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EL ULTIMO EMPERADOR Autobiografia del hombre que perdio el Trono Imperial Chino

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La figura de Pu Yi, último monarca de China, es una de las más contradictorias de la historia contemporánea. Nacido en la corte de Pekín, emperador a la edad de dos años, fue depuesto y tuvo que huir a Tientsin, donde vivió la amargura del exilio hasta que el ejército de invasión japonés le convirtió durante unos años en emperador de Manchukúo. Tras la paz de 1945 cayó pri La figura de Pu Yi, último monarca de China, es una de las más contradictorias de la historia contemporánea. Nacido en la corte de Pekín, emperador a la edad de dos años, fue depuesto y tuvo que huir a Tientsin, donde vivió la amargura del exilio hasta que el ejército de invasión japonés le convirtió durante unos años en emperador de Manchukúo. Tras la paz de 1945 cayó prisionero de los chinos. Reeducado psicológicamente, el antiguo soberano se convirtió en un súbdito de Mao.


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La figura de Pu Yi, último monarca de China, es una de las más contradictorias de la historia contemporánea. Nacido en la corte de Pekín, emperador a la edad de dos años, fue depuesto y tuvo que huir a Tientsin, donde vivió la amargura del exilio hasta que el ejército de invasión japonés le convirtió durante unos años en emperador de Manchukúo. Tras la paz de 1945 cayó pri La figura de Pu Yi, último monarca de China, es una de las más contradictorias de la historia contemporánea. Nacido en la corte de Pekín, emperador a la edad de dos años, fue depuesto y tuvo que huir a Tientsin, donde vivió la amargura del exilio hasta que el ejército de invasión japonés le convirtió durante unos años en emperador de Manchukúo. Tras la paz de 1945 cayó prisionero de los chinos. Reeducado psicológicamente, el antiguo soberano se convirtió en un súbdito de Mao.

30 review for EL ULTIMO EMPERADOR Autobiografia del hombre que perdio el Trono Imperial Chino

  1. 4 out of 5

    Daren

    Pu Yi was the eleventh Qing Emperor of China from 1908 until 1912. He was born in 1906 meaning he was emperor from age two until six before he was forced to abdicate. He was restored to the throne again in 1917 (about a month) before expulsion. After courting both the Chinese warlords and the Japanese he was established by the Japanese as a puppet emperor over the state of Manchukuo from 1932 until 1945. In 1945 he fled, was captured by the USSR and imprisoned. In 1949, when the Chinese Communist Pu Yi was the eleventh Qing Emperor of China from 1908 until 1912. He was born in 1906 meaning he was emperor from age two until six before he was forced to abdicate. He was restored to the throne again in 1917 (about a month) before expulsion. After courting both the Chinese warlords and the Japanese he was established by the Japanese as a puppet emperor over the state of Manchukuo from 1932 until 1945. In 1945 he fled, was captured by the USSR and imprisoned. In 1949, when the Chinese Communist Party to power in China, Pu Yi was repatriated and again imprisoned for re-education. This part is particularly tailored to making the Communist Party look magnanimous - they treat his very kindly, particularly the prison governor. The criticisms of his former staff are more punishment than his reeducation. In 1959 Pu Yi was brought, rehabilitated, to Beijing, where he was allowed to live as an ordinary citizen. In the 1960s, with encouragement from Chairman Mao Zedong and Premier Zhou Enlai, Pu Yi wrote this autobiography From Emperor to Citizen (with a ghost writer). As a newly committed communist, the book takes a fairly obvious slant, which is frustrating, but doesn't mean it is not interesting. Surely one of few men who came from the very top echelon of society to end up a common man. Having never done anything himself - brushed his teeth, tied his own shoelaces, needed to know where to go! Upon returning to Beijing, fully rehabilitated, Pu Yi tries to integrate. He notices his neighbours on the street weeping it clean, and goes out to share the work. On completion, he is unable to find his way home, and must knock on a strangers door. They assist him back to his house! The story ends quite soon after his return to Beijing. Still a very slow read, and certainly for the first half of the first book, I struggled to sort out who was who, and how they fit together (many having more than one name or title), and largely had to give up on a full understanding. If you are only 'interested in passing' then I suggest an hour on Wikipedia explains is succinctly and in good detail. Only recommended if you want all the details. 3 stars.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Pearl

    Ever since watching "The Last Emperor," I've kind of been obsessed with court life in imperial China, so I decided to read about it straight from the horse's mouth in this autobiography by China's last emperor, PuYi. Sure, the ridiculously opulent palace lifestyle was fascinating, and his descriptions of empress/tyrant Tzi Chi entertainingly creepy, but PuYi's fall from absolute power was even more gripping. This was a man who had complete control over millions of people, lost it during the revo Ever since watching "The Last Emperor," I've kind of been obsessed with court life in imperial China, so I decided to read about it straight from the horse's mouth in this autobiography by China's last emperor, PuYi. Sure, the ridiculously opulent palace lifestyle was fascinating, and his descriptions of empress/tyrant Tzi Chi entertainingly creepy, but PuYi's fall from absolute power was even more gripping. This was a man who had complete control over millions of people, lost it during the revolution of 1911, and foolishly tried to gain it back in vain. It's impressive how someone with such entitlement could eventually write with such honesty and humility. In one chapter, for instance, he admits, "Although I had many [court] mothers, I never knew a mother's love." I really felt for him - for someone so powerful, he never received the most basic form of human care.

