The Last Emperor (1987)

 

 

 

Director:     Bernardo Bertolucci.

Starring:    John Lone (Pu Yi, Adult), Joan Chen (Wan Jung), Peter O'Toole (Reginald Johnston, R.J.), Ruocheng Ying (The Governor), Victor Wong (Chen Pao Shen), Dennis Dun (Big Li), Ryuichi Sakamoto (Amakasu), Maggie Han (Eastern Jewel), Ric Young (Interrogator), Vivian Wu (Wen Hsiu), Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Chang), Jade Go (Ar Mo), Fumihiko Ikeda (Yoshioka), Richard Vuu (Pu Yi, 3 Years), Tsou Tijger (Pu Yi, 8 Years).

Country:     Italian-British-Chinese film

Oscar:         Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Art Direction, Editing, Costume Design, Original Score

Great movie covering a great deal of Chinese (and Japanese) history.  

 

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

Scene 1.  Opening Credits.

Scene 2.  War Criminals. 

Manchuria 1950, the Chinese-Russian border.  A train comes into the station.  A line of soldiers indicates to the criminals the way to go.   Among them is Pu Yi, the last emperor of China.  Some of the prisoners kneel before the last emperor.  The Governor of a re-education camp has been watching Pu Yi.   Now he doesn't see him.  Pu Yi is in the bathroom cutting his wrists so that he may die.  The Governor sees a man taking food to the former emperor and the Governor goes to see what's going on.  He tries to open the door, but it is locked.

Scene 3.  Peking 1908.

Flashback.  Horsemen come through the gate followed by men carrying a palanquin.  Pu Yi is a very small boy at this time.  A soldier announces that the Empress Dowager commands that Pu Yi be transferred to the Forbidden City to await Her Majesty's decision.  The mother of Pu Yi walks with her child to the palanquin and gives Pu Yi to a woman, telling her that she is giving her her son who will now be the woman's son.  Pu Yi cries at the separation. 

Scene 4.  The Forbidden City.

 Pu Yi says he wants to go home and his new mother tells him to look at all the camels at the entrance to the Forbidden City.  The monks chant in a part of the massive courtyard.  Pu Yi is taken in the palanquin up the steps to a building.  His new mother is breast feeding Pu Yi although he certainly is of an age to be eating solid foods.  Pu Yi's father takes him into the building.  A strong voice is heard calling Pu Yi to the front.  This scares the young boy and he tries to hide behind a pillar.  But he is curious and gradually makes his way to the front.  The Empress Dowager asks him if he is afraid of her, like everyone else.  Pu Yi makes his way up to the throne bed and pets her Pekinese dog. 

The Empress Dowager tells Pu Yi that the Emperor died today and all the eunuchs are now waiting for her to die.  Next she tells Pu Yi that she has decided to make him the emperor.  The Empress dies and a huge black pearl is placed in her mouth.    The Empress on her throne bed is removed from the building.  Pu Yi asks his father if they are going home now?

Scene 5.  Cricket. 

Pu Yi sits on the throne.  He gets bored just sitting there and stands up on the throne.  He starts waving his hands as if they were wings.  Pu Yi sees a large sheet waving in the wind and goes to see what it is.  The winds picks up the sheet, thereby revealing the huge courtyard.  It is filled with people in formation.  They all kneel before the Emperor.  Pu Yi hears the sound of a cricket.  He starts running around trying to find where the sound is coming from.  The cricket is held in a container that one of the officials and his future tutor carries with him.  Puy Yi asks him where is the cricket?  The man opens the container and the cricket crawls out.  The fellow says now the cricket belongs to His Majesty. 

Scene 6.  Lord of 10,000 Years. 

Back to the present.  The Governor open the door.  He finds Pu Yi unconscious laying on the floor.  The Governor wraps cloths around his wrists and then lightly slaps Pu Yi until he regains consciousness.  He asks where is he?  The People's Republic of China.  The agent says Pu Yi will at least be kept alive long enough for him to be judged. 

Flashback.  A bath is prepared for His Majesty, but he says he hates baths.  So they cajole him into the bathtub.  He asks the eunuchs if he can do anything he wants and they tell him yes. So he starts splashing them with water.   He sees his new mother and runs to her crying that he wants to go home. 

