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Xuantong Emperor
Aisin-Gioro Puyi 01.jpg
Puyi as the Kangde Emperor, circa March 1934
12th Emperor of the Qing Dynasty
Reign 14 November 1908 – 12 February 1912
Coronation 14 November 1908
Predecessor Guangxu Emperor
Successor Empire Abolished
Prime Ministers
Reign 1 July 1917 – 12 July 1917
Predecessor Li Yuanhong (President of the Republic of China)
Successor Li Yuanhong
Regents Zaifeng, Prince Chun & Empress Dowager Longyu
Emperor of Manchukuo
Reign 1 May 1934 – 15 August 1945
Predecessor Himself (As Chief Executive)
Successor Empire Abolished
Born (1906-02-07)7 February 1906
Prince Chun Mansion,Beijing, Qing Empire
Died 17 October 1967(1967-10-17) (aged 61)
Beijing, People's Republic of China
Burial Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery
(Later moved to Tomb of Puyi near Western Qing Mausoleum near Beijing in 1996)
Spouse Empress Wanrong
Consort Wenxiu
Tan Yuling
Li Yuqin
Li Shuxian
Era dates
Xuantong (宣統; 1909 – 1912, 1917)
Datong (大同; 1 March 1932 – 28 February 1934)
Kangde (康德; 1 March 1934 – 17 August 1945)
House House of Aisin Gioro
Father Zaifeng, Prince Chun
Mother Guwalgiya Youlan
Traditional Chinese 溥儀
Simplified Chinese 溥仪

Puyi (Chinese: 溥儀; 7 February 1906 – 17 October 1967), of the Manchu Aisin Gioro clan, commonly known as Pu Yi, was the last Emperor of China, the second last Khan of Mongolia and the twelfth and final ruler of the Qing dynasty. When a child, he ruled as the Xuantong Emperor (Chinese: 宣統帝) in China and Khevt Yos Khan in Mongolia from 1908 until his forced abdication on 12 February 1912, after the successful 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 Manchukuo was 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 in 1945. After the People's Republic of 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 and the National People's Congress.

Names and titles[edit]


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,[citation needed] 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, after 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 Xiānshēng) 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 Puyi asked for an English name.[1][2]


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.

As 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 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: ; pinyin: Qīng) is added in front of the two titles to indicate his affiliation with the Qing Dynasty.

When Puyi ruled the puppet state of Manchukuo and assuming the title of Chief Executive of the new state, his era name was "Datong" (Ta-tung). And he became the emperor 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.

Styles of
Xuantong Emperor
Flag of the Qing Dynasty (1889-1912).svg
Reference style His Imperial Majesty
Spoken style Your Imperial Majesty
Alternative style Son of Heaven (天子)


Paternal side[edit]

A three-year-old 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. 1850–1861).[3][4]

Puyi's paternal grandfather was 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).[5]

The 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.[6]

Puyi, who succeeded the Guangxu Emperor, was the eldest son of Zaifeng, Prince Chun, who was born to Yixuan, Prince Chun and his second concubine Lady Lingiya (1866–1925). Lady Lingiya used to be 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 clan name 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.[7]

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 (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 children.[8][9]

Puyi's last surviving younger half-brother Puren (b. 1918) has 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 Family".[10]

Puyi's second cousin,[11] Pu Xuezhai (溥雪齋), was a musician who played the guqin, and an artist of Chinese painting.[12]

Maternal side[edit]

Puyi's mother was Youlan (1884–1921), the daughter of Ronglu (1836–1903), a statesman and general from the Guwalgiya clan. 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 family.

The Guwalgiya 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.[13]



Emperor of China (1908–1912)[edit]

Puyi in 1922

Chosen by Empress Dowager Cixi on her deathbed,[6] Puyi became emperor at the age of 2 years and 10 months in December 1908 after the 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. The toddler Puyi screamed and resisted as the officials ordered the eunuch attendants to pick him up.[14] His father, Prince Chun, became Prince Regent (摄政王). During Puyi's coronation in the Hall of Supreme Harmony, the young emperor was carried onto the throne by his father. 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, Wen-Chao Wang, was the only one who could console him, and therefore she accompanied him to the Forbidden City. Puyi did 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 nurse.[15]

