Biographies & Memoirs


THE MANCHURIAN MONARCHY OF HENRY PU YI WAS HELD by no binding force but Japanese military power. Although the dynasty was old, the Emperor, as evidenced by this autobiography, was neither personally imposing nor attractive. Furthermore, the original Manchu majority of Manchukuo had been overwhelmed numerically by a vast influx of Chinese and a minority immigration from both Russia and Japan. None of these newer residents had a motive to make sacrifices for the Crown—the Russians because it was yellow, the Japanese because it was alien, the Chinese (Hans) because it was foreign. It thus crashed, along with the Japanese Army that was its support, a few days after Russia’s declaration of war on Japan, with no evidence of its being able to enlist popular backing against an invader of another color.

But to suppose that the ease with which Pu Yi’s Manchu monarchy was overthrown is indicative of its political insignificance is to overlook the condition of the Sino-Soviet frontier. The border between the two countries has never in more recent times coincided with a clear delineation of the peoples who live near it. There are in China roughly two-and-a-half million Manchu people living largely north of the Great Wall and south of the Russian frontier. There are also one-and-a-half million Mongols along the frontier who have been content since the eighteenth century to accept varying forms of Manchu leadership. In addition there are an undetermined number of Manchus within the borders of the Soviet Union since the Siberian territory north of the Amur River and the present Maritime Territory of Siberia were once part of the Manchu inheritance, until detached from China and ceded to Russia in 1858 and 1860.

Outer Mongolia, with a population of roughly a million Mongols and today a Soviet dependency, was under the Ch’ing Dynasty, a Chinese vassal. There are also Mongols living north of the frontier, in the USSR itself. The claim that China under Mao Tse-tung erased the insults in the form of territorial concessions that the imperial powers imposed upon China under the corrupt and feudal Ch’ings is belied by the dependency of Outer Mongolia on the Soviets and the existence of Vladivostok as the most important Russian naval base in the Far East.

The political history of the northeast (Manchuria) has never been sufficiently democratic to permit the emergence through elections of popular figures among the Manchus and the Mongols to replace fully the concept of leadership vested in the theory of dynastic succession. This was one reason why the Japanese made Pu Yi Emperor of Manchukuo and sought to perpetuate and develop control of the dynastic inheritance through the marriage of his brother and heir to a Japanese noblewoman. Another reason was his utility as a device for potential Japanese expansion into Siberia and Mongolia, the Oriental populations of which could be expected to respond to the dynastic claims of Pu Yi as opposed to the colonial claims of Moscow. Pu Yi thus owed his fourteen-year restoration not, as he hoped, to the desire of the Japanese to obtain through him control of China proper, but to the intent of Japan to use him as an instrument of psychological warfare and subversion in order to win from Russia what Russia had once won from China. The Black Dragon Society was used by the Japanese imperialists to assist in the restoration of Pu Yi. It was a sort of Japanese CIA. It had always an anti-Russian direction and its name in the languages of the Orient, by a play on words, suggested Japanese expansion north of the Amur River into Siberia, not expansion south of the Great Wall into China itself.

This identification with clandestine and subversive efforts along the Sino-Soviet frontier explains Pu Yi’s importance as well as that of his heirs. His five-year imprisonment at the hands of the Soviets and more than nine-year detention by the Chinese Communists must be examined in the light of the relations between the two countries if the future is to be understood. The fact that Pu Yi has suggested that his “brainwashing” was something separate and personal, and divorced from outside events is unrealistic—an example of Maoist Communist policy of publicly emphasizing ideology as distinguished from practical politics in its effort to capture leadership of the international Communist movement.

The Yalta agreements of February 1945 created the opening pattern of Pu Yi’s incarceration, which began six months later. By these arrangements among the Western powers, which were later translated into an agreement between Stalin and Chiang Kai-shek, Outer Mongolia became independent of China, Manchuria became a Soviet sphere of influence and Port Arthur a USSR naval base. The Northeast and Pu Yi’s Manchu people reverted to the status they enjoyed before the Russo-Japanese war of 1905, when Russia rather than Japan enjoyed paramount interest over the area.

