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Puyi

[poo-yee]

Puyi (February 7, 1906October 17, 1967) of the Manchu Aisin-Gioro ruling family was the last Emperor of China between 1908 and 1924 (ruling as the Xuantong Emperor (宣統皇帝) between 1908 and 1911, and non-ruling emperor between 1911 and 1924), the twelfth emperor of the Qing Dynasty to rule over China.

He was married to the Empress Gobulo Wan Rong under the suggestion of the Imperial Dowager Concubine Duan-Kang. Later, between 1934 and 1945, he was the Kangde Emperor (康德皇帝) of Manchukuo. In the People's Republic of China, he was a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference from 1964 until his death in 1967 under the Chinese name Aixinjueluo Puyi. His abdication being a symbol of the end of a long era in China, he is widely known as the Last Emperor (末代皇帝).

Name

In English, he is known more simply as Puyi (Pu-i in Wade-Giles romanization), which is in accordance with the Manchu tradition of never using an individual's clan name and given name together, but is in complete contravention of the traditional Chinese and Manchu custom whereby the private given name of an emperor was considered taboo and ineffable. It may be that the use of the given name Puyi after the overthrow of the empire was thus a political technique, an attempt to express desecration of the old order. Indeed, after Puyi lost his imperial title in 1924 he was officially styled "Mr. Puyi" (溥儀先生) in China. His clan name Aisin-Gioro was seldom used. He is also known to have used the name "Henry"¹, a name allegedly chosen with his English language teacher, Scotsman Reginald Johnston, in reference to King Henry VIII of England. However, the name Henry was merely used in communication with Westerners between 1920 and 1932, and was never used in China.

Ancestry

Paternal side

Puyi's great-grandfather was the Daoguang Emperor (r.1820–1850), who was succeeded by his fourth son, who became Xianfeng Emperor (r.1850–1861).

Puyi's paternal grandfather was the 1st Prince Chun (1840–1891) who was himself a son of the Daoguang Emperor and a younger half-brother of Xianfeng Emperor, but not the next in line after Xianfeng (the 1st Prince Chun had older half-brothers that were closer in age to Xianfeng). Xianfeng was succeeded by his only son, who became the Tongzhi Emperor (r.1861-1875).

Tongzhi died without a son, and was succeeded by Guangxu Emperor (r.1875–1908), the son of the 1st Prince Chun and his wife, who was the younger sister of Empress Dowager Cixi. Guangxu died without an heir.

Puyi, who succeeded Guangxu, was the eldest son of the 2nd Prince Chun (1883–1951), who was the son of the 1st Prince Chun and his second concubine, the Lady Lingiya (1866–1925). Lady Lingiya was a maid at the mansion of the 1st Prince Chun whose original Chinese family name was Liu (劉); this was changed into the Manchu clan's name Lingyia when she was made a Manchu, a requirement before becoming the concubine of a Manchu prince. The 2nd Prince Chun was, therefore, a younger half-brother of the Guangxu Emperor and the first brother in line after Guangxu.

Puyi was in a branch of the imperial family with close ties to Cixi, who was herself from the (Manchu) Yehe-Nara clan (the imperial family were the Aisin-Gioro clan). Cixi married the daughter of her brother to her nephew Guangxu, who became, after Guangxu and Cixi's death, the Empress Dowager Longyu (1868–1913).

Puyi's lesser known brother, Pu Xuezhai 溥雪齋, is an important master of the guqin musical instrument tradition and an artist of Chinese painting. Another brother, Pujie (1907-1994), married a cousin of Emperor Hirohito, Princess Hiro Saga, and changed the rules of succession to allow him to succeed his brother, who had no children. His last surviving (half-)brother Pu Ren (born 1918) still lives in China and has taken the Chinese name Jin Youzhi.

Maternal side

Puyi's mother, the 2nd Princess Chun (1884-1921), given name Youlan (幼蘭), was the 2nd Prince Chun's wife. She was the daughter of the Manchu general Ronglu (榮祿) (1836–1903) from the Guwalgiya clan. Ronglu was one of the leaders of the conservative faction at the court, and a staunch supporter of Empress Dowager Cixi; Cixi rewarded his support by marrying his daughter, Puyi's mother, into the Imperial family.