  3. 4 out of 5

    saïd

    Obviously I feel bad for the bloke, but man, it sure is obvious that he had to write this under the watchful eye of the CCP censorship board.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Deva

    This is a pretty fascinating journey through China's sometimes brutal transition into modernity. From the machinations of the dying Qing court, to the prison like royal palace of the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo, to a communist brain washing center, the reader gets to live vicariously through quite a bit. I'm sure there are even weirder parts of his story that couldn't be told, and his wholehearted enthusiasm for Marxism toward the end of the book cannot be separated from his survival inst This is a pretty fascinating journey through China's sometimes brutal transition into modernity. From the machinations of the dying Qing court, to the prison like royal palace of the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo, to a communist brain washing center, the reader gets to live vicariously through quite a bit. I'm sure there are even weirder parts of his story that couldn't be told, and his wholehearted enthusiasm for Marxism toward the end of the book cannot be separated from his survival instinct and the needs of the communist party at the time. But this obsequiousness also fits him completely. Pu Yi was a survivor because of his chameleon like ability to ingratiate himself with any faction. Warlords, monarchists, the Russians, the Japanese and the CCP all saw him as more valuable alive than dead so long as he played the part. Though he was always told he was all powerful and all important, he really seems to have been a prisoner in a gilded cage even from childhood. Perhaps living out his last years as an ordinary man actually was a blessing.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Aidan Cashman

    Amazing book. Managed to suck me in from the beginning to the end, I wasn't bored for one moment. It was what started a deep fascination with the Qing Dynasty for me. My favorite book ever. Read it, you won't be disappointed. Amazing book. Managed to suck me in from the beginning to the end, I wasn't bored for one moment. It was what started a deep fascination with the Qing Dynasty for me. My favorite book ever. Read it, you won't be disappointed.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Reza Amiri Praramadhan

    After reading this book, I can't help but feeling sorry for Pu Yi. Suddenly thrust into power in the twilight of Qing Empire, I can see that he was ill-prepared for the inevitable end of the Empire. Throughout his childhood, he did not received proper education about what is right and what is wrong (as an ordinary men learn), and his opulent lifestyle also caught him unprepared when he was separated from any privileges he used to have. For example, I don't know whether to laugh or feel sorry whe After reading this book, I can't help but feeling sorry for Pu Yi. Suddenly thrust into power in the twilight of Qing Empire, I can see that he was ill-prepared for the inevitable end of the Empire. Throughout his childhood, he did not received proper education about what is right and what is wrong (as an ordinary men learn), and his opulent lifestyle also caught him unprepared when he was separated from any privileges he used to have. For example, I don't know whether to laugh or feel sorry when he explained that he wasn't used to wash his own clothes, can't button shirts by himself, and was unable to keep himself tidy without help from others. Swayed by the promises of the Japanese, he could not escape the fate of being used as a puppet for Japan's imperial ambitions. In the end, when he lived on as an ordinary, regular citizen of People's Republic of China, he was so disoriented, like when he lost his pocket watch, helped people sweeping streets and ended up forgetting where his house was, and left behind by a public bus for not entering it quick enough. After all, this book is an interesting one, for I get insights about life in the Forbidden City told by the one who actually used to own it, and how an Emperor lived his life. Furthermore the effectiveness of Chinese Communists' brainwashing methods also shown, with people who were used to be loyal to Pu Yi gradually one by one turned their back on him. So sad indeed, to have one life such as Pu Yi's.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Song

    I've read this book before visiting Pu Yi's Manchukuo palace museum in Changchun, China. With the help from the book's contents, it's a lot of easier to understand the exhibitions in the old Manchukuo palace and its turmoil history. After the book reading and museum visiting, my feeling to Pu Yi is sympathy. As the last emperor of China history, he was stuck in that position forever with Ci Xi Empress's choice. As the man who couldn't choose his own fate at the very beginning, Pu Yi was just a f I've read this book before visiting Pu Yi's Manchukuo palace museum in Changchun, China. With the help from the book's contents, it's a lot of easier to understand the exhibitions in the old Manchukuo palace and its turmoil history. After the book reading and museum visiting, my feeling to Pu Yi is sympathy. As the last emperor of China history, he was stuck in that position forever with Ci Xi Empress's choice. As the man who couldn't choose his own fate at the very beginning, Pu Yi was just a frighten toddler to take over Ching Dynasty's throne. After that, he was the puppet of the powerful Ci Xi Empress, war lords, Imperial Japanese army, Soviet Red Army and Chinese Communist propaganda. I am doubted that Pu Yi had been for himself, even for one day... Pu Yi's tragedies were the results of modern China history and his illusion. He has my deep sympathy.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Bethany

    You could almost feel the party official standing over his shoulder as he wrote it.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Eman

