Clan name:Aixin-Jueluo (愛新覺羅)
Given name:Puyi (溥儀)
(Manchu name to be added)
Emperor of China
Dates of reign:Dec. 2, 1908–Nov. 5, 1924¹
Era name:Xuantong (宣統)(Hsuan tung)
Gehungge Yoso
Era datesJan. 22, 1909–Feb. 12, 1912
Chief Executive (執政) of Manchukuo
Term of office:Mar. 9, 1932–Feb. 28, 1934
Era name:Datong (大同)
(Manchu name to be added)
Emperor (皇帝) of Manchukuo
Dates of reign:Mar. 1, 1934–Aug. 15, 1945
Era name:Kangde (康德)
(Manchu name to be added)
Temple name:None as yet².
Posthumous name:Xundi ³ (遜帝)
(short + full)
General note: Names given in Chinese, then in Manchu below (temple and posthumous names in Chinese only).
1. Ruling emperor until February 12, 1912, non-ruling emperor between 1912-1924.
2. In 2004 the descendants of the Qing imperial family have conferred a posthumous name and temple name upon Puyi. Posthumous name: Mindi (愍帝). Temple name: Gongzong(恭宗). This is not well known by the Chinese public.
3. Xundi ("The Abdicated Emperor") is the posthumous name given by mainland China and Taiwan's history books to Puyi.

Aisin-Gioro Puyi¹ (February 7, 1906 - October 17, 1967) was the Xuantong Emperor (宣統皇帝) of China between 1908 and 1924 (ruling emperor between 1908 and 1912, and non-ruling emperor between 1912 and 1924), the tenth (and last) emperor of the Manchu Qing Dynasty to rule over China. Later between 1934 and 1945 he was the Kangde Emperor (康德皇帝) of the Japanese-controlled puppet state of Manchukuo. In the People's Republic of China he was a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference from 1964 until his death in 1967 under the Chinese name Aixinjueluo Puyi. Puyi is also widely known as the Last Emperor (末代皇帝).



In English he is also more simply known as Puyi, which is in accordance with the Manchu tradition of never using an individual's clan name and given name together, but is in complete contravention with the traditional Chinese and Manchu custom whereby the private given name of an emperor was considered taboo and ineffable. It may be that the use of the given name Puyi after the overthrow of the empire was thus a political technique, an attempt to express desecration of the old order. Indeed, after Puyi lost his imperial title in 1924 he was officially styled "Mr. Puyi" (溥儀先生) in China. His clan name Aisin-Gioro was seldom used. He is also known to have used the name "Henry", a name allegedly chosen with his English language teacher, Scotsman Reginald Johnston, in reference to King Henry VIII of England. However, the name Henry was merely used in communication with Westerners between around 1920 and 1932, and is never used in China.

Early life

Puyi was the eldest son of the 2nd Prince Chun (1883-1951), who was a younger half-brother of the Guangxu Emperor and the first brother in line after Guangxu. Puyi's paternal grandfather was the 1st Prince Chun (1840-1891) who was himself a younger half-brother of Xianfeng Emperor (咸豐皇帝), but not the next in line after Xianfeng (the 1st Prince Chun had older half-brothers that were closer in age to Xianfeng). The great-grand-father of Puyi, father of the 1st Prince Chun, was the Daoguang Emperor.

Puyi was in a branch of the imperial family with close ties to Empress Dowager Cixi, who was herself from the (Manchu) Yehe-Nara clan (the imperial family were the Aisin-Gioro clan). The wife of the 1st Prince Chun was the younger sister of Cixi. This wife was the mother of Emperor Guangxu. However, the 2nd prince Chun was not her son. He was the son of the second concubine of the 1st Prince Chun, the Lady Lingiya (1866-1925), a Han Chinese maid at the mansion of the 1st prince Chun whose original Chinese family name was Liu (劉) and was changed into the Manchu clan's name Lingyia when she was made a Manchu, which was required in order to become the concubine of a Manchu prince. Cixi married the daughter of her brother to Guangxu, who became, after Guangxu and Cixi's death, the Empress Dowager Longyu (隆裕太后) (1868-1913).

As for the 2nd Prince Chun's wife (and Puyi's mother), the 2nd Princess Chun (1884-1921), given name Youlan (幼蘭), she was the daughter of the Manchu general Ronglu (榮祿) (1836-1903) from the Guwalgiya clan, one of the leaders of the conservative faction at the court, and a staunch supporter of Cixi whom she rewarded by marrying his daughter into the imperial family.

Emperor of China

Chosen by Cixi on her deathbed, Puyi ascended to the throne at age 2 years 10 months in December 1908 following his uncle's death on November 14. His father, the 2nd Prince Chun, served as a regent until December 6, 1911 when Empress Dowager Longyu took over in the face of the Xinhai Revolution.

Empress Dowager Longyu signed the "Act of Abdication of the Emperor of the Great Qing" (《清帝退位詔書》) on February 12, 1912, following the Xinhai Revolution, under a deal brokered by Yuan Shikai with the imperial court in Beijing and the republicans in southern China: by the "Articles of Favourable Treatment of the Emperor of the Great Qing after his Abdication" (《清帝退位優待條件》) 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. He and the imperial court were allowed to remain in the northern half of the Forbidden City (the Private Apartments) as well as in the Summer Palace. A hefty annual subsidy of 4 million silver dollars was also granted by the Republic to the imperial household (never fully paid and abolished after just a few years).

