Birthday: February 7, 1906
Died At Age: 61
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Also Known As: Manchu Aisin Gioro clan
Born in: Prince Chun Mansion, Beijing, China
Famous as: Last Emperor of China
Emperors & Kings
Spouse/Ex-: Empress Wanrong, Li Shuxian, Li Yuqin, Tan Yuling, Wenxiu
father: Zaifeng, Prince Chun
siblings: Jin Youzhi, Jin Yunying, Pujie, Yunhuan
children: no value
Died on: October 17, 1967
place of death: Beijing
City: Beijing, China
Who was Puyi?
Puyi, also famous as Pu Yi, was the last Emperor of China who remained the 12th and last Emperor of the Qing Dynasty and second last Khan of Mongolia. He was hardly aged three when enthroned as emperor of Qing dynasty on the death day of his predecessor, Guangxu Emperor, in 1908 amidst a court controlled by Manchu conservatives with a growing restlessness and rebelliousness among public. His rule in China as Xuantong Emperor and in Mongolia as Khevt Yos Khan ended following ‘Xinhai Revolution’ when he was compelled to abdicate in February 1912, marking the end of both the imperial system and Qing rule of China. Qing Dynasty loyalist, General Zhang Xun, however, tried to restore him to the throne in the Manchu Restoration of 1917. Puyi left Beijing secretly in 1925 and moved to the Japanese Concession of Tianjin and from 1934 to 1945 remained the Emperor of Manchukuo, a puppet state of the Empire of Japan. Following establishment of People's Republic of China in 1949, Puyi was incarcerated for ten years as a war criminal. Later, he became member of National People's Congress and Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.
Childhood & Early Life
Puyi was born on February 7, 1906, in Prince Chun Mansion, Beijing, Qing Empire, to Zaifeng, Prince Chun and Guwalgiya Youlan. Puyi was the great-grandson of Daoguang Emperor and grandson of Yixuan, Prince Chun.
He had three younger brothers and seven younger sisters.
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Following the death of Guangxu Emperor (first son of Yixuan, Prince Chun) on November 14, 1908, the 2 years and 10 months old Puyi was ascended to the throne with the title of Xuantong Emperor by Empress Dowager Cixi who was on her death bed and breathed her last on the very next day.
Cixi controlled the government of China for around half-a-century as regent of her son, Tongzhi Emperor, and thereafter for Guangxu Emperor.
Puyi’s father was made the Prince Regent and on December 2, 1908, his coronation ceremony was held in the Hall of Supreme Harmony.
Little Puyi was terrified by such sudden enthronement away from his family and familiar environment, surrounded among strangers. He was accompanied by his wet nurse, Wang Wen-Chao, to the Forbidden City, the only person who could console him to certain extent.
Growing up as an emperor was way different for him from other children. The adults in his life, mostly strangers, would treat him as an emperor with men performing kowtow, a kneeling down ritual, while he passed. With time, he discovered that he could fulfil any of his whims without any restriction.
By the time he reached seven, his cruelty and love to exercise power including ill-treating and flogging innocent eunuchs and firing air-gun at anybody of his choice developed him into a sadistic boy emperor. However, the little boy in him would still love to enjoy puppet show and suckle the breasts of Wang while sleeping at night.
He received standard Confucian education and had to daily visit and report his progress to his “mothers”, five former imperial concubines led by Empress Dowager Longyu.
He disliked his “mothers” as they impeded him to meet his biological mother till he attained age 13 and particularly hated Longyu for conspiring and expelling Wang when he was aged eight on the pretext that Puyi was quite old enough to need a wet-nurse.
The ‘Xinhai Revolution’ that continued from October 10, 1911 to February 12, 1912 witnessed several revolts and uprisings resulting in the end of 2000 years of imperial rule in China and establishment of Republic of China (1912-1949).
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Puyi was compelled to renounce the throne on February 12, 1912, thus making him the last emperor of Qing Dynasty that ruled China for 267 years.
A deal was brokered by Prime Minister Yuan Shikai with the regal court in Beijing and the southern China Republicans that saw endorsement of the "Imperial Edict of the Abdication of the Qing Emperor" by Longyu on February 12, 1912.
The "Articles of Favourable Treatment of the Great Qing Emperor after His Abdication" dated December 26, 1914 signed with the new Republic of China came up with certain directives.
These included allowing Puyi to retain his regal title and remain in the Forbidden City (temporarily) and then move to Summer Palace; and receiving an annual subsidy of 4,000,000 silver taels from the Republic of China, which, however, was never paid fully and was done away with after a few years.
General Zhang Xun made an unsuccessful attempt to restore Puyi to the throne in the Manchu Restoration of 1917 that saw Puyi enthroned from July 1 to July 12 of that year.
The period witnessed what was regarded as the first aerial bombardment in East Asia when a Republican plane dropped a small bomb over the Forbidden City.
Life in Forbidden City and Subsequent Expulsion
Puyi’s first encounter with a foreigner was with Sir Reginald Johnston, his new tutor who arrived in the Forbidden City on March 3, 1919. Johnston not only taught him different subjects but also introduced him to the "new style" Chinese books and magazines inspiring him to pen down poems that were issued anonymously in New China publications.
He was also introduced to the new technology of cinema, telephone and bicycle by Johnston. Riding cycles eventually became a lifelong passion for Puyi who was so influenced by western style that he cut off his queue and started wearing western attire instructing his eunuchs to address him as ‘Henry’.
Warlord Feng Yuxiang took control of Beijing on October 23, 1924 in a coup d’état. Yuxiang then unilaterally revised the Articles of Favourable Treatment on November 5, 1924 not only repealing the regal title and privileges enjoyed by Puyi. It not only made him to just a private citizen of the Republic of China but also expelled him from Forbidden City.
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Living in Tianjin
Following the expulsion, Puyi stayed at his father’s residence for a few days and then at the Japanese embassy in Beijing before leaving for the Japanese Concession of Tianjin on February 23, 1925.
Ruler of Manchukuo
The Japanese made him the Chief Executive of a puppet state of the Empire of Japan called Manchukuo on March 1, 1932 with the reign title Datong.
On March 1, 1934 he was declared Kangde Emperor of Manchukuo. He ruled the state till August 15, 1945, till the end of Second Sino-Japanese War.
During this reign, Yoshioka Yasunori, a senior staff officer of Kwantung Army, was designated to Puyi as Attaché to the Imperial Household in Manchukuo. Yasunori spied for Japanese government and directed and controlled Puyi by intimidating and frightening him. Puyi faced several life attempts during this period.
Soviet Union occupied Manchuria defeating Kwantung Army in August 1945 and following the end of Second World War, as Puyi was fleeing to Japan in an aeroplane, Soviet Red Army captured him on August 16.
After the Mao Zedong led Chinese Communist Party came to power in 1949 establishing People's Republic of China, negotiations between China and Soviet Union led to the repatriation of Puyi to China where he remained incarcerated for ten years as a war criminal until he was declared reformed.
He served Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference from 1964 till his death as an editor for its literary department drawing a monthly salary of around 100 yuan.
His autobiography ‘From Emperor to Citizen’ (1964) was ghost-written by Li Wenda.
Personal Life & Legacy
On November 30, 1922, he married Wanrong who became the Empress consort of Puyi. His other concubines were Consort Wenxiu, Tan Yuling, Li Yuqin and Li Shuxian, of whom the latter was a hospital nurse whom he married at age 56 on April 30, 1962.
He succumbed to complications from heart disease and kidney cancer on October 17, 1967.