Biographies & Memoirs


Mausoleums and the Japanese

THE YEAR 1928 WAS ONE OF EXCITEMENT—A YEAR THAT made me both sad and happy. On the one hand, the Japanese issued a statement prohibiting Chinese troops from entering Manchuria or Mongolia and sent Japanese soldiers to Shantung Province to block the northward advance of Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang forces. On the other, the armies of Chang Tso-lin, Wu Pei-fu and Chang Tsung-chang, the war lords with whom I had connections, crumbled away in a series of defeats. Although my tutors and the Japanese advised me that since the Kuomintang was carrying out a major purge of Communist members the threat to me from “raging floods and wild beasts” seemed diminished, they informed me at the same time that I was in imminent danger and that my enemies were operating everywhere. But the event that gave me the biggest shock was the plundering of the Eastern Mausoleums by Sun Tien-ying.

These mausoleums in Malan Valley, which is in Tsunhua County of Hopei Province, are the imperial tombs of the Emperor Chien Lung and the Empress Dowager Tzu Hsi. In 1928 Sun Tien-ying, an ex-gambler, opium peddler and gangster-type war lord, before becoming a subordinate of Chiang Kai-shek, brought his troops into this area and began to carry out a well-planned campaign of tomb depredations. First he posted notices announcing that he was going to conduct military maneuvers, and then he cut all communications. Next he set a battalion of engineers to digging, and after three days and nights had cleared out all the treasures that had been buried with Chien Lung and Tzu Hsi.


Pu Yi at the time of his ascension to the Dragon Throne.

The Empress Dowager, Tzu Hsi (center), with members of her court.



The second Prince Chun, Pu Yi’s father.


Mrs. Wang Chiao, the imperial wet nurse.

Emperor Hsuan Tung (Pu Yi), tenth Emperor of the Ch’ing Dynasty, two years after leaving his father’s mansion and entering the Forbidden City.



The Emperor (Pu Yi) in ceremonial robes of the Ch’ing Dynasty at the time of his brief restoration.


Pu Yi’s British tutor, Sir Reginald Johnston, in Ch’ing robes.


Pu Yi at his wedding.


Pu Yi’s first wife, Wan Jung.

Birthday greetings in Tientsin.



Pu Yi with his courtiers and Japanese Army leaders in Manchukuo.

“Back to basics”; part of Pu Yi’s “reeducation,” at Fushun, during the brainwashing process.



Mr. Pu Yi, during the brainwashing process in Fushun, accuses the Japanese as war criminals.

A family reunion in Peking in the spring of 1961.



Pu Yi takes a look at industrial life in the “New” China.

Pu Yi leaving his house in Peking to go to the office with his new wife, Li Shu-hsien.


Chien Lung and Tzu Hsi were the most extravagant Emperor and Empress of the Ch’ing Dynasty. In cultural and historical source materials I have read the following description of their mausoleums:

The tunnel to the tomb was lined with white marble and led through four beautifully carved marble gates. The “sleeping palace” or vaults in which the bodies rested were octagonal with domed ceilings on which were carved nine gleaming golden dragons. The area of the vaults themselves were about the same size as the Palace of Central Harmony in the Forbidden City. Chien Lung’s inner and outer coffins were made of a special valuable hardwood. The burial pieces in these two tombs, besides the gold and silver ingots and funerary vessels, consisted of rare jewels and treasures. The funerary objects of Tzu Hsi consisted for the most part of pearls, emeralds, diamonds and other gems, and her phoenix crown was made of big pearls strung on gold wire. On her coverlet was a great peony studded with large pearls and on her arm was a bracelet in the form of a large chrysanthemum fashioned of diamonds of all sizes and six small plum blossoms paved with diamonds. This bracelet shone with a dazzling brilliance and glittering light.

In her hand was a demon-quelling wand about 3 inches long carved of emerald jade and on her feet were shoes embroidered with pearls. Besides this, there were 17 strings of pearl prayer beads in the coffin as well as several pairs of emerald jade bracelets.

Chien Lung’s burial objects consisted of calligraphy, paintings, books, swords, jade pieces and also jade, coral and ivory carvings, plus gold statutes of Buddha, etc. The objects made of silk had already disintegrated beyond recognition.

