IN THE SUMMER OF 1931, AFTER TWO YEARS OF WAITING IN the Quiet Garden, we received some news.29 A letter finally came from one of my advisers Tung Chi-hsu, who had gone to the Northeast, in which he said that he had uncovered the real feelings of General Honjo, the Commander of the Japanese Kwantung Army. Honjo felt that since the three Northeast provinces were not yet entirely under his control, it would be better for me not to come to Mukden until they were unified and stable. Since this was the opinion of the supreme arbiter of my destiny and the highest authority in Manchuria, I had no alternative but to obey and wait.
The days dragged by like years. Meanwhile I issued numbers of imperial edicts and sent my two nephews Hsien Yuan and Hsien Chi, who had just graduated from the Japanese Staff Officers’ College, to the Northeast to win over some Mongol princes. I also gave beautiful jade pieces to some of the Manchurian leaders who had been among the first to submit to the Japanese occupation forces and, at the request of a Japanese officer, I wrote letters to the resistance fighter Ma Chen-shan and some Mongol princes advising them to surrender. I made a number of official appointments and prepared a plentiful reserve of edicts of appointment to official posts with blank spaces for names.
At this time I acted on a suggestion from Cheng Hsiao-hsu, who was becoming less cautious, and sent my brother’s Japanese teacher to Japan to make contact with the new Army Minister and the leader of the Black Dragon Society. I wrote each of them letters in my own hand on yellow silk, copied from drafts by Cheng Hsiao-hsu. About three weeks after the dispatch of these letters, I met the Kwantung Army Staff Officer and representative, Doihara,30 who conveyed a message to me from his superiors advising that I should now leave Tientsin and go to the Northeast.
Doihara, who built his military career out of aggression against China, first came to China in 1913 and was adjutant to a Kwantung Army major general. In 1924 he was closely associated with Chang Tso-lin, but in 1928, when the Kwantung Army decided to eliminate Chang, Doihara took part in the plot to blow up his train at Huang Ku Tun. Soon after this he was promoted to the rank of colonel and was placed in charge of a secret service organization headquartered at Mukden. From 1931 to 1937 he was involved in many secret Japanese plots against China, including riots, the setting up of local puppet authorities, and the engineering of outbreaks of fighting, as well as other subversive activities. In 1937, he gave up covert work for overt activities and became a full general.
Because of the mysterious stories that were told about him, the Western press at that time described him as the “Lawrence of the East” and the Chinese papers said that he usually wore Chinese clothes and was fluent in several Chinese dialects. But when I met him he was dressed in Japanese-style Western clothes, and his spoken Chinese was not much. He used the services of the Tientsin garrison interpreter Yoshida to be sure that there would be no misunderstandings.
He was forty-eight at the time and the flesh around his eyes was flabby. He had a little moustache under his nose, and throughout our interview his face wore a bland and kindly smile, which made one feel that every word he spoke was completely reliable.
After politely inquiring about my health he turned to business. First he explained the Japanese action to me. He said it was aimed at dealing with the “Young Marshal” Chang Hsueh-liang, under whose rule “the people of Manchuria were reduced to destitution and the Japanese had no alternative but to use force.” He claimed that the Kwantung Army had absolutely no territorial ambitions in Manchuria and “sincerely wants to protect the Manchurian people and enable them to set up their own independent state.” He hoped that I would not miss this good opportunity and would soon return to the land from which my ancestors had arisen to undertake the leadership of the new state. Japan would sign a treaty of alliance with this country and its sovereignty and territorial integrity would be protected by Japan. As sovereign of this new state I would take charge of everything.
But there was still one big problem that worried me, and I asked Doihara what form the new state would take.
“As I have already mentioned, it will be independent and autonomous, and it will be headed by you.”
“That is not what I asked. I wish to know whether it will be a republic or a monarchy? Will it, or will it not, be a monarchy?”
“This problem will be solved after you come to Mukden.” “No,” I insisted. “I will only go if there is to be a restoration.”
He smiled slightly and without changing the tone of his voice replied: “Of course it will be a monarchy; there’s no question of that.”
“Very well. If it is to be a monarchy, I will go.”
“In that case I must ask Your Majesty to leave as soon as possible and to be in Manchuria by the sixteenth without fail. We can discuss the details in Mukden. Yoshida, the interpreter can arrange your journey.”
After Doihara’s departure, Yoshida told me that I should say nothing to the Consulate General about the meeting and that he would arrange my journey as far as Dairen. I decided that I would discuss the matter with no one but Cheng Hsiao-hsu, but since the news of my interview with Doihara was in the press the next day and its purpose was explained I had to answer advice and criticism from many quarters. Meanwhile, however, I did not reveal my own intentions.
Chen Pao-shen was horrified by this affair as were several of my other close advisers. Three days or so after Doihara’s visit an emissary arrived from the Chiang Kai-shek Government in Nanking and unexpectedly offered to revive the Articles of Favorable Treatment and pay me either a yearly grant or perhaps a single lump sum provided that I lived anywhere except in Japan or the Northeast. I gave the emissary a noncommittal answer and by the time he tried to see me again I had already left Tientsin. I also received warning letters. One from a member of my own family implored me not to “acknowledge the enemy as my father” and advised me to treasure the dignity of the Chinese people. Two days before I left I was sent a basket of fruit which contained two bombs. Fortunately, the basket was intercepted and turned over to the Japanese police. The interpreter Yoshida informed me that the bombs had been produced in the arsenal of the “Young Marshal” Chang Hsueh-liang. A trusted young manservant, whom I later sent to military school in Japan, received a phone call from a waiter in the Victoria Café telling him that “suspicious people” who looked as if they had weapons concealed in their clothing had been making inquiries about me and that he was certain they were agents of the “Young Marshal.”
After the bombs, the threatening letters, and the telephone call came the “Tientsin Incident.” This was one of Doihara’s masterpieces. The Japanese arranged for a crowd of Chinese in their pay to make trouble in the Chinese-administered part of the city. A state of emergency and martial law was then announced in the Japanese concession and communications with the Chinese city were cut. Armored cars drove up to “protect” the Quiet Garden, which was now isolated from the outside world. The only people allowed in and out were Cheng Hsiao-hsu and his son, Cheng Chui.