Ancestors

Puyi's ancestors in three generations
Puyi Father:
Zaifeng, 2nd Prince Chun
Paternal Grandfather:
Yixuan, 1st Prince Chun
Paternal Great-grandfather:
Daoguang Emperor
Paternal Great-grandmother:
Lin
Paternal Grandmother:
Lady Lingiya
paternal Great-grandfather:
Paternal Great-grandmother:
Mother:
Youlan
Maternal Grandfather:
Ronglu
Maternal Great-grandfather:
Maternal Great-grandmother:
Maternal Grandmother:
Maternal Great-grandfather:
Maternal Great-grandmother:

Biography

Emperor of China (1908–1912)

Chosen by Dowager Empress Cixi while on her deathbed, Puyi ascended the throne at age 2 years 10 months in December 1908 following his uncle's death on November 14. Puyi's introduction to emperorship began when palace officials arrived at his family household to take him. Puyi screamed and resisted as the officials ordered the eunuchs to pick him up. His wet-nurse, Wen-Chao Wang, was the only one who could console him, and therefore accompanied Puyi to the Forbidden City. Puyi would not see his real mother again for six years.

Puyi's upbringing was hardly conducive to the raising of a healthy, well-balanced child. Overnight, he was treated as a god and unable to behave as a child. The adults in his life, save his wet-nurse Mrs. Wen-Chao, were all strangers, remote, distant, and unable to discipline him. Wherever he went, grown men would kneel to the floor in a ritual kow-tow, averting their eyes until he passed. Soon the young Puyi discovered the absolute power he wielded over the eunuchs, and frequently had them beaten for small transgressions.

Puyi's father, the 2nd Prince Chun, served as a regent until December 6, 1911 when Empress Dowager Longyu took over in the face of the Xinhai Revolution.

Empress Dowager Longyu signed the "Act of Abdication of the Emperor of the Great Qing" (《清帝退位詔書》) on February 12, 1912, following the Xinhai Revolution, under a deal brokered by Yuan Shikai (the great general of the army Beiyang) with the imperial court in Beijing (formerly Peking) and the republicans in southern China: by the "Articles of Favourable Treatment of the Emperor of the Great Qing 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. He 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 4 million silver dollars was granted by the Republic to the imperial household, although it was never fully paid and was abolished after just a few years.

Brief restoration (1917)

In 1917, the warlord general Zhang Xun (張勛) restored Puyi to his throne for twelve days from July 1 to July 12. The male residents of Beijing hastily bought some false queues (long plaits or "pigtails") to avoid punishment for cutting off their queues in 1912. During those 12 days, one small bomb was dropped over the Forbidden City by a republican plane, causing minor damage. This is considered the first aerial bombardment ever in Eastern Asia. The restoration failed due to extensive opposition across China, and the decisive intervention of another warlord general, Duan Qirui. In mid-July, the streets of Beijing were strewn with the thousands of false queues that had been discarded as hastily as they had been bought.

Puyi was expelled from the Forbidden City in Beijing in 1924 by warlord Feng Yuxiang.

Residence in Tianjin

Following his expulsion from the Forbidden City, Puyi resided in the "Quiet Garden Villa" in the Japanese Concession in Tianjin.

Ruler of Manchukuo (1932–1945)

On March 1, 1932, Puyi was installed by the Japanese as the ruler of Manchukuo, considered by most historians as a puppet state of Imperial Japan, under the reign title Datong (大同). In 1934, he was officially crowned the emperor of Manchukuo under the reign title Kangde (康德). He 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 Qing Emperor. As part of the Japanese colonialism in Manchukuo, Puyi would be living in the Wei Huang Gong during this time. At his enthronement he clashed with Japan over dress; they wanted him to wear a Manchukuoan uniform whereas he considered it an insult to wear anything but traditional Qing Dynasty robes. In a typical compromise, he wore a uniform to his enthronement and dragon robes to the announcement of his accession at the Altar of Heaven. His brother Pujie, who married Hiro Saga, a distant cousin to the Japanese Emperor Hirohito, was proclaimed heir apparent.

During Puyi's reign as Emperor of Manchukuo, his household was closely watched by the Japanese who increasingly took steps toward the full Japanization of Manchuria, just as they had done in Korea and elsewhere. When Puyi went on a state visit to Tokyo, he was flattering to the Japanese imperial family. At a review, he thanked Emperor Hirohito for "allowing" clear skies and sunshine for the event. During these empty years, he began taking a greater interest in Buddhism. However, Japan soon forced him to make Shinto the national religion of Manchukuo. Slowly, his old supporters were eliminated and pro-Japanese ministers put in their place. During this period, his life consisted mostly of signing laws prepared by Japan, reciting prayers, consulting oracles, and making formal visits throughout his kingdom.