The report of Sun Tien-ying’s grave-robbery from the officials responsible for the protection of the Eastern Mausoleums gave me an even worse shock than the one I had received when I was expelled from the Forbidden City. The royal family and the retired Ch’ing officials were all aroused by it. Men of every faction, whether they were active in Ch’ing affairs or not, flocked to my house and expressed their hatred for the troops of Chiang Kai-shek, and Ch’ing veterans from all over the country sent funds for the restoration of the mausoleums. Spirit tablets for Chien Lung and Tzu Hsi were set up in the Chang Garden along with tablets for incense and mats for people to kneel on as if it were a funeral, and it was decided that these services should continue until the job of reconstruction was completed.

It was said that Sun Tien-ying sent some of the booty to Mme. Chiang Kai-shek and that the pearls from Tzu Hsi’s phoenix crown became decorations for her shoes. My heart smoldered with a hatred I had never previously known and I made a vow before my weeping clansmen, with my face raised to heaven:

“If I do not avenge this wrong I am not a member of the Aisin-Gioro clan of the Ch’ing Dynasty.”

I also swore that “as long as I am alive the Great Ch’ing shall not perish.”

My longing for restoration and revenge reached a new intensity, and I resorted to divination to try to find out what the fate of the Chiang Kai-shek government and myself would be. The indications were that Chiang’s power would fade by 1932 and that I should change the name of my reign from Hsuan Tung to Hsing Wu, or “Flourishing Valor” in English, but that such a change was a “heavenly secret” and the divinations concerning it should be revealed to no one. This kind of activity, which besides divination included fortune-telling and other forms of soothsaying, were accepted practices in the circle in which I moved in Tientsin and were part of its daily life. It gave me spiritual strength as well as guidance. Although it was secondary to the advice I received from my privy counselors, it was nonetheless important.

Nobody burning with ambition and longing for revenge as I was could have left everything to the will of heaven and not tried to do something himself. My experience of the past few years and the story of Chiang’s rise to power combined to make me believe that if one wanted to achieve anything it was necessary to have military power, for the foreigners would support the man with an army as a matter of course. If an orthodox “Great Ch’ing Emperor” like myself had troops, then the foreigners would be bound to take me more seriously than some marshal who had started out as nothing more than a bandit chief or a gangster. I decided to send some of the most trusted members of my family to military school in Japan and regarded this as more important than going abroad myself.

I chose my brother Pu Chieh and a brother-in-law, Jun Chi, and asked the Japanese Consul General in Tientsin to recommend a private tutor to teach them Japanese. The man he selected, Takeo Toyama, turned out to be a member of the Black Dragon Society who knew many Japanese politicians. When he had taught my brother and brother-in-law Japanese for some time he went back to Japan to try to make arrangements for them to study there. He reported that although they would not immediately be able to enter the Japanese Army Cadet School, they could first go to a special academy for the sons of the Japanese nobility and receive the support of one of the most illustrious families in Japan. My two future generals left for Japan with Toyama in March, 1929, seven months after the plundering of the Eastern Mausoleums.

By 1929 most of my advisers in the Chang Garden believed that a restoration was only possible with Japanese assistance and that an arrangement with them was possible.

During my first year in Tientsin, the Japanese Consul General had invited me to visit a primary school for Japanese children. The children lined my route with paper flags in their hands and welcomed me with shouts of “ten thousand years”—a scene that made my eyes fill with tears. When the fighting between war lords was approaching Tientsin, the foreign garrisons in the various concessions organized an allied army and announced that they would deal with the Kuomintang Army if it came too close to the concessions. But only the Japanese garrison commander at Tientsin paid a special visit to the Chang Garden to say, “Please do not worry, Your Majesty. We are determined not to allow the Chinese soldiers to put one foot inside the concessions.”

At New Year and my birthday the Japanese Consul General and the senior officers of the garrison always called upon me to offer their congratulations. They also invited me to attend the military parade on their Emperor’s birthday. At one of these celebrations, when I arrived at the parade ground, the commander rode over on horseback to salute me, and when the review was over I and the other Chinese guests joined the Japanese in shouting “Long live the [Japanese] Emperor.”

For many years colonels of the Japanese garrison used to come to tell me about current affairs, and they did this job most conscientiously, sometimes bringing along diagrams and charts which they had specially prepared. One of these was a General Yoshioka who was later Attaché to the Imperial Household and was with me for ten years in Manchukuo.