Scene 7.  My Child. 

New mother breast feeds Pu Yi and then tells him a story.  The story is of a poor, young country woman with a new baby who is brought before the princess and a man squeezes her breasts to collect her milk.  Other women have already been tested for the quality of their milk.  The others leave, but the young woman stays.  She has to give her baby to her father to take care of.  New mother now tells Pu Yi that this is the way Pu Yi became her child. 

Scene 8.  Pu Chieh.

Back to the present.  The prisoners are brought to the prison where they will be held.  They are issued blankets, eating utensils and a pan.  The Governor stops Pu Yi and has his fancy gloves taken off and confiscated.   The former emperor is put in a cell.  His former servant Pu Chieh is put in with him. 

Flashback.  A guest and his biological mother have arrived to see Pu Yi.  The guest is his brother.  Pu Yi looks him over.  He takes the hand of new mother and goes to see his biological mother.  It has been seven years since she last saw him.  She asks him if he remembers her face and he quickly and emphatically says no.  His brother goes to look at some of the Emperor's things and the Emperor proudly tells his brother what the various boxes contain. 

The Emperor and his whole retinue move in formation until Pu Yi finally tells everyone to stop!  He is going to show his little brother a game he likes to play.  Older brother yells run and the two take off together.  The entire procession has to run behind them.  The boys laugh and laugh at the sight. 

Scene 9.  A Prison.

While the Emperor's brother eats solid foods, Pu Yi drinks milk from his new mother's breast even though he is pretty tall by now. 

Back to the present.  Pu Yi gets another roommate.  He knows the young man already.  A guard brings a book for Pu Yi to read.  It is about modern history and so Pu Yi looks up the chapter about himself:  "In February 1912, two thousand years of imperial rule came to an end with the abdication of the Manchu Dynasty and China became a republic."    Pu Yi laughs at the history and at the fact that the communists call where they are at a "school" when it is clearly a very real prison. 

The guard comes back and demands that they read the book a loud. 

Scene 10.  Not the Emperor.

The tutor, the man who gave Pu Yi the cricket, teaches the Emperor and his brother how to write the Chinese characters.  His brother does his work well, but the tutor tells His Majesty to do his work over ten times.  He then leaves the room. 

Pu Yi sees his brother is wearing yellow and tells him to take it off because it is imperial yellow and no one is allowed to wear that color except the Emperor.  His brother says it's ordinary yellow, but Pu Yi insists it is imperial yellow and that his brother take it off.  His brother still refuses and tells Pu Yi that he is no longer the Emperor.  There is a new Emperor who rides around in a car.  Pu Yi chases his brother around the table shouting:  "Liar!  Liar!" 

To prove that he is still the Emperor, Pu Yi has one of his servants drink the school ink.  Brother says he will show older brother that he is no longer Emperor.  He goes outside and outside are soldiers marching to the beat of a drum.  Behind them comes a royal looking man in a car.  He is the president of the republic, says younger brother.  Pu Yi is mad and throws a stone in the direction of the president.   He asks his tutor who tells him he will always be emperor, but only within the walls of the Forbidden City.  Outside he is not the emperor.  China is now a republic.  LPu Yi now asks for his new mother.  He is worried about her and runs to find her.  The woman is whisked away before the emperor can find her.  She cries as is taken away.  The emperor runs after her crying out for her.   

Scene 11.  Life Story.

Back to the present.  The prisoners sing a song.  The Governor gets up on a box and tells the prisoners that he is the governor of the place.  He asks the men how could they have betrayed their own country by collaborating with the Japanese?  What turned them into war criminals? 

Back in his cell, Pu Yi starts to write down his life story.    In his room, the Governor starts to read a book entitled Twilight in the Forbidden City by Pu Yi's one time English tutor.   The author talks about how the republic soon fell into corruption and the era of the warlords began.  He was hired in May 1919 and then China was already in turmoil. 

Scene 12.  The New Tutor. 