    I recently watched the 1987 film The Last Emperor which won 9 Oscars at the Academy Awards that year. After watching that film, I wanted to learn more about Puyi, the last Emperor of China. I discovered that the film used Puyi's autobiography as a main source, hence I read this book to see the events through Puyi's eyes. This autobiography was surprisingly well-written, and very fast-paced; it really kept me glued to the pages. I learned more about the life of Chinese Emperors, and the bleakness I recently watched the 1987 film The Last Emperor which won 9 Oscars at the Academy Awards that year. After watching that film, I wanted to learn more about Puyi, the last Emperor of China. I discovered that the film used Puyi's autobiography as a main source, hence I read this book to see the events through Puyi's eyes. This autobiography was surprisingly well-written, and very fast-paced; it really kept me glued to the pages. I learned more about the life of Chinese Emperors, and the bleakness of it. In addition to that, I was able to get more details on Puyi's life events that were highlighted in the film, such as more insight to Puyi's war crimes and his life in prison after his expulsion from the Forbidden City and his collaborations with Japan during WWII--or moreso his captivity by the Japanese who were using him as a puppet Emperor/figurehead for their own means. It was really interesting to discover how sheltered his education was, how he only learned from Confucius texts, and did not learn any science or mathematics; it wasn't until Puyi had an English tutor that his worldview changed and he was able to open his eyes beyond himself; he writes how he assumed everyone had over 20 different foods served to them every meal, that they were as well off as he was--that is how sheltered he was as he was never allowed to leave the Forbidden City or see the outside world. His tutor gave him a reality check, as did his superiors when he was imprisoned as a war criminal and had to do everything on his own for the first time, like wash his own clothes, dress himself, brush his own teeth, and even open his own doors. I mean, he literally never opened his own doors when he was Emperor. It's just eye-opening to read about. Imagine being raised like that, being told you are the most important person since you were the age of 3 and never reprimanded for your actions even when you misbehaved--that you were so important you could have someone else open a door for you or put the powder on your own toothbrush, and someone else take the beating for you when you did something wrong. All in all, this was just a sad account of a man who never had any agency, he was always controlled by others, whether that be the Empress Dowager, the Consorts, the eunuchs, the Japanese, the Communists, etc. His autobiography is worth the read if you are interested in Chinese history. Or if you would like to read the story of a monarch who lost power and finished his life as a poor gardener.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Brent Pinkall

    There are many reasons why this book is fascinating. It is the only autobiography ever written by a Chinese emperor. This is especially intriguing because the emperor was the most secluded person in all of China, being locked away in the "Forbidden City." Pu Yi provides a firsthand account of what actually went on behind the palace walls and humanizes the mysterious "Son of Heaven." There are so many fascinating details, from the political intrigues of eunuchs to the lavish meals to Pu Yi's own There are many reasons why this book is fascinating. It is the only autobiography ever written by a Chinese emperor. This is especially intriguing because the emperor was the most secluded person in all of China, being locked away in the "Forbidden City." Pu Yi provides a firsthand account of what actually went on behind the palace walls and humanizes the mysterious "Son of Heaven." There are so many fascinating details, from the political intrigues of eunuchs to the lavish meals to Pu Yi's own loneliness and yearning to leave his "prison" and experience the outside world. Pu Yi was crowned emperor as a baby, so in addition to his adult life he describes what life is like for a child emperor. One of Pu Yi's many interesting quirks is that he was very critical of traditional Chinese culture and fascinated by Western culture, which was introduced to him by his British tutor. In almost all areas of culture, he thought the West was superior to China. I found his reflections about this interesting. The plot thickens when a coup led by a warlord ousts him from the palace and he finally gets to leave his "prison." Later, the Japanese invade and set him up as a puppet emperor before he is eventually captured by the Communists and placed in a labor camp for 10 years. The stark contrast between his lavish imperial lifestyle and his life as a prisoner in a labor camp is also fascinating. It's amazing that he was never killed. My only complaint about the book is that the section detailing his life in the Forbidden City is too short. He spends most of the book talking about his life after leaving the palace, and much of this material is tedious.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sunhawk

    A study of what happens when an ordinary human is thrust into a tempestuous life. Pu Yi is a colorless, ambition-free, mediocre non-entity who happens to be endowed with the position of importance. As such, he is the poster child for the inadvisability of hereditary power. I struggled to finish the book, even had to take a Robert Crais break in the middle to regain my interest. Pu's story takes place during times of great change in China -- the rottenness of dying empire, Japanese occupation and A study of what happens when an ordinary human is thrust into a tempestuous life. Pu Yi is a colorless, ambition-free, mediocre non-entity who happens to be endowed with the position of importance. As such, he is the poster child for the inadvisability of hereditary power. I struggled to finish the book, even had to take a Robert Crais break in the middle to regain my interest. Pu's story takes place during times of great change in China -- the rottenness of dying empire, Japanese occupation and Sino-Soviet bickering, the Second World War, and the rise of Chinese Communism. In his limp-wristed prose, Pu describes the dissolution of empire, his time as a puppet emperor, and his surprisingly gentle "remolding and reeducation" at the hands of the Chinese communists. I cannot recommend the book, even though it yields some insight into a common thread in our popular culture: the human tragedy of a mismatch between talent and character.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Bettie

    (view spoiler)[ Bettie's Books (hide spoiler)] (view spoiler)[ Bettie's Books (hide spoiler)]

  13. 4 out of 5

    Tha De

    Provided a historical background and anecdotes from the Emperor himself. Sadly, the book, in many ways, turned out to be a CCP propaganda.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Clem