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 Wen-Chao Wang, were all strangers, remote, distant, and unable to discipline him.[16] Wherever he went, grown men would kneel down in a ritual kowtow, averting their eyes until he passed. Soon the young Puyi discovered the absolute power he wielded over the eunuchs, and he frequently had them beaten for small transgressions.[14] As an emperor, 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.[17] 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 affect on me."[18] 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".[19]

Puyi never had any privacy and had all of his needs attended to all times, having eunuchs open doors for him, dress him, wash him, and even blow air into his soup to cool it.[20] Puyi delighted in humiliating his eunuchs, at one point, saying that as the "Lord of Ten Thousand Years" it was his right to order an eunuch to eat dirt, recalling: ""Eat that for me" I ordered, and he knelt down and ate it".[21] 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 everyday Puyi wore new clothing as Chinese emperors never reused their clothing.[22] The eunuchs had their own reasons for presenting Puyi with buffet meals and new clothing everyday as the 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.[23]

Eunuchs and the Household Department[edit]

Quotation of Puyi:

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.[24]

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.[25] 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 a jars of brine that they wore around their necks when working.[26] The Forbidden City was full of treasures, which the eunuchs were constantly stealing and selling on the black market.[27] The business of government and of providing for the emperor created further opportunities for corruption and virtually of all the eunuchs engaged in theft and corruption of one sort or another.[28]

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.[29] Locks were broken, areas ransacked, and on June 27, 1923, a fire destroyed the area around the Palace of Established Happiness. 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.[30] 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 long before Puyi was forced out of the Forbidden City by Feng Yuxiang.[31]


Puyi's father, Prince Chun, served as a regent until 6 December 1911 when Empress Dowager Longyu took over following the Xinhai Revolution.[3]

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.[32] 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.[33] 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 the still the Emperor for sometime afterwards.[34] In 1913, when the Empress Dowager Longyu died, President Yuan Shikai arrived at the Forbidden City to pay his respects, which Puyi's tutors told him meant that major changes were afloat.[35]

The Articles of Favourable Treatment of the Great Qing Emperor after His Abdication[edit]

The document is dated 26 December 1914.[36]

  1. 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.
  2. 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 $4,000,000 (max.).
  3. 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 his bodyguard.
  4. 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 protection.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. After the abdication of the Great Qing Emperor, his private property will be safeguarded and protected by the Republic of China.
  8. 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 to have Puyi as the sort of custodian of the Forbidden City until he could move in.[37] 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 presidency.[38] 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.[39] 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.[40] In 1915, Yuan proclaimed himself Emperor, but had to abandon his plans in the face of popular opposition.[41]

Brief restoration (1917)[edit]

In 1917 the warlord Zhang Xun restored Puyi to the throne from July 1 to July 12.[42] 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.[43] 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.[44]

Life in the Forbidden City[edit]

Sir Reginald Johnston was appointed as Puyi's English tutor on 3 March 1919.[45] 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".[46] 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."[47] 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.[48] However, Johnston disregarded the rules, and taught Puyi about world history with a special focus on British history.[49] Johnston also told Puyi so much about his native Scotland that Puyi eventually expressed the desire to visit the "Scotland the Brave" that his tutor spoke of with such pride and love.[50] Besides history, Johnston taught Puyi philosophy and about what he saw the as the superiority of monarchies over republics.[51] Puyi remembered that the piecing 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".[52] 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.[53] When the 14 year-old Puyi had some western-style clothing purchased him to wear, 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 Puyi noting he was unable to finish his sentence.[54] Under Johnston's influence, Puyi started to insist that his eunuchs address him as "Henry" and his wife Wanrong as "Elizabeth" as Puyi began to speak "Chinglish"-a mixture of Mandarin and English that was be his preferred model of speech.[55] 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 that he was the most learned of Westerners" and that "Johnston had become the major part of my soul".[56]