Flashback.  The English tutor and the Chinese tutor get caught in a China Awake! student demonstration.  The two tutors get out of the car and start walking to get to the Forbidden City.  Suddenly soldiers arrive and brandish their weapons.  The English and Chinese tutors take a side street to avoid the possible violent confrontation.  The English tutor learns that he is the first foreigner to take a position in the Forbidden City since Marco Polo.   

Reginald Johnston is introduced to the Emperor, who is now a young man.  The Emperor shakes hands and then pumps his tutor's arm and hand over and over again.  They have a short lesson.     

Scene 13.  Food Taster. 

At lunch the Emperor says that he is still a Manchurian  -- Manchuria is his country.  He hears the protestors chanting their slogans.  Then is heard the firing of rifles.  Johnston says the students were protesting against the republican government because it decided to give Chinese territory to the Japanese.  Many heads have been chopped off.  The Emperor says the students are right to be angry.  He says he wants to get out of the Forbidden City to see the larger city.  The Emperor gives Johnston the right to be carried in his own chair.  He puts on the hat associated with this privilege. 

Scene 14.  Bicycle.

Johnston wrote in his book that even a bicycle was viewed with suspicion in the Forbidden City.  His present to the emperor led to a lot of trouble.  The Emperor tells him that bicycles are not good for you, but Johnston says that's nonsense.  The Emperor learns that his biological mother is dead.  He is upset and rides the bike to the gate of the Forbidden City.  He wants to ride to his family.  He walks past the guards but they close the gates so he cannot leave.  He gets so mad that he throws his pet mouse at the gates, killing the mouse.  His Majesty then climbs to the roof to hide.  One of the servants starts spanking the bike.  On the roof His Majesty notices that he can't see things distant from him very well.   

Scene 15.  Spectacles.

A western doctor examines the eyes of the Emperor.  The conclusion is that the Emperor needs spectacles.  In the court there is much opposition to the Emperor wearing spectacles.   Johnston says if the Emperor does not get glasses, he will resign.  And then he will tell the world that the Emperor has been a virtual prisoner in the Forbidden City ever since he first arrived.  He says:  "I think the Emperor is the loneliest boy on earth."

The Emperor takes a look at pictures of princesses as the possible future Empress.  He puts on his spectacles to get a better look at the photos.  He is not pleased with any of the young women and girls.  

Scene 16.  The Empress.

The Emperor complains about the choice of princess for him.  He says she is old  -- seventeen.  And she is old-fashioned.  He wants a modern wife who speaks French and English.  The Princess arrives.

Scene 17.  Kissing.

After they are married, in private  the couple kiss.  The Empress gets lipstick all over the Emperor's face.  He is enjoying himself, but when one of her ladies takes off one of his boots, he is shocked.  The Empress sends the women away.  She then tells Pu Yi that maybe the Emperor wants them to act like a modern couple.  So she shakes hands with him and says goodnight.  The Emperor leaves.  The women return after he is gone and the Empress says she thinks she is going to like him. 

Scene 18.  Reform. 

Back to the present.   Pu Yi is interrogated.  He is charged as being a collaborator and a counter-revolutionary.  The Governor comes in to listen to the interrogation.  They want Pu Yi to confess to his crimes.  Pu Yi says that he wanted to reform everything. 

Flashback.  His Majesty is very concerned that a number of valuable pieces from the Forbidden City have been stolen and sold for the money.  He orders his aides to cut off his braided hair and when they object, he cuts it off himself.  He appoints a new Lord Chamberlain and the new man will check to see what and how much has been stolen.    

Scene 19.  Expulsion. 

The Empress asks if she can sleep in the Emperor's bed?   He shakes his head yes.  He tells her he does not want to run away anymore.  Rather he wants to rule.  Then his second wife woman comes into the bed.  They start cuddling and fondling each other.  They are interrupted by a message that the storeroom is on fire. 

This make Pu Yi upset.  He wants to expel the eunuchs before they burn the whole place down with them inside.  The trouble is that there are 1,200 eunuchs here in the Forbidden City.  And eunuchs have been in the palace for 800 years.  The eunuchs are upset at their expulsion and stage a protest watched over by the military. . 

Scene 20.    Leaving the Forbidden City.

