Biography in English

P'u-yi (1906-17 October 1967), the last Manchu emperor.

Born in Peking, P'u-yi was the son of Tsaifeng, the second Prince Ch'un and the nephew of the Kuang-hsü emperor. As the emperor neared death in 1908, some members of the Manchu hierarchy pressed the claims of P'u-lun and P'u-wei, older great-grandsons of the Taokuang Emperor in the P'u generation, saying that they had priority as successors to the childless Kuang-hsü. But the indomitable Empress Dowager Tz'u-hsi on 13 November informed a conference of high officials that P'u-yi would be emperor because, at the betrothal of the daughter of her favorite courtier, Jung-lu (ECCP, I, 405-9), to Prince Ch'un, she had decided that their eldest son would inherit the throne.

P'u-yi, not yet three years old when he succeeded the Kuang-hsü emperor on 14 November 1908, was formally enthroned on December 2. Following tradition, the first Hsuan-t'ung reign year began in 1909 with the new lunar year. Prince Ch'un acted as regent. As a device to straighten out the tangled web Tz'u-hsi had woven around the imperial succession since the death of the Hsien-feng emperor in 1861, however, it had been stipulated that P'u-yi was to be regarded as the adopted son of the T'ung-chih emperor and the ritual heir of Kuang-hsü. Kuang-hsü's widow, the Empress Dowager Lung-yü, thus stood in the official relationship of mother to P'u-yi. A struggle for power ensued between Lung-yü and Prince Ch'un, and Lung-yü won. Under the combined pressure of the Chinese republican revolutionaries, the demands of foreign powers, and the machinations of Lung-yü, Prince Ch'un retired on 11 December 1911. It was Lung-yü who authorized the issuance of the imperial decree of 12 February 1912 by virtue of which the Manchu emperor abdicated. Although he relinquished political authority in China, by stipulation of the "Articles of Favorable Treatment" in the abdication agreement he retained his status and the dynastic title Ta- Ch'ing huang-ti. He was even permitted, "as a temporary measure," to remain in residence in the Forbidden City, with the understanding that he would move in due course to the Summer Palace, outside Peking's walls. The republican government, for its part, agreed to provide an annual subsidy of 4 million taels for the support of the emperor's establishment.

After Lung-yü died in 1913, Yuan Shih-k'ai requested that the emperor and his entourage move to the Summer Palace. But the imperial household resisted because such a move might have reduced personnel and sources of revenue. P'u-yi and his entourage remained in the Forbidden City.

During the early years of the republican period, some Manchu nobles and officials of the republican government still supported the traditional imperial system. One of these was Chang Hsün (q.v.), who had been among the original petitioners for Manchu abdication. In the spring of 1917 Li Yuan-hung (q.v.), then the president, called upon Chang, who commanded a strong military force at Hsuchow, to mediate between the contending political factions of Li and Tuan Ch'i-jui (q.v.). Chang arrived in Peking with 5,000 troops and forced the dissolution of the Parliament so that he could restore the monarchy. One of the imperial tutors, Ch'en Pao-ch'en, who had been sub-chancellor of the Grand Secretariat and vice president of the Board of Rites, was among the promoters of the restoration attempt, but P'u-yi and his entourage apparently had no knowledge of the scheme. On 1 July, the 11year-old Hsuan-t'ung emperor was installed upon the throne, reportedly with some reluctance. Chang Hsün and K'ang Yu-wei (q.v.) had the imperial seal affixed to some 19 "edicts" announcing the restoration of the Manchu dynasty and the imperial administrative system. Chang intended to dominate the new regime, and he had himself made Chung-yung ch'iuwang [Prince Chung-yung], governor general of Chihli (Hopei), high commissioner of military and foreign affairs for north China, and minister of war. The restoration movement collapsed when Tuan Ch'i-jui assembled an army and stormed Peking on 12 July. No action was taken against P'u-yi for his role in the attempt, but the followers of Sun Yat-sen at Canton campaigned thereafter for the cancellation of the "Articles of Favorable Treatment" and the reduction of P'u-yi's status to that of an ordinary citizen.

