Emperor of China – The last Emperor of the Qing Dynasty
Puyi, of the Manchu Aisin Gioro clan, commonly known as Pu Yi, was the last Emperor of China and the twelfth and final ruler of the Qing dynasty. Wikipedia
Born: February 7, 1906, Prince Chun Mansion, Beijing, China
Died: October 17, 1967, Beijing, China
House: House of Aisin Gioro
Royal line: Qing dynasty
Spouse: Li Shuxian (m. 1962–1967), Li Yuqin (m. 1943–1957), MORE
Movies: The Last Emperor
The Last Emperor Puyi and his wife Wan Rong in Tianjin, China c 1922
Understanding the Last Emperor
The last Emperor of China is not a well known figure, and it is an unfortunate truth that most of the notoriety he does hold is on account of the famous Academy Award-winning film about his life. Though he lived not a very long time ago, the last Chinese Emperor remains a very enigmatic figure. The accounts of his life written by others invariably come from biased sources, people who have some agenda to push and in his case it involves the necessity of vilifying the Emperor. Yet, even reading his own accounts, it is hard to come to a very clear understanding of the man. In his youth in the Forbidden City of Peking, surrounded by traditionalist mandarins and submissive eunuchs he was a staunch Chinese imperialist. When he was head of state of Manchuria under Japanese protection he was a staunch ally of Japan and finally when he was taken by the Communists he voiced his disgust at his past life and praised the People‘s Republic. Which opinion was the sincere one? Where any of them sincerely felt? What sort of man was he or was his life spent so dominated by others that any individualism in him was stamped out? Regarding the last Chinese Emperor anyone will find that there are many more questions than answers.
The last Emperor was born Aisin-Gioro Pu-Yi on February 7, 1906 to Prince Chun II; the half brother of Emperor GuangXu, and Princess Youlan; daughter of General Ronglu. He had very little time for a normal childhood however as he was summoned to the Forbidden City by the Empress Dowager Cixi when he was not yet three years old. Empress Dowager Cixi was ruling in the place of the nominal monarch, Emperor GuangXu, whom she had suppressed in a military coup after he tried to modernize the country. Now on her deathbed, Cixi wanted to make sure that the Emperor could not retake power after her death and ensure that the system she had in place would continue. An infant monarch would allow those she trusted to hold real power and bring up the child in line with their way of thinking and so she chose PuYi to be the adopted heir of his uncle and succeed as the next emperor. She possibly had GuangXu poisoned as he died on November 14, 1908 with Cixi herself dying the following day. The following month PuYi was officially enthroned as Great Emperor of the Great Qing Dynasty, Grand Khan of Tartary, Lord of 10,000 Years and the Son of Heaven with the reigning name of Hsuan-tung. Already the victim of circumstances beyond his control this occasion marked the beginning of the end of the ancient Chinese Empire.
Because of his age, the little emperor was watched over by his adopted mother, Empress Dowager Longyu and his father who served as regent on his behalf. Opinion varies considerably on Prince Chun, encouraged by the fact that he was quite adept at being acceptable to the powers-that-be at all times. Some view him as a potential reformer, others as a hopeless reactionary. Regardless though, he had relatively little time at the helm of the Chinese Empire before the outbreak of the republican revolution in 1911. The revolt happened almost by accident and was led by the American educated Sun Yat-sen who received the aid of the notorious General Yuan Shihkai. This general had already betrayed the previous emperor, betrayed PuYi and would ultimately betray Sun Yat-sen when after being given the presidency in return for convincing the Qing Dynasty to abdicate he declared himself emperor and tried to found a new dynasty. The Qing were quickly overwhelmed, intimidated and through the persuasion of Yuan Shihkai convinced that they had to come to terms with the revolution in order to survive.