In view of this reversion of Manchurian suzerainty, it was only natural that when Japan was defeated in August 1945 and the monarchy crashed, Pu Yi passed from the “protection” of the Japanese to that of the USSR. This “protection” lasted from 1945 until July 31, 1950, when he was turned over to the Chinese Communists.

Meanwhile, the Northeast underwent a similar shift from Russia to China. October 1, 1949, marked the offical beginning of the People’s Republic of China. Three months later Chairman Mao went to Moscow to confer with Stalin and brought home in February 1950 a treaty of friendship and alliance. Various concessions were made by the Soviets to their new ally, including the relinquishment of their special Manchurian rights. This was the heyday of Sino-Soviet cooperation and also the time when North Korea, at Moscow’s instigation, invaded South Korea and was joined in the war by the Chinese Communists.

At the same time, in the Thought Control Center in Fushun to which Pu Yi was consigned as a result of this Sino-Soviet accord, he experienced the most stringent “remolding.” Separated from his family, denounced by his nephews, deprived of all prerogatives, he became a nonperson. For if the Sino-Soviet frontier was to remain quiet, if there was to be no chicanery and subversion among the border peoples in the name of race, or nationality or color, then Pu Yi had no more utility than the curios and antiques he surrendered from time to time to his captors as a testimony of his devotion.

But on March 10, 1956, things began to improve for Pu Yi. His uncle, the former Prince Tsai Tao, was allowed to visit him in prison and give him news of the outside world and the status of the Manchu clans. Tsai Tao spoke of his election to the People’s National Congress and adverted to visits he had made to the “Northwest” and of his work with “national minorities.” These words from the lips of the former senior royal prince of China, the brother of the former Prince Regent, the uncle of the last emperor, could only mean that Chairman Mao had decided by the mid-1950s, just as the Japanese had decided in the mid-1930s, that the Manchu Aisin-Gioro clan (royal family of China) could be useful along the frontier.

And thus, soon after Tsai Tao’s visit, Pu Yi’s treatment and that of the other Manchu detainees improved. By September 1959, Pu Yi again acquired a personality of his own. This occurred despite the fact that shortly before his pardon, the Prison Governor found him guilty of lying in order to curry favor with the authorities.

Meanwhile, and parallel to Pu Yi’s restoration as a person, Sino-Soviet relations deteriorated. In November 1957, the Soviet Union and Communist China signed the Moscow Declaration, which was an unsuccessful attempt to heal the ideological breach that was opening between the two countries. In 1960, shortly after Pu Yi’s release from prison, Chinese students were called home from Russia and Russian technicians were withdrawn from China. Trade between the two countries slumped from $2 billion U.S. in 1959 to less than $1 billion in 1961.

In 1962, during the Cuban missile crisis, Communist China described Khrushchev’s withdrawal of offensive weapons from Cuba as “100 percent appeasement, a Munich pure and simple.” Subsequently, invective was hurled back and forth between the two countries and in 1965 negotiations for a new defensive alliance between Outer Mongolia and the USSR were opened. As relations between the two countries deteriorated, Pu Yi’s status as a person in Peking attained new vigor. No longer a gardener working with his hands, he was allowed to do “research” and subsequently to write and have published a “best seller.” Later he became a member of the Congress and a spokesman for the Manchu people.

This was Pu Yi until the Cultural Revolution of 1966. At that time, and once again as so often in the past, on the brink of the abyss, his life was saved by fellow patients and staff members of the hospital in which he was confined. They drove off the radical Red Guards who had come to take him away. He died of cancer the following year.

But the Manchu saga did not end with Pu Yi’s death. His younger brother and heir, William Pu Chieh, was elected to the People’s National Congress as the representative of the Manchu people in his place. This was the same Pu Chieh with whom Pu Yi had played hide-and-seek as a child within the walls of the Forbidden City, the Pu Chieh who had violated precedent by wearing sleeve linings of imperial yellow, who had lived in Manchukuo with him during the Japanese restoration and had been brainwashed with him at the War Prisoner Thought Control Center. Meanwhile, Pu Chieh had regained his father’s house outside the Forbidden City and had it refurnished. Also, he was rejoined by his wife, Hiro Saga, cousin of the Empress of Japan, after an absence of sixteen years. Chou En-lai, the Premier of China, deliberately preserved the concept of the last Manchu. Why?

