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Puyi on the Imperial Throne
Puyi, the Xuantong Emperor of China
Clan name: Àixīn-Juéluó (愛新覺羅)
Given name: Pǔyí (溥儀)
(No Manchu name was given to him)
Emperor of China
Dates of reign: December 2, 1908–November 5, 1924¹
Era name: Xuāntǒng (宣統) (Hsuan-tung)
Gehungge Yoso
Era dates January 22, 1909–February 12, 1912
Chief Executive (執政) of Manchukuo
Term of office: March 9, 1932–February 28, 1934
Era name: Dàtóng (大同)
(Manchu name to be added)
Emperor (皇帝) of Manchukuo
Dates of reign: March 1, 1934–August 15, 1945
Era name: Kāngdé (康德)
(Manchu name to be added)
Temple name: None as yet².
Posthumous name: Xùndì³ (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, except a brief restoration in July 1-12, 1917.
2. In 2004 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 has not been approved by the direct line of the imperial family.
3. Xundi ("The Abdicated Emperor") is the posthumous name given by mainland China and Taiwan's history books to Puyi.

Pǔyí (Traditional Chinese: 溥儀; Simplified Chinese: 溥仪) (February 7, 1906–October 17, 1967) of the Manchu Aisin-Gioro[1] (愛新覺羅) ruling family was the last Emperor of China between 1908 and 1924 (ruling emperor between 1908 and 1911, and non-ruling emperor between 1911 and 1924), the twelfth emperor of the Qing Dynasty (清朝) to rule over China. Following the death of his uncle, the Guangxu (Kuang-hsü) emperor, Pǔyí ascended the throne at the age of only two years ten months, with his father acting as regent. After the Republican Xinhai Revolution of 1911, he was forced to abdicate on February 12, 1912, ending the 267-year Manchu rule of China and the 2,000-year-old Imperial system. In 1924, he was expelled from the Forbidden City in Beijing, and secretly left Peking to reside in the Japanese concession at Tientsin.

On March 1, 1932, Puyi was installed by the Japanese as the ruler of Manchukuo, considered by most historians as a puppet state of Imperial Japan, and in 1934, he was officially crowned the emperor of Manchukuo under the reign title Kangde (康德). At the end of World War II, Puyi was captured by the Soviet Red Army (1945), and testified at the Tokyo war crimes trial in 1946. Stalin repatriated the former emperor to China in 1950, and he spent ten years in a re-education camp until he was declared “reformed” by Mao Zedong. He then lived in Beijing, and worked at the Beijing Botanical Gardens, before becoming a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, an office he held from 1964 until his death in 1967, under the Chinese name Aixinjueluo Puyi. His abdication being a symbol of the end of a long era in China, Xuantong is widely known as the Last Emperor (末代皇帝).


In English, he is known more simply as Puyi (Pu-i in Wade-Giles romanization), 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"¹, 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 1920 and 1932, and was never used in China.


Paternal side

Puyi's great-grandfather was the Daoguang Emperor (道光帝 the seventh emperor r.1820–1850), who was succeeded by his fourth son, who became Xianfeng Emperor (咸豊帝 the eighth Emperor r.1850–1861).

Puyi's paternal grandfather was the 1st Prince Chun (初代醇親王 1840–1891) who was himself a son of the Daoguang Emperor and a younger half-brother of Xianfeng Emperor, but not the next in line after Xianfeng (the 1st Prince Chun had older half-brothers that were closer in age to Xianfeng). Xianfeng was succeeded by his only son, who became the Tongzhi Emperor (同治帝, the ninth emperor r.1861-1875).

Tongzhi died without a son, and was succeeded by Guangxu Emperor (光緒帝, the tenth emperor r.1875–1908), the son of the 1st Prince Chun and his wife, who was the younger sister of Empress Dowager Cixi (西太后, the West Dowager Empress). Guangxu died without an heir.

