr to note: "In theory, as 'Supreme
Commander', he thus bore full responsibility for Japanese atrocities
committed in his name on anti-Japanese "bandits" and patriotic Chinese
citizens." Behr further noted the "Empire of Manchukuo", billed
as an idealistic state where the "five races" of the Chinese,
Japanese, Koreans, Manchus, and Mongols had come together in Pan-Asian
brotherhood, was in fact "one of the most brutally run countries in
the world – a textbook example of colonialism, albeit of the
Manchukuo was a sham, and was a Japanese colony
run entirely for Japan's benefit. American historian Carter J.
Eckert wrote that the differences in power could be seen in that the
Kwantung Army had a "massive" headquarters in downtown Hsinking; while
Puyi had to live in the "small and shabby" Salt Tax Palace, located
close to the main railroad station, in a part of Hsinking where
numerous small factories, warehouses, and slaughterhouses were located
together with the chief prison and the red-light district.
In 1935, to solve the problem of overpopulation in Japan, a plan was
announced in Tokyo to settle five million Japanese farmers and their
Manchukuo between 1936 and 1956, and in the first stage of
the plan 20,000 Japanese families moved to
Manchukuo every year,
continuing until 1944, when American submarine attacks reduced the
shipping available to move colonists into Manchukuo. By 1939, the
total Japanese population in
Manchukuo was about 837,000 men,
women, and children; comprising the Japanese who had been brought in
as rural colonists plus the Japanese who had come to
Manchukuo to work
as civil servants, businessmen, and for the South
Company, which was the largest corporation in Asia at the time,
together with their families. To provide farmland for the
Japanese settlers, the ethnic Chinese and ethnic Korean farmers
already living on the land were evicted to make way for the
colonists. Those farmers who resisted eviction to make way for
the Japanese settlers were used by the
Kwantung Army for bayonet
Manchukuo was meant to be the industrial
powerhouse of the Japanese empire, and right from the start, the
Japanese started to build factories and mines on a vast scale while
the Chinese workers were ruthlessly exploited. The American
historian Mark Driscoll described the economic system introduced by
Nobusuke Kishi, Manchukuo's Deputy Minister of Industry and Commerce
between 1935-1939 and a future prime minister of Japan, as a
“necropolitical” system where the Chinese workers were literally
treated as dehumanized cogs within a vast industrial machine.
Behr commented that
Puyi knew from his talks in
Tianjin with General
Kenji Doihara and General
Seishirō Itagaki that he was dealing with
"ruthless men and that this might be the regime to expect". Puyi
later recalled that: "I had put my head in the tiger's mouth" by going
Manchuria in 1931.
Puyi (right) as Emperor of Manchukuo. On the left is Chū Kudō.
From 1935 to 1945,
Kwantung Army senior staff officer Yoshioka
Yasunori (吉岡安則) was assigned to
Puyi as Attaché to the
Imperial Household in Manchukuo. He acted as a spy for the Japanese
Puyi through fear, intimidation, and direct
orders. There were many attempts on Puyi's life during this
period, including a 1937 stabbing by a palace servant. During
Puyi's reign as Emperor of Manchukuo, his household was closely
watched by the Japanese, who increasingly took steps toward the full
Japanisation of Manchuria, to prevent him from becoming too
independent. He was feted by the Japanese populace during his visits
there, but had to remain subservient to Emperor Hirohito. It is
unclear whether the adoption of ancient Chinese styles and rites, such
as using "His Majesty" instead of his real name, was the product of
Puyi's interest or a Japanese imposition of their own imperial house
Puyi visited Japan, sailing from Dalian to Yokohama on the
warship Hiei, and while meeting the Showa Emperor at a Tokyo railroad
station, a moment of unintentional comedy occurred when
to take off a too tight white glove before shaking the Emperor's hand,
which he had to struggle with for some time while everyone else
struggled not to laugh. The Second Secretary of the Japanese
Embassy in Hsinking, Kenjiro Hayashide, served as Puyi's interpreter
during this trip, and later wrote what Behr called a very absurd book
The Epochal Journey to Japan chronicling this visit, where he managed
to present every banal statement made by
Puyi as profound wisdom, and
claimed that he wrote an average of two poems per day on his trip to
Japan, despite being busy with attending all sorts of official
functions. A typical passage from the book records that
seasick while travelling to Japan, but how "the Ruler's great joy at
seeing Their Imperial Majesties the Emperor and Empress of Japan ...
removed all thoughts of fatigue from the voyage". Hayashide had
also written a booklet promoting the trip in Japan, which claimed that
Puyi was a great reader who was "hardly ever seen without a book in
his hand", a skilled calligrapher, a talented painter, and an
excellent horseman and archer, able to shoot arrows while riding, just
like his Qing ancestors did. The Showa Emperor took this claim
Puyi was a hippophile too seriously and presented him with a gift
of a horse for him to review the
Imperial Japanese Army
Imperial Japanese Army with; in fact,
Puyi was a hippophobe who adamantly refused to get on the horse,
forcing the Japanese to hurriedly bring out a carriage for the two
emperors to review the troops.
After his return to Hsinking,
Puyi hired an American public relations
executive, George Bronson Rea, to lobby the U.S. government to
recognize Manchukuo. In late 1935, Rea published a book, The Case
for Manchukuo, in which Rea castigated
China under the Kuomintang as
hopelessly corrupt, and praised Puyi's wise leadership of Manchukuo,
Manchukuo was "... the one step that the people of the
East have taken towards escape from the misery and misgovernment that
have become theirs. Japan's protection is its only chance of
happiness." Rea continued to work for
Puyi until the bombing of
Pearl Harbor, but he failed signally in lobbying Washington to
recognize Hsinking. At the second trial relating to the long-running
Kaspé case in
Harbin in March–June 1936, the Japanese prosecutor
argued in favor of the six defendants, calling them "Russian patriots
who raised the flag against a world danger-communism." Much to
everyone's surprise, the Chinese judges convicted and sentenced the
six Russian Fascists who had tortured and killed Kaspé to death,
which led to a storm as the
Russian Fascist Party
Russian Fascist Party called the six men
"martyrs for Holy Russia", and presented to
Puyi a petition with
thousands of signatures asking him to pardon the six men. Puyi
refused to pardon the Russian Fascists, but the verdict was appealed
to the Hsinking Supreme Court, where the Japanese judges quashed the
verdict, ordering the six men to be freed, a decision that Puyi
accepted without complaint. The flagrant miscarriage of justice
of the Kaspé case, which attracted much attention in the Western
media, did much to tarnish the image of
Manchukuo and further weakened
Puyi's already weak hand as he sought to have the rest of the world
In 1936, Ling Sheng, an aristocrat who was serving as governor of one
of Manchukuo's provinces and whose son was engaged to marry one of
Puyi's younger sisters, was arrested after complaining about
"intolerable" Japanese interference in his work, which led
Puyi to ask
Yoshioka if something could be done to help him out. The Kwantung
Army's commander General
Kenkichi Ueda visited
Puyi to tell him the
matter was resolved as Ling had already been convicted by a Japanese
court-martial of "plotting rebellion" and had been executed by
beheading, which led
Puyi to cancel the marriage between his sister
and Ling's son. During these years,
Puyi began taking a greater
interest in traditional Chinese law and religion (such as
Confucianism and Buddhism), but this was disallowed by the Japanese.
Gradually his old supporters were eliminated and pro-Japanese
ministers put in their place. During this period Puyi's life
consisted mostly of signing laws prepared by Japan, reciting prayers,
consulting oracles, and making formal visits throughout his state.
Puyi was extremely unhappy with his life as a virtual prisoner in the
Salt Tax Palace, and his moods became erratic, swinging from hours of
passivity staring into space to indulging his sadism by having his
servants beaten. The fact that the vast majority of Puyi's
"loving subjects" hated him obsessed Puyi, and as Behr observed it was
"... the knowledge that he was an object of hatred and derision
Puyi to the brink of madness."
Puyi always had a
strong cruel streak, and he imposed harsh "house rules" on his staff;
servants were flogged in the basement for such offenses as
"irresponsible conversations". The phrase "Take him downstairs"
was much feared by Puyi's servants as he had at least one flogging
performed a day, and everyone in the Salt Tax Palace was caned at one
point or another except for the Empress and Puyi's siblings and their
spouses. Puyi's experience of widespread theft during his time in
Forbidden City led him to distrust his servants and he obsessively
went over the account books looking for signs of fraud. Big Li,
Puyi's chief servant, told Behr:
It got so that everyone was covertly watching
Puyi all the time, to
try and find out what mood he was in.