Auctioneers and dealers in Chinese antiquities throughout the West tell of how at significant sales of former imperial treasures that have found their way abroad, representatives of the Chinese government mysteriously appear to buy them so that they may be returned to the Forbidden City from which they were originally removed. They, like the Manchus who once possessed them, are regarded by the new China as valued symbols of the cultural heritage of the nation, useful for display and inspiration.

And if we were allowed to observe ranking Manchus closely and to see who visits them and to peruse their correspondence and reading matter, it is safe to assume that we would find them in touch with the peoples of the Northwest and the Northeast. For these are the border peoples who, by virtue of their appearance and their language and their habits, can slip unnoticed through some remote mountain pass from China into Russia on the missions of violence and subversion and espionage that have become such an integral part of modern national rivalry. And how is Peking to know that its own border peoples are not being subject to similar nefarious infestations from Russia, unless it can count on their special loyalty by offering in the form of The Last Manchu a continuing public testimonial of their importance wholly beyond what their numbers would warrant in relation to the entire population of China?


Just prior to her death, Tzu Hsi had ordered that Pu Yi’s father, as Prince Regent, should consult and ask for instructions from her niece and successor as Empress Dowager, Lung Yu, on all important matters.


A sofa-like bed, commonly used in North China, which could be heated in winter.


Descriptive term for the Manchu ruling family.


Widows of previous Emperors.


It was presumed that poisons in the food would turn the silver black.


A votive dish set out to show respect for one’s ancestors.


Rice soup.


Savants and scholars serving the imperial household.


One catty is about 1¼ lbs. One tael equaled e9781602397323_i0004.jpg catty, or a little over 1 ounce.


Basic works of Confucianism.


Written in the third or second century B.C., a standard text used to indoctrinate children until the twentieth century.


A philosophy of universal love and nonmilitarism that challenged Confucianism as a leading system of thought in the fourth century B.C.


The five races of China are the Hans, Manchus, Mongolians, Huis (Mohammedans of Turkestan, etc.) and Tibetans.


Mexican dollar was worth about 40c U.S.


Book of Changes, one of the Chinese classics, revered by Confucius, written in 800 B.C. by the first Emperor of the Chou Dynasty, set forth methods of divination.


Grass from a particular plant used in making divinations.


Tuan Chi-jui was a member of the Peiyang clique, a term used to describe army officers who were the personal followers of Yuan Shih-kai.


General Chang Hsun ushered in the war-lord period in Chinese history. Upon the death of Yuan Shih-kai, he moved his troops to Peking, dissolved Parliament, restored the Ch’ing Dynasty and vested real power in himself. General Tuan Chi-jui, however, who was headquartered in nearby Tientsin where he cast himself as the savior of the Republic, soon defeated Chang Hsun and forced Pu Yi to abdicate again.

Within a short time there were dozens, if not hundreds, of war lords. Small war lords attached themselves to big war lords but declared their independence as soon as they were strong enough. China became completely divided.

By the early 1920’s, the power struggles of the war lords evolved around three principals: Than Chi-jui in Peking and its environs, Wu Pei-fu in the middle Yangtze valley, and Chang Tso-lin in Manchuria. Tuan Chi-jui, as Premier, was challenged by Wu Pei-fu, who defeated him. Chang Tso-lin fought Wu but was eventually driven back to Manchuria where he continued to rule. In South China there were even more war lords.


Reign title of Pu Yi.


Marquis in Chinese has the same pronunciation as the word “monkey.”


A war-lord group.


Feng Yu-hsiang, also known as the “Christian General,” changed sides again a number of years later when he switched from Chiang Kai-shek to the Communists. Subsequently he was said to have burned to death while watching a movie aboard a Soviet passenger ship. His outstanding collection of Ch’ing art treasures was left to the Soviet Government.