Back to the present.  The Governor tells Pu Yi that they want to know about the Japanese.  Pu Yi says that it was the new lord chamberlain that introduced him to the Japanese in 1924.  Parliament had been dissolved again and the president had fled.  He thought it was just a coup-d'etat, but this time it was his turn. 

Flashback.  While he and others play tennis, they hear firing.  Then they see soldiers surround them and then come pouring down onto the tennis court.  The Emperor will be expelled.  He will be taken to his father's home and will remain there as A state prisoner.  He tells those closest to him to go and pack. 

Everyone is removed from the Forbidden City.  The Emperor walks out behind dark sun glasses.  He and his retinue get into cars and leave.  And so out the Emperor is driven.  The soldiers give a big cheer and run back into the Forbidden City. 

Scene 21.  Roaring Twenties.

Back to the present.  The interrogator says that Pu Yi went to the Japanese Embassy after his expulsion.  Pu Yi says the Japanese were the only people prepared to help him.  He admits he was naive, saying:  "I thought it was kindness."  He also says that to many Chinese he was a foreigner because he is Manchurian.  So he went to live in the port city of Tientsin.  He rented a villa and it was very expensive.  He bought a lot of things, thinking that anything that was western was good.  He was 21 and became a playboy dreaming of going to the west. 

Flashback.  Tientsin 1927.  Pu Yi sings in a night club.  He's a pretty good singer.  His wife and and number two wife are with him.  An American dances with the number two wife.  There is an announcement that General Chiang Kai-shek has taken Shanghai.  People in the crowd shout:  "The Reds are finished!"  The Japanese escort the ex-emperor and his wives back home.  The second wife tells Pu Yi that she wants a divorce.  She says in the Forbidden City, she was somebody, but now that it's just Henry and Elizabeth Pu Yi, she is a nobody.  Henry tells her she cannot divorce him. 

Scene 22.  More Bad News.

The second wife decides to leave.  In the rain she just walks off the property.  Mrs. Pu Yi goes to get her in her room, but she has gone.  Just then a future woman pilot, named Eastern Jewel, comes in and asks Elizabeth doesn't she remember her?   She does.  The woman cheers Elizabeth up by telling her that now she has her husband all to herself.  She also tells Elizabeth she's a spy working for the Japanese and she has come to protect Elizabeth.  Elizabeth says she does not trust the Japanese.  Everyday they get closer and closer to her husband.

Pu Yi comes in and finds the two women sitting on the bed.   Eastern Jewel and Pu Yi kiss.  Pu Yi is mad because his second wife has left and he goes around breaking things.  Eastern Jewel tells Pu Yi that something terrible has happened.  The imperial tombs of their Manchurian ancestors have been attacked and robbed by troops of the Kuomintang.  They hacked to pieces the body of the Empress Dowager.  She leaves the room.     

Scene 23.  Good-bye, Mr. Johnston.

Back to the present. "Prisoner 981 reporting."  Pu Yi is told to come in.  His interrogators says Japan invaded Manchuria September 18, 1931and set up a puppet state named Manchuko.  Pu Yi says he refused to collaborate with the Japanese.  But, says the interrogator, in November he arrives in Manchuko.  Pu Yi says he was kidnapped by the Japanese and take there by force.  The Governor then tells Pu Yi about the book written by Johnston. 

Flashback.  Tiensin 1931.   Pu Yi says good-bye to Mr. Johnston at the boat docks.  Pu Yi has tears in his eyes. 

Back to the present.  The Governor says that Johnston writes that Pu Yi went to Manchuria of his own free will.  Pu Yi says that Johnston was a liar.  He had left before Pu Yi was taken to Manchuria.  He could not have known.  So the interrogator brings in the servant of the ex-emperor.  In his confession he says he packed the bags of Pu Yi one day before he left for Manchuko.  Later Pu Yi asks the man why did he write that in his confession and the servants says:  "Because it's true." 

Scene 24.  Emperor Again.

Flashback. Elizabeth warns her husband against cooperating on the Manchuko scheme.  She tells him the Japanese are using him, but Pu Yi tells her that he must use the Japanese instead.  He says China has turned its back on him.  Elizabeth asks him please not to go.  He says he's going to build his country. 