Puyi was completely paranoid: if
you were caught eyeing him, he would bark: "What's the matter? Why are
you looking at me that way?" But if one tried to look away, he would
say: "Why are you avoiding me? What have you got to hide?"
— Big Li
To further torment his staff of about 100,
Puyi drastically cut back
on the food allocated for his staff, who suffered from hunger; Big Li
told Behr that
Puyi was attempting to make everyone as miserable as he
was. Besides tormenting his staff, Puyi's life as Emperor was one
of lethargy and passivity, which his ghostwriter Li Wenda called "a
kind of living death" for him.
The Emperor did not normally get up until noon, had brunch at about
2 pm before going back to bed for another rest, to be followed up
by playing tennis or table tennis, riding his bicycle or his car
aimlessly around the grounds of the palace or listening to his vast
collection of Chinese opera records.
Puyi become a devoted
Buddhist, a mystic and a vegetarian, having statues of the Buddha put
up all over the Salt Tax Palace for him to pray to while banning his
staff from eating meat. Puyi's
Buddhism led him to ban his staff
from killing insects or mice, but if he found any insects or mice
droppings in his food, the cooks were flogged. When
into the gardens to mediate before a statue of the Buddha, there
always had to be complete silence, and as there were two loud Japanese
cranes living in the garden, the emperor always had his servants
flogged if the cranes made a sound. One day when out for a stroll
in the gardens,
Puyi found that a servant had written in chalk on one
of the rocks: "Haven't the Japanese humiliated you enough?" When
Puyi received guests at the Salt Tax Palace, he gave them long
lectures on the "glorious" history of the Qing as a form of masochism,
comparing the great Qing Emperors with himself, a miserable man living
as a prisoner in his own palace. The
Empress Wanrong retreated in
seclusion as she became addicted to opium, and her father stopped
visiting the Salt Tax Palace as he could not bear to see what she had
become. Wanrong, who detested her husband, liked to mock him
behind his back by performing skits before the servants by putting on
dark glasses and imitating Puyi's jerky movements. During his
time in Tianjin,
Puyi had started wearing dark glasses at all times,
as during the interwar period wearing dark glasses in
Tianjin was a
way of signifying one was a homosexual or bisexual.
On 3 April 1937, Puyi's younger full brother Prince
proclaimed heir apparent after marrying Lady Hiro Saga, a distant
cousin to the Japanese Emperor Hirohito. The marriage had been
politically arranged by Shigeru Honjō, a general of the Kwantung
Puyi thereafter would not speak candidly in front of his brother
and refused to eat any food provided by Lady Hiro Saga, believing that
she was out to poison him.
Puyi was forced to sign an agreement
that if he himself had a male heir, the child would be sent to Japan
to be raised by the Japanese.
Puyi initially thought that Lady
Saga was a Japanese spy, but came to trust her after the Sinophile
Saga discarded her kimono dresses for cheongsam dresses and she
repeatedly assured him that she come to the Salt Tax Palace because
she was Pujie's wife, not because she was a spy. Behr described
Lady Saga as "intelligent" and "level-headed", and noted the irony of
Puyi snubbing the one Japanese who really wanted to be his
friend. A sign of improved relations came when
Puyi gave Lady
Saga a diamond encrusted watch as a belated wedding present.
Later in April 1937, a 16-year-old Manchu aristocrat Tan Yuling
moved into the Salt Tax Palace to become Puyi's concubine, but though
Puyi seemed to have liked her, it remains unclear whether he had sex
with her or not. Lady Saga tried to improve relations between
Puyi and Wanrong by having them eat dinner together, which was the
first time that they had shared a meal in three years. Wanrong
refused to eat with chopsticks, instead using her fingers, which is
regarded as "savage" behavior in Asia, but Wanrong stated she was past
the point of caring about what others thought about her. Puyi
tried to joke away Wanrong's unhappiness by saying that tonight was
"Mongol night", and everyone was going to be like a Mongol "savage" by
eating with their fingers, but Lady Saga noted his jesting
Behr wrote based on his interviews with Puyi's family and staff at the
Salt Tax Palace that it appeared
Puyi had an "attraction towards very
young girls" that "bordered on pedophilia" and "... that Pu Yi
was bisexual, and – by his own admission – something of a sadist
in his relationships with women."
Puyi was very fond of having
handsome teenage boys serve as his pageboys and Puyi's sister-in-law
Hiro Saga noted he was also very fond of sodomizing them. Lady
Saga, who was somewhat homophobic, wrote in her 1957 autobiography
Memoirs of A Wandering Princess:
Of course I had heard rumours concerning such great men in our
history, but I never knew such things existed in the living world.
Now, however I learnt that the Emperor had an unnatural love for a
pageboy. He was referred to as "the male concubine". Could these
perverted habits, I wondered have driven his wife to opium smoking?
— Lady Hiro Saga
When questioned by Behr in an interview about Puyi's sexuality, Prince
Pujie merely said he was "biologically incapable of reproduction",
which is a polite way of saying someone is gay in China. When one
of Puyi's pageboys fled the Salt Tax Palace to escape his homosexual
Puyi ordered him to be given an especially harsh flogging,
which caused the boy's death, and which led
Puyi to have the floggers
in their turn flogged as punishment.
In June 1937, some members of the
Manchukuo Imperial Guards who
were off-duty fell into a trap when they objected to Japanese
colonists jumping the queue for rowing boats in a Hsinking park,
leading to a brawl. The
Kempeitai had expected this and were
waiting; they arrested the Imperial Guardsmen, who were then beaten
and forced to strip naked in public, and finally convicted by the
courts of "anti-
Manchukuo activities". As a result, the Manchukuo
Imperial Guard lost their right to bear any weapons except for
pistols. To further add to the message, Amakasu told
Manchukuo Prime Minister, Zhang Jinghui, a man who Behr called "a
venal, cringing Japanese flunky", and whom
Puyi despised, should be
his role model. In July 1937, when the Sino-Japanese war
Puyi issued a declaration of support for Japan. In
August 1937, Kishi wrote up a decree for
Puyi to sign calling for
the use of slave labour to be conscripted both in
Manchukuo and in
northern China, stating that in these "times of emergency" (i.e. war
with China), industry needed to grow at all costs, and slavery would
have to be used to save money. Driscoll wrote that just as
African slaves were taken to the New World on the "Middle Passage", it
would be right to speak of the "Manchurian Passage" as vast numbers of
Chinese peasants were rounded up to be taken to work as slaves in
Manchukuo's factories and mines. Starting in 1938 until the end
of the war, every year about a million Chinese were taken both from
the countryside of
Manchukuo and from northern
China to work as slaves
in the factories and mines of Manchukuo.
Puyi knew of the outside world was what was told to him by
General Yoshioka in daily briefings. When Behr asked Prince Pujie
how the news of the
Rape of Nanking
Rape of Nanking in December 1937 affected Puyi,
his brother replied: "We didn't hear about it until much later. At the
time, it made no real impact." On 4 February 1938, the strongly
pro-Japanese and anti-Chinese
Joachim von Ribbentrop
Joachim von Ribbentrop became the German
foreign minister, and under his influence German foreign policy swung
in an anti-Chinese and pro-Japanese direction. On 20 February
1938, Adolf Hitler in a speech before the Reichstag announced that
Germany was recognizing Manchukuo. Herbert von Dirksen, the
out-going German ambassador to Japan, in one of his last acts, visited
Puyi in the Salt Tax Palace to tell him that a German embassy would be
established in Hsinking later that year, to join the embassies
maintained by Japan, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica,
Italy and Nationalist Spain, which were the only other countries in
the world that had recognized Manchukuo. In 1934,
Puyi had been
excited when he learned that El Salvador had recognized Manchukuo,
which was the first nation other than Japan to recognize Manchukuo,
but by 1938, he did not care much about the news of German recognition
In May 1938,
Puyi was declared a god by the Religions Law, and a
cult of emperor-worship very similar to Japan's began with
schoolchildren starting their classes by praying to a portrait of the
god-emperor while imperial rescripts and the imperial regalia become
sacred relics imbued with magical powers by being associated with the
god-emperor. Puyi's elevation to a god was due to the
Sino-Japanese war, which caused the Japanese state to begin a program
of totalitarian mobilization of society for total war in Japan and the
places ruled by Japan. His Japanese handlers felt that ordinary
people in Japan, Korea, and Taiwan were more willing to bear the
sacrifices for total war because of their devotion to their
god-emperor, and it was decided that making
Puyi into a god-emperor
would have the same effect in Manchukuo. After 1938,
hardly ever allowed to leave the Salt Tax Palace, while the creation
of the puppet regime of President
Wang Jingwei in November 1938
crushed Puyi's spirits, as it ended his hope of one day being restored
as the Great Qing Emperor.