Puyi, who succeeded Guangxu, was the eldest son of the 2nd Prince Chun (1883–1951), who was the son of the 1st Prince Chun and his second concubine, the Lady Lingiya (1866–1925). Lady Lingiya , whose original Chinese family name was Liu (劉), had been a maid at the mansion of the 1st Prince Chun; her name was changed into the Manchu clan's name “Lingiya” when she was made a Manchu, a requirement for becoming the concubine of a Manchu prince. The 2nd Prince Chun was, therefore, a younger half-brother of the Guangxu Emperor and the first brother in line after Guangxu.

Puyi was in a branch of the imperial family with close ties to Cixi, who was herself from the (Manchu) Yehe-Nara clan (the imperial family were the Aisin-Gioro clan). Cixi married the daughter of her brother to her nephew Guangxu, and she became, after Guangxu and Cixi's death, the Empress Dowager Longyu (隆裕皇后1868–1913).

Puyi's lesser known brother, Pu Xuezhai (溥雪齋, 1893~1966), was an important master of the guqin (古琴) musical instrument tradition and skilled in Chinese painting [2].

Maternal Side

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


Puyi's ancestors in three generations
Puyi Father:
Zaifeng, 2nd Prince Chun
Paternal Grandfather:
Yixuan, 1st Prince Chun
Paternal Great-grandfather:
Daoguang Emperor
Paternal Great-grandmother:
Paternal Grandmother:
Lady Lingiya
Paternal Great-grandfather:
Paternal Great-grandmother:
Maternal Grandfather:
Maternal Great-grandfather:
Maternal Great-grandmother:
Maternal Grandmother:
Maternal Great-grandfather:
Maternal Great-grandmother:


Emperor of China (1908–1924)

Chosen by Dowager Empress Cixi (西太后, the West Dowager Empress), while on her deathbed, Puyi ascended the throne at age 2 years 10 months in December, 1908, following the death of his uncle, the Guangxu ( Kuang-hsü ) emperor, on November 14, 1908. Puyi's introduction to emperorship began when palace officials arrived at his family home to take him. Puyi screamed and resisted as the officials ordered the eunuchs to pick him up. His wet-nurse, Wen-Chao Wang, was the only one who could console him, and therefore accompanied Puyi to the Forbidden City (紫禁城 or 故宮, the Chinese imperial palace from the mid-Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty). Puyi did not see his real mother again for six years.[3]

Overnight, Puyi was treated as a god and was no longer able to behave as a child. The adults in his life, except for his wet-nurse Mrs. Wang, were all strangers; remote, distant, and unable to discipline him. Wherever he went, grown men would kneel to the floor in a ritual kow-tow, averting their eyes until he passed. Soon the young Puyi discovered the absolute power he wielded over the eunuchs, and frequently had them beaten for small transgressions.[4]

His father, the 2nd Prince Chun, served as a regent until December 6, 1911 when Empress Dowager Longyu ( 隆裕皇后) took over in the face of the Xinhai Revolution(辛亥革命).

On February 12, 1912, after to the Republican Xinhai Revolution of 1911, he was forced to abdicate, ending the 267-year Manchu rule of China and the 2,000-year-old Imperial system. Empress Dowager Longyu signed the "Act of Abdication of the Emperor of the Great Qing" (《清帝退位詔書》), under a deal brokered by Yuan Shikai (袁世凱, the great general of the army Beiyang) with the imperial court in Beijing and the republicans in southern China. By the "Articles of Favorable 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 four 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.

Brief Restoration (1917)

In 1917, the warlord general Zhang Xun (張勛) restored Puyi to his throne for the 12 days from July 1 to July 12. The male residents of Beijing hastily bought false queues (long plaits or "pigtails") 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. This is considered the first aerial bombardment ever in Eastern Asia. The restoration failed due to extensive opposition across China, and the decisive intervention of another warlord general, Duan Qirui (段祺瑞). 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.

Puyi was expelled from the Forbidden City in Beijing in 1924 by warlord Feng Yuxiang ( 馮玉祥), and secretly left Peking to reside in the Japanese concession at Tientsin.

