Hsian Tung-China's Last Emperor.
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Hsian Tung-China's Last Emperor.

The boy emperor or the last emperor, Hsian Tung led a life of luxury into exile and then that of a prisoner. This account of his life tells of the struggles for the final leader of the Manchu dynasty.

In February 1912, Hsian Tung, known as the boy emperor was forced to abdicate his position as the Chinese Emperor after a revolution led by the republican Sun Yat-sen. The provisional government that was then set up brought about an end to the Manchu dynasty after they had ruled the country for 267 years. As well as an end to this dynasty it was also the end of imperial rule within China, a system that had been in place for over 2,000 years.

The boy emperor was just two years old when he was installed into that position following the death of his uncle in 1908. As a screaming baby he was removed from his family and placed inside his new home the Forbidden City. The two year old only had one familiar face, his nanny. His elevation to emperor meant he was not permitted to see any members of his family for several years.

He was permitted to remain inside a part of the Forbidden City following the revolution and he adopted the name of Pu Yi. His upbringing within the royal palace in Beijing, at that time known as Peking, was far from any that could be considered to be normal. Adults would throw themselves onto the floor in a prone position whenever he passed, none of them daring to look him in the eye. His tutoring was conducted by a Scotsman, he adopted the western name of Henry although this was only ever used by European or western visitors, never by the Chinese.

His life of luxury was changed in 1924 when he was forced into exile. He lived in the Chinese city of Tianjin which at that time was under Japanese occupation. In 1932 the puppet state of Manchukuo was created by the Japanese and they wanted the former emperor to rule this land under their control. His enthronement was conducted amidst disagreements, his controllers wanting him to wear a uniform of their design. He had wanted to wear traditional Manchu robes. In the end he was clothed in western style clothing.

He remained in control under the Japanese of the state until it was captured by the Soviets in 1945. The Soviets kept him prisoner and the following year he testified against his former controllers at the Tokyo War Crimes tribunal. He further claimed he was nothing more than an unwilling political tool of the Japanese. In 1950 the Soviets returned him to China. By this time the Chinese communists were in control of the country and they imprisoned him until 1959, he was at that time considered to have been reformed.

He was allowed to return to Beijing and was reunited with his sister, living in her house until being moved into a government sponsored hotel. He lived the remainder of his life as an ordinary citizen, far removed from his early days inside the Forbidden City. In 1962 he married, his only marriage he felt out of love. He had been married in his early life but he considered these to have been only for the convenience of these ladies wishing to be known as the empress.

He died in 1967 of cancer of the kidney and heart problems. Before his death he wrote ‘The First Half of my Life’ his autobiography, later translated into English as ‘Emperor to Citizen.’ In one chapter entitled ‘I refuse to admit my guilt’ he laid further blame on his Japanese handlers claiming they kidnapped him and any crimes he committed were done in order to survive. In 1966 he was placed under house arrest for his own protection after threats were made by those against the symbol of imperialist China. He remained living under virtual house arrest until his death in October 1967.


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Comments (12)

Very cool piece of history.

Really enjoyed reading this! Voted up.

You have done an excellent job in researching and presenting this information.Thank you. Promoted

The Sons of Heaven or the Manchu's were eventually destined to an awful end... great write up. Enjoyed the read!

Returning to award you with a well deserved vote up.

Good job done here...

Excellent job and interesting article. Greatly increased my knowledge of China's history. Well done.

I learned a lot from this article. Thanks for this informative article. Voted you up.

the tragic story of a last emperor, so sad!

Returning to again read your valuable information.

Good article.

An interesting read, sounds like he had a sad life though with no real family connections.