Puyi became a hypochondriac, taking
all sorts of pills for various imagined aliments and hormones to
improve his sex drive and allow him to father a boy, as
convinced that the Japanese were poisoning his food to make him
Puyi believed that Japanese wanted one of the children
Pujie had fathered with his Japanese wife Lady Saga to be the
next emperor, and it was a great relief to him that their children
were both girls (
Manchukuo law forbade female succession to the
By 1940, the
Manchuria had become extreme, and an
altar to the Shinto goddess
Amaterasu was built on the grounds of
Puyi's palace. The origins of the altar are unclear, with the postwar
Japanese claiming that
Puyi aimed for a closer connection to the
Japanese Emperor as a means of resisting the political machinations of
Manchukuo elites, while
Puyi in his Chinese Communist-published
autobiography claims that he was forced to submit to this by the
Japanese. During his visit to Japan in 1940 for Kigensetsu, which was
marked with especially lavish celebrations that year to mark the
supposed 2,600th anniversary of the founding of the Empire of
Japan by the mythical
Emperor Jimmu on 11 February 660 BC,
Puyi during his meeting with the Showa Emperor read out a statement
given to him by General Yoshioka asking for permission to worship the
Shinto gods and to establish Shintoism as the state religion of
Manchukuo. The Showa Emperor replied "I must comply with your
wishes" and gave him three relics, namely a bronze mirror, a sword and
a piece of jade (reproductions of the Imperial Regalia of Japan) to
take home with him to be the center of Shinto worship in
Puyi later wrote "I thought
Beijing antique shops were
full of such objects. Were these a great god? Were those my ancestors?
I burst into tears on the drive back." Since in the Japanese
state religion of Shintoism the Japanese Emperor was worshiped as a
living god, worshiping at the Shinto shrine in the Salt Tax Palace
also meant worshiping the Showa Emperor as a god, which starkly
underlined Puyi's subordination to the Showa Emperor. In any
case, Puyi's wartime duties came to include sitting through
Chinese-language Shinto prayers.
Hirohito was surprised when he heard
of this, asking why a
Temple of Heaven
Temple of Heaven had not been built
instead. After his second visit to Japan,
Puyi announced in a
press statement that Japan and
Manchukuo were "unified in virtue and
heart", praised the Shinto Sun Goddess
Amaterasu for her "divine
intervention" in 1931 that supposedly made
Manchukuo possible, and
hailed the Showa Emperor as a living god as the House of Yamato were
all alleged to be the direct descendants of Amaterasu. Already at
Manchukuo Military Academy that was training officers for the
Manchukuo army, the cadets were being taught to serve the "two
emperors" with the cadets kowtowing to portraits of both the emperors
Manchukuo and Japan.
In 1940 Wanrong, also known as "Elizabeth Jade Eyes", engaged in an
affair with Puyi's chauffeur Li Tiyu that left her pregnant. To
punish her, as Wanrong gave birth to her daughter, she had to watch
much to her horror as the Japanese doctors poisoned her newly born
child right in front of her. Afterwards, Wanrong was totally
broken by what she had seen, and lost her will to live, spending as
much of her time possible in an opium daze to numb the pain. Puyi
had known of what was being planned for Wanrong's baby, and in what
Behr called a supreme act of "cowardice" on his part, "did
nothing". Puyi's ghostwriter for Emperor to Citizen, Li Wenda,
told Behr that when interviewing
Puyi for the book that he could not
Puyi to talk about the killing of Wanrong's child, as he was too
ashamed to speak of his own cowardice.
In December 1941,
Puyi followed Japan in declaring war on the
United States and Great Britain, but as neither nation had recognized
Manchukuo there were no reciprocal declarations of war in return.
During the war,
Puyi was an example and role model for at least some
in Asia who believed in the Japanese Pan-Asian propaganda. U Saw, the
Prime Minister of Burma, was secretly in communication with the
Japanese, declaring that as an Asian his sympathies were completely
with Japan against the West. U Saw further added that he
hoped that when Japan won the war that he would enjoy exactly the same
status in Burma that
Puyi enjoyed in
Manchukuo as part of the Greater
East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, saying that as an Asian it was his
fondest wish that Japan would do everything that it had done in
Manchukuo in Burma. The American historian Gerhard Weinberg
sarcastically wrote that U Saw and the rest of Burmese
nationalists who saw the Japanese as liberators from the British were
not endowed with "great intelligence" as U Saw enjoyed far more
power as Prime Minister under the British than
Puyi did as Emperor
under the Japanese, but they got their wish to have what was done to
Manchukuo done to their own people, observing: "The use of
military and civilian prisoners for bayonet practice and assorted
other cruelties provided the people of Southeast Asia with a dramatic
lesson on the new meaning of Bushido, the code of the Japanese
During the war,
Puyi became estranged from his father, as his
half-brother Pu Ren stated in an interview
... after 1941 Puyi's father had written him off. He never
Puyi after 1934. They rarely corresponded. All the news he got
was through intermediaries, or occasional reports from Puyi's younger
sisters, some of whom were allowed to see him.
— Pu Ren
Puyi himself complained that he had issued so many "slavish"
pro-Japanese statements during the war that nobody on the Allied side
would take him in if he did escape from Manchukuo. In June 1942,
Puyi made a rare visit outside of the Salt Tax Palace when he
conferred with the graduating class at the
Manchukuo Military Academy,
and awarded the star student Takagi Masao a gold watch for his
outstanding performance; despite his Japanese name, the star student
was actually Korean and under his original Korean name of Park
Chung-hee would go to become the dictator of South Korea in 1961.
In August 1942, Puyi's concubine
Tan Yuling fell ill and died after
being treated by the same Japanese doctors who murdered Wanrong's
Puyi testified at the Tokyo war crimes trial of his belief
that she was murdered, saying "The glucose injections were not
administered. There was much to and from activity that night, Japanese
nurses and doctors speaking with Yoshioka, then going back to the
Puyi kept a lock of Tan's hair and her nail clippings
for the rest of his life as he expressed much sadness over her
Puyi refused to take a Japanese concubine to replace Tan
and, in 1943, took a Chinese concubine, Li Yuqin, the 16 year-old
daughter of a waiter. Lady Saga later observed that when Li had
arrived at the Salt Tax Palace, she was badly in need of a bath and
Puyi liked Li, but his main interest continued to be
his pageboys, as he later wrote: "These actions of mine go to show how
cruel, mad, violent and unstable I was."
For much of World War II, Puyi, confined to the Salt Tax Palace,
believed that Japan was winning the war, and it was not until 1944
Puyi first began to get an inkling that Japan was losing the war
when the Japanese press began to report "heroic sacrifices" in Burma
and on Pacific islands while air raid shelters started to be built in
Manchukuo. Puyi's nephew Jui Lon told Behr: "He desperately
wanted America to win the war." Big Li in an interview with Behr
said: "When he thought it was safe, he would sit at the piano and do a
one-finger version of the Stars and Stripes." In mid-1944, Puyi
finally acquired the courage to start occasionally tune in his radio
to Chinese broadcasts and to Chinese-language broadcasts by the
Americans, where he was shocked to learn that Japan had suffered so
many defeats on land, sea, and the air since 1942. The commander
of the Kwantung Army, General Tomoyuki Yamashita, left
the Philippines in July 1944 and told
Puyi at their final
meeting: "I shall never come back", predicting that he would die for
the Emperor in the Philippines. Yamashita was the famous "Tiger
of Malaya" who had taken Singapore in 1942, inflicting one of the
greatest defeats ever suffered by the British Empire, and his gloomy
prediction about his pending defeat and death in the Philippines was
unsettling to Puyi.
Puyi had to give a speech before a group of Japanese infantrymen who
had volunteered to be "human bullets", promising to strap explosives
on their bodies and to stage suicide attacks in order to die for the
Puyi commented as he read out his speech praising
the glories of dying for the Emperor: "Only then did I see the ashen
grey of their faces and the tears flowing down their cheeks and hear
Puyi commented that he felt at that moment
utterly "terrified" at the death cult fanaticism of
Bushido ("the way
of the warrior") which reduced the value of human life down to
nothing, as to die for the Emperor was the only thing that mattered;
he observed that the Japanese infantrymen all had families and friends
who cared for them, and had quite possibly been bullied by their
officers into becoming "human bullets". Yoshioka tried to
Puyi by saying that the "human bullets" were crying "manly
Japanese tears" as deep down they wanted to die for
the Emperor, but
Puyi later stated he was not convinced by this
On 9 August 1945, the Kwantung Army's commander General Otozō
Yamada arrived at the Salt Tax Palace to tell
Puyi that the Soviet
Union had declared war on Japan and the Red Army had entered
Manchukuo. Yamada was assuring
Puyi that the
Kwantung Army would
easily defeat the Red Army when the air raid sirens sounded and the
Red Air Force began a bombing raid, forcing all to hide in the
Puyi prayed to the Buddha, Yamada fell silent as
the bombs fell, destroying a Japanese barracks next to the Salt Tax
Palace. In Operation August Storm, 1,577,725 Soviet and
Mongol troops stormed into
Manchuria in a combined arms offensive with
tanks, artillery, cavalry, aircraft and infantry working closely
together that overwhelmed the Kwantung Army, who had not expected a
Soviet invasion until 1946 and were short of both tanks and anti-tank
To try and stop the Soviet tanks, the Japanese sent out the "human
bullets" as infantrymen packed with explosives, who tried to throw
themselves into the treads of the tanks; usually they were shot down
before getting anywhere close to the tanks.