Brief restoration

In 1917, the warlord general Zhang Xun (張勛) restored Puyi on his throne for twelve days from July 1 to July 12. Beijing male residents hastily bought some false queues (long plaits) to avoid punishment at the cutting of their queues in 1912. During those 12 days, one small bomb was dropped over the Forbidden City by a republican plane, causing minor damage. This is considered the first aerial bombardment ever in Eastern Asia. The restoration failed due to large opposition across China, and the decisive intervention of other warlord general Duan Qirui. In mid-July, the streets of Beijing were strewn with the thousands of false queues that had been discarded as hastily as they had been bought.

Private citizen

In the end of October 1924, the staunch republican warlord Feng Yuxiang (馮玉祥) seized Beijing with his troops and organized a coup, deposing president Cao Kun (曹錕). On November 4, 1924, Feng Yuxiang had the government revise the Articles of Favorable Treatment: the revised articles stated that Puyi was to be stripped of his imperial title and henceforth made a regular citizen of the Republic of China. The following day, November 5, Feng's troops surrounded the Private Apartments of the Forbidden City and forced Puyi to sign the revised articles. Puyi and the small imperial court were expelled from the Forbidden City that same day.

Puyi took up his abode at the Northern Residence (北府), the mansion of his father the 2nd Prince Chun, nearby the Forbidden City. In the beginning of 1925 he escaped the surveillance of Feng's soldiers and took refuge at the Japanese Legation. The Japanese organized his flight to the Japanese concession in Tianjin where he lived in two large mansions (first Zhangyuan, then later Jingyuan). He set up a "court-in-exile" there until 1932 when he became the ruler of the Japanese puppet state Manchukuo.

Ruler of Manchukuo

Missing image
"Emperor Henry Pu Yi," Time, Mar. 5, 1934

On March 1, 1932, he was installed by the Japanese as the ruler of the puppet state of Manchukuo under the reign title Datong (大同). In 1934 he was officially crowned the emperor of Manchukuo under the reign title Kangde (康德). He was constantly at odds with the Japanese in private, though gushingly submissive in person. He resented being "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 wished him to wear a Manchukuoan uniform whereas he considered it an insult to wear anything but traditional Qing robes. In a typical compromise, he wore a uniform to his enthronement and dragon robes to the announcement of his accession at the altar of heaven.

As Emperor of Manchukuo, Puyi's household was closely watched by the Japanese who began taking increasing steps in the full Japanification of Manchuria, as they had done in Korea and elsewhere. When Puyi went on a state visit to Tokyo he was embarrassingly flattering of the Japanese imperial family. At a review, he even thanked Emperor Hirohito for "allowing" clear skies and sunshine for the event. He began taking a greater interest in Buddhism during these empty years, some would call it becoming more devoutly religious, others would call it becoming more superstitious and paranoid. However, Japan soon forced him to make Shintoism the national religion of Manchukuo. Slowly, his old supporters were eliminated and pro-Japanese ministers put in their place. During this time, his life consisted mostly of signing laws prepared by Japan, reciting prayers and consulting oracles and making formal visits around his kingdom.

Later life

At the end of World War II, he was captured by Russian forces (1945) and turned over to the Chinese Communists in 1950. He spent ten years in a reeducation camp, was declared reformed, and became a supporter of the Communists. Afterwards, he was made a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, in which he served from 1964 until his death in 1967. He wrote an autobiography (我的前半生 - "The former half of my life", translated in English as From Emperor to Citizen) in the 1960s and died in Beijing of cancer during the Cultural Revolution.


His life was portrayed in Bernardo Bertolucci's renowned film The Last Emperor. Although containing some elements of dramatic license, the film is considered to be a plausible portrayal of his life.

In both his autobiography and the film, Puyi is portrayed as a largely-innocent pawn controlled by more powerful figures. Some historians are skeptical about this account; indeed, Puyi had a very strong interest in minimizing his own role in history, because any admission of active control would most likely have led to a death sentence.

At the age of 16, in 1922, he married two women. His first choice for wife was Wen Xie (1907-1950/51), who was deemed by court officials to be not beautiful enough to be an empress; designated a concubine, she eventually divorced him. His second choice, a Manchu considered highly attractive, named Wan Rong or "Beauty in Flower" (1906-1946, a.k.a Elizabeth, a.k.a. Radiant Countenance), became empress, addicted to opium, and finally died in a Chinese prison. His third wife was Tan Yuling, whom he married around 1939; teenaged at the time, she was a Manchu who died mysteriously six years later after being attended for her illness by a Japanese-occupation doctor. His fourth wife, a Han, Li Yuquin (d. 2001), whom he met when she was a student, divorced him after 15 years and died of cirrhosis of the liver. In 1962, he married for the fifth time to another Han, Li Shuxian (1925-1997), a nurse, who was to die of lung cancer. The emperor had no children. Some maintain he had homosexual tendencies.

In 1995, his widow was allowed to transfer his ashes to a commercial cemetery near the Western Qing Tombs (清西陵), 120 kilometers/75 miles southwest of Beijing, where four of the nine Qing emperors preceding him are interred, along with 3 empresses, and 69 princes, princesses, and imperial concubines. In accordance to the laws of the People's Republic of China at the time, Puyi's body was cremated, unlike the bodies of his ancestors, which were interred whole.


¹ Aisin-Gioro is the clan's name in Manchu, pronounced ixīn Julu in Mandarin; Pǔy is the Chinese given name as pronounced in Mandarin.

External links

Template:Succession box one to twoTemplate:End box
Preceded by:
none (state created)
Emperor of Manchukuo
Succeeded by:
none (state ceased to exist)

Template:End boxde:Pu Yi es:Pu Yi fr:Aixinjueluo Puyi ko:푸이 nl:Xuantong ja:愛新覚羅溥儀 pl:Pu Yi fi:Pu Yi zh:爱新觉罗溥仪


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