    When I clicked “buy” on this one, I didn’t read the description as carefully as I should have. I was wanting a biography. This is an AUTObiography. Big difference. Fortunately, although not what I was wanting, this was a very satisfying read. The last emperor of China has a lot of potent, powerful history surrounding his reign, his removal, his imprisonment, and his eventual freedom. I never saw the popular (1988?) movie, but heard it was very good. After reading this, I definitely want to watch When I clicked “buy” on this one, I didn’t read the description as carefully as I should have. I was wanting a biography. This is an AUTObiography. Big difference. Fortunately, although not what I was wanting, this was a very satisfying read. The last emperor of China has a lot of potent, powerful history surrounding his reign, his removal, his imprisonment, and his eventual freedom. I never saw the popular (1988?) movie, but heard it was very good. After reading this, I definitely want to watch it at some point. Since this book is an autobiography, most of the historical turmoil surrounding the life of Henry Pu Li is not really dwelled upon within the pages. The emperor, as you might imagine, lives in his own isolated world; surrounded by ivory carvings, expensive jewelry, and hundreds (if not thousands) of servants to cater to his every need and whim. Why should such an individual care about what happens beyond the palace walls as long as he’s allowed to live as tradition dictates? Especially when he’s basically still a child. So we read about his whole life, yet most of the early episodes deal with things most others could never dream. We read about how meals are prepared, how the young emperor is fascinated with watching ants climb trees, how he picks his empress bride (and concubines) from photographs, and how the entire nation is subjugated towards him when they’re in his presence. It’s incredibly difficult if you’re one of the young emperor’s tutors when he would rather watch ants than study. God help you if you’re his tutor and you say something like “you must focus on your studies, your highness, instead of watching insects”. This leads me to point out that we also see a cruel side to the young ruler. We constantly read about how he has his eunuch servants flogged if they show the slightest bit of discourtesy towards him. If the floggers aren’t flogging hard enough, they themselves run the risk of being flogged as well. Because of the political turmoil within China, the eventual invasion of Japan (leading to his imprisonment in the USSR), and the Communist takeover of China, we do read an awful lot of internal strife and conflict, yet strangely, the emperor’s ‘captivity’ never really seems that severe. We read nothing at all about things such as gulag-like tortures that communist prisons are known for throughout history. His imprisonment (both in Russia and China) seems rather mild. Of course, being that this is an autobiography, you have to wonder if many of his reflections in this autobiography were heavily censored. That, or the fact that maybe he really was ‘brainwashed’ during his captivity. He seems to concede awfully easily how his reign and history is a farcical sham, and he seems to praise the new communist leaders of his country rather liberally. On a negative note, there’s an awful lot of Sino names within this autobiography, and it was awfully difficult for my Western brain to assimilate and keep track of the different people. It seemed there were at least a dozen different individuals named either ‘Chan’ or ‘Chen’. Then, as other reviewers have pointed out, there’s quite a bit of punctuation errors and misspellings here as well. My guess is that this is probably due to the transition of this book to electronic format. Still, though, it only makes a complicated endeavor that much worse. Although I still wish I would have read something more geared towards the actual history of the particular time and places, I still felt that this book was very well written, and a quite different change of pace. I mean, how many autobiographies have you read where the person telling the story doesn’t know what a hair dryer is? Or how to get on a public bus? Or how to even open a door?

  15. 5 out of 5

    Arushi Narang

    Autobiographies, even ghostwritten ones, tell us who the person was from what they reveal and hide. Aisin-Gioro Pu Yi was Emperor of China, Son of Heaven, Manchuguo War Criminal and Puppet Emperor, Soviet ‘Guest’ invited to partake in Siberian spring waters, ‘Rag Market’ to derisive cellmates in Chinese Communist re-education camp, and in the end an ordinary citizen taking the public bus with a voter ID card. To this inimitable list of descriptors, the book jacket adds another: ‘survivor’. He wa Autobiographies, even ghostwritten ones, tell us who the person was from what they reveal and hide. Aisin-Gioro Pu Yi was Emperor of China, Son of Heaven, Manchuguo War Criminal and Puppet Emperor, Soviet ‘Guest’ invited to partake in Siberian spring waters, ‘Rag Market’ to derisive cellmates in Chinese Communist re-education camp, and in the end an ordinary citizen taking the public bus with a voter ID card. To this inimitable list of descriptors, the book jacket adds another: ‘survivor’. He was as a cockroach that survived the nuclear bombing of its dirty shelter (Pu Yi remarkably survived the WW2 defeat of his ‘parental nation’ imperial Japan, having betrayed and debased his Chinese compatriots.) First he survived by throwing everyone around him (wife, nephews included) under the bus to save his own august skin, all the while reciting Buddhist sutras and eating vegetarian food. Then he survived thanks to astonishing magnanimity/ingenuity of the Chinese Communist Party in not decapitating their deposed monarch, unlike the French and the Russians. Most importantly, he survived because because of his cockroach-y skin and watery blood. He describes this as follows, “I fell back to my bad old ways: I was prepared to forget about my principles so long as I could weather this storm.” He had a way with forgetting principles: not only trifling scruples such as not brutalising orphan pageboys, but even religions and ancestry if they got in the way of his having a head. For all his entertaining eloquence about self-reform in Chinese re-education camp, an observant reader might infer that he never left his old way. Finally Pu Yi himself uses this descriptor for his own self: ‘real man’. He says, “‘Man’ was the first word I had learnt to read. But I had never understood its meaning before. Only today, with The Communist Party and the policy of remoulding criminals, have I learnt the significance of this magnificent word and become a real man.” Your word carries no currency by now, Mr. Pu Yi! Still a matchless thrill to read this man’s autobiography, brought to us by the good graces of the Chinese Communist Party.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Derek