After Hsu Shih-ch'ang (q.v.) became president in 1918, he decided that P'u-yi should receive a modern education. Until then, P'u-yi had studied under three imperial tutors. Hsu appointed British civil servant Reginald F. Johnston tutor to P'u-yi in March 1919. Somewhat later, P'u-yi and his younger brother P'u-chieh began to study English together. Because of the traditional taboo on addressing the emperor by his given name, P'u-yi decided that the name "Henry" would be used in addressing him in connection with his studies. He chose the name from a list of English kings. However, journalists began using both names, and he became known to Westerners as Henry P'u-yi.

P'u-yi continued to live in his private little world—the Forbidden City. His mother died in 1921; reportedly, she committed suicide after having been scolded by High Consort Tuan-kang. In 1922 it was decided that the time had come for P'u-yi to marry. P'u-yi dutifully selected a wife, Wen-hsiu, from a collection of photographs of suitable young women. A conflict ensued between Tuan-kang and Ching-yi, and P'u-yi then selected Tuankang's candidate, Wan-jung, the daughter of Jung-yuan, a hereditary nobleman of the sixth rank. The problem of two selections was solved by having Wen-hsiu designated imperial concubine, with the ceremony performed on 30 November, just in time for the imperial concubine to head the welcoming party for the new empress on her wedding day. The imperial bridal procession, on 1 December 1922, was magnificent.

Belatedly, after a mysterious fire in June 1923 had destroyed the Palace of Established Happiness with its accumulated treasures (which were about to be inventoried), P'u-yi decided to put an end to the corruption that pervaded his establishment in the Forbidden City. In 1923 he expelled most of the 1,000 eunuchs remaining there and enlisted the services of Cheng Hsiao-hsü (q.v.) to renovate the imperial household. However, the former chief of the imperial household, Shao-ying, launched a public campaign against Cheng and replaced him three months later. In early 1924 P'u-yi entrusted Johnston with administering the Summer Palace and with making arrangements for the imperial household to move there. P'u-yi went outside the walls of Peking for the first time to visit his future residence. However, P'u-yi did not move to the Summer Palace. Feng Yu-hsiang (q.v.) turned against his superior, Wu P'ei-fu, and on 23 October 1924 occupied Peking. On 5 November a detachment of Feng's troops entered the Forbidden City, demanded that P'u-yi sign a "revision" of the Articles of Favorable Treatment, removed him to Prince Ch'un's palace outside the Forbidden City, and held him there under guard. According to an explanation given by C. T. Wang (Wang Cheng-t'ing, q.v.), the new foreign minister, the removal was undertaken in response to the demand of "Chinese public opinion." The Peking authorities assured foreign envoys that P'u-yi's life and property would continue to receive protection. The revised agreement, besides providing for abolition of the imperial Manchu title and removal of the Ch'ing household from the imperial palace, stipulated that P'u-yi would continue to receive an annual subsidy, that sacrifices at the Ch'ing ancestral temples would continue "forever," and that the Ch'ing household would retain its private property.

P'u-yi and his entourage were not content to remain quietly at his father's northern mansion. In 1923 P'u-yi had undertaken the piecemeal removal of palace treasures to Tientsin for deposit in foreign banks for safekeeping. He also had purchased a residence in the British concession in Tientsin. On 29 November, when strained relations between Chang Tso-lin and Tuan Ch'i-jui on one side and Feng Yu-hsiang on the other had brought about a relaxation of Feng's watch over the palace of Prince Ch'un, P'u-yi, with the aid of Reginald Johnston, escaped into the Legation Quarter, where he was given refuge by Japanese Minister Yoshizawa Kenkichi. P'u-yi rejected his father's plea that he return. Yoshizawa secured Tuan Ch'i-jui's permission for the empress and the imperial concubine to join P'u-yi the following day. Rumors of impending restoration attempts increased. According to Johnston, "the young emperor had not the slightest inclination to take part in any monarchist conspiracy." P'u-yi continued to reside in the Japanese legation until 23 February 1925. Then, disguised as a student, he made his way to Tientsin and established residence in the Japanese concession. This second "escape" was engineered by Cheng Hsiao-hsü.