A great bridal sedan chair, draped in scarlet and gold, carried by 22 bearers and adorned with mythological emblematic devices, the most conspicuous of which were four silver birds perched upon the comers of the roof—hence, Phoenix Chair.


Imperial symbols of rank as Empress, sent from the Forbidden City to the mansion of the Empress and then brought back with her into the palace.


Nineteenth by Western calculations since, in the Orient, one is a year old at birth. In China, the tenth, twentieth, thirtieth, etc., birthdays are occasions for special celebrations.


A highly important seaport of North China connected by rail with Peking. It was one of eleven Chinese ports opened to foreign trade in 1858. Foreign concessions were granted to many of the Western powers and Japan who garrisoned them with their own troops.


Chinese and Japanese can communicate to a certain extent by writing the Chinese characters that are used in the script of both languages.


The nineteenth, by the Western calendar.


The crisis in Manchuria had been building up during the previous twelve months. The Manchurian war lord, “Young Marshal” Chang Hsueh-liang, with Chinese capital, had begun to build railroads in Southern Manchuria to compete with those of the Japanese-owned South Manchuria Railroad. Tokyo viewed this as a challenge to its dominant position in the area dating back to 1905. Also the Chinese took steps to restrict Korean immigration to Manchuria and Japan claimed it had jurisdiction over Koreans in China. A Japanese military officer was killed by Chinese soldiers and on September 18, 1931, Japanese forces seized Mukden. This was followed by almost unopposed occupation by the Japanese of all large cities in Manchuria and by the end of the year the victorious Japanese had pushed toward the Great Wall of China and occupied Jehol Province. These moves were not opposed by the Nationalist Government of Chiang Kai-shek who was busy elsewhere in China fighting the Communists. They did, however, lead to Japan’s international isolation and raise the possibility of concerted action against it by the great powers through the League of Nations.


Doihara was tried by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East and executed as a war criminal in 1948.


The Later Han Dynasty occurred during a period of political unrest. At one time the Han Emperor fled, ate a coarse meal and was then restored to power. Since then the partaking of this particular food has become symbolic of an Imperial restoration.


A political philosophy of the Confucianists of ancient China. They wished the rulers to govern with “benevolence” and “righteousness,” and they called this the “Kingly Way.”


Itagaki was first appointed to the staff of the Kwantung Army in 1929. He was one of the chief architects of the setting up of the Manchukuo regime. In 1934 he became Chief of Staff of the Kwantung Army, and during World War II was made Commander in Chief of the Japanese 7th Army stationed at Singapore.


A close associate of Pu Yi’s tutor Chen Pao-shen.


Chang Ching-hui at this time was serving as Minister of Defense in the Manchukuo Cabinet. Prior to Pu Yi’s arrival in Manchukuo he had at one time been second in command of the Fengtien (war lord) Army of Marshal Chang Tso-lin.


On the night of July 7, 1937, fighting broke out between Chinese and Japanese troops at the Marco Polo bridge south of Peking. In August Japan attacked Shanghai and the full-scale war between the two countries began.


A public official much admired by Confucius.


After Pu Yi’s second state visit to Japan, in May, 1940, Shintoism and the formal worship of the Japanese Heaven Shining Bright Deity was introduced into Manchukuo via Imperial Rescript. A National Foundation Shrine was built besides the palace at Changchun and other shrines were erected all over the Northeast. A Bureau of Worship was established, and on the first and fifteenth of each month, Pu Yi would lead the Kwantung Army Commander and others to the shrine to make offerings.


A little over one acre.


A prominent Chinese revolutionary who set up a pro-Japanese regime in East China during World War II.


A form of medical treatment by which long metal needles are inserted into certain tissues in order to relieve nervous tension. If the acupuncture technician is expert, no blood is drawn.


Application of burning licorice leaves and other herbs to the skin.


A small book, written three words to each line, that Chinese children used to memorize. It was used in China for almost 700 years.

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