Puyi could not speak Manchu; he only knew a single word in the language, "Yili," which meant arise. Despite studying Manchu for years, he admitted that it was his "worst" subject among everything he studied.[57][58][59][60] According to the journalist S. M. Ali, Puyi spoke Mandarin when interviewed but Ali believed that he could understand English.[61] Johnston also introduced Puyi to the new technology of cinema who was so delighted with the movies 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.[62] Johnston was also the first to argue that as Puyi was extremely near-sighted that he needed glasses, and after much argument with Prince Chun who thought it was undignified for an Emperor to wear glasses, finally prevailed.[63] Under Johnston's influence, Puyi embraced 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.[64] 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 life-long enthusiasm for cycling, through it is doubtful that the eunuchs working as gardeners much appreciated Puyi's habit of riding through the flowers.[65] In an interview in 1986, Prince Pujie told Behr: "Puyi constantly talked about going to England and becoming an Oxford student, like Johnston".[66] On 4 June 1922, Puyi attempted to escape from the Forbidden City as he decided that decided that 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.[67] The escape attempt failed when Johnston vetoed it and refused to call a taxi and Puyi was too frightened to live on the streets of Beijing on his own.[68]

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 the Forbidden City to Wanrong's house accompanied by court musicians and cavalry.[69] Following Manchu traditions where weddings were conducted under moonlight for good luck, an enormous procession of palace guardsmen, eunuchs, and bands carried the Princess Wanrong in a red sedan chair called the Phoenix Chair from her house to the Forbidden City under a full moon.[70] 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.[71] 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 vison 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".[72] Puyi, Wanrong and his secondary consort Wenxiu whom he also married the same night after the wedding was complete went to the Palace of Earthly Tranquillity where everything was red-the color of love and sex in China-and where emperors had traditionally consummated their marriages.[73] Puyi who was sexually inexperienced and timid fled from the bridal chamber, leaving his wives to sleep in the Dragon bed by themselves.[74] 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 had 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 tendencies".[75]

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".[76] In 1986, Behr interviewed one of Puyi's two surviving eunuchs, a 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 the 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 indeed.[77] Reginald Johnston arranged for the Marquis of Extended Grace Zhu Yuxun, a descendant of the Ming dynasty Imperial family, to visit 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 and 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.[78] Johnston, a Sinophile scholar and a romantic conservative with an instinctive preference for monarchies believed that China needed a benevolent autocrat to guide the country forward, leading him to favor a Qing restoration.[79] The Sinophile Johnston disparaged the superficially Westernized Chinese republican elite who dressed in top hats, flock coats and business suits as inauthentically Chinese and praised to Puyi the Confucian scholars with their traditional robes as the ones who were authentically Chinese.[80]

Expulsion from the Forbidden City (1924)[edit]

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.[81] 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.[82] Puyi was given three hours to leave the Forbidden City.[83] Puyi spent a few days at the house of his father Prince Chun, and then temporarily resided in the Japanese embassy in Beijing.[2] 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 legation.[84] Puyi had originally wanted to go to the British Legation, but the Japanophile Johnston had insisted that he would be safer with the Japanese.[85] 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.[86] One of Puyi's advisers Lu Zongyu-who was secretly working for the Japanese-suggested that Puyi move to Tianjin, which he argued was more safer than Beijing, through the real reason was that the Japanese felt that Puyi would be more easier to control in Tianjin without the embarrassment of having him live in the Japanese Legation, which was straining relations with China.[87] On 23 February 1925, Puyi left Beijing for Tianjin while wearing a simple Chinese gown and skullcap as he was afraid of being robbed on the train.[88]

Residence in Tianjin (1925–1931)[edit]

Garden of Serenity in Tianjin

In February 1925, Puyi moved to the Japanese Concession of Tianjin, first into the Zhang Garden (張園),[89] and in 1927 into the former residence of Lu Zongyu known as the Garden of Serenity (simplified Chinese: 静园; traditional Chinese: 静園; pinyin: jìng yuán).[90] A British journalist Henry Woodhead called Puyi's court a "doggy paradise" as both Puyi and Wanrong were dog-lovers who owed several dogs who were very spoiled while Puyi's courtiers spent an inordinate amount of time feuding with one another.[91] Woodhead stated the only people who seemed to get along at Puyi's court were Wanrong and Wenxiu who were "like sisters".[92] Tianjin was after Shanghai the most cosmopolitan Chinese city with large British, French, German, Russian and Japanese communities and as an Emperor Puyi was allowed to join several social clubs that normally only admitted whites.[93]During this period, Puyi and his advisers Chen Baochen, 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 warlord Marshal Zhang Zuolin, the "Old Marshal" who ruled Manchuria visited Tianjin to meet Puyi.[94] Marshal Zhang, a illiterate former bandit ruled Manchuria, a region equal in size to Germany and France combined, had a population of 30 million and was the most industrialized region in China. Zhang kowtowed to Puyi at their meeting, promised to restore the House of Qing which was made conditional on Puyi making a large financial donation to his army.[95] As Zhang walked with Puyi to his car at end of their meeting, he noticed a Japanese spy who had followed Puyi and 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.[96] Zhang fought in the pay of the Japanese, but by this time his relations with the 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 had been restored to the Dragon Throne.[97]