Reginald Johnston stated that, contrary to a commonly held belief that the Japanese at this time endeavored to induce the Emperor to proceed to Manchuria or to Japan, P'u-yi was given to understand (through Johnston himself) that his presence in either Japan or the Kwantung Leased Territory would "seriously embarrass" the government at Tokyo. For five years, P'u-yi resided (without being required to pay rent) at the Chang Garden, the property of a former Ch'ing general, and made a number of political contacts. In June 1925 P'u-yi called on Chang Tso-lin, and later that year he received Chang Tsung-ch'ang (q.v.) and Grigori Semenov, a White Russian adventurer in the pay of the Japanese and Chang Tso-lin. In the years that followed, P'u-yi gave Semenov considerable financial support. However, the possibility of benefitting from political contact with Chang Tso-lin and Chang Tsung-ch'ang was ended by the second stage of the Northern Expedition in 1928. Chang Tso-lin was killed by the Japanese shortly after the Nationalists occupied Peking in June. When Chang Tsungch'ang appealed to P'u-yi for financial aid to rebuild his army, he was refused.

In July 1928, despite provisions in the "Articles of Favorable Treatment" guaranteeing the protection of the tombs of the Manchu emperors, the tombs of the great Ch'ien-lung emperor and of the Empress Dowager Tz'u-hsi were broken into and looted, and the remains of these two royal persons were thrown to the ground and mutilated. The Nationalists made little effort to apprehend and punish those responsible for the desecration. P'u-yi later described his reaction to the desecration by saying that his heart had "smouldered with a hatred I had never known before" and that he had sworn to avenge this wrong. His father, Prince Ch'un, moved to Tientsin at this time because he was afraid to remain in Peking.

P'u-yi's three principal advisers in Tientsin were Cheng Hsiao-hsü, Ch'en Pao-ch'en, and Lo Chen-yü (q.v.). They often disagreed, and Cheng and Lo long had vied for preeminence. Lo had established close ties with the Japanese garrison at Tientsin; and after the events of June-July 1928 Cheng Hsiao-hsü also became convinced that Japanese policies favored the P'u-yi fortunes. In August, he made a trip to Japan and met with representatives of the nationalist Black Dragon Society and the Japanese general staff and broached the subject of restoration. He returned well satisfied with his mission. At the end of the year, Lo Chen-yü moved to Japanese-controlled Dairen. In July 1929 P'u-yi moved to the Quiet Garden, which also was located in the Japanese concession in Tientsin. He was living there when a domestic crisis of major dimensions occurred. One day, Wen-hsiu entered the Chinese city of Tientsin on a shopping tour and never returned. P'u-yi, his imperial dignity outraged, refused to grant the divorce until Wen-hsiu in early 1931 finally entered suit against him. He then granted the divorce, and Wen-hsiu became a primary-school teacher. She died in 1950.

In July 1931 P'u-yi was informed by his brother P'u-chieh (upon the latter's return from a trip to Japan) and by Viscount Mizuno Katsukuni that the rule of Chang Hsueh-liang in Manchuria was unsatisfactory to the Japanese, and that the possibility of P'u-yi's returning to power had increased. The Mukden Incident of 18 September 1931 that marked the beginning of the Japanese military occupation of Manchuria thus had a special significance for P'u-yi, and he sent emissaries to Manchuria to see Uchida Yasuda and Honjo Shigeru, commander of the Kwantung Army. On 30 September he and Lo Chen-yü met in Tientsin with a representative of Colonel Itagaki Seishiro of the Kwantung Army general staff. At the beginning of November, Doihara Kenji, the head of the Kwantung Army's secret service organization, visited P'u-yi to assure him that Japanese military action in Manchuria had been directed solely against Chang Hsueh-liang and that Japan had no territorial ambitions in Manchuria and wished to help the people of Manchuria establish an independent state. He said that Japan would sign a treaty of mutual assistance with an independent state headed by P'u-yi. When assured, in response to his question, that the new state would be monarchical in form, P'u-yi consented to assume the projected role. He did not change his mind when approached by emissaries of Chiang Kaishek who offered to revive the "Articles of Favorable Treatment" if he would promise not to live in Japan or Manchuria.