Puyi was especially
terrified to hear that the Mongolian People's Army had joined
Operation August Storm, as he believed that the Mongols would torture
him to death if they captured him. The next day, Yamada told Puyi
that the Soviets had already broken through the defense lines in
northern Manchukuo, but the
Kwantung Army would "hold the line" in
Puyi must leave at once. The staff of the
Salt Tax Palace were thrown into panic as
Puyi ordered all of his
treasures to be boxed up and shipped out; in the meantime Puyi
observed from his window that soldiers of the
Manchukuo Imperial Army
were taking off their uniforms and deserting. To test the
reaction of his Japanese masters,
Puyi put on his uniform of
Commander-in-Chief of the
Manchukuo Army and announced "We must
support the holy war of our Parental Country with all our strength,
and must resist the Soviet armies to the end, to the very end".
With that, Yoshioka fled the room, which showed
Puyi that the war was
lost. At one point, a group of Japanese soldiers arrived at the
Salt Tax Palace, and
Puyi believed they had come to kill him, but they
merely went away after seeing him stand at top of the staircase.
Most of the servants and all of the cooks at the Salt Tax Palace had
already fled, forcing
Puyi to eat biscuits as his remaining servants
hastily packed up all of the Qing treasures at the Salt Tax
Puyi found that his phone calls to the
Kwantung Army HQ
went unanswered as most of the officers had already left for Korea,
his minder Amakasu committed suicide by swallowing a cyanide pill, and
the people of
Changchun booed him when his car, flying imperial
standards, took him to the railroad station.
Late on the night of 11 August 1945, a train carrying Puyi, his
court, his ministers and the Qing treasures left Changchun. The
train was frequently diverted as a result of Soviet bombing, and
Puyi went, he saw thousands of panic-stricken Japanese
settlers fleeing south in vast columns across the roads of the
countryside. At every railroad station, hundreds of Japanese
colonists attempted to board his train;
Puyi remembered them "weeping
as they begged Japanese gendarmes to let them pass" while the
gendarmes forced them back. At several stations, Japanese
soldiers and gendarmes fought one another to board the train.
General Yamada boarded the train as it meandered south and told Puyi
"... the Japanese Army was winning and had destroyed large
numbers of tanks and aircraft", a claim that nobody aboard the train
believed. On 14 August 1945,
Puyi heard on the radio the
address of the Showa Emperor announcing that Japan had surrendered, as
the Emperor declared with notable understatement that "the war has
developed not necessarily to Japan's advantage". In his address,
the Showa Emperor described the Americans as having used a "most
unusual and cruel bomb" that had just destroyed the cities of
Hiroshima and Nagasaki; this was the first time that
Puyi heard of the
atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which the Japanese had not
seen fit to tell him about until then.
The next day,
Puyi abdicated as
Emperor of Manchukuo
Emperor of Manchukuo and declared in
his last decree that
Manchukuo was once again part of China. As
the Soviets had bombed all of the train stations and Puyi's train was
running low on coal, the train returned to Changchun. Once there,
Puyi planned to take a plane to escape, taking with him his brother
Pujie, his servant Big Li, Yoshioka, and his doctor while leaving
Wanrong, his concubine Li Yuqin, Lady
Hiro Saga and Lady Saga's two
children behind. The decision to leave behind the women and
children was made by the misogynistic Yoshioka who saw the lives of
women and children as worthless compared to the lives of men, and
vetoed Puyi's attempts to take them on the plane to Japan. As
Puyi left for the airport, he saw Wanrong for the last time in his
life, later saying that both she and Li were "blubbering".
Puyi asked for Lady Saga, the most mature and responsible of the three
women, to take care of Wanrong, who was hopelessly addicted to opium
by this point, giving Lady Saga precious antiques and cash to pay for
their way south to Korea. On 16 August
Puyi took a small plane to
Mukden, where another larger plane was supposed to arrive to take them
to Japan, but instead a Soviet plane landed.
Puyi and his party
were all promptly taken prisoner by the Red Army, who initially did
not know who
Puyi was. The opium-addled Wanrong together
with Lady Saga and Li were captured by Chinese Communist guerrillas on
their way to Korea, after one of Puyi's brothers-in-law informed the
Communists who the women were. Wanrong, the former empress, was
put on display in a local jail as if she was in a zoo, and people came
from miles around to watch her. In a delirious state of mind, she
demanded more opium, asked for imaginary servants to bring her
clothing, food and a bath, hallucinated that she was back in the
Forbidden City or the Salt Tax Palace, and most poignantly of all
screamed over and over again she missed her murdered baby
daughter. The general hatred for
Puyi meant that none had any
sympathy for Wanrong, who was seen as another Japanese collaborator,
and a guard told Lady Saga that "this one won't last", making it a
waste of time feeding her. In June 1946, Wanrong starved to
death in her jail cell, lying in a pool of her own vomit, urine and
excrement, which the local people all found to be very funny. In
his 1964 book From Emperor to Citizen,
Puyi merely stated that he
learned in 1951 that Wanrong "died a long time ago" without mentioning
how she died.
Later life (1945–1967)
Puyi (right) and a Soviet military officer
The Soviets took him to the Siberian town of Chita. He lived in a
sanatorium, then later in
Khabarovsk near the Chinese border, where he
was well treated and allowed to keep some of his servants. As a
prisoner in a spa in Khabarovsk,
Puyi spent his days praying to the
Buddha, expected the prisoners to treat him as an emperor and slapped
the faces of his servants when they displeased him. By listening
Chinese language broadcasts on Soviet radio,
Puyi was aware of the
civil war in China, but seemed not to care. The Soviet government
repeatedly refused requests from the Republic of
China to extradite
Puyi; he had been indicted on charges of high treason by the
Kuomintang government, and the Soviet refusal to extradite him almost
certainly saved his life, as
Chiang Kai-shek had often spoken of his
desire to have
Puyi shot. Puyi's cousin Eastern Jewel was
captured by the Kuomintang and publicly executed in
Beijing in 1948
after she was convicted of high treason. Not wishing to return to
Puyi wrote to Joseph Stalin several times asking if he might be
granted asylum in the Soviet Union, and that he be given one of the
former tsarist palaces to live out his days.
Puyi's letters to Joseph Stalin
In 1946, he testified at the International Military Tribunal for the
Far East in Tokyo, detailing his resentment at how he had been
treated by the Japanese. At the Tokyo trial,
Puyi became involved in a
lengthy exchange with defense counsel Major
Ben Bruce Blakeney about
whether he was kidnapped in 1931 or not, which forced
Puyi to perjure
himself by saying that the statements in Johnston’s 1934 book
Twilight in the
Forbidden City about how he had willingly become
Emperor of Manchukuo
Emperor of Manchukuo were all lies. When Blakeney mentioned that
the introduction to Twilight in the
Forbidden City described how Puyi
had told Johnston that he had willingly gone to
Manchuria in 1931,
Puyi perjured himself by saying he was not in contact with Johnston in
1931, and that Johnston made things up for "commercial
advantage". The Australian judge, Sir William Webb, the President
of the Tribunal, was often frustrated with Puyi's testimony, and
chided him numerous times. At one point, when
Puyi said "I have
not finished my answer yet", causing Webb to say "Well, don't finish
it". Behr described
Puyi on the stand as a "consistent,
self-assured liar, prepared to go to any lengths to save his skin",
and as a combative witness more than able to hold his own against the
Puyi was greatly helped as with the exception of
Major Blakeney, no one at the trial had actually read Twilight in the
Forbidden City or the interviews Woodhead had conducted with him in
1932, which gave
Puyi much room to distort what had been written about
him or said by him.
Puyi greatly respected Johnston, who was a
surrogate father to him, and he felt guilty about the way he had
repeatedly on the stand in Tokyo called Johnston a dishonest man whose
book Twilight in the
Forbidden City was full of lies, causing him to
pray for the Buddha to ask for atonement for sullying Johnston's
After his return to the Soviet Union,
Puyi was held at Detention
Center No. 45, where his servants continued to make his bed, dress him
and do other work for him.
