For over 2000 years, China was ruled by an emperor. Chinese chose their emperors strategically, and this mostly happened after a vote of no confidence was passed or when the emperor dies. When the current emperor passed on, typically his oldest son would be the heir of the throne. This, however, wasn’t always the case. Sometimes, political conflicts would arise over who should become emperor, and there are times when this would lead to war with any rivals.
When it comes to the title, the Chinese word for ‘Emperor’ is ‘Huangdi’ which was used across the country. While that was the main title, the Chinese used several words to refer to their emperor, some of which were ‘His Holy Highness’, and ‘the Lord of 10,000 years. The words of the Chinese emperor were seen as final and were considered sacred. Also, the people of China believed that the emperor was under the mandate of heaven. That means if they didn’t do a good job, the title was stripped away from them.
That said, the first Chinese emperor was Zheng, who proclaimed himself Qin Shi Hang, which meant the first sovereign emperor of the land. He ruled the Qin dynasty from 221 to 206 BC. Now that we understand the regime background in China and have acquainted ourselves with the first emperor of China, who is the last? Read on to find out!
Who is the last emperor of China?
The last emperor of the Qing Dynasty, who is also the last emperor of China is known as Aisin-Gioro Puyi. He lived through the fall of his empire, World War II, and the 2nd Sino-Japanese War, the founding of the Peoples Republic of China, and the Chinese Civil War.
He was born on the 7th of February 1906, to Prince Chun of the Asian-Gioro clan of the Manchu royal family, one of the most influential families in China. He had tight family ties with the de facto ruler of China, who was Empress Dowager Cixi at the time. When the Guangxu Emperor, his uncle, died of arsenic poisoning in 1908, he was selected by the empress as the new emperor. At the time, he was a very little boy; but because the empress died the next day, her word was final.
When was the last emperor of China?
In 1912, specifically on February 12, Puyi was forced to abdicate. This happened after Sun Yatsen’s republican revolution. Immediately after, they established a provisional government to replace his regime. This governmental shift significantly ended 2,000 years of imperial rule and 267 years of Manchu rule in China.
Why was the last emperor of China overthrown?
Unfortunately, emperor Puyi retired about three times during the period between 1912 and 1945. In 1912, the primary reason for his abdication was the outbreak of the Chinese Revolution of 1911. His government saw that the general situation was coupled with the temptation and coercion of Yuan Shikai and other leaders, so he felt threatened and chose to abdicate. During this time, he lost the power of the emperor but still retained the prestige of the emperor. Based on this background, we can say that the first abdication in 1912 wasn’t necessarily real abdication.
In 1917, Puyi abdicated again in the small court and did the same in 1945. During world war II, Japan invaded and occupied about 3 provinces in the eastern parts of China. There was a crazy uproar in the international community during that year because they thought that Japan disrupted the international order that was stabilized after World War I. Following multiple condemnation notices and questioning, Japan decided to support the puppet regime in the Northeast to ease the pressure of international public opinion. The best puppet for this was Puyi.
This further enabled Puyi to reestablish the Manchukuo regime and regain his title. Because he was under Japan’s mercy, when Japan was defeated in 1945, Puyi lost his power and had to announce his abdication again. The only difference is that this time around, it was a lot more embarrassing following the Chinese document (an abdication edict) that officially overthrew him.
What happened to the last emperor of China?
Towards the end of World War II, emperor Puyi was imprisoned by the Russians, and he was taken back to China in 1950 for thorough trials as a war criminal. The communists did not want to kill him, so they preferred to make him a communist through several years of reeducation. At this time, he had to learn more about revolution.
In 1959, he was pardoned, and he chose to start over his life in Beijing, China. He pursued research as a new career in the institute of literature and history, which was a popular sector under the Chinese People’s Consultative Conference. During this time, he wrote his autobiography that was published in 1965.
Afterward, he became a revolutionary hero and was treated as such and was under protective custody until the time of his death.
Where was the last emperor of China buried?
Puyi, who was China’s last emperor died in the October of 1967. He was only 61 at the time and succumbed to kidney cancer. Immediately after he died, his ashes were placed in a cheap wooden basket, but 13 years later, he was recognized as a revolutionary hero and given a resting spot among all the other revolutionary martyrs in Babaoshan Cemetery. After another 15 years of societal reform, he was moved to the Western Qing tombs.
Puyi, started as an emperor when he was about two to three years old. His regime was quite adventurous and had multiple events going on at the time. At one point, he was overthrown by the Nationalists of China, then he became a puppet rule with Japan’s support. Also, he was incarcerated as a war criminal by Russia, and from an emperor, he ended up as a gardener. Even so, he had a revolutionary send-off through the royal mourning hall and the driving of his remains in a Japanese limousine.