Back to the Present.  The Governor confronts Pu Yi saying there was no kidnapping.  He went to Manchuko in order to be Emperor again.  The Governor demands that he rewrite his confession. 

Flashback.  Manchuria, 1934.  Pu Yi comes to Manchuria all dressed up in his royal clothing.   He is given a warm reception. Elizabeth and Eastern Jewel are there in the crowd.  Eastern Jewel says she hates China and can't wait to bomb Shanghai as a pilot.  Elizabeth says she hates Eastern Jewel. 

Scene 25.  Coronation Party.

Elizabeth and Eastern Jewel are at the coronation.  The Japanese film the event.  Elizabeth eats the orchid flowers, while a tear flows down her cheek.  Pu Yi scolds her for ruining the event for him.  Elizabeth tells him he is blind.  She says his brother is having a child with his wife and suggests they should have a child.  Pu Yi is going to go to Japan, but Elizabeth says she will never go there.  She goes to her room where she and Eastern Jewel smoke opium.  Eastern Jewel starts licking her toes. 

Scene 26.  Prisoner 981. 

Back to the present.  The Governor sees the men acting as servants for the ex-emperor.  He gives the order to move prisoner 981 out of the cell.  They give Pu Yi many cleaning jobs to do.  He is now in a larger cell with lots of men.  This unnerves Pu Yi somewhat.  All the men in the room were part of Manchuko and are guilty of war crimes as is Pu Yi himself.      

Scene 27.  National Identity.

Flashback.  Manchuria 1935.  Pu Yi returns from his trip to Japan.  He discovers that his personal guard no longer can carry arms.  He asks why and a Japanese colonel tells him there have been many changes since he left for Japan.  Pu Yi asks why the prime minister is not here to greet him?  He has resigned after the assassination of his son by communist bandits.  He now has gone to a convent far, far away. 

Pu Yi speaks to the Japanese and talks of the independence of Manchuko, which is really Manchuria.  The Japanese become very angry and walk out of the meeting.  Pu Yi is shocked and stunned. 

Scene 28.  "I was Blind."

He now says to Elizabeth that she was right.  He was blind.  She tells him she is going to have a child and the father is Manchuria.  She says she did it for him.  The colonel comes in and demands that Pu Yi sign the document for the appointment of the new prime minister.  Pu Yi gets up, goes over to his wife and says she is going to have a child.  Yes, the Japanese are very aware of this.  The name of the father is written down on a piece of paper and given to the Manchuko Emperor.  It is Chang, his driver.   Pu Yi is shocked and stunned again.  Chang will be killed by order of the Japanese.  Now Pu Yi signs the document.  Chang is assassinated with a pistol shot to the back of his head. 

Scene 29.  The Last Time.

Back to the present.  The Governor watches as many of the prisoners exercise slowly and silently.   Pu Yi has been here three years and the Governor says he still can't take care of himself.  His cellmates have complained that he always wakes them up when he urinates during the night. 

The Governor tells Pu Yi that his faithful servant Li is being released today.   Before leaving the room, Li introduces the ex-emperor to his wife.  He says they have three children, but Pu Yi never even knew that or anything else about him. 

Pu Yi tells his cellmates what war crimes each of them are guilty of.  This upsets one of the men and he calls for the guard. 

Scene 30.  Taken Away. 

Elizabeth gives birth to a baby.  The doctor injects the baby with something.  The Emperor is told that the baby died at birth.  And now they will send the Empress to someplace to rest.  In fact, Eastern Jewel, tells him, she is being taken away as they speak.  Like the time he ran after his new mother, Pu Yi runs after his wife, with both times being in vain.  The guards close the gates after his wife is gone. Eastern Jewel watches all this with one of the Japanese officials while she holds his hand.   

Scene 31.  Terror in China.

Back to the present.  The prisoners watch newsreel footage of the Japanese assault on China.  When Nanking fell the atrocities began, known as the Nanking Massacre.  Japan attacks Pearl Harbor in 1941.  The newsreels speak of the puppet Emperor of Manchuko, Pu Yi.  There is an expose of the terrible deeds done in Manchuko.  Emperor Hirohito surrenders in the name of Japan. 