Puyi did not speak Russian and had
limited contacts with his Soviet guards, using a few Manchukuo
prisoners who knew Russian as translators.
Puyi spent his time
Manchukuo and Japanese prisoners playing mah-jong,
continued to pray to the Buddha and listened to Japanese records on
the only gramophone the Soviets allowed the prisoners. One
Puyi that the Soviets would keep him in
because "this is the part of the world you come from". The
Soviets had promised the Chinese Communists that they would hand over
the high value prisoners when the CCP won the civil war, and wanted to
Puyi alive. Puyi's brother-in-law Rong Qi and some of his
servants were not considered high value, and were sent to work as
slaves in a brutal Siberian labor camp, where they were starved and
were worked very hard.
When the Chinese Communist Party under
Mao Zedong came to power in
Puyi was repatriated to
China after negotiations between the
Soviet Union and China.
Puyi was of considerable value to
Mao, as Behr noted: "In the eyes of Mao and other Chinese Communist
leaders, Pu Yi, the last Emperor, was the epitome of all that had been
evil in old Chinese society. If he could be shown to have undergone
sincere, permanent change, what hope was there for the most diehard
counter-revolutionary? The more overwhelming the guilt, the more
spectacular the redemption-and the greater glory of the Chinese
Communist Party". Furthermore, Mao had often noted that Lenin had
Nicholas II, the last Russian emperor, shot together with the rest of
the Russian imperial family, as Lenin could not make the last tsar
into a communist; making the last Chinese emperor into a Communist was
intended to show the superiority of Chinese communism over Soviet
Puyi was to be subjected to "remodeling" to make him
into a Communist. Behr observed that the Chinese Communist system
was brutal, as millions of people were executed as "kulaks",
"traitors" and "landlords" during Mao's first years in power, but it
had a very different approach to crime from the West, quoting from
Jean Pasqualini's book Prisonnier de Mao: "Prison is not prison, but a
school for learning about one's mistakes". Pasqualini wrote that
the aim of remodeling in
China was "not so much to make you invent
nonexistent crimes, but to make you accept your ordinary life, as you
led it, as rotten and sinful and worthy of punishment ...
self-accusation is one of the masterpieces of the penal system ... the
prisoner takes care to build the case against himself as skillfully as
he can ... When a prisoner has finally produced a satisfactory
statement the government holds a document with which, depending on the
emphasis of interpretation, it can sentence him to virtually any
desired number of years. It is the prosecutor's dream".
Fushun War Criminals Management Centre
In 1950, the Soviets loaded
Puyi and the rest of
Japanese prisoners onto a train that took them to
China with Puyi
convinced he would be executed when he arrived. At the border,
there were two lines of soldiers, one Soviet and the other Chinese,
Puyi walked past, he remembered how the faces of the other
prisoners were "deathly pale".
Puyi was surprised at the kindness
of his Chinese guards, who told him this was the beginning of a new
life for him. In attempt to ingratiate himself,
Puyi for the
first time in his life used ni (你), the informal word for you
instead of nin (您), the formal word for you to address people.
When the train stopped at
Changchun to pick up food,
convinced that he was going to be shot at his former capital, and he
was much relieved when the train resumed its journey to Fushun.
Except for a period during the Korean War, when he was moved to
Puyi spent ten years in the Fushun War Criminals Management
Liaoning province until he was declared reformed. The
prisoners at Fushun were senior Japanese,
Manchukuo and Kuomintang
officials and officers.
Puyi was the weakest and most hapless of
the prisoners, and was often bullied by the other prisoners, who liked
to humiliate an emperor, and he might not have survived his
imprisonment except for the fact that the warden Jin Yuan went out of
his way to protect him. Jin had grown up under
Manchukuo and as a
schoolboy in the 1930s had kowtowed to portraits of
Puyi and waved the
Manchukuo flag in the streets when
Puyi made visits to Harbin. As
Jin had grown up in Manchukuo, he was fluent in Japanese, which was
why he was selected to be the warden of Fushun. Jin was assigned
the job in 1950 and told Behr in a 1986 interview that: "I didn't
welcome the idea at all. I tried to get another posting. I wanted
nothing to do with those who had been responsible for my older
brother's death and my family's suffering during the
I wondered how I could ever bear to be in their company".
However, Jin further told Behr that he "came to like
Puyi quite a bit"
as he got to know him, and protected him from the other
prisoners. In 1951,
Puyi learned for the first time that Wanrong
had died in 1946.
Puyi had never brushed his teeth or tied his own shoelaces once in his
life, and now for the first time was forced to perform the simple
tasks that always had been done for him, which he found very difficult
to do. The prisoners often laughed how
Puyi struggled with even
brushing his teeth. Much of Puyi's "remodeling" consisted of
attending "Marxist-Leninist-Maoist discussion groups" where the
prisoners would discuss their lives before being imprisoned for hours
on end. As part of his "remodeling",
Puyi was confronted with
ordinary people who had suffered under the "Empire of Manchukuo",
including those who had fought in the Communist resistance, both to
prove to him that resistance to the Japanese had been possible and to
show him what he had presided over. When
Puyi protested to Jin
that it had been impossible to resist Japan and there was nothing he
could have done, Jin confronted him with people who had fought in the
resistance and had been tortured, and asked him why ordinary people in
Manchukuo resisted while an emperor did nothing. As part of
confronting war crimes,
Puyi had to attend lectures where a former
Japanese civil servant spoke about the exploitation of
a former officer in the
Kempeitai talked about how he rounded up
people for slave labor and ordered mass executions. At one point,
Puyi was taken to
Harbin and Pingfang to see where the infamous Unit
731, the chemical and biological warfare unit in the Japanese Army had
conducted gruesome experiments on people.
Puyi noted in shame and
horror: "All the atrocities had been carried out in my name".
Puyi by the mid-1950s was overwhelmed with guilt and often told Jin
that he felt utterly worthless to the point that he considered
Puyi was told by Jin to express his guilt in writing,
Puyi later recalled he felt "that I was up against an
irresistible force that would not rest until it found out
Puyi was taken out for tours of the
countryside of Manchuria. On one, he met a farmer's wife whose family
had been evicted to make way for Japanese settlers and had almost
starved to death while working as a slave in one of Manchukuo's
Puyi asked for her forgiveness, she told him
"It's all over now, let's not talk about it", causing him to break
down in tears. At another meeting, a woman described the mass
execution of people from her village by the Japanese Army, and then
declared that she did not hate the Japanese and those who had served
them as she retained her faith in humanity, which greatly moved
Puyi. On another occasion, Jin confronted
Puyi with his former
concubine Li in meetings in his office, where she attacked him for
seeing her only as a sex object, and saying she was now pregnant by a
man who loved her.
On 10 March 1956, Jin confronted
Puyi in a meeting in his office with
his siblings, where his sisters spoke of their happiness with their
new lives working as schoolteachers and seamstresses.
helped with his "remodeling" when the other prisoners began to blame
him for everything that happened in Manchukuo, which was a debit for
them as in the Chinese system, one is supposed to confess to one's own
guilt rather than blaming others;
Puyi by contrast by assigning all
the guilt to himself won himself Jin's favor. In late 1956, Puyi
acted in a play The Defeat of the Aggressors about the Suez Crisis,
playing the role of a left-wing Labour MP who challenges in the House
of Commons a former
Manchukuo minister playing the British Foreign
Selwyn Lloyd about Britain's reasons for attacking
Puyi enjoyed the role and ad libbed several lines in
English, shouting "No, no, no! It won't do! Get out! Leave this
Puyi acted in plays about his life and
Manchukuo, and in one theatrical production, playing a Manchukuo
Puyi kowtowed to a portrait of himself as Emperor of
Manchukuo. During the Great Leap Forward, when millions of people
starved to death in China, Jin chose to cancel Puyi's visits to the
countryside lest the scenes of famine undo Puyi's growing faith in
communism. Behr wrote that many are surprised that Puyi's
"remodeling" worked, with an Emperor brought up as almost a god
becoming content to be just an ordinary man, but he noted that
"... it is essential to remember that
Puyi was not alone in
undergoing such successful 'remolding'. Tough KMT generals, and even
tougher Japanese generals, brought up in the samurai tradition and the
Bushido cult which glorifies death in battle and sacrifice to martial
Japan, became, in Fushun, just as devout in their support of communist
ideals as Puyi".