    This is the story of the author's personal journey, not a history textbook, and so it's a poor way to try and understand the events of the period. Pu Yi centers the story on himself, a man surrounded and imprisoned by privilege and controlling forces, so the larger events of history come at him second or third-hand. As a result, there's no clear high-level picture, and I was left wondering what other information is necessary to understand all of it: there are times where he makes reference a set This is the story of the author's personal journey, not a history textbook, and so it's a poor way to try and understand the events of the period. Pu Yi centers the story on himself, a man surrounded and imprisoned by privilege and controlling forces, so the larger events of history come at him second or third-hand. As a result, there's no clear high-level picture, and I was left wondering what other information is necessary to understand all of it: there are times where he makes reference a set of warlords or an uprising or massacre, but without the context necessary for it to make sense. So I'm left feeling that I should have tackled Twilight in the Forbidden City or something before this. What quickly becomes apparent is that the deposed emperor is a small man whose whole existence is puffed up by sycophants and manipulators and who was completely unprepared or unsuited for the role he envisioned for himself. After decades of an empty life in the enclosed garden of the Imperial court-in-exile, as it were, scheming ineffectively for a return to rule, he was ripe to be installed as a puppet in Japanese-controlled Manchukuo. Pu Yi has more enthusiasm for the aftermath of Manchukuo, and his rehabilitation and redemption. The energy of the time--construction for the benefit of the common people, and a feeling of collective can-do spirit--comes through in his writing, as well as an honestly-felt contrition over his actions as puppet emperor and practically his entire life to that point. As the book came to a close, I wondered how he fared through the Cultural Revolution. His statements about the time just around his pardon disagree with what I've found regarding the failure of the Great Leap Forward, but likely I haven't got all the information. It appears that he was personally targeted during the Cultural Revolution and lived his last days under a cloud, which makes a very sad closing chapter to an unfortunate life.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Nancy Thormann

    This book was a challenge to get through not because it's poorly written, but because there's so much history to absorb. What struck me most about the book was that Pu Yi was just a pawn in the power struggle between Japan and China. There's a description of the book on the back cover - like there is with most books. There's a sentence in this description that says "This fascinating account not only depicts an empire in the throes of death and the zeal of a new-born regime, but also reveals the t This book was a challenge to get through not because it's poorly written, but because there's so much history to absorb. What struck me most about the book was that Pu Yi was just a pawn in the power struggle between Japan and China. There's a description of the book on the back cover - like there is with most books. There's a sentence in this description that says "This fascinating account not only depicts an empire in the throes of death and the zeal of a new-born regime, but also reveals the tragic story of a man who was a helpless subject of family and government turmoils and not really a ruler at all." This sentence describes Pu Yi's life perfectly. In a way, this is a sad story. Pu Yi became Emperor when he was two years old. He was told what to do and how to do it for most of his life. At one point - when the troubles between China and Japan began to escalate - he had to decide whether to stay in southern China ("below the wall") or move to northern China where the Japanese had a strong presence. He told a Japanese General that he was moving to northern China. The General asked him "was this your own idea?" For me, this was a telling question. Pu Yi was listening to everyone but himself and his own instincts. His own idea was going to Britain. At the end of the Second World War, he was arrested as a "war criminal" and spent 14 years in a prison of one kind or another. It was only while he was in prison that he was able to achieve some sort of freedom and independence.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Gabriel Gapas

    I found the book quite comforting in the long run than watching the movie. Unfortunately, I'm not a fan of Chinese history, so that actually affected my rating. Still, it is fun to discover the life of the last emperor. I hope all societies will learn from Pu Yi's life. I found the book quite comforting in the long run than watching the movie. Unfortunately, I'm not a fan of Chinese history, so that actually affected my rating. Still, it is fun to discover the life of the last emperor. I hope all societies will learn from Pu Yi's life.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Joy

    This is interesting - I read it for a class back in the 80's. This is interesting - I read it for a class back in the 80's.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Tryon