The main subjects of these talks by the Japanese staff officers were the civil wars, and they would often put forward their analysis that the “root cause of China’s confusion is that she lacks a superior dragon or emperor.” They would go on to discuss the superiority of the Japanese imperial system and say that the hearts of the people of China could be won only by the “Hsuan Tung Emperor.” The corruption and impotence of the Chinese armed forces was a favorite topic of theirs, and, of course, they made invidious comparisons between the Chinese troops and the Imperial Japanese Army.

Once when I was taking a stroll beside the White River I saw a Japanese naval vessel moored along the shore. I do not know how the captain knew about me, but he suddenly appeared on the riverbank and respectfully invited me to visit his ship, the Fuji. When I went aboard the vessel, I was saluted by the officers. Since this was an impromptu occasion there were no interpreters on either side and we had to communicate in writing.27 The captain later paid me a return visit with a number of his officers. I gave him a signed photograph when he asked for one, and he indicated that he regarded this as a very great honor.

At first I considered the Japanese as a single entity, which consisted of the Japanese of the Peking Legation and the Tientsin Consulate General and garrison as well as the friends of Lo Chen-yu and my other advisers who held neither military nor civil office. The reason I had this view of them was that they all “protected” me and treated me as an emperor, all shared the same contempt for the Republic, all praised the Great Ch’ing and all expressed their willingness to help me.

But one day my father-in-law Jung Yuan informed me that some friends of his had told him that assassins in the service of Feng Yu-hsiang had been arriving in the British and French concessions. The situation became more alarming when a member of my household observed a suspicious person loitering near the main gate and trying to peer into the grounds. I hastily summoned the head of my General Affairs Office and the commander of my guard and told them to ask the Japanese police to tighten the precautions at the gate. I also gave instructions that the guards keep a careful watch on strangers outside the gate and allow no one in or out at night.

One night I was awakened by a gunshot outside the window and then another shot rang out. I jumped up from my bed and ordered the guard to muster, convinced that Feng Yu-hsiang’s secret agents were in our midst at last. The whole household was roused and guards were posted everywhere. The policemen at the main gate were put on the alert and Japanese detectives stationed in the garden went out to investigate. When they captured the man who had fired the shots he turned out, to my utter astonishment, to be a Japanese.

The next day the head of my General Affairs Office told me that the man, whose name was Kishida, was a member of the Black Dragon Society. When he was taken to police headquarters the Japanese military authorities had rushed in and removed him at once. Apparently, it was pointed out to me, certain Japanese had sought to frighten me into becoming more dependent on their protection.

Besides the tutor to my brother Pu Chieh and my brother-in-law Jun Chi, I had had previous contact with members of this powerful secret Japanese espionage organization. In 1925, at my tutor Lo Chen-yu’s urgings, I had met Nobuo Tsukuda, an important figure in the society. Lo had told me that many powerful people in Japan, including some in the Army, were planning to help me achieve my restoration and had sent their representative Tsukuda to have a private talk with me. This society, the biggest of the Japanese “nongovernment” activist organizations, had originally been called the Black Ocean Association. Founded by Kotaro Hiraoka right after the Sino-French War, 1883—1885, it was the first organization of secret agents to carry out espionage activities in China. It started out with bases in Foochow, Chefoo and Shanghai and operated under such covers as consulates, schools and photographers’ shops.

The name Black Dragon Society, which implied “beyond the Amur River” (the Chinese name for the Amur is the Black Dragon River) and thus the expansion of Japanese interests in the Northeast, was first used in 1901. The society played a useful role in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904—1905 and its membership was said to have reached several hundred thousand with correspondingly huge financial resources. Mitsuru Toyama was the most famous of its leaders and under his direction its members penetrated deep into every stratum of Chinese life. They operated everywhere: at the side of Ch’ing nobles and high officials, and among peddlers and servants, including the attendants in the Chang Garden. Many distinguished Japanese personalities in the late twenties and thirties were disciples of Toyama, a Buddhist with a long silver beard and a “kindly” face who loved roses and hated to leave his garden. Yet he was the man who, in an aroma of roses and while gently stroking his beard, planned the Society’s appalling espionage conspiracies, “black” propaganda and murders on behalf of Japanese expansionism.

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