Puyi's court was prone to factionalism and Puyi's advisers were urging him to back different warlords, which gave him a reputation for duplicity as Puyi negotiated with various warlords, which strained his relations with Marshal Zhang.[98] At various times, Puyi had met General Zhang Zongchang, the "Dogmeat General" and the Russian emigre General Grigory Semyonov at his Tianjin house, both of whom promised to restore him to the Dragon Throne if he gave them enough money, and both of whom kept all of the money Puyi gave them to themselves.[99] Semyonov in particular proved himself to be a talented con-man, claiming that he had 300 million roubles in the bank and was being 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, and was only asking for Puyi's financial support because of a temporary clash flow problem.[100] 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 manipulated Puyi via flattery, telling him that a great man such as himself should go conquer Manchuria and then just his Qing ancestors did in the 17th century use Manchuria as a base for conquering China.[101] Puyi's first wife Wanrong began to smoke opium during this period, which Puyi encouraged as he found her more "manageable" when she was in an opium daze.[102] Puyi's marriage to Wanrong began to fall apart as they spent more and more time apart, meeting only at mealtimes.[103] Wanrong complained her life as an "empress" was extremely dull as the rules for an empress forbade 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.[104] The westernized Wanrong loved to play tennis, to go out dancing and socialize with her friends, which the more conservative courtiers objected to, and she resented having to play the traditional role of a Chinese empress.[105] Puyi's butler was secretly a Japanese spy, and in a report to his masters described Puyi and Wanrong one day spent hours screaming at one another in the gardens with Wanrong repeatedly calling Puyi an "eunuch"-whatever she meant that insult as a reference to sexual inadequacy or not is not clear.[106] In 1928, Puyi's concubine Wenxiu declared that she had enough of him and his court and simply walked out, filing for divorce.[107]

In September 1931 Puyi sent a letter to Jirō Minami, the Japanese Minister of War, expressing his desire to be restored to the throne.[108] He 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. The Empress Wanrong was firmly against Puyi's plans to go to Manchuria, which she called treason, and for a moment, Puyi hesitated, leading Doihara to send for Puyi's cousin, the very pro-Japanese Eastern Jewel to visit him to change his mind.[109] Eastern Jewel, a strong-willed, flamboyant, openly bisexual woman noted for her habit of wearing male clothing and uniforms had much influence on Puyi.[110] In the Tientsin Incident during November 1931, Puyi and Zheng Xiaoxu traveled to Manchuria to complete plans for the puppet state of Manchukuo. The Chinese government ordered Puyi's arrest for treason, but was unable to breach the Japanese protection.[2] Puyi boarded a Japanese ship the Awaji Maru that took him across the East China Sea and when he landed 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.[111] 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".[112] Behr commented that Amakasu's boosting about killing a six-year old boy should had served to enlighten Puyi about the sort of people that he had just allied himself with.[113] Chen Baochen returned to Beijing where he died in 1935.[114]

Ruler of Manchukuo (1932–1945)[edit]

Styles of
Kangde Emperor
Flag of the Emperor of Manchukuo.svg
Reference style His Imperial Majesty
Spoken style Your Imperial Majesty
Alternative style Sir

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). Puyi believed 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 from Beijing to Changchun.[115] The Showa Emperor wanted to see if Puyi was reliable before he giving him an imperial title, and it was not 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", through Puyi was disappointed that he was not given back his old title of "Great Qing Emperor".[116] At the same time, Doihara informed Puyi that the "the Emperor [of Japan] is your father and is represented in Manchukuo as the Kwantung army which must be obeyed like a father".[117] On 1 March 1934, he was crowned the emperor of Manchukuo under the reign title Kangde (Wade-Giles: Kang-te; 康德) in Changchun. A sign of who really ruled Manchukuo was that during his coronation, General Masahiko Amakasu who was there ostensibly as the film director to record the coronation served as Puyi's minder keeping a careful watch on him to prevent him from going off-script.[118] Puyi was constantly at odds with the Japanese in private, though submissive in public. He resented being "Head of State" and then "Emperor of Manchukuo" rather than being fully restored as a Qing Emperor.