On 10 November 1931, during disorders in Tientsin which had been organized by Doihara to justify the imposition of martial law, P'u-yi, accompanied by Cheng Hsiao-hsü, secretly left Tientsin, boarded a Japanese ship, and went to southern Manchuria. The party took up residence in the house of the son of Prince Su at Port Arthur. In a later interview with the British editor and writer H. G. W. Woodhead, P'u-yi condemned the National Government for violating every provision of the abdication agreement and confirmed that he had gone to Manchuria of his own free will. Plans for restoration of the monarchy, however, were far from being as advanced as Doihara had indicated. It was being proposed that P'u-yi should become head of a republic comprising Manchuria and Mongolia. Lo Chen-yü strongly urged insistence on the promised monarchy; Cheng Hsiao-hsü, on the other hand, adjusted more readily to the idea of a republic.

On 18 February 1932 the "Administrative Committee for the Northeast," headed by Chang Ching-hui, declared Manchuria independent and resolved on the establishment of a republic. P'u-yi later stated that although Cheng Hsiao-hsu agreed with the Japanese that the new state should be a republic, he had refused agreement until Colonel Itagaki Seishiro said menacingly that the Kwantung Army would view rejection of its plan as "evidence of a hostile attitude" and promised that an imperial system would be introduced within a year if the plan were accepted. P'u-yi accepted, and Itagaki gave a banquet that evening for the future chief executive of Manchuria.

The state of Manchoukuo was formally established on 1 March 1932. On 5 March P'u-yi accepted the repeated invitation of a delegation of prominent Manchurians to head the new state. P'u-yi went to the capital, Hsinking (Ch'angch'un), on 7 March, and he was formally installed as chief executive on 9 March, with Cheng Hsiao-hsu as premier. The National Government at Nanking declared that, because he had "allowed himself to be employed as a puppet," P'u-yi was liable to punishment for high treason. On 15 September, Cheng Hsiao-hsu and General Muto Nobuyoshi, who was governor general of the Kwantung Leased Territory, commander of the Kwantung Army, and Japanese ambassador to Manchoukuo, signed a protocol of recognition and a treaty of mutual assistance. However, it soon became apparent that the government of Manchoukuo was constituted to give Japan the deciding voice in the affairs of the region.

In May 1932 P'u-yi was interviewed by the Lytton Commission, which had been created by the League of Nations to investigate the circumstances surrounding the creation of Manchoukuo. P'u-yi informed the investigators that he had come into power with the support of the Manchurian people and that his state was independent.

Manchoukuo had two reign periods: Tat'ung, during the time that P'u-yi was chief executive; and K'ang-te, which began in March 1934 when P'u-yi was installed as emperor. On 1 March, Manchoukuo became the constitutional monarchy Man-chou ti-kuo [the Manchu imperial state], and P'u-yi, then 28, was enthroned. He was not a ruler, but a figurehead, and his official role was ceremonial rather than administrative. P'u-yi's personal life was equally unsatisfying, for Wan-jung, his empress, had become addicted to opium. She was kept in seclusion, appearing for ceremonial occasions only.