Scene 32.  Japan Surrenders. 

Eastern Jewel listens to the Japanese Emperor speak of surrender.  Her boyfriend shoots himself in the head with his pistol.  A staff member tells Pu Yi that he must try to surrender to the Americans and not the Russians.  The Japanese come in to say the Russians are nearby and they must leave in a plane immediately.  Elizabeth is brought back home.  Pu Yi hears her Pekinese dogs and goes to look.  He sees her spitting on several Japanese soldiers.  She looks at the Emperor but has no reaction at all.  She walks past him.  She sees Eastern Jewel and her dead boyfriend and spits in his direction.  She goes into a room and closes the doors in the face of her husband. 

As the plane gets ready to leave, Russian paratroopers start landing.  Russian soldiers take the Emperor and the others into their custody. 

Scene 33.  Released.

The Governor walks through the prison yard.  He sees Pu Yi working in the garden.  He asks the ex-emperor why did he sign every accusation made against him, when some of the accusations are false, such as approving of the Japanese biological experiments on Chinese men and women?   Pu Yi answers that he is responsible for all of it.  

1959.  At age 53 Pu Yi is released after ten years of detention.  It is said he has shown that he has genuinely reformed and, therefore, is released. 

Scene 34.  Peking 1967.

Pu Yi works in a green house garden.  Peking 1967.  It is the time of the excesses of the Chinese Cultural Revolution.  He marvels at how young the demonstrators are.  One of the men being publicly humiliated by the young people is the Governor.  Pu Yi is shocked to see him there.  He walks over to see the Governor.  He speaks to him and then protests to one of the young men that this must be a mistake for this man is a good man.  This only makes it worse for the Governor as the young people manhandle him again trying to get him to confess to his "crimes".   Pu Yi persists and they throw him to the ground.  He finally gives up his attempt to save the Governor, seeing it is useless to talk to these young people.  Young women in uniform perform  for the crowd and then march away. 

Scene 35.  Return.

Pu Yi buys a ticket to take a tour of the Forbidden City.  He goes into the throne room.  He wonders if his cricket box is still there where he hid it.  He goes over the guard ropes and starts to walk up to the throne.  A boy tries to stop him and Pu Yi tells him that at one time he was the Emperor of China.  The little boy tells him to prove it, so Pu Yi goes over to the throne and pulls out of hiding his cricket box.  Inside the little container is a cricket who crawls out and onto the small boy's shirt.   

Scene 36.  End Credits.

Tour guides come and lead guided tours of the throne room and speak of Pu Yi, the last emperor of China. 

 

A really great movie with lots of beautiful views of pomp and ceremony.  The movie follows closely the real life story of China's last emperor, Pu Yi.  One has to feel sorry for the young emperor who seems to be more prisoner than Emperor.  And his life basically stays that way for the rest of his existence.  He was emperor in a time that had passed emperors by.  He was emperor, but emperor with a regent, then he was emperor but with no kingdom to rule, then he was emperor, but a fake emperor (a puppet to the Japanese), then he was an emperor in a communist re-education camp.   And even after he left the camp, the Cultural Revolution made his last years uneasy ones. Thank goodness, you are not a last emperor as was Pu Yi.   

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 

 


Historical Background:

 

1820-1850 --  rule of Puyi's great-grandfather, the Daoguang Emperor.

1840-1891  --  Puyi's paternal grandfather was the 1st Prince Chun, and son of the Daoguang Emperor.

1850-1861  --  rule of the great grandfather's fourth son, Xianfeng Emperor. 

1861-1875  -- rule of Xianfeng's only son, who became the Tongzhi Emperor.  He died without a son.

1861-1908  --  the Empress Dowager Cixi (popularly known in China as the Western Empress Dowager) the de facto ruler of the Manchu Qing Dynasty.  

1875-1908  --  rule of Guangxu Emperor, son of the 1st Prince Chun and his wife, who was the younger sister of Empress Dowager Cixi.  Guangxu died without an heir.