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 Shengyang), 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.[119] Puyi hated Hsinking, which he regarded as a undistinguished industrial city that lacked the historical connections with the Qing that Mukden had.[120] As there was no palace in Changchun, Puyi moved 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.[121] 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.[122] 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[123] (the only Chinese emperor ever to do so) and a dragon robe to the announcement of his accession at the Temple of Heaven.[124] Whenever the Japanese wanted a law passed, the relevant degree was dropped off at the Salt Tax Palace for Puyi to sign, which he always did.[125] Puyi signed degrees expropriating vast tracts of farmland to be given to Japanese colonists and for a law declaring certain thoughts to be "thought crimes", leading Edward 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".[126]

Behr further noted the "Empire of Manchukuo", billed as an idealistic state where 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 Oriental kind".[127] Manchukuo was a sham, and was a Japanese colony run entirely for Japan's benefit.[128] To solve the problem of overpopulation in Japan, a plan was announced in Tokyo in 1935 to settle five million Japanese into Manchukuo between 1936-56, and in the first stage of the plan 20, 000 Japanese families moved to Manchukuo every year.[129] By 1939, 837, 000 Japanese colonists had settled in Manchukuo and to provide farmland for the settlers, the farmers already living on the land were evicted to make way for the settlers.[130] Furthermore, 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.[131] 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".[132] Puyi later testified in 1946 that "I had put my head in the tiger's mouth" by going to Manchuria in 1931.[133]

Puyi's younger full brother Pujie, who married Lady Hiro Saga, a distant cousin to the Japanese Emperor Hirohito, was proclaimed heir apparent. The marriage had been politically arranged by Shigeru Honjō, a general of the Kwantung Army. Puyi thereafter would not speak candidly in front of his brother and refused to eat any food provided by Hiro Saga. 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.[134]

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)[135] was assigned to Puyi as Attaché to the Imperial Household in Manchukuo. He acted as a spy for the Japanese government, controlling Puyi through fear, intimidation, and direct orders.[136] There were many attempts on Puyi's life during this period, including a 1937 stabbing by a palace servant.[2] 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.[137] 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 rules.[citation needed]

In 1935, Puyi visited Japan, and while meeting the Showa Emperor at a Tokyo railroad station, a moment of unintentional comedy occurred when Puyi attempted 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.[138] 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 an 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.[139] A typical passage from the book records that Puyi was 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".[140] 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 who was an archer able to shoot arrows while riding, just like his Qin ancestors did.[141] The Showa Emperor took this claim that Puyi was a hippophile too seriously and presented him with a gift of a horse for him to review the Imperial 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.[142]

During these years, Puyi began taking a greater interest in traditional Chinese law and religion[143] (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.[144] 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.[2]

Puyi was extremely unhappy with his life as a virtual prisoner in the Salt Tax Palace, and his moods become erratic swinging from hours of passivity staring into space to indulging his sadism by having his servants beaten.[145] Puyi always had a strong cruel streak, and he imposed his harsh "house rules" on his staff where servants were flogged in the basement for such offenses as "irresponsible conversations".[146] 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 canned at one point or another except for the Empress and Puyi's siblings and their spouses.[147] To further torment his staff of about 100, Puyi drastically cut back on the food allocated for his staff who suffered from hunger; one of Puyi's bodyguards later recalled that Puyi was attempting to make everyone as miserable as he was.[148] Besides for tormenting his staff, Puyi's life as Emperor was one of lethargy and passivity, which one servant later called "a kind of living death" for him.[149] All that Puyi knew of the outside world was what was told to him by General Yoshioka in daily briefings.[150] When Behr asked Prince Pujie how the news of the 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".[151] After 1938, Puyi was hardly ever allowed to leave the Salt Tax Palace while the creation of the puppet regime of President Wang Jingwei crushed Puyi's spirits as it ended his hope of one day of restored as the Great Qing Emperor.[152]

