Prince Chun gave up being regent on December 6, 1911 and passed the position to Empress Dowager Longyu who was left to deal with the disaster. It was she, on behalf of the Hsuan-tung Emperor, signed the “Act of Abdication of the Emperor of the Great Qing” on February 12, 1912. The agreement which brought about this abdication, an unprecedented event in world history, was extremely interesting. For one thing, it stated that the Emperor was bowing to the Mandate of Heaven as expressed through the will of the people; which had certainly never been done before in the history the succession of Chinese dynasties. Likewise, in return for the peaceful surrender of the monarchy, the newly born Republic of China agrees to the Articles of Favorable Treatment which guaranteed the title of the Manchu Emperor, the protection of the imperial tombs and monuments, imperial ownership of the imperial palaces within the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace, the treatment of the emperor with the respect of a foreign head of state and the payment of four million dollars a year to the imperial court. It was a remarkable agreement in the history of fallen monarchies especially in that, even though China had embraced republicanism, a certain mystique still surrounded the child emperor and even the republic would not deny that the emperor was an emperor and thus worthy of a certain respect. Unfortunately, the republic did not ultimately live up to this agreement, especially in terms of the payments which were stopped fairly quickly, but neither did the imperial court which never accepted the republic as permanent and continued to hope for a restoration.
During this period PuYi led a rather uneventful life. There were occasional ceremonies for him to participate in, dignitaries to be received and of course his education at the hands of the mandarins, particularly his tutor Chen PaoShen who was to be one of his closest advisors throughout much of his life. It is interesting to note how many of the republican officials treated the Emperor. China, especially during this period, was a place where everyone tried to keep all bases covered as to whom might one day be in a position to benefit them. When republican officials would come to the Forbidden City on some errand they would often enter in western clothes, deliver their speech on behalf of the republic in a dignified manner and then leave again, don traditional robes, come back in and bow down to address the Emperor as a private individual. There was a constant dance between the imperial court, the republican government and the military warlords who held most of the actual cards, each one paying lip service to the other for momentary support and looking for a chance to gain political power with the little emperor caught in the middle.
|General Chang Hsun|
This situation seemed to reach a pivotal moment for the Qing in 1917 when a monarchist warlord, General Chang Hsun, marched on Peking. His troops were known as the Pigtail Army because they retained the Manchu queue hairstyle as a symbol of their continued loyalty to the Qing. The General offered to restore the young monarch and with the assurance that the republican government was supportive, and that the President would step down, the court agreed and announced the official return of Emperor Hsuan-tung to nominal power on July 1. For a brief time dragon flags appeared on the streets and imperial-era robes were being worn again. There was even a rush on costume shops to obtain horse hair queues to give the appearance of having been ever loyal. Yet, not everyone was convinced, and vendors were selling imperial pronouncements with the advertisements that they would soon be antiques. True enough, the President of the republic did not go along with the restoration and soon Peking was besieged by republican forces under General Duan Qirui. There was even a brief air raid when a republican plane dropped a bomb in the Forbidden City which did little damage but caused considerable fright simply because of the novelty of it. By July 12, 1917 the Pigtail Army had been dispersed and Chang Hsun was forced to flee to the Dutch legation. Another abdication announcement was hastily issued on behalf of the young Emperor and once again China reverted to republicanism and warlord rule.
Inside the Forbidden City life went on under the usual routine for PuYi. In the hope of gaining foreign aid and to give the Emperor a more western education a British official named Reginald F. Johnston was employed as tutor to the Emperor. He befriended his pupil and would remain a defender of the last Emperor for the rest of his life, even after certain political problems arose during the 1930’s between Britain and some other friends of the last Emperor. It was with Johnston that PuYi chose a name for himself from a list of British monarchs, picking Henry in reference to Henry VIII and so became known by many in the English-speaking world as Emperor Henry of China. In 1922 it was decided that, as he was 16 years old, it was high time for the Emperor to marry. He was given a number of candidates to choose from, but his first choice, the Princess Wen Xiu, was deemed too ugly by the courtiers and so Princess Wan Jung was chosen for the job of wife and Empress with Wen Xiu coming along as concubine.