A Travellerspoint blog

The Last Emperor of China

Hey Hey and a Big G'Day toya,

So you think your life has been tough, wait till you get a load of this guy’s life! The North Korean Border was not the only reason I came to Manchuria.

One of the most interesting people to have lived in China during the transition period from the Empire to the Republic, the warlord times, the Japanese governance of Manchuria and the Peoples Republic of China is the last Emperor of China, Pu Yi whose reigning title was Hsuan-t'ung. He was born is 1905 and on December 2, 1908 Pu Yi became Emperor of a country that needed good governance.

<u>The Last Emperor &#8211; The Movie</u>

Directed by Bernardo Bertolucci; starring John Lone, Joan Chen & Peter O'Toole.

In this unprecedented Sino Western co-production, Bernardo Bertolucci turned the 'strange’ life of final Chinese crown ruler Pu Yi into a sumptuous epic. Shooting on location in China in the first Western production allowed to film in Beijing's Forbidden City, Bertolucci spent $25 million on lavish sets and costumes, as well as a cast of thousands, for a story spanning six decades, from Pu Yi's 1908 coronation to his 1960s life as a poor civilian. The story is structured through flashback memories as Pu Yi comes to grips with existence as a villain and commoner under Communism, and Vittorio Storaro's exquisite cinematography subtly underscores the emperor's rise and fall by shifting from a palette rich in reds, oranges, and yellows for Pu Yi's imperial years to somber blues and grays for his exile and imprisonment.

Nominated for nine Oscars, The Last Emperor scored an unexpected sweep, winning all nine, including Best Picture and Best Director. An hour of footage cut from the release version was restored in the 1998 theatrical reissue reedited by Bertolucci.

<u>The Last Emperor of China (1908&#8211;1912)</u>

Chosen by Dowager Empress Cixi while on her deathbed, Puyi ascended the throne at nearly three in December 1908 following his uncle's death and was titled the Xuantong Emperor. 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 take him away.

His wet nurse, Wen-Chao Wang, was the only one who could console him, and therefore accompanied Puyi to the Forbidden City in Beijing. Puyi would not see his real mother again for seven years. Puyi developed a special closeness with Wen-Chao Wang and credited her with being the only person who could control him and she was sent away when he was eight years old. After he married, he would occasionally bring her to the Forbidden City, and later Manchukuo, to visit him.

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 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. &#8216;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.’ After his marriage, Puyi began to take control of the palace.

He described &#8216;an orgy of looting’ taking place that involved everyone from the highest to the lowest, 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 June 27, 1923 a fire destroyed the area around the Palace of the Established Happiness which was obviously arson to cover theft. The emperor overheard conversations among the eunuchs that made him fear for his life and in response, he evicted the eunuchs from the palace.

<u>Abdication</u>

Empress Dowager Longyu signed the &#8216;Act of Abdication of the Emperor of the Great Qing’ on 12 February 1912, following the Xinhai Revolution, under a deal brokered by the general of the army with the imperial court in Beijing and the republicans in southern China. 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 as well as in the Summer Palace.

<u>Brief restoration (1917)</u>

In 1917, the warlord general Zhang Xun restored Puyi to his throne for twelve days from July 1 to July 12. Zhang ordered his army to keep their queues to display loyalty to the emperor. During the twelve days, one small bomb was dropped over the Forbidden City by a republican plane, causing minor damage.

Puyi was expelled from the Forbidden City in Beijing in 1924.

Following his expulsion from the Forbidden City, Puyi spent a few days at the house of his father 2nd Prince Chun, and then temporarily resided in the Japanese embassy for a year and a half. In 1925, he moved to the &#8216;Quiet Garden Villa’ in the Japanese Concession in Tianjin. During this period, Puyi and his advisers Chen Baochen, Zheng Xiaoxu and Luo Zhenyu discussed ways to restore Puyi as Emperor. Xiaoxu and Zhenyu favored enlisting outside assistance, while Baochen opposed the idea. In September 1931, Puyi sent a letter to Japanese minister of war Jir&#333; Minami stating his desire to be restored to the throne. He was visited by Japanese Kwantung Army espionage head Kenji Doihara who proposed establishing Puyi as head of a Manchurian state. In November 1931, Puyi and Zheng Xiaoxu traveled to Manchuria to complete plans for the puppet state of Manchukuo.

The Chinese government ordered his arrest for treason. But were unable to breach the Japanese protection.

<u>Ruler of Manchukuo (1932&#8211;1945)</u>

On 1 March 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. In 1934, he was officially crowned the emperor of Manchukuo under the reign title Kangde. He was constantly at odds with the Japanese in private, though submissive in public. He resented being &#8216;Head of State’ and then Emperor of Manchukuo’ rather than being fully restored as Qing Emperor. 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 Western military uniform to his enthronement (the only Chinese emperor ever to do so) 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. The marriage had been politically arranged by the 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.

From 1935-1945, Kwangtung Army senior staff officer Yasunori Yoshioka was assigned to Puyi as Attach&eacute; to the Imperial Household in Manchukuo. He acted as a spy for the Japanese government, controlling 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 Hirohito.

It is unclear whether the adoption of ancient Chinese styles and rites such as using &#8216;His Majesty’ instead of his real name were the product of Puyi's interest or a Japanese imposition of their own imperial house rules.

<u>Puyi as Emperor of Manchukuo with Ch&#363; Kud&#333; </u>

During these years, he began taking a greater interest in traditional Chinese law and religion (e.g. Confucianism and Buddhism), but this was disallowed by the Japanese. 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.

<u>Later life (1945&#8211;1967)</u>

<u>Puyi and a Soviet Military Officer </u>

At the end of World War II, Puyi was captured by the Soviet Red Army on 16 August 1945 while he was in an airplane fleeing to Japan. The Soviet army took him to the Siberian town of Chita. He lived in a sanatorium, but was later taken to Khabarovsk near the Chinese border.

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

When the Chinese Communists under Chairman Mao came to power in 1949, Puyi was repatriated to China after negotiations between the USSR and China. Puyi spent ten years in a Fushun War Criminals Management Centre, except during the Korean War he was taken to Harbin where he spent three years until 1954 because Fushun was near the Korean border, in Liaoning province until he was declared reformed.

Puyi came to Beijing in 1959 with special permission from Chairman Mao 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. At the age of 56, he married Li Shuxian, a hospital nurse, on 30 April 1962. He subsequently worked as an editor for the literary department of the Chinese People's Political Consultative 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 &#8216;The first half of my life’, translated in English as &#8216;From Emperor to Citizen’ in the 1960s;

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 Jir&#333; Minami was a fake.

I covered up my crimes in order to protect myself.

<u>Death and Burial</u>

Mao began 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, although his food rations, salary, and various luxuries, including his sofa and desk, were removed. Puyi became affected physically and emotionally. He died in Beijing of complications arising from kidney cancer and heart disease on 17 October 1967.

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 (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 120 km 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.

Beers N Noodles toya…..shane ___________________________________________________________

The soundtrack to this entry was by DEF FX The album was &#8216;Baptism’ ____________________________________________________________

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Posted by eddakath 17:00 Archived in China

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