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.[153] Puyi become a devoted Buddhist 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.[154] Puyi's Buddhism led him to ban his staff from killing insects or mice while at the same time if he found any insects or mice droppings in his food, the cooks were flogged.[155] When Puyi went into the gardens to mediate before a statue of the Buddha, there always had to be complete silence, and as there two loud Japanese cranes living in the garden, the emperor always had his servants flogged if the cranes made a sound.[156] 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?".[157] 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.[158] The Empress Wanrong retreated in seclusion as she become addicted to opium.[159] 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.[160] 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.[161]

In April 1937, a 16-year old Manchu aristocrat Tan Yuling moved into the Salt Tax Palace to become Puyi's concubine, but through Puyi seemed to have liked her, it remains unclear whatever he had sex with her or not.[162] 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".[163] Puyi was very fond of having handsome teenager boys serving as his pageboys and Puyi's sister-in-law Hiro Saga noted he was also very fond of sodomizing them.[164] Hiro, who was somewhat homophobic wrote in her 1957 book 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?".[165] When questioned by Behr in an interview about Puyi's sexuality, the Emperor's younger brother Prince Pujie merely said he was "biologically incapable of reproduction", which is a polite way of saying someone is gay in China.[166] When one of Puyi's pageboys fled the Salt Tax Palace to escape his homosexual advances, 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.[167]

By 1940, the Japanisation of 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 the 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 the lavish celebrations to mark the supposed 2, 600th anniversary of the founding of the Empire of Japan, Puyi during his meeting with the Showa Emperor read out a statement given him by General Yoshioka asking for permission to worship the Shinto gods and to establish Shintoism as the state religion of Manchukuo.[168] 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 Manchukuo.[169] 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".[170] 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 had not been built instead.[171]

Wanrong, aka "Elizabeth Jade Eyes" engaged in an affair with Puyi's chauffeur that left her pregnant.[172] 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.[173] 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.[174] 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".[175]

Later life (1945–1967)[edit]

Puyi (right) and a Soviet military officer

In August 1945, the Soviet Union declared war on Japan, and in a swift offensive defeated the Kwantung Army and occupied Manchuria. At the end of World War II, Puyi was captured by the Soviet Red Army on 16 August 1945 while he was in an aeroplane fleeing to Japan.[176] 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.[177] The Soviet government repeatedly refused requests from the Republic of China to extradite Puyi where he had been indicted on charges of high treason, which almost certainly saved Puyi's life as Chiang Kai-shek had often spoken of his desire to have Puyi shot.[178] Puyi's cousin Eastern Jewel was captured by the Kuomingtang and publicity executed in Beijing in 1948 after she was convicted of high treason.[179]

In 1946, he testified at the International Military Tribunal for the Far East in Tokyo,[180] detailing his resentment at how he had been treated by the Japanese.

When the Chinese Communist Party under Mao Zedong came to power in 1949, Puyi was repatriated to China after negotiations between the Soviet Union and China.[181][182] 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".[183] Furthermore, Mao had often noted that Lenin had Nicholas II, the last Russian emperor together the rest of the Russian imperial family shot as Lenin could not make the last tsar into a communist, and by making the last Chinese emperor into a Communist was intended to show the superiority of the Chinese communism over Soviet communism.[184]

Except for a period during the Korean War, when he was moved to Harbin, Puyi spent ten years in the Fushun War Criminals Management Centre in Liaoning province until he was declared reformed. The prisoners at Fushun were senior Japanese, Manchukuo and Kuomintang officials and officers.[185] 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 had survived his imprisonment except for the fact that the warden Jin Yuan went out of his way to protect him.[186] 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.[187] As Jin had grown up in Manchukuo, he was fluent in Japanese, which was why he was selected to be the warden of Fushun.[188] 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 Manchukuo years. I wondered how I could ever bear to be in their company".[189] 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.[190]