Puyi came to
Beijing on 9 December 1959 with special permission from
Mao Zedong and lived for the next six months in an ordinary Beijing
residence with his sister before being transferred to a
Puyi had the job of sweeping the
streets, and got lost on his first day of work, which led him to tell
astonished passers-by: "I'm Puyi, the last Emperor of the Qing
dynasty. I'm staying with relatives and can't find my way home".
One of Puyi's first acts upon returning to
Beijing was to visit the
Forbidden City as a tourist, where he pointed out to other tourists
that many of the exhibits were the things he had used in his
youth. He voiced his support for the Communists and worked at the
Beijing Botanical Gardens. Working as a simple gardener gave
degree of happiness that he had never known as an emperor, though he
was notably clumsy. Behr noted that in Europe people who played
roles analogous to the role
Puyi played in
Manchukuo were generally
executed; for example, the British hanged
William Joyce ("Lord
Haw-haw") only for being the announcer on the English-language
broadcasts of Radio Berlin, Italian Communist guerrillas shot Benito
Mussolini, and the French executed Pierre Laval, so many Westerners
are surprised that
Puyi was released from prison after only nine years
to start a new life. Behr wrote that the Communist ideology
explained this difference, writing: "In a society where all landlord
and 'capitalist-roaders' were evil incarnate, it did not matter so
Puyi was also a traitor to his country: he was, in the eyes
of the Communist ideologues, only behaving true to type. If all
capitalists and landlords were, by their very nature, traitors, it was
only logical that Puyi, the biggest landlord, should also be the
biggest traitor. And, in the last resort,
Puyi was far more valuable
alive than dead". In early 1960,
Puyi met Premier Zhou Enlai, who
told him: "You weren't responsible for becoming Emperor at the age of
three or the 1917 attempted restoration coup. But you were fully to
blame for what happened later. You knew perfectly well what you were
doing when you took refuge in the Legation Quarter, when you traveled
under Japanese protection to Tianjin, and when you agreed to become
Manchukuo Chief Executive."
Puyi responded by merely saying that
though he did not choose to be an emperor, he had behaved with savage
cruelty as boy-emperor and wished he could apologize to all of the
eunuchs he had flogged during his youth.
At the age of 56, he married Li Shuxian, a hospital nurse, on 30 April
1962, in a ceremony held at the Banquet Hall of the Consultative
Conference. From 1964 until his death he worked as an editor for the
literary department of the Chinese People's Political Consultative
Conference, where his monthly salary was around 100 yuan. One yuan in
the 1960s was equivalent to about 40 cents USD. Li recalled in a
1995 interview that: "I found Pu Yi a honest man, a man who
desperately needed my love and was ready to give me as much love as he
could. When I was having even a slight case of flu, he was so worried
I would die, that he refused to sleep at night and sat by my bedside
until dawn so he could attend to my needs". Li also noted like
everybody else who knew him that
Puyi was an incredibly clumsy man,
leading her to say: "Once in a boiling rage at his clumsiness, I
threatened to divorce him. On hearing this, he got down on his knees
and, with tears in his eyes, he begged me to forgive him. I shall
never forget what he said to me: 'I have nothing in this world except
you, and you are my life. If you go, I will die'. But apart from him,
what did I ever have in the world?".
Puyi in 1961, surrounded by Xiong Bingkun and Lu Zhonglin
In the 1960s, with encouragement from Chairman
Mao Zedong and Premier
Zhou Enlai, and the public endorsement of the Chinese government, Puyi
wrote his autobiography Wode Qian Bansheng (Chinese: 我的前半生;
pinyin: Wǒdè Qián Bànshēng; Wade–Giles: Wo Te Ch'ien Pan-Sheng;
literally: "The First Half of My Life"; translated into English as
From Emperor to Citizen) together with Li Wenda, an editor at the
People's Publishing Bureau. The ghostwriter Li had initially planned
to use Puyi’s “autocritique” written in Fushun as the basis of
the book, expecting the job to take only a few months. He found the
“autocritique” used such wooden language as
Puyi confessed to a
career of abject cowardice, noting over and over again that he always
done the easy thing rather than the right thing in the most leaden
prose possible, that Li was forced to start anew to produce something
more readable as he interviewed Puyi, taking him four years to write
the book. In this book (as translated into English and published
by Oxford University Press),
Puyi made the following statement
regarding his testimony at the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal:
I now feel very ashamed of my testimony, as I withheld some of what I
knew to protect myself from being punished by my country. I said
nothing about my secret collaboration with the Japanese imperialists
over a long period, an association to which my open capitulation after
September 18, 1931 was but the conclusion. Instead, I spoke only of
the way the Japanese had put pressure on me and forced me to do their
I maintained that I had not betrayed my country but had been
kidnapped; denied all my collaboration with the Japanese; and even
claimed that the letter I had written to
Jirō Minami was a fake.
I covered up my crimes in order to protect myself.
Many of the claims in From Emperor to Citizen like the statement that
it was the Kuomintang who stripped
Manchuria bare of industrial
equipment in 1945-46 rather than the Soviets together with an
“unreservedly rosy picture of prison life” are widely known not to
be true, but the book was translated into foreign languages and sold
well. Behr wrote:
The more fulsome, cliche-ridden chapters in From Emperor To Citizen,
dealing with Puyi's prison experiences, and written at the height of
the Mao personality cult, give the impression of well-learned,
regurgitated lessons. The style of them was de rigueur in 1964. Today,
they have a faintly archaic air. These days, all Chinese historians
recognize the appalling consequences of the "Great Leap Forward", and
deplore the repression that followed the "Let a hundred flowers bloom"
movement. Neither is mentioned in Puyi's book, nor was it possible to
begin doing so anywhere in
China without risking arrest until the dark
years of the
Cultural Revolution and the 'Gang of Four' were over ...
The younger generation of Chinese knows, even if their elders do not,
that during those years vast areas of
China become 'Potemkin villages'
bearing no relationship with reality: Some of the farms and factories
Puyi visited during his final 'remoulding' years in prison may
themselves have been 'Potemkin villages' ... but the after-effects of
Cultural Revolution are such that the kind of prose
Puyi used to
describe his experiences will never be believed wholeheartedly by
Cultural Revolution readers. This form of skepticism will last
until the last trace of Mao-worship gives way to a frank, realistic
assessment of him in light of his appalling "Let a hundred flowers
bloom" repression, his half-baked "Great Leap Forward", and the
ruthless destruction of his own Party apparatus during the Cultural
Revolution ... By rights, as Simon Leys in The Burning Forest has
pointed out, the much vilified
Gang of Four
Gang of Four which brought such chaos
and misery to
China should be called the Gang of Five, for without Mao
it would never have established itself as a ruling group in the first
place. Puyi, however, belongs to the era when the cosy, narrow Maoist
line was still unquestioned, and not yet brought into terminal
disrepute by the
Red Guards and the Gang of Four.
From 1963 onward,
Puyi regularly gave press conferences praising life
in the People’s Republic of China, and foreign diplomats often
sought him out, curious to meet the famous “Last Emperor” of
In an interview with Behr, Li Wenda told him
Puyi was a very clumsy
man who "invariably forgot to close doors behind him, forgot to flush
the toilet, forgot to turn the tap off after washing his hands, had a
genius for creating an instant, disorderly mess around him". Puyi
had been so used to having his needs catered to that he never entirely
learned how to function on his own.
Puyi tried very hard to be
modest and humble, always being the last person to board a bus, which
meant that frequently missed the ride and in restaurants would tell
the waitresses that "You should not be serving me. I should be serving
Pujie told Behr:
Gaol was like school for him. All his life, until 1945, everyone
around him had convinced him he was special, almost divine. Because of
this, his attitude towards others had never been normal. Only in
Fushun did he become aware of people as people."
— Behr (1987)
Puyi’s nephew Jui Lon stated in an interview with Behr that before
his imprisonment Puyi’s chief characteristic:
was his utter selfishness. Even in the gaol he hoarded his cigarettes
and would never give any away, even though he was not a heavy smoker.
When I saw him in
Beijing after his release he was a changed man. In
his family he started to care for people for the first time in his
— Jui Lon
During this period,
Puyi was known for his kindness, and once after he
accidentally knocked down an elderly lady with his bicycle, he visited
her every-day in the hospital to bring her flowers to make amends
until she was released.
Puyi objected to Pujie's attempt to
reunite with Lady Saga who had returned to Japan, writing to Zhou
asking him to block Lady Saga from coming back to China, which led
Zhou to reply: “The war’s over, you know. You don’t have to
carry this national hatred into your own family.” Behr
concluded that: “It is difficult to avoid the impression that Puyi,
in an effort prove himself a ‘remolded man’, displayed the same
craven attitude towards the power-holders of the new
China that he had
Manchukuo towards the Japanese.”
