Pu Yi

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Official portrait of the Xuantong Emperor

Aisin-Gioro Pu Yi (Chinese: 愛新覺羅溥儀, born in Beijing, China on February, 7 1906), officially referred as the Xuantong Emperor (宣統皇帝) and also known as Heinrich Pu Yi in Occident is the twelfth and current Chinese Emperor from the Qing dynasty, first from December, 2 1908 to November, 5 1924 (ending his effective ruling on February, 12 1912) and restored since February, 2 1927. Eldest son of Zaifeng, Prince Chun and Youlan, Princess Chun, he succeeded his uncle the Guangxu Emperor.

Biography[edit]

Early life and first reign[edit]

Chosen by Empress Dowager Cixi while on her deathbed, Pu Yi ascended the throne at only thirty-four months in December 1908, following his uncle's death on November 14. Pu Yi was then picked up by Cixi's eunuchs to the Forbidden City, where his wet-nurse, Wen-Chao Bang, accompanied him. Puyi's upbringing was hardly conducive to the raising of a healthy, well-balanced child. Overnight, he was treated as a god and unable to behave as a child. Soon the young Puyi discovered the absolute power he wielded over the eunuchs, and frequently had them beaten for small transgressions. Pu Yi's father served as a regent until December 6, 1911 when Empress Dowager Longyu, who took over in the face of the 1911 Revolution. She signed the Act of Abdication of the Emperor of the Great Qing on February 12, 1912, under a deal brokered by Yuan Shikai and the republicans in southern China.

Non-ruling Emperor[edit]


Pu Yi at the time of his wedding, in 1922

By the Articles of Favourable Treatment of the Emperor of the Great Qing after his Abdication signed with the new Republic of China, Pu Yi 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 the Private Apartments of the Forbidden City as well as in the Summer Palace. A hefty annual subsidy of 4 million silver dollars was granted by the Republic to the imperial household, although it was never fully paid and was abolished after just a few years. In 1917, the warlord general Zhang Xun restored Pu Yi to his throne for twelve days from July 1 to July 12. The male residents of Beijing hastily bought some false queues to avoid punishment for cutting off their queues in 1912. During those 12 days, one small bomb was dropped over the Forbidden City by a Republican plane, causing minor damage. The restoration failed due to extensive opposition across China, and the decisive intervention of^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. Pu Yi was expelled from the Forbidden City in Beijing in 1924 by warlord Feng Yuxiang.

Exile and restoration[edit]

Following his expulsion from the Forbidden City, Puyi resided in the Quiet Garden Villa in the Japanese Concession in Tianjin. He vowed to spend his life as a monarch in exile, even converting to the European style of life. In 1925, when monarchist Xu Shichang rose to the Kuomintang's leadership, he was visited by a delegation of Chinese officials, and in 1926, during the German intervention, his villa was protected by elements of the German military police. He was officially approached by German Field Marshal Hans von Seeckt and Xu Shichang on behalf of both the German Empire and the to-be-restored Chinese Empire in order to accept again the throne: the Japanese themselves relunctantly accepted, as they considered to put Pu Yi as President of Manchuria. His father had previously served as ambassador to Berlin, and had already strong links with Germany. Despite some disputes with the Germans, such as about abandoning the yellow robes for an European-style uniform, Pu Yi agreed to return to the Forbidden City. The Xuantong era was proclaimed again on February, 2 1927. His rumored infertility and weakness, as his status of German stooge, were among the reasons which enhanced revolts throughout China: but some advisors within the Forbidden City affirmed that the Emperor was known aware of his nearly absolute power, and that he will take great measures to reaffirm the Mandate he has received from Heaven.

Family[edit]

Ancestry[edit]

Pu Yi's great-grandfather was the Daoguang Emperor (ruling from 1820 to 1850), whose seventh son, the First Prince Chun (1840-1891) was the father of Pu Yi's predecessor, the Guangxu Emperor (ruling from 1875 to 1908), as Daoguang's imperial grandson had died without a child. Pu Yi's father, Zaifeng, the 2nd Prince Chun (born 1883), was half-brother to the Guangxu Emperor, being the child of the First Prince Chun and his second concubine. Pu Yi's mother, Youlan (1881-1924), was daughter to the Manchu General Ronglu.

Marriage and siblings[edit]


The Xuantong Emperor and the Xiao Ke Min Empress

In 1922, at the age of 16, when he was becoming major, Pu Yi married two women. His first choice for wife was Wen Xiu (born December 20, 1909), whom court officials deemed not beautiful enough to be an Empress: Wen Xiu was then designated as a concubine, as the Imperial Consort Shu. Some rumours spoke of a narrowly avoided divorce. Pu Yi's second choice, a Manchu princess named Gobulo Wan Rong (born on November, 13 1906, also known under the European name of Elizabeth), became the Xiao Ke Min Empress. Their marriage is still infertile, and it has been rumours of the Empress living a separate life from her husband.

Brothers[edit]

Pu Yi's brother, Pujie (born on April, 16 1907) has been raised with him in the Forbidden City and has a few military duties within the Chinese Army: he is sometimes said to be the heir apparent to his older brother, even if the Chinese succession laws affirm that a childless Emperor must absolutely choose himself his successor. Also still a bachelor, some even affirmed that he would marry a German or a Japanese noblewoman. He has a half-brother, Pu Ren (born on August 17, 1918).

Titles[edit]

Due to the traditionnal Chinese taboo of using his private given name to mention the Emperor, Pu Yi is also called as such in foreign countries, or by his Chinese political opponents. He is known under his era name, Xuantong. When his English language teacher, Scotsman Reginald Johnston, presented him a list of names of British monarchs when he was residing in Tianjin concession, in order to give him an European name, Pu Yi chose the name of Henry, in reference to Henry VIII of England: as such, German diplomats sometimes mention him as Heinrich Pu Yi. He is also referred as His Imperial Highness The Emperor of Great Qing, or as the Son of Heaven. The Emperor is also a honorary Generalfeldmarschall of the German Army.