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.[191] The prisoners often laughed how Puyi struggled with even brushing his teeth.[192] 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.[193] When Puyi protested to Jin that it had been impossible to resist Japan and there was nothing he could had done, his jailers confronted him with people who had fought in the resistance and had been tortured while his jailers asked him why ordinary people in Manchukuo resisted while an emperor did nothing.[194] As part of confronting war crimes, Puyi had to attend lectures where a former Japanese civil servant spoke about the exploitation of Manchukuo while a former officer in the Kempeitai talked about how he rounded up people for slave labor and ordered mass executions.[195] At one point, Puyi was taken to Harbin 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 "All the atrocities had been carried out in my name".[196] Puyi by the mid-1950s was overwhelmed with guilt and often told Jin that he felt utterly worthless to the point that he considered suicide.[197] Sometimes, Puyi was taken out for tours of the countryside of Manchuria, where 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 factories.[198] When 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.[199] 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 served them as she retained her faith in humanity, which greatly moved Puyi.[200]

Puyi came to Beijing in 1959 with special permission from Chairman Mao Zedong and lived the next six months in an ordinary Beijing residence with his sister before being transferred to a government-sponsored hotel. He voiced his support for the Communists and worked at the Beijing Botanical Gardens. Working as a simple gardener gave Puyi a degree of happiness that he never known as an emperor, through he was notably clumsy.[201] 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 60's was equivalent to about 40 cents USD.[202] 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".[203] 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?".[204]

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. In this book (as translated into English and published by Oxford University Press), he made the following statement regarding his testimony at the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal:[205]

With Mao Zedong, autumn 1961
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 will.
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.[108] I covered up my crimes in order to protect myself.

In an interview with Behr, Li 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".[206] Puyi had been so used to having his needs catered to that he never entirely learned how to function on his own.[207] 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 you".[208]

Death and burial[edit]

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 Guard attacked Puyi for his book From Emperor to Citizen because it was had translated into English and French, which displeasured the xenophobic Red Guards, and led to copies of From Emperor to Citizen being burned on the streets.[209] Various members of the Qing family including Puyi's brother had their homes raided by the Red Guard, but Zhou Enlai used his influence to protect Puyi and the rest of the Qing from the worse abuses inflicted by the Red Guard.[210] Jin Yuan, the man who had "remodelled" Puyi in the 1950s, fell victim to the Red Guard and become a prisoner in Fushun for several years while Li Wenda who had ghostwritten From Emperor to Citizen spent 7 years in solitary confinement.[211] 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.[212]

In accordance with the laws of the 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)[213] 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.[214]


Wanrong and Puyi in Tianjin

Quotation from Puyi:[215]

The Pedigree of the Qing House flow chart can be found in Puyi's autobiography.[216]


Puyi had three younger brothers:

  • Pujie (1907–1994), Puyi's only full brother, courtesy name Junzhi (俊之), English name William. He married Tang Shixia (唐石霞; courtesy name Yiying 怡瑩), but they divorced later. He married Saga Hiro, a Japanese noblewoman, and had two daughters with her. He also had a minor role in the government of Manchukuo.
  • Puqi (溥倛; Pu-chih; 1915–1918), died before he turned three years old.
  • Puren (溥任; Pu-jen; 1918–2015), changed his name to Jin Youzhi. He married Jin Yuting (金瑜庭) and had three sons and two daughters.

Puyi had seven younger sisters, the first three were his full sisters:

  • Yunying (韫媖; 韞媖; Yun-ying; 1909–1925), married Empress Wanrong's older brother Runliang (潤良), had no children.
  • Yunhe (韫和; 韞和; Yun-ho; 1911–2001), changed her name to Jin Xinru (金欣如). She married Zheng Guangyuan (鄭廣元) and had a son and three daughters.
  • Yunying (韫颖; 韞穎; Yun-ing; 1913–1992), changed her name to Jin Ruixiu (金蕊秀), English name Lily. She married Empress Wanrong's younger brother Runqi (潤麒) and had two sons and a daughter.
  • Yunxian (韫娴; 韞嫻; Yun-hsien; 1914–2003), changed her name to Jin Yunxian (金韞嫻). She married Zhao Qifan (趙琪璠) and had a son and a daughter.
  • Yunxing (韫馨; 韞馨; Yun-hsing; 1917–1998), changed her name to Jin Ruijie (金蕊潔). She married Wan Jiaxi (萬嘉熙) and had three sons and a daughter.
  • Yunyu (韫娱; 韞娛; Yun-yu; 1919–1982), changed her name to Pu Yunyu (溥韞娛), courtesy name Ruile (蕊樂). She married Wanyan Ailan (完顏愛蘭) and had a son and four daughters.
  • Yunhuan (韫欢; 韞歡; Yun-huan; 1921–2004), infant name Ji (姞), changed her name to Jin Zhijian (金志堅), courtesy name Ruihan (蕊莟), pseudonym Biyue (璧月). She married Qiao Hongzhi (喬宏志) and had two sons and a daughter.


