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Emperor Puyi

Updated: Apr 12


Aisin-Gioro Puyi (Chinese: 溥儀; February 7, 1906 – October 17, 1967), courtesy name Yaozhi (曜之), was the last emperor of China as the eleventh and final Qing dynasty monarch. He became emperor at the age of two in 1908, but was forced to abdicate on February 12, 1912 during the Xinhai Revolution. His era name as Qing emperor, Xuantong (Hsuan-tung, 宣統), means "proclamation of unity". He was later installed as the Emperor Kangde (康德) of the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo during World War II.


He was briefly restored to the throne as Qing emperor by the loyalist General Zhang Xun from July 1 to July 12, 1917. He was first wed to Empress Wanrong in 1922 in an arranged marriage. In 1924, he was expelled from the palace and found refuge in Tianjin, where he began to court both the warlords fighting for hegemony over China and the Japanese who had long desired control of China. In 1932, after the Japanese invasion of Manchuria, the puppet state of Manchukuo was established by Japan, and he was chosen to become the chief executive of the new state using the era name of "Datong" (Ta-tung).


In 1934, he was declared emperor of Manchukuo with the era name "Kangde" (Kang-te) and reigned over his new empire until the end of the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1945. This third stint as emperor saw him as a puppet of Japan; he signed most edicts the Japanese gave him. During this period, he largely resided in the Salt Tax Palace, where he regularly ordered his servants beaten. His first wife's opium addiction consumed her during these years, and they were generally distant. With the fall of Japan (and thus Manchukuo) in 1945, Puyi fled the capital and was eventually captured by the Soviets; he was extradited to the People's Republic of China after it was established in 1949. After his capture, he never saw his first wife again; she died of starvation in a Chinese prison in 1946.


Puyi was a defendant at the Tokyo Trials and was later imprisoned and reeducated as a war criminal for 10 years. After his release, he wrote his memoirs (with the help of a ghost writer) and became a titular member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and the National People's Congress of the People's Republic of China. His time in prison greatly changed him, and he expressed deep regret for his actions while he was an emperor. He died in 1967 and was ultimately buried near the Western Qing tombs in a commercial cemetery.


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