In 1935 P'u-yi decided to make a state visit to Japan. Prince Chichibu had attended his enthronement as emperor in 1934, and he wished to return the courtesy. He sailed on the Japanese battleship Hiei and on 6 April disembarked at Yokohama, where he was met by Prince Chichibu. His visit was described by a Japanese chronicler as "a personal expression of gratitude by His Majesty to the Japanese nation for the great and constant assistance extended to Manchoukuo since that state's creation." Similar sentiments were expressed by P'u-yi himself on the occasion of his reception by the Emperor Hirohito. He was the first foreign ruler ever to be received by the Mikado.

P'u-yi returned to Hsinking on 2 May 1935. Soon afterwards, Minami Jiro, then the Kwantung army commander, suggested that Cheng Hsiao-hsu be replaced as premier. Cheng asserted that Manchoukuo should be permitted a degree of independence from Japanese guidance. P'u-yi acceded to the proposal, and Minami informed him that the Kwantung Army had already chosen a man for the post, Chang Ching-hui. Cheng Hsiao-hsu resigned on 21 May, and Chang succeeded him.

On 3 April 1937, P'u-yi's brother P'u-chieh married Hiro, the daughter of Prince Saga and a second cousin of the Mikado, in Tokyo. Within a month, upon the recommendation of the Kwantung Army, a law of succession had been passed, providing that in the event of the death of the emperor, his son would succeed him; if there was no son, the grandson would be the successor. If the emperor had neither sons nor grandsons, his next younger brother (this violated the Confucian rule of succession) would inherit the throne. The son of the younger brother was next in the line of succession. P'u-yi thought the law a plot to replace him, and after P'u-chieh's return to Hsinking he refused to eat any food Hiro brought into his household or to talk freely with his younger brother. He began to develop an aversion to Yoshioka Yasunao, the Japanese aide assigned to him. In 1937 P'u-yi took as secondary consort a Manchu girl, Tatala (T'an Yü-lin), but no issue resulted from this union. She died in 1942.

In accordance with established Japanese strategy, Manchoukuo in 1939 adhered to the Anti-Comintern Pact. P'u-yi made an eight-day visit to Japan in May 1940. Generally speaking, he had nothing to do. He was not permitted to seek out his ministers for discussion, and was unable even to inquire about governmental affairs, to say nothing of contributing to "allied" policy. Japan's affairs were becoming too critical to be referred to or discussed with the puppet "emperor." But the fate of Japan would determine the fate of P'u-yi. The outbreak of the War in the Pacific in December 1941 increased the importance of Manchoukuo in the Japanese scheme of things. However, P'u-yi's account of the 1942-44 period relates only to the trivia with which his days were filled. Then, on the morning of 9 August 1945, he was informed that the Soviet Union had declared war on Japan. On the evening of 1 1 August, accompanied by his family, P'u-yi left Hsinking and went to Tunghua, which was to have served as a "temporary capital." When he learned of Japan's surrender, P'u-yi issued an imperial rescript renouncing the Manchoukuo throne.

Yoshioka informed P'u-yi on 16 August that they would leave for Japan the following day. P'u-yi selected a few people to accompany him on the small plane provided to take them to Korea (where they were to board a larger plane) : P'u-chieh, his two sisters and their husbands, three nephews, a personal physician, and the servant Big Li. P'u-yi's empress and P'u-chieh's wife Hiro were left behind. Wanjung died miserably at Tumen, in June 1946; Hiro, who had been imprisoned with Wan-jung, lived to write her memoirs.

