AT ITAGAKI’S BANQUET MY THOUGHTS WERE CONFLICTING and I did not know whether to be happy or sad about my future destiny. He had assigned a Japanese prostitute to each of his guests in an effort to make his party festive, and he himself was having a good time and embracing them right and left.
He drank a lot and laughed aloud, making no effort to conceal his mood of satisfaction. At first, when he still had some control over himself, he drank a toast to me in a most respectful fashion. He smiled a subtle hint of congratulations when he said, “May your future be smooth and may your interests be fulfilled.” This pleased me, but later, as he drank more and more, his face became pale and the situation changed.
When one of the prostitutes, in broken Chinese, asked me, “Do you make a living as a businessman?” Itagaki roared with laughter.
After the banquet, my mood of uncertainty persisted for several days until several old Ch’ing courtiers came to visit me after having obtained permission from the Kwantung Army. They were all very happy. Although they claimed to be saddened by my demotion to the rank of Chief Executive, they gave me a long list of historical precedents to illustrate that in the past many founders of new dynasties frequently had to rely on friendly neighbors at the outset of their careers. Their words of encouragement, as well as some favorable divination obtained by one of my high officials, gradually soothed me.
On February 28, 1932, the All Manchurian Assembly of Mukden, at the direction of the Kwantung Army, passed a resolution declaring the independence of the Northeast and recommending that I become Chief Executive of the new state. I was advised by the Japanese and Cheng Hsiao-hsu that representatives from this conference would come to Port Arthur to petition me and that I should be ready. It was decided that there would be two replies; the first would be a refusal, and the second, to be delivered after the representatives had asked me a second time to assume the role, would indicate my acceptance.
On March 1, nine representatives of the conference arrived in Port Arthur. Cheng Hsiao-hsu welcomed them on my behalf and gave them my first message. Later I received them personally in audience for twenty minutes. They urged me to accept and I refused politely. On March 5, according to plan, the number of representatives was increased to twenty-nine and they came a second time to “request me” to accept. This time they accomplished their mission.
The day after I had performed this little show, my wife Wan Jung and I, accompanied by several others including Cheng Hsiao-hsu, returned to Tangkangtzu, where we spent the night. The next morning we all proceeded to Changchun, arriving at three o’clock on the afternoon of March 8. Even before the train came to a stop, I could hear army bands playing martial music and the shouting of the crowds at the station. As I walked down the platform, I was pleased to see a great number of Japanese gendarmes and soldiers as well as a horde of people dressed both in long Chinese gowns and Western-style clothes. Everyone was waving a small flag and I was deeply moved. The reception more than compensated for the lack of any welcome at the Yingkow dock. One of my aides pointed to some yellow dragon flags in the midst of the Japanese flags. “Those are former imperial bannermen,” he explained. “They have been hoping to see Your Majesty for over twenty years.” Upon hearing this, I couldn’t hold back the tears, for I felt more than ever that I had great expectations.
As I sat in the automobile, my thoughts went back to the Forbidden City. I recalled the time when I had been ejected from the palace by the Christian General, Feng Yu-hsiang, as well as the affair of the Eastern Mausoleums and the vows I had once taken. My heart became so inflamed by hatreds and desires that I did not notice the sights along the streets of Changchun or the sullen, intimidated faces of the people.
Before very long we drove into a courtyard and arrived at the “Chief Executive’s Mansion,” which had formerly been an imperial district government office. Even by Changchun standards it was not large and was in a dilapidated state. I was told that this would be my home only temporarily. On the following day, a large parlor, which was hurriedly prepared for me, served as the hall for the ceremonial assumption of my new duties.
The General Director of the South Manchurian Railway, General Honjo of the Kwantung Army, his Chief of Staff, Itagaki, and other important celebrities came to attend the ceremony. Other participants were former Ch’ing officials, several Manchu and Mongolian princes as well as a number of former war lords and local leaders such as Chang Ching-hui. Some of the lawyers who had handled my divorce were also present.
For the ceremony I wore a Western-style formal suit. Under the eyes of important Japanese personalities, all of the “founding” officials bowed to me three times and I acknowledged this obeisance with a single bow. Chang Ching-hui, representing the Manchurian people, presented me with the seal of office as Chief Executive. It was wrapped in yellow silk. Cheng Hsiao-hsu then read my “declaration as Chief Executive.”
The human race must emphasize virtue. But if there is racial prejudice and one race suppresses others and glorifies itself, virtue will decline. The human race must also treasure benevolence. But if there is international conflict and one country damages another in trying to serve itself, benevolence will decline.
I am founding a new State based on virtue and benevolence. We want to do away with racial bias and conflicts among nations. The Kingly Way and Paradise on Earth will then be realized. I hope all my countrymen will try to understand.
The foreign guests were received after the ceremony. The Director General of the South Manchurian Railway presented me with a “message of felicitation” and my old tutor Lo Chen-yu read aloud my message of reply. Then we all went out into the courtyard where the flag was raised and we had our pictures taken.
That same afternoon I took up a pen and signed my first official document as Chief Executive. It was the appointment of Cheng Hsiao-hsu, my former Privy Councilor and the man who had originally tried to help me reform the Household Department in the Forbidden City, as Prime Minister with a mandate from me to form a cabinet. General Honjo as Commander of the Kwantung Army had concurred in this appointment.
When I walked out of my office I ran into two old courtiers whose faces were sad because they knew they were not on the list of appointees as either cabinet officers or ambassadors. I told them I wished to keep them near me as personal aides. One of them, while sighing, thanked me, but the other said that he had to attend to family matters in Tientsin and requested that I let him go.
On the following day, Lo Chen-yu came to see me to tender his resignation. In the list of appointments the position he had received was only that of Counselor and he was not satisfied at all. Although I indicated my desire to keep him, he returned to Dairen where he became a dealer in imitation antiques.
The dragon flags and the army band at Changchun station, the ceremony that was performed on my assumption of duties as Chief Executive, and the messages of felicitation at the reception for foreign guests had impressed me deeply and made me very happy. Since I had already openly appeared in public there was absolutely no turning back, and besides, I thought that if I could maneuver the Japanese well, they would perhaps support my restoration as Emperor. I no longer believed that I had humbled myself by becoming Chief Executive, but actually regarded the position as a “stairway” leading to an Emperor’s throne.
My main problem seemed to center on how best to utilize this stairway to climb to the throne. After thinking about this for several days, I gave Cheng Hsiao-hsu and Hu Sze-yuan 34 the result of my deliberations. “I want to tell you,” I explained “that I have taken three vows. First of all I wish to change all my past habits. My tutor Chen Pao-shen, more than ten years ago, told me that I was lazy and undignified. I therefore vow from now on never to be that. Second, I am not going to avoid hardships and I vow diligently to restore my ancestral heritage. Third, I hope that heaven will bestow on me an imperial heir to succeed to the Great Ch’ing Dynasty. If my three wishes are fulfilled I can then die with my eyes closed.”
About a month later, the Chief Executive’s Mansion was moved to a remodeled and refurnished building. In order to show my determination I named it the “Mansion of Respect for the People” and also renamed my office building the “Mansion of Diligence for the People.”
From this time on I arose early every morning and went to my office to work until night. Since I had vowed to restore my ancestral heritage, I readily accepted the directions of the Kwantung Army so that I could rely on it in the future, and I worked diligently to utilize my position and power as a “sovereign.” But my hard work from morning to night did not continue for very long. I had no business to administer and I soon discovered that the power and authority of the Chief Executive were only shadows without substance.