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Puyi (The Last Emperor)

History >> Biography >> Ancient China


Puyi was born into the Chinese royal family on February 7,1906. His father was Prince Chun and his mother Princess Youlan. Puyi grew up in the imperial palace and knew little of the world outside.

Puyi by unknown photographer
[Public Domain]

Child Emperor

Young Puyi didn't know what was going on when he was crowned the emperor of China at the age of two years old. He cried through much of the ceremony. During the four years that Puyi was emperor, he didn't really rule China, but had a regent who ruled for him. He was treated like an emperor, however. The servants bowed down before him wherever he went and obeyed his every command.


In 1911, the people of China revolted against the Qing Dynasty. The Republic of China took over as the government of China. In 1912, Puyi was forced to give up his throne (also called "abdicate his throne") and no longer had any power. The government allowed him to keep his title and to live in the Forbidden Palace, but he had no official role in the government.

Emperor Again

For a short period of time in 1917, Puyi was restored to the throne by the Chinese warlord Zhang Xun. He only ruled for twelve days (July 1 to July 12), however, as the republican government quickly took back control.

Out of the Forbidden City

Puyi continued to live a quiet life in the Forbidden City for many years. In 1924, everything changed when the Republic of China formally took away his title as emperor. They also forced him to leave the Forbidden City. Puyi was now just a regular citizen of China.

Ruler of Manchukuo

Puyi went to live in the Japanese controlled city of Tianjin. He struck up a deal to become the leader of the country of Manchukuo in 1932. Manchukuo was a region in Northern China controlled by Japan. Puyi had little power and was mostly a figurehead for the Japanese.

World War II

When the Japanese lost World War II in 1945, Puyi was captured by the Soviet Union. They held him captive until 1949, when he was sent back to Communist China. Puyi spent the next 10 years in prison being reeducated in the ways of communism.

Becoming a Citizen

In 1959, Puyi became a regular citizen of the People's Republic of China. He first went to work as a gardener and then as a literary researcher. He also wrote an autobiography of his life called From Emperor to Citizen.


Puyi died in 1967 from kidney cancer.

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