Death and burial
Mao Zedong started the
Cultural Revolution in 1966, and the youth
militia known as the
Red Guards saw Puyi, who symbolised Imperial
China, as an easy target of attack.
Puyi was placed under protection
by the local public security bureau and, although his food rations,
salary, and various luxuries, including his sofa and desk, were
removed, he was not publicly humiliated as was common at the time. The
Red Guards attacked
Puyi for his book From Emperor to Citizen because
it had been translated into English and French, which displeased the
Red Guards and led to copies of the book being burned in
the streets. Various members of the Qing family, including Pujie,
had their homes raided by the Red Guards, but
Zhou Enlai used his
influence to protect
Puyi and the rest of the Qing from the worst
abuses inflicted by the Red Guard. Jin Yuan, the man who had
Puyi in the 1950s, fell victim to the Red Guard and
became a prisoner in Fushun for several years, while Li Wenda, who had
ghostwritten From Emperor to Citizen, spent seven years in solitary
confinement. But by now,
Puyi had aged and his health began to
decline. He died in
Beijing of complications arising from kidney
cancer and heart disease on 17 October 1967 at the age of 61.
In accordance with the laws of the
People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China at the
time, Puyi's body was cremated. His ashes were first placed at the
Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery, alongside those of other party and
state dignitaries. (This was the burial ground of imperial concubines
and eunuchs prior to the establishment of the People's Republic of
China.) In 1995, as a part of a commercial arrangement, Puyi's widow
transferred his ashes to a new commercial cemetery named Hualong
Imperial Cemetery (华龙皇家陵园) in return for monetary
support. The cemetery is located near the Western Qing Tombs,
120 km (75 mi) southwest of Beijing, where four of the nine
Qing emperors preceding him are interred, along with three empresses
and 69 princes, princesses and imperial concubines.
Portrayal in media
The Last Emperor, a 1986 Hong Kong film (Chinese title 火龍,
literally means Fire Dragon) directed by Li Han-hsiang. Tony Leung
Ka-fai played Puyi.
The Last Emperor, a 1987 film directed by Bernardo Bertolucci. John
Lone played the adult Puyi.
Puyi (愛新覺羅·溥儀), a 2005 Chinese documentary
film on the life of Puyi. Produced by CCTV, it was part of a series of
ten documentary films about ten historical persons.
The Founding of a Party, a 2011 Chinese film directed by Huang Jianxin
and Han Sanping. Child actor Yan Ruihan played Puyi.
1911, a 2011 historical film directed by
Jackie Chan and Zhang Li. The
film tells of the founding of the Republic of
China when Sun Yat-sen
Xinhai Revolution to overthrow the Qing Dynasty. The
Puyi is played by child actor Su Hanye. Although Puyi's
time on screen is short, there are significant scenes showing how the
emperor was treated at court before his abdication at the age of
The Misadventure of Zoo, a 1981 Hong Kong television series produced
Adam Cheng played an adult Puyi.
Modai Huangdi (末代皇帝; literally means The Last Emperor), a 1988
Chinese television series based on Puyi's autobiography From Emperor
to Citizen, with Puyi's brother
Pujie as a consultant for the series.
Chen Daoming starred as Puyi.
Feichang Gongmin (非常公民; literally means Extraordinary
Citizen), a 2002 Chinese television series directed by Cheng Hao. Dayo
Wong starred as Puyi.
Ruten no Ōhi – Saigo no Kōtei (流転の王妃·最後の皇弟;
Chinese title 流轉的王妃), a 2003 Japanese television series
Pujie and Hiro Saga. Wang Bozhao played Puyi.
Modai Huangfei (末代皇妃; literally means The Last Imperial
Consort), a 2003 Chinese television series.
Li Yapeng played Puyi.
Modai Huangdi Chuanqi (zh) (末代皇帝传奇; literally means
The Legend of the Last Emperor), a 2015 Hong Kong/
collaboration (59 episodes, each 45 minutes), starring Winston Chao
Puyi in Tianjin
Quotation from Puyi:
My father had two wives, and they bore him four sons and seven
The Pedigree of the Qing House flow chart can be found in Puyi's
Puyi (referring only to his first four wives):
... they were not real wives and were only there for show
13 Nov 1904
20 Jun 1946
Rongyuan, minister of Domestic Affairs
Aisin–Gioro Hengxin (great great great great granddaughter of Prince
An of Ding of the First Rank)
Puyi and became Empress in 1922
4 Sep 1925
9 Jun 1997
Puyi in 1962
Died of lung cancer
Noble Consort Mingxian
14 Aug 1942
Became Noble Lady Xiang (祥贵人) in 1937
Posthumously honoured in 1942
20 Dec 1909
17 Sep 1953
Duangong, managerial official of Domestic Affairs
Became Consort Shu in 1922
Divorced in 1931
Noble Lady Fu
15 Jul 1928
24 Apr 2001
Became Noble Lady Fu in 1943
Divorced in 1957
Died of liver cirrhosis
In 1921, it was decided by the Dowager Consorts (the four widows of
the emperors before Puyi) that it was time for the 15-year-old
be married, although court politics dragged the complete process (from
selecting the bride, up through the wedding ceremony) out for almost
Puyi saw marriage as his coming of age benchmark, when
others would no longer control him. He was given four photographs to
Puyi stated they all looked alike to him, with the
exception of different clothing. He chose Wenxiu. Political factions
within the palace made the actual choice as to whom
Puyi would marry.
The selection process alone took an entire year.
Puyi's second choice for his wife was Wanrong, a Daur. She married
Puyi in 1922 and became his Empress. Her father, Rong Yuan (榮源),
was a Minister of Domestic Affairs. She was considered beautiful and
came from a wealthy family. By Puyi's own account, he abandoned
Wanrong in the bridal chamber and went back to his own room. He
maintained that she was willing to be a wife in name only, in order to
carry the title of Empress. The couple's relationship was good
Puyi showed preference over
Wenxiu for Wanrong and
displayed trust in her. However, after
Wenxiu left in 1931, Puyi
blamed Wanrong and stopped speaking to her and ignored her
presence. She became addicted to opium, and eventually died in a
prison in Yanji,
Jilin after being arrested by Chinese Communist
Puyi's first choice for his wife was Wenxiu, from the Erdet
(鄂爾德特) clan. She married
Puyi in 1922. Although she was Puyi's
first choice, the Four Dowager Consorts felt that
Wenxiu came from an
unacceptable impoverished family and was not beautiful enough to be
Empress, so they told the court officials to ask
Puyi to choose again.
The second time
Puyi chose Wanrong, who became Empress, while Wenxiu
was designated as Consort Shu (淑妃).
Wenxiu divorced in
Puyi awarded her a house in
Beijing and $300,000 in alimony, to
be provided by the Japanese. In his autobiography,
Puyi stated her
reason for the divorce was the emptiness of life with him in exile,
her desire for an ordinary family life, and his own inability to see
women as anything but slaves and tools of men. According to Puyi, she
worked as a school teacher for some years after the divorce. She
married Major Liu Zhendong in 1947.
Puyi's third wife, Tan Yuling, was a Manchu of the Tatara (他他拉)
clan. She married
Puyi in 1937 at the age of 16 on the recommendation
of the daughter of Yulang (毓朗), a beile. She was designated as
Puyi's Concubine Xiang (祥貴人).
Puyi married her as "punishment"
for Wanrong, and, "... because a second wife was as essential as
palace furniture." She was also a wife in name only. She became ill in
1942 with typhoid, which the Japanese doctor said would not be fatal.
After the doctor's consultation with Attaché to the Imperial
Household Yasunori Yoshioka,
Tan Yuling suddenly died.
suspicious of the circumstances when the Japanese immediately offered
him photographs of Japanese girls for marriage.
granted her the title Noble Consort Mingxian (明賢貴妃).[citation
Puyi married his fourth wife,[when?] a 15-year-old student
named Li Yuqin, who was a
Han Chinese from Changchun, Jilin. She was
designated as Puyi's Concubine Fu (福貴人). In February 1943,
school principal Kobayashi and teacher Fujii of the Nan-Ling Girls
Academy took ten girl students to a photography studio for portraits.
Three weeks later, the school teacher and the principal visited Li
Yuqin's home and told her
Puyi ordered her to go to the Manchukuo
palace to study. She was first taken directly to Yasunori Yoshioka who
thoroughly questioned her. Yoshioka then drove her back to her parents
and told them
Puyi ordered her to study at the palace. Money was
promised to the parents. She was subjected to a medical examination
and then taken to Puyi's sister Yunhe and instructed in palace
protocol.[clarification needed] Two years later when Manchukuo
Li Yuqin shared a train with Empress Wanrong, who was
experiencing opium withdrawal symptoms at the time. They were both
arrested by the Soviets and sent to a prison in Changchun. Li Yuqin
was released in 1946 and sent back home. She worked in a textile
factory while she studied the works of
Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin.