Ruler of Manchukuo (1932–1945)

On March 1, 1932, Puyi was installed by the Japanese as the ruler of Manchukuo, considered by most historians as a puppet state of Imperial Japan, 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 public. He resented being "Head of State" and then "Emperor of Manchukuo" rather than being fully restored as Qing Emperor. As part of the Japanese colonialism in Manchukuo, Puyi lived in the Wei Huang Gong( 伪皇宫), also known as Puppet Emperor's Palace, created by the Japanese Army as part of the Japanese colonialism in Manchukuo. At his enthronement he clashed with Japan over dress; the Japanese wanted him to wear a Manchukuoan uniform, whereas he considered it an insult to wear anything but traditional Qing Dynasty 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. His brother Pujie( 愛新覺羅溥傑), who married Hiro Saga (嵯峨浩), a distant cousin to the Japanese Emperor Hirohito, was proclaimed heir apparent.

During Puyi's reign as Emperor of Manchukuo, his household was closely watched by the Japanese, who increasingly took steps toward the full Japanization of Manchuria, just as they had done in Korea and elsewhere. When Puyi went on a state visit to Tokyo, he was embarrassingly flattering to the Japanese imperial family. At a review, he even thanked Emperor Hirohito for "allowing" clear skies and sunshine for the event. During these empty years, he began taking a greater interest in Buddhism. However, Japan soon forced him to make Shinto the national religion of Manchukuo. Slowly, his old supporters were eliminated and pro-Japanese ministers put in their place. During this period, his life consisted mostly of signing laws prepared by Japan, reciting prayers, consulting oracles, and making formal visits throughout his kingdom.

Later life (1945–1967)

At the end of World War II, Puyi was captured by the Soviet Red Army (1945). He testified at the Tokyo war crimes trial 1946, where he spoke with scathing resentment of how he had been treated by the Japanese, and declared that he had been the unwilling tool of the Japanese militarists and not, as they claimed, the instrument of Manchurian self-determination. When Chinese Communists under Mao Zedong came to power in 1949, Puyi wrote letters to Joseph Stalin requesting not to be sent back to China. He also described his new attitude towards life, changed by the works of Karl Marx and Lenin, which he had read while in prison. However, Stalin wishing to improve relations with his "political friend Mao," repatriated the former emperor to China in 1950. Puyi spent ten years in a re-education camp in Fushun, in Liaoning province, until he was declared “reformed.” Puyi came to Beijing in 1959, with special permission from Mao Zedong, and lived for six months in an ordinary Beijing residence with his sister, before being transferred to a government-sponsored hotel. He voiced his support for the Communists and worked at the Beijing Botanical Gardens. On April 30, 1962, he married Li Shuxian (李淑賢), a nurse, in a ceremony held at the Banquet Hall of the Consultative Conference. He subsequently worked as an editor for the literary department of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, where his salary was around 100 Yuan[5] before becoming a member of the Conference, an office he held from 1964 until his death.

With encouragement from Mao and then-Premier Zhou Enlai, and openly endorsed by the Government, Puyi wrote his autobiography (我的前半生) The former half of my life,) translated in English as From Emperor to Citizen in the 1960s alongside Li Wenda, an editor of Beijing's People Publishing Bureau.

When Mao initiated the Cultural Revolution in 1966, the youth militia known as the Red Guards saw Puyi, who symbolized Imperial China, as an easy target. The local public security bureau, however, put Puyi in protective custody, but he no longer had access to his food rations, salary, and various luxuries, including his sofa and desk. Puyi became affected physically and emotionally. He died in Beijing of complications arising from kidney cancer and heart disease in 1967 during the Cultural Revolution. Hours before his death, medical staff had to link arms to block Red Guards from entering his hospital ward.


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 buried. Puyi's ashes were first placed at the Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery, alongside those of other party and state dignitaries. Ironically, before the establishment of the People's Republic of China this had been the burial ground of Imperial concubines and eunuchs.

