Double Victory: Minorities and Women During World War II
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Aixinjueluo Puyi (Aisingioro P'u-i) (1906–1967)

Last emperor of China, more commonly remembered as the puppet ruler of Japanese-controlled Manzhouguo (Manchukuo, formerly Manchuria) from 1932 to 1945. Born in Beijing (Peking) in Hebei (Hopeh) on 14 January 1906 and nicknamed Henry by his English tutor (he was known to westerners as Henry Puyi), Aixinjueluo Puyi (Aisingioto P'u-i) ascended the throne in December 1908, at age three, as Xuan Tong (Hsuan T'ung). During the Chinese Revolution of 1911–1912, the emperor's mother negotiated frantically with General Yuan Shikai (Yuan Shih-k'ai) for a settlement that would guarantee their lives and financial security. Ignoring the claims to the throne of Sun Yixian (Sun Yat-sen), Puyi abdicated in favor of Yuan, who was authorized to create a provisional republic and to establish national unity by embracing all anti-imperial forces.

Briefly restored in 1917 by the intrigues of warlord politics, Puyi was again deposed, and he finally sought refuge in the Japanese concession in Tianjin (Tientsin) in Hebei Province by 1924. In July 1931 his brother visited Japan and met with various rightist politicians. Shortly after the 1931 Mukden (Shenyang) Incident in Liaoning, representatives of the Guandong (Kwantung) Army visited Puyi to discuss the future of Manchuria, assuring him that they were merely interested in helping the people of Manchuria establish an independent nation. The Japanese military was vague about whether the new state would be a monarchy or a republic. Negotiations continued through the fall and winter of 1931–1932, and Puyi finally agreed to be smuggled to Manchuria by sea and to accept the title chief executive of the state of Manzhouguo. Tokyo belatedly recognized the army's creation in August 1932.

In 1934 the Guandong Army allowed Puyi to mount the throne as emperor of Manzhoudiguo (Manchoutikuo), the Manzhu (Manchu Empire), wearing imperial dragon robes sent from the museum in Beijing. As "emperor," Puyi served the Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere loyally until 1945, including making a state visit to Tokyo.

When Soviet forces invaded Manzhouguo in August 1945, Puyi was dethroned and imprisoned. Released to Mao Zedong's (Mao Tse-tung's) China in 1950, Puyi was again imprisoned and subjected to reeducation programs until his "rehabilitation" in 1959. He spent his final years as a gardener in Beijing's botanical gardens until his death from cancer on 17 October 1967.

Errol M. Clauss


Further Reading
Behr, Edward. The Last Emperor. New York: Bantam Books, 1987.; Bergamini, David. Japan's Imperial Conspiracy. New York: Morrow, 1971.; Brachman, Arnold C. The Last Emperor. New York: Scribner's, 1975.; Power, Brian. The Puppet Emperor: The Life of Pu Yi, Last Emperor of China. New York: Universe Books, 1988.; Puyi, Henry (Aixinjueluo, Puyi). From Emperor to Citizen: The Autobiography of Aisin-Gioro Pu Yi. Beijing: Foreign Language Press, 1964.; Spence, Jonathan. The Search for Modern China. New York: W. W. Norton, 1990.
 

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