Because of the adverse weather conditions prevailing in Korea, the small plane carrying P'u-yi was forced to land in Mukden. On 18 August, while P'u-yi and his party were waiting at the airfield, a Soviet plane landed. Shock troops emerged and disarmed the local Japanese guards. P'u-yi and his company were put under arrest. The next day, the whole group was sent by plane to Chita, in the Soviet Union. One of P'u-yi's first acts on the way to Chita was to inform the responsible Soviet officer that he much disliked his longtime aide Yoshioka and wished to be relieved of the latter's company. His wish was granted. From Chita, P'u-yi was taken to Khabarovsk and was imprisoned for five years. The tedium was relieved by his appearance, in August 1946, as a prosecution witness at the war crimes trial in Tokyo. He testified eight times, saying that he had been forced to do everything he had done with reference to Manchoukuo. He placed the blame for his becoming emperor and for Manchoukuo's collaboration with Japan on the shoulders of Itagaki and the other Japanese who had been his advisers, aides and co-workers. On 1 August 1950 P'u-yi and other "war criminals" were handed over by the Soviet authorities to representatives of the new Central People's Government at Peking. They were taken to Fushun, near Mukden, and imprisoned. After P'u-yi and the others had been at Fushun for two months, they were removed to Harbin to a prison built during Manchoukuo times for the incarceration of opposition elements. P'u-yi remained there for two years, undergoing the exhausting and exhaustive Chinese Communist process called hsueh-hsi or learning and practice. He was told that he must reform and that he should write out the story of his misdeeds and his reformation. P'u-yi duly composed the first draft of his autobiography, in which he claimed that he had been "forced" by Reginald Johnston to take refuge in the Japanese Legation at Peking in 1924, and that he had been "kidnapped" by the Japanese to become emperor of Manchoukuo. The Chinese Communists, however, did not follow the practice of accepting a man's first telling of his political sins as the full truth, and P'u-yi was told to continue his reform efforts.

A while later, in July 1956, P'u-yi testified at the trial in Mukden of Japanese who had served in important posts in the Manchoukuo regime. Before the trial began, as a part of their "confessions," the Chinese prisoners and P'u-yi set forth details of the Japanese "oppression." At the trial, P'u-yi testified in detail and confirmed what had been obvious years before: that he had lacked power in Manchoukuo and that it had been administered by the Japanese director of the general affairs board and the Kwantung Army.

P'u-yi later said that his "transformation," after which he began to tell the truth as a good Maoist, began on 1 January 1955. By 1956 both his own destiny and that of the Manchu race had been fixed in accord with Maoist precepts. After his exemplary performance at Mukden, P'u-yi began to receive foreign visitors and mail. In August 1956 he was interviewed at the Fushun prison by David Chipp of the Reuters news service, who described him as being "a forlorn looking figure in his drab black jacket, with his name sown over the pocket, and his matching trousers." Mao Tse-tung issued an order on 24 September 1959 granting amnesty to P'u-yi and a number of other "war criminals" and "counterrevolutionaries." By order of the Supreme People's Court on 4 December 1959, P'u-yi was released from prison after five years' internment in the Soviet Union and nine years' imprisonment in "his" Manchuria. P'u-yi arrived at Peking, which he had left 35 years before, on 9 December 1959. His father, Prince Ch'un, had died at Peking in 1951, but an uncle, Tsai-t'ao, was still alive, Tsai-t'ao held various posts in the new regime, including membership on the Nationalities Affairs Commission of the State Council. P'uchieh went to Peking after being released from prison in November 1960. He was rejoined there by Hiro; they took up residence in a commodious establishment once owned by Prince Ch'un.

A report of April 1960 stated that P'u-yi was working in the mechanical repair shop of a botanical garden. The chairman of the Supreme People's Court, who issued the report, quoted him as saying: "The P'u-yi who was once Emperor is now dead. The present one is the P'u-yi of the new life given to me by the Communist party." On 1 May 1962 P'u-yi married a 40-year-old woman named Li from Hangchow, who was a trained nurse. In March 1963 he received an appointment to the National Political Library and Historical Materials Research Committee. P'u-yi died of cancer on 17 October 1967, at the age of 61.

An edited and expanded version of P'u-yi's memoirs was published in Peking in 1964 as Wo-ti ch'ien-pan-sheng [the first half of my life]. In 1964-65 a two-volume translation by W. J. F. Jenner, From Emperor to Citizen: The Autobiography of Aisin-Gioro Pu Yi, was published by the Foreign Languages Press in Peking.

Biography in Chinese

字:浩然 年号:宣统 西名:亨利•溥仪 满姓:爱新觉罗

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