In 1995, Puyi's widow transferred his ashes to a new commercial cemetery in return for monetary support. The cemetery is located near the Western Qing Tombs (清西陵), 120 km (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.


Emperor Puyi and Empress Wan Rong in Tianjin

Puyi had several brothers, two of whom are important in the history of China and the Qing Dynasty:

  • Pujie (1907–1994) had a minor role in the government of Manchukuo.
  • Puren (who later took the name Jin Youzhi), a younger half-brother, was born after the imperial family had lost power.

Two wives

  • Gobulo Wan Rong, the Empress (婉容) (1906–1946). Married in 1922
  • Li Shuxian (李淑賢) (1925–1997). Married in 1962

Three concubines

  1. Wen Xiu, the Imperial Shu Concubine (淑妃) (1907–1950/1951). Married in 1922, divorced in 1931
  2. Tan Yuling, the Xiang Concubine (谭玉龄)(1922–1944). Married in 1939
  3. Li Yuqin, the Fu Concubine (李玉琴) (1928–2001). Married in 1943, divorced in 1958

Details: In 1922, at the age of 16, Puyi married two women. His first choice as a wife was Wen Xiu (1907–1950/1951), whom court officials deemed not beautiful enough to be an Empress; Wen Xiu was designated a concubine, and eventually divorced him in 1931. Puyi's second choice, a Manchu named Wan Rong (婉容皇后, Radiant Countenance, 1906–1946), became the Empress; she later became addicted to opium, and died in a Chinese prison.

His third wife was a Manchu, Tan Yuling, whom he married around 1939. Although only a teenager at the time of marriage, she died mysteriously six years later while being treated for an illness by a Japanese-occupation doctor.

In 1943, Puyi married his fourth wife, a 15-year-old student named Li Yuqin (1928?–2001), a Han. She divorced him in 1958. She was diagnosed with cirrhosis in 1995 and died six years later at the age of 73.

In 1962, he married his fifth and last wife, a Han nurse, Li Shuxian (1925–1997), who died of lung cancer in 1997.

The Emperor had no children.


Bernardo Bertolucci's 1987 film The Last Emperor is a biographical film of Puyi.


  • Aisin-Gioro Pu Yi's autobiography My First Half Life (我的前半生), ghost-written by Li Wenda, is well known as From Emperor to Citizen in the Western world. It was re-released in China in 2007 as a newly revised version that includes many sentences which were deleted in the former 1964 version. In the book, Puyi admits that he committed perjury in the [[International Military Tribunal for the Far East
  • Edward Behr's biography of Puyi The Last Emperor, was written in 1987 as a companion to Bernardo Bertolucci's film of the same name.
  • Reginald Fleming Johnston, Puyi's Scottish tutor from 1919 to 1924, published "Twilight in the Forbidden City" in 1934.


  1. Aisin-Gioro is the clan's name in Manchu, pronounced Àixīn Juéluó in Mandarin; Pǔyí is the Chinese given name as pronounced in Mandarin
  2. 溥雪斋(1893~1966):古琴演奏家. 出生在清代皇族家庭. Retrieved September 20, 2007.
  3. Edward Behr, The Last Emperor. (Toronto: Bantam Books, 1987), 63
  4. Ibid., 80
  5. CCTV-10 Historical Series: 公民溥仪, Episode 10, 17:34

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Behr, Edward. 1987. The Last Emperor. Toronto: Bantam Books. ISBN 0553344749
  • Johnston, Sir Reginald Fleming. Twilight in the Forbidden City. Beijing: Xiaomina Press (original 1934) 2007. ISBN 1843560208 (in English)
  • Puyi, and W. J. F. Jenner. 1987. From emperor to citizen: the autobiography of Aisin-Gioro Pu Yi. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0192820990
  • Puyi, and Simon Paul Kramer. 1987. The last Manchu: the autobiography of Henry Pu Yi, last Emperor of China. New York: Pocket Books. ISBN 0671651889

External links

All links retrieved December 6, 2022.


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