In 1955 she began visiting
Puyi in prison. After applying to the
Chinese authorities for a divorce, the government responded on her
next prison visit by showing her to a room with a double bed and
ordered her to reconcile with Puyi, and she said the couple obeyed the
order. She divorced
Puyi in May 1957. She later married a technician,
and had two sons. During the
Cultural Revolution she became a
target for attack by the
Red Guards because she used to be Puyi's
concubine. She died of liver problems in 2001.
In 1962 under an arrangement with premier Zhou Enlai,
Puyi married his
fifth and last wife, Li Shuxian, a nurse of
Han Chinese ethnicity.
They had no children. She died of lung cancer in 1997. Li Shuxian
recounted that they dated for six months before the marriage, and she
found him to be, "... a man who desperately needed my love and
was ready to give me as much love as he could."
17 May 1918
18 Jan 1999
Pucheng (grandson of Prince Qin of Dun of the First Rank), second son
Puyi (right), standing next to his father (Zaifeng,
Prince Chun) and his younger brother Pujie
Puyi's great-grandfather was the
Daoguang Emperor (r. 1820–1850),
who was succeeded by his fourth son, the
Xianfeng Emperor (r.
Puyi's paternal grandfather was
Yixuan, Prince Chun
Yixuan, Prince Chun (1840–1891), the
seventh son of the
Daoguang Emperor and a younger half-brother of the
Xianfeng Emperor. The
Xianfeng Emperor was succeeded by his only son,
who became the
Tongzhi Emperor (r. 1861–1875).
Tongzhi Emperor died at the age of 18 without a son, and was
succeeded by the
Guangxu Emperor (r. 1875–1908), son of
1st Prince Chun and Lady Yehenara Wanzhen (younger sister of
Empress Dowager Cixi). The
Guangxu Emperor died without an heir.
Puyi, who succeeded the Guangxu Emperor, was the eldest son of
Zaifeng, Prince Chun, who was born to
Yixuan, Prince Chun
Yixuan, Prince Chun and his
Lady Lingiya (1866–1925).
Lady Lingiya had been a
maid in the residence of Yixuan. Born to a Han Bannerman family, her
original family name was Liu (劉), and this was changed to the Manchu
Lingiya when she became the concubine of Yixuan and was
transferred to a Manchu banner. Zaifeng was therefore a younger
half-brother of the
Guangxu Emperor and the first in line to
succession after Guangxu.
Puyi was in a branch of the
Aisin Gioro clan with close ties to
Empress Dowager Cixi, who was from the Yehenara clan. Cixi's niece,
who later became
Empress Dowager Longyu
Empress Dowager Longyu (1868–1913), was married to
the Guangxu Emperor.
Puyi had a younger full brother,
Pujie (1907–1994), who married a
cousin of Emperor Hirohito, Lady Hiro Saga. The rules of succession
were changed to allow
Pujie to succeed Puyi, who had no
Puyi's last surviving younger half-brother Puren (b. 1918)
adopted the Chinese name
Jin Youzhi and lived in
China until his death
in 2015. In 2006
Jin Youzhi filed a lawsuit in regards to the rights
to Puyi's image and privacy. The lawsuit claimed that those rights
were violated by the exhibit "China's Last Monarch and His
Puyi's second cousin, Pu Xuezhai (溥雪齋), was a musician who
played the guqin, and an artist of Chinese painting.
Puyi's mother was Youlan (1884–1921), the daughter of Ronglu
(1836–1903), a statesman and general from the
Ronglu was one of the leaders of the conservative faction in the Qing
court, and a staunch supporter of Empress Dowager Cixi; Cixi rewarded
his support by marrying his daughter, Puyi's mother, into the imperial
Gūwalgiya clan was regarded as one of the most powerful Manchu
clans in the Qing dynasty. Oboi, an influential military commander and
statesman who was a regent during the Kangxi Emperor's reign, was from
the Guwalgiya clan.
Ancestors of Puyi
Aisin–Gioro Yongyan, Renzong
2nd son: Aisin–Gioro Minning, Xuanzong
Wife: Lady Hitara, Empress Xiaoshu Rui
7th son: Aisin–Gioro Yixuan, Prince Xian of Chun of the First Rank
Uya Lingshou, bitieshi
Concubine: Lady Uya, Imperial Noble Consort Zhuangshun
5th son: Aisin–Gioro
Zaifeng, Prince Chun
Zaifeng, Prince Chun of the First Rank
Liu Deqing, dianwei
Concubine: Liugiya Cuiyan, Secondary Consort
1st son: Aisin–Gioro Puyi, Xuantong Emperor
Gūwalgiya Tasiha, imperial resident in Kashgar
Gūwalgiya Changshou, military commander
Gūwalgiya Ronglu, grand academician
Gūwalgiya Youlan, Primary Consort
Aisin–Gioro Linggui, grand academician
The autobiography of Puyi – ghost-written by Li Wenda. The
title of the Chinese book is usually rendered in English as From
Emperor to Citizen. The book was re-released in
China in 2007 in a new
corrected and revised version. Many sentences which had been deleted
from the 1964 version prior to its publication were now included.
Puyi (2002) . 我的前半生 [The First Half of My
Life; From Emperor to Citizen: The Autobiography of
(in Chinese). Foreign Languages Press.
ISBN 978-7-119-00772-4. – original
Pu Yi, Henry (2010) . The Last Manchu: The Autobiography of
Henry Pu Yi, Last Emperor of China. Skyhorse Publishing.
ISBN 978-1-60239-732-3. – translation
Headland, Isaac Taylor (1909). Court life in China. F.H. Revell.
Fenby, Jonathan (2004).
Chiang Kai-shek China's Generalissimo and the
Nation He Lost. New York: Carroll & Graf.
Driscoll, Mark (2010). Absolute Erotic, Absolute Grotesque: The
Living, The Dead, and The Undead in Japan's Imperialism, 1895–1945.
Durnham: Duke University Press. ISBN 082234761X.
Johnston, Reginald Fleming (1934, 2008). Twilight in the Forbidden
City. Soul Care Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9680459-5-4
Li Shuxian (2006) . My Husband Puyi:
Puyi yu wo / [Li Shuxian
kou shu ; Wang Qingxiang zheng li ;
Changchun shi zheng xie
wen shi zi liao yan jiu wei yuan hui bian]. Chuan guo xin hua shu dian
jing xiao. ISBN 978-7-208-00167-1.
Puyi's fifth wife Li Shuxian. Memories of their life together were
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Behr, Edward (1987). The Last Emperor. Toronto: Futura.
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ISBN 978-0-521-61826-7. Check date values in: date= (help)
History of Imperial
World War II portal
Chinese emperors family tree (late)
Dynasties in Chinese history
List of heads of regimes who were later imprisoned
List of monarchs who lost their thrones in the 20th and 21st centuries
Aisin-Gioro is the clan's name in Manchu, pronounced Àixīn
Juéluó in Mandarin; Pǔyí is the
Chinese given name as pronounced
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Retrieved 1 January 2014.
House of Aisin-Gioro
Born: 7 February 1906 Died: 17 October 1967
Emperor of China
14 November 1908 – 12 February 1912
Title next held by
Title last held by
Emperor of China
1 July 1917 – 12 July 1917
Chief Executive of Manchukuo
9 March 1932 – 28 February 1934
Merged into Emperorship
Emperor of Manchukuo
1 March 1934 – 15 August 1945
as Emperor of China
Head of State of China
as Emperor of China
14 November 1908 – 12 February 1912
as President of the Republic of China
Head of State of Manchukuo
9 March 1932 – 15 August 1945
as President of the Republic of China
Manchukuo given back to the
China after World War II
Died: 17 October 1967 1968
Titles in pretence
— TITULAR —
Aisin Gioro family 1912-1967
Reason for succession failure:
Empire abolished in 1945
Pretenders to the Chinese throne since 1912
Puyi (1912 - 1967)
Pujie (1967 –1994)
Prince Puren (1994 - 2015)
Jin Yuzhang (since 2015)
See also House of Aisin Gioro
Emperors of the Qing dynasty
Dorgon (Prince Regent)
Xia → Shang → Zhou → Qin → Han → 3 Kingdoms → Jìn / 16
Kingdoms → S. Dynasties / N. Dynasties → Sui → Tang → 5
Dynasties & 10 Kingdoms → Liao / Song / W. Xia / Jīn → Yuan
→ Ming → Qing → ROC / PRC
ISNI: 0000 0000 8135 0328
BNF: cb12086499j (data)