  • Wanrong (1906–1946), married Puyi in 1922, was his Empress.
  • Wenxiu (1909–1953), married Puyi in 1922, was his Consort Shu (淑妃).
  • Tan Yuling (1920–1942), married Puyi in 1937, was his Concubine Xiang (祥貴人).
  • Li Yuqin (1928–2001), married Puyi in 1943, was his Concubine Fu (福貴人).
  • Li Shuxian (1925–1997), married Puyi in 1962.

Quotation from Puyi (referring only to his first four wives):[217]

In detail

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 Puyi to be married, although court politics dragged the complete process (from selecting the bride, up through the wedding ceremony) out for almost two years. Puyi saw marriage as his coming of age benchmark, when others would no longer control him. He was given four photographs to choose from. 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.[218]


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.[219] 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 initially, and 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.[217] She became addicted to opium, and eventually died in a prison in Yanji, Jilin after being arrested by Chinese Communist soldiers.[220]


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). Puyi and Wenxiu divorced in 1931. Puyi awarded her a house in Beijing and $300,000 in alimony, to be provided by the Japanese.[2] 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.[221] She married Major Liu Zhendong in 1947.[222]

Tan Yuling[edit]

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. Puyi became suspicious of the circumstances when the Japanese immediately offered him photographs of Japanese girls for marriage.[223] Puyi posthumously granted her the title Noble Consort Mingxian (明賢貴妃).[citation needed]

Li Yuqin[edit]

In 1943 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).[224] 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] [225] Two years later when Manchukuo collapsed, 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.[226] 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.[citation needed]

Li Shuxian[edit]

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.[176] 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."[227]


By Puyi[edit]

  • 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.
    • Aisin-Gioro, Puyi (2002) [1964]. 我的前半生 [The First Half of My Life; From Emperor to Citizen: The Autobiography of Aisin-Gioro Puyi] (in Chinese). Foreign Languages Press. ISBN 978-7-119-00772-4.  – original
    • Pu Yi, Henry (2010) [1967]. The Last Manchu: The Autobiography of Henry Pu Yi, Last Emperor of China. Skyhorse Publishing. ISBN 978-1-60239-732-3.   – translation

By others[edit]

Puyi's fifth wife Li Shuxian. Memories of their life together were ghost written by Wang Qingxian. An English version translated by Ni Na was published by China Travel and Tourism Press.
Companion to Bernardo Bertolucci's film of the same name.

Portrayal in media[edit]



  • The Misadventure of Zoo, a 1981 Hong Kong television series produced by TVB. 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 about 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/China television collaboration (59 episodes, each 45 minutes), starring Winston Chao

See also[edit]


¹ Aisin-Gioro is the clan's name in Manchu, pronounced Àixīn Juéluó in Mandarin; Pǔyí is the Chinese given name as pronounced in Mandarin.



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External links[edit]

Born: 7 February 1906 Died: 17 October 1967
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Guangxu Emperor
Emperor of China
14 November 1908 – 12 February 1912
Title next held by
Hongxian Emperor
Title last held by
Hongxian Emperor
Emperor of China
1 July 1917 – 12 July 1917
Office abolished
New title
State created
Chief Executive of Manchukuo
9 March 1932 – 28 February 1934
Merged into Emperorship
New title
Empire created
Emperor of Manchukuo
1 March 1934 – 15 August 1945
Office abolished
Empire dissolved
Political offices
Preceded by
Guangxu Emperor
as Emperor of China
Head of State of China
as Emperor of China

14 November 1908 – 12 February 1912
Succeeded by
Sun Yat-sen
as President of the Republic of China
New title
State created
Head of State of Manchukuo
9 March 1932 – 15 August 1945
Succeeded by
Chiang Kai-shek
as President of the Republic of China
Manchukuo given back to the
Republic of China after World War II