1906  --  Puyi born.

1908  --  death of the Empress Dowager.  She chose Puyi to be her heir on her deathbed.

1908-1912  --  Puyi was the last ruling emperor of China, the tenth emperor of the Qing Dynasty.  He succeeded Guangxu.  Puyi was the eldest son of the 2nd Price Chun (18831951), who in turn was the son of the 1st Prince Chun and his second concubine, the Lady Lingiya (18661925).

Puyi was very young. 

1908-1911  --  Puyi's father served as regent. 

1911  --  Empress Dowager Longyu became regent for Puyi in the face of the Xinhai Revolution.

1911  --  The Xinhai Revolution, Hsinhai Revolution, the 1911 Revolution or the Chinese Revolution, was a republican revolution that overthrew China's Qing Dynasty (occasionally known as the Manchu Dynasty).

1911-1949  --  the Republic of China.

1912  --  Sun Yat-sen of the Kuomintang (KMT or Nationalist Party) was proclaimed provisional president of the republic.  He was soon replaced by Yuan Shikai, a former Qing general. After his death the country fragmented politically.

1912-1924  --  Puyi was the last non-ruling emperor of China.  He was known as Mr. Puyi.

Puyi had an English language teacher, Scotsman Reginald Johnston.

late 1920s  --  the Kuomintang, under Chiang Kai-shek, reunified the country under its own control.

1924  --  after the Emperor was forced to abdicate, he and his wife moved to the City of Tianjin, southeast of Bejing. 

1931  --  Japan invades Manchuria. 

1932  --  in Manchuria, the Japanese established the puppet state of Manchuko. 

1934-1935  --  Pu Yi was the Kangde Emperor of Manchuko.  Over time he became a mere puppet of the Japanese. 

Realizing her husband had no real political power, the Empress's addiction to opium worsened and her lack of freedom caused her mental health to deteriorate. 

Puyi ordered his wife sent to the "Cold Palace," a palace for the isolation of emperors' disfavored consorts.

1937  --  Japan invades China.  With 200,000 soldiers, the Japanese occupied Shanghai, Nanjing and southern Shanxi.

1939-1945  --  World War II.

1945  --  Puyi was captured by the Soviet Army. 

1946  --  Puyi testified at the Tokyo war crimes trial, where he condemned the Japanese using him as a puppet ruler.

1946  --  the last Chinese Empress, Puyi's wife, died alone in the Prison of Yanji in Jilin Province after being captured by the Red Army. 

1947  --  ongoing civil war between the Kuomintang and the Communist Party of China

1949  -- Chinese Communists under Mao Zedong come to power. 

1949 - present  --  the People's Republic of China.

1949  -- Puyi first learned of the death of his wife in prison. 

By early 1950  --   the Communists had defeated the Kuomintang.

1950  --  Stalin repatriated the former emperor to China.  There he spent ten years in a reeducation camp in Fushun, Liaoning provine. 

c 1960  -- after being declared reformed, Puyi supported the Communists and worked at the Beijing Botanical Gardens

1964-1967  --  Pu Yi was a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference under the name Aixinjueluo Puyi.

1966-1976   -- the Cultural Revolution; launched by Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong to make sure Maoism would be China's dominant ideology to eliminate political opposition.

1967  --  Puyi died of cancer during the Cultural Revolution. 

1969  -- Mao declared the end of the Cultural Revolution, but it was not over. 

1976 (September 9)  --  death of Mao.

1976  --  arrest of the Gang of Four.  These officials were blamed for the extreme events of the Cultural Revolution; they were arrested and removed from their positions.  The group included Mao's widow Jiang Qing, three of her close associates, Zhang Chunqiao, Yao Wenyuan, and Wang Hongwen, along with Kang Sheng and Xie Fuzhi (both already dead). 

1978 (early)  --  Deng Xiaoping became the real power of the Party. Reforms have relaxed some of the extreme controls on Chinese society. 

1981  --  the four deposed Cultural Revolution leaders were tried and sent to prison. They were later released. 

1989  --  a popular demonstration for more freedom occurred  in Beijing's Tiananmen Square and was eventually violently put down. 

 

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