Later life (1945–1967)

At the end of World War II, Puyi was captured by the Soviet Red Army (August 16, 1945). He testified at the Tokyo war crimes trial in 1946. There he was scathing in his resentment of how he had been treated by the Japanese. When Chinese Communists under Mao Zedong came to power in 1949, Puyi wrote letters to Joseph Stalin with requests not to send him back to China. He also wrote of his new life attitude, changed by the works of Karl Marx and Lenin, which he had read while in prison. However, because Stalin wished to warm his relations with a new "political friend Mao," he repatriated the former emperor to China in 1950. Puyi spent ten years in a Fushun War Criminals Management Centre, in Liaoning province until he was declared reformed. 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. He married Li Shuxian, a hospital nurse, on April 30, 1962, in a ceremony held at the Banquet Hall of the Consultative Conference. He subsequently worked as an editor for the literary department of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, where his salary was around 100 Yuan before becoming a member of the Conference, an office in which he served from 1964 until his death.

With encouragement from Mao and then Premier Zhou Enlai, and openly endorsed by the Government, Puyi wrote his autobiography (我的前半生 — "The first half of my life", translated in English as From Emperor to Citizen) in the 1960s alongside Li Wenda, an editor of Beijing's People Publishing Bureau. In this book he regrets his false testimony from the Tokyo war crimes trial.

Death and burial

Mao began the Cultural Revolution in 1966, and the youth militia known as the Red Guards saw Puyi, who symbolized Imperial China, as an easy target of attack. Puyi was placed under protection by the local public security bureau, although his food rations, salary, and various luxuries, including his sofa and desk, were moved. Puyi became affected physically and emotionally. He died in Beijing of complications arising from kidney cancer and heart disease in 1967 during the Cultural Revolution. In accordance to the laws of the People's Republic of China at the time, Puyi's body was cremated. Puyi's ashes were first placed at the Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery, alongside those of other party and state dignitaries (before the establishment of the People's Republic of China this was the burial ground of Imperial concubines and eunuchs). In 1995, as a part of a commercial arrangement, Puyi's widow transferred his ashes to a new commercial cemetery in return for monetary support. The cemetery is located near the Western Qing Tombs (清西陵), 120 km (75 miles) 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.

In 2004 descendants of the Qing imperial family have conferred a posthumous name and temple name upon Puyi. Posthumous name: Mindi (愍帝). Temple name: Gongzong (恭宗). This has not been approved by the direct line of the imperial family. However, Xùndì (遜帝) ("The Abdicated Emperor") is the posthumous name given by mainland China and Taiwan's history books to Puyi.

Family

Puyi had several brothers, two of whom are important for the history of China and the Qing Dynasty:

  • Pujie (1907–1994), who had a minor role in the government of Manchukuo
  • Puren (who later took the name Jin Youzhi), a younger half-brother, born after the imperial family had lost power

Two wives

Three concubines

  1. Wen Xiu, the Imperial Shu Concubine (淑妃) (1907–1950/51). Married in 1922, divorced in 1931
  2. Tan Yuling, the Xiang Concubine (谭玉龄)(1920–1942). Married in 1937
  3. Li Yuqin, the Fu Concubine (李玉琴)((1928–2001). Married in 1943, divorced in 1958

In detail: In 1922, at the age of 16, Puyi married two women. His first choice for wife was Wen Xiu (1907–1950/51), whom court officials deemed not beautiful enough to be an Empress; Wen Xiu was designated as a concubine, and eventually divorced him in 1931. Puyi's second choice, a Manchu named Wan Rong (1906–1946, a.k.a. Radiant Countenance), became the Empress; she later became addicted to opium, and died in a Chinese prison.

His third wife was a Manchu, Tan Yuling, whom he married around 1937. Although only a teenager at the time of marriage, she died mysteriously five years later while being treated for an illness by a Japanese-occupation doctor.

In 1943, Puyi married his fourth wife, a 15-year-old student named Li Yuqin (1928?–2001), a Han. She divorced him in 1958. She was diagnosed with cirrhosis in 1995 and died six years later at the age of 73.

In 1962, he married his fifth and last wife, a Han nurse, Li Shuxian (1925–1997), who died of lung cancer in 1997. The Emperor had no children.

Film

Li Han Hsiang's 1986 film "Huo Long" ("Fire Dragon") and Bernardo Bertolucci's 1987 film The Last Emperor are biographical films of Puyi.

Books

Notes

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.

References

See also

External links

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