Biography of Great Survivor P'U-Yi Part 3

About the Chinese emperor P'U-Yi, biography and history of the man who went from emperor to citizen.


Chiang Kai-shek, who was battling Mao Tse-tung for control of China at this time, offered P'u-Yi the chance to return to the Forbidden City under the Articles of Favorable Treatment if he would not accept the Japanese scheme. But P'u-Yi, who was bitter at Chiang because a renegade group of his soldiers had desecrated the Manchu ancestral tombs, refused the offer and became a Japanese pawn. They forced him to attend his coronation in a Japanese army officer's uniform; they made him bow before their gods; and they exploited Manchukuo to aid their invasion of China. To add to the humiliation, his consort Wen Hsiu left him; his wife had an affair with a palace guard and-upon banishment to her quarters-became an opium addict; his second wife died mysteriously; and his third wife, a Japanese-educated Manchurian, was foisted upon him by his "benefactors."

Fortunately for him Japan lost the war. The day before the official surrender, P'u-Yi took the opportunity to abdicate one more time. He was captured by Russian troops at the Manchurian border and spent the next 14 years of his life as a prisoner, first of Stalin and then of Mao. In 1959 he was released from Mao's thought-control camp as a dedicated Communist. "I owe more to Mao Tse-tung than any subject ever owed to any emperor," he claimed. He returned to Peking, where he was greeted by his relatives-most of whom he had not seen in 25 years-and a host of newspaper, magazine, and radio interviewers. P'u-Yi was a celebrity of sorts, a curious anomaly of the 20th century.

Because of his interest in horticulture, P'u-Yi was assigned to work in the botanical gardens of the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Botany. He joined the local militia and demonstrated in the streets against the ratification of the Japanese-American Security Treaty. On Nov. 22, 1960, the former emperor was given full rights as a citizen of the People's Republic of China, and soon after he was elected to the National Committee of the People's Political Consultative Conference of the National People's Congress. He married a Chinese woman, thus ending once and for all any chance of a Manchu restoration. Throughout these years, P'u-Yi was also at work on the story of his astonishing life, From Emperor to Citizen, which was published by Peking's Foreign Language Press in 1964.

In 1967 he died. There are those who claim he was a victim of China's Cultural Revolution, but those who had respect for his talents as a survivor say the Lord of Ten Thousand Years simply died of heart disease.

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