    From Emperor to Citizen: The Autobiography of Aisin-Gioro Pu Yi This book, originally published in 1965, tells the story of the last emperor of China, Aisin-Gioro Pu Yi (1906-1967). I consider this book to have been a valuable addition to my understanding of Chinese history. I do not believe anyone can understand China today without understanding the impact of the disintegration of the Qing dynasty and the contribution of foreign powers to that disintegration. Social fragmentation, factional viol From Emperor to Citizen: The Autobiography of Aisin-Gioro Pu Yi This book, originally published in 1965, tells the story of the last emperor of China, Aisin-Gioro Pu Yi (1906-1967). I consider this book to have been a valuable addition to my understanding of Chinese history. I do not believe anyone can understand China today without understanding the impact of the disintegration of the Qing dynasty and the contribution of foreign powers to that disintegration. Social fragmentation, factional violence and foreign coercion profoundly disrupted Chinese society during their “century of humiliation” (1839-1949). In my opinion, the repressive authoritarianism of the current Chinese government and the willingness of the Chinese people to tolerate that government finds its roots in the chaos and exploitation China experienced from the First Opium War through the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949. Because he was born in 1906, in the middle of the century of humiliation, it is, In a way, a misnomer to describe Aisin-Gioro Pu Yi as an emperor. He was named emperor when he was two years old, essentially to allow one of the wives of the previous emperor to continue to exercise maximal political power through a regent. He was forced to abdicate before he came of age (thus before he was able to fully exercise what power he might have had as emperor) when the short-lived Chinese Republic was formed in 1911. From that point on, Aisin-Gioro Pu Yi lived a life of seeking the most advantageous accommodation with the powers around him, from the various factions at play during the Republic period to the occupying Japanese forces during the Manchukuo period to the Soviet Communist Party at the end of WWII to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) after they gained control of the mainland in 1949. Also, in a very real sense, Aisin-Gioro Pu Yi was constrained more than empowered by his title, role and circumstances. We think of an emperor as having the power to have all his wishes fulfilled, but Aisin-Gioro Pu Yi was not allowed the freedom to really be a child or to experience normal relationships with other people. As with many who inherit great wealth, he was not given the opportunity to truly develop his skills and accomplish things on his own. This left him warped, at least for a time. He was paranoid, convinced that everyone was trying to kill him, and he enjoyed punishing his many servants for even the slightest reason. He plundered the treasures of his own palace to provide money for his personal desires. He participated in conspiracies to re-establish the empire right up until it came down to a choice between the Kuomintang and the Japanese. Convinced that the Kuomingtang would kill him to eliminate the threat of his restoration to power, he betrayed his country and became a puppet emperor of the Japanese occupied territory of Manchukuo. In this role, he enabled the murder and exploitation of many of his fellow Chinese. After WWII, he was convinced that the only way he could avoid execution was by living in exile with the plundered items he carried with him. After the Chinese Civil War ends, the Soviet Union turns him over to the Chinese government. He is put him in a prison with other "war criminals," and subjected to re-education and “remolding”. Eventually, he accepts the CCP, surrenders the plundered treasures he was still carrying with him, and works to learn how to support himself as a citizen. After ten years as a prisoner, he was released. He spent the rest of his life working for a bureau of the Chinese Government concerned with historical records. In this book, Aisin-Gioro Pu Yi is very complementary of the CCP. Considering when the book was first published, this attitude is probably, at least in part, an embellishment or propaganda, one final accommodation in a lifetime of accommodations. He celebrates the victories and progress achieved by the CCP without ever commenting on the suffering inflicted during the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. However, it is unusual (and commendable) that the CCP did not execute the former emperor, either for his many crimes against the Chinese people or because of the threat of his becoming a focal point for opposition to the CCP. Perhaps this was a shrewd gamble by the CCP, or perhaps they viewed his legacy as a helpful (if painful) contrast with what they were able to offer. Nonetheless, the man who went from China’s last emperor to citizen of the Peoples Republic of China offers the reader a fascinating life story and essential context for understanding China today.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Realini

    The Last Emperor, Bernardo Bertolucci The Last Emperor is actually… not the last. Notwithstanding the fact that China is officially a republic and a communist one at that, it is still governed with imperial pretense. In other words, Xi has imperial powers, which are not unusual for communist regimes, as 1984 can attest. As a former inhabitant of such a “piece of communist heaven”, far away from China though, I can talk about the despondency of these regimes. These imperial leaders indulge in reverie The Last Emperor, Bernardo Bertolucci The Last Emperor is actually… not the last. Notwithstanding the fact that China is officially a republic and a communist one at that, it is still governed with imperial pretense. In other words, Xi has imperial powers, which are not unusual for communist regimes, as 1984 can attest. As a former inhabitant of such a “piece of communist heaven”, far away from China though, I can talk about the despondency of these regimes. These imperial leaders indulge in reveries about this being the Paradise on earth promised by religions and accomplished by… The likes of Che Guevara, Mao and the rest of The Wild Bunch Communist empires are much more lugubrious than any of the systems they replace, Mao and Stalin have each killed many more than Hitler, an aspect of history that is too often alas forgotten. Hitler was a mass killer, lunatic, insufferable and a monster, but so were, if not worse, the communist counterparts. Yet, stern as reality was and is young people and leaders in the west harbor illusory images of communist paradise. Men like Corbin and Melenchon indulge in dangerous illusions, divine preposterous scenarios disconsidering the communist massacres. Therefore, The Last Emperor of the film is in comparison a real benign figure and a Role Model when placed near Mao. The system had flaws of course. One would be not just retrograde and fundamentalist to invoke and harbor visions of new empires. Yet that is exactly what the undersigned is doing. I long for (aspects of) the Victorian British Empire. The civilized China of this age, without the Emperor, has a Xi who is ready to wage war against Taiwan. In fact, they will surely threaten and then attack the island, in just a few decades from now, if the Taiwanese do not give in. Which they will not. China is creating artificial islands in the South China Sea that they have long now considered as something of a Chines lake. They bully neighbors, have stolen secrets from companies, which they anyway force to capitulate when they enter their market. This is what one might think about while pondering the themes of The Last Emperor, which is a resplendent film. The hero can be of course derided for his many flaws, but I think the predominant feeling is one of pity. That sounds strange, given that this was an emperor, who had two wives and a multitude of servants. However, the emperor was trapped in the Forbidden City and he had to do so many things he did not want. As for the wives, well, they ended up by being more of a nuisance than a joy, after the initial unmistakable pleasure they offered. When the Japanese have occupied China, the emperor has been accused of betraying his country, which maybe he did. However, is it betrayal, when one is on the other side from a land that has become a murderous tyranny? Perhaps this is the thinking of a traitor, but if I were to choose between the communist country I had to live in and any of its democratic supposed enemies, I would not have hesitated for a second Hence, my sympathy is all for this Last Emperor, that the despicable communists have locked up. They have replaced him with a heinous, lamentable, lugubrious, indulgent, stern, derisive figure- Mao In addition, the Last Emperor to date is Xi, a man who would not control North Korea, bullies all those around…worse than leaders of empires from the old days.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Nicholas Whyte

    https://nwhyte.livejournal.com/3600842.html I generally enjoy biographies and autobiographies, and this was no exception. Obviously we lack the visual texture of the film, but we get a lot more political analysis and also some more interesting characters - Puyi's father is a major if ineffectual presence in the earlier part, for instance, and Yasunori Yoshioka, Puyi's Japanese minder during the Manchuria period, is devastatingly depicted. (They communicated in English, as Puyi spoke no Japanese a https://nwhyte.livejournal.com/3600842.html I generally enjoy biographies and autobiographies, and this was no exception. Obviously we lack the visual texture of the film, but we get a lot more political analysis and also some more interesting characters - Puyi's father is a major if ineffectual presence in the earlier part, for instance, and Yasunori Yoshioka, Puyi's Japanese minder during the Manchuria period, is devastatingly depicted. (They communicated in English, as Puyi spoke no Japanese and Yoshioka's Chinese was poor.) Interesting to note that Reginald Johnston was not yet 40 when hired by the imperial household; Peter O'Toole was 55 in 1987. One really important point that is left out of the film entirely: Puyi and his family were Manchu rather than Han. This is a major source of tension between the imperial court and the rest of China for the first half of the twentieth century, and then weirdly provides Mao with a good reason to keep the former emperor and his family around rather than eliminate them, in order to keep the border tribes happy. It's also interesting that Puyi is a much less pleasant character in his own book than in the film. (Though even the book omits his worst behaviour.) Of course, this is partly because as a result of his process of reorientation (what we might now call brainwashing), he felt the need to admit to his former faults as a human being. The film needs to portray him as an innocent to whom things happen; the book makes it clear that to the extent that this was true, he found it deeply frustrating. You don't get many autobiographies by former emperors. It's not clear to me if this was ghost-written - I've seen attributions to Puyi's brother Pujie, and also to Lao She, author of Cat Country; but actually I have little difficulty in accepting that he probably wrote most of it himself - he writes a lot about writing, which suggests that it was an activity he enjoyed and was possibly good at. Edited to add: I really did not dig very far on this point; it's fairly well recorded that the ghostwriter was Li Wenda of the People's Publishing Bureau, although Puyi's widow successfully sued him for the full copyright on the book (it had originally been split between ex-emperor and ghostwriter). Pujie (who lived to 1994) and Li Wenda were brought in as advisers for the film.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Catherine

    3.5 stars I love a good biography or autobiography now and then, but the second part of the book where Pu Yi has nothing but great understanding and words of praise for the communist jail in which he learns to me a "normal" human being drove me crazy. I can understand that his experience was different given how his life started; and I get it - the book could probably be published during Mao's rule only if there was praise for the new China which emerged after WW2 and Mao's consolidation of power, 3.5 stars I love a good biography or autobiography now and then, but the second part of the book where Pu Yi has nothing but great understanding and words of praise for the communist jail in which he learns to me a "normal" human being drove me crazy. I can understand that his experience was different given how his life started; and I get it - the book could probably be published during Mao's rule only if there was praise for the new China which emerged after WW2 and Mao's consolidation of power, but given that every reader knows just how "great" was a Great Leap Forward and how many lives had to be laid down on Mao's altar of "progress" and "industrialization" I cannot help but be skeptical about last emperor's enthusiasm with new society he wanted to join so eagerly. However, even in this setting some of the episodes were interesting, especially transformation from a person who almost never opened the door himself to a person who suddenly must learn to wash their own clothes and actually WORK for a living. What we all take as the most common thing is life was quite exotic and difficult to imagine for the last emperor of China. The description of his life before arrest by USSR officials, especially the story of his miserable childhood and youth in golden cage was interesting. The years spent as a puppet in imperial theatre ran by Japan didn't reveal many details about Japanese occupation, but than again, I doubt Japanese officials would openly admit atrocities to the person they manipulated into being a puppet statesman for their own goals. Interesting personal view of turbulent part history with a bonus: it's from a person who lived through some terrible mistakes and an unique experience of moving from god-like status to an ordinary employee in a communist country.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Deb Bookworm

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Credits are due to the translator who was able to articulate the thoughts and mindset of the emperor turned citizen. Had this book for many years but started to read it last year and finally done today. The last part talked about the " Glorious years" during Mao's rise to power and the dream of the New China. I fully believe that the People's Army started out this good and had a plan to unify all of China instead of just killing all predecessors who were considered traitors to their country. But Credits are due to the translator who was able to articulate the thoughts and mindset of the emperor turned citizen. Had this book for many years but started to read it last year and finally done today. The last part talked about the " Glorious years" during Mao's rise to power and the dream of the New China. I fully believe that the People's Army started out this good and had a plan to unify all of China instead of just killing all predecessors who were considered traitors to their country. But afterwards, during the Great Leap Forward leading to the Cultural Revolution, things went awry and the country plunged into darkness even though some people still believed they were serving the country well. Pu Yi's last few chapters only touches the first decade of Communism in China and so, the succeeding decades were not detailed in his story. A good read and full of personal details that would not be given justice in a movie. But the movie was good too as it prompted me to buy this book during a trip to China.

  25. 4 out of 5

    W

    The book was translated from Chinese and I have to say the translation was done really really badly. Though there is a disclaimer in the front to say that the original was even longer and that editing has been done to the English version I feel that not enough editing was done. The book is choppy at parts and can be disjointed at times. It was a struggle to finish the book but I did so as curiosity got the better of me. It is afterall a book written by the Last Emperor of China and does give you The book was translated from Chinese and I have to say the translation was done really really badly. Though there is a disclaimer in the front to say that the original was even longer and that editing has been done to the English version I feel that not enough editing was done. The book is choppy at parts and can be disjointed at times. It was a struggle to finish the book but I did so as curiosity got the better of me. It is afterall a book written by the Last Emperor of China and does give you a peek behind the scenes of life in the Forbidden Palace. The ending was a bit too flattering to the Chinese government but that is to be expected as the book probably wouldn't have been published otherwise. Perhaps I should try to find the Chinese version and just read the parts about life in Forbidden Palace.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sam

    This is an interesting memoir in two volumes by the last Emperor of China, Aisin-Gioro Pu Yi, which apparently inspired the movie The Last Emperor. It should be remembered however that this autobiography was written not so much for the Chinese people (or even Pu Yi himself) but for the Chinese government as proof that Pu Yi had been successfully "re-educated". As such, it is littered with factual errors and unfair judgements about other members of the Imperial Family and court. It reads more as This is an interesting memoir in two volumes by the last Emperor of China, Aisin-Gioro Pu Yi, which apparently inspired the movie The Last Emperor. It should be remembered however that this autobiography was written not so much for the Chinese people (or even Pu Yi himself) but for the Chinese government as proof that Pu Yi had been successfully "re-educated". As such, it is littered with factual errors and unfair judgements about other members of the Imperial Family and court. It reads more as an apology to his captors rather than an informative discussion of his decisions as Emperor and his life outside of the Forbidden City. As good a read as this is, every chapter should be taken with a liberal pinch of salt but is perhaps essential reading for anybody interested in the Chinese Imperial system.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ilari Mäkelä

    If there was a competition for the most underrated book in Chinese history, I would nominate this marvellous text. It is quite remarkable that we even have the memoirs of China's last emperor. All literary aspects aside, it is an important window into how Puyi, decided to present the narrative of his controversial activities during the formative years of modern Chinese history. But the book is also well-written, sometimes quite funny, and often deeply personal. I am constantly surprised by how f If there was a competition for the most underrated book in Chinese history, I would nominate this marvellous text. It is quite remarkable that we even have the memoirs of China's last emperor. All literary aspects aside, it is an important window into how Puyi, decided to present the narrative of his controversial activities during the formative years of modern Chinese history. But the book is also well-written, sometimes quite funny, and often deeply personal. I am constantly surprised by how few read this book, and how much it stands in the shadow of the account given by Reginald Johnson. However much self-censorship we decide to attribute to Puyi, his account should, in my opinion, still take precedence over the words of a foreign observer. For anyone interested in the topic, this book is likely to be an inspiring read.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Frances L. Spradlin

    This is a fascinating look at an emperor who is "reformed" into an ordinary citizen. But, read the epilogue to really understand the importance of this man to even the Chinese Communists. Great details of life in the Forbidden City and life in the Chinese Communist prison. I felt a bit sad that this man was never taught simple tasks such as buttoning a shirt or tying his shoes, as these things were always done for him in the palace into his adulthood. Nor, did he receive an education that was in This is a fascinating look at an emperor who is "reformed" into an ordinary citizen. But, read the epilogue to really understand the importance of this man to even the Chinese Communists. Great details of life in the Forbidden City and life in the Chinese Communist prison. I felt a bit sad that this man was never taught simple tasks such as buttoning a shirt or tying his shoes, as these things were always done for him in the palace into his adulthood. Nor, did he receive an education that was in the least bit informative of life outside the palace.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Tvrtko Balić

    This is a great book about an interesting life within the context of a time in Chinese history that is just as interesting. I think anyone can enjoy it no matter their interests or political beliefs, there is probably something in here that will effect you in some way, that will make you think and that you will enjoy. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is even remotely interested in it for whatever reason.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Asaria

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Disclaimer: I hate WW1 and WW2 period China is a country I am completely in love with. Therefore, the beginning, when Pu Yi describes his live in The Forbidden City, court intrigues, Empress Cixi and so on, I was enjoying the most. Then come WWI, and WW2, and then the last chapters that read like piece of propaganda. One reviewer said he felt like above the author's arm was looming the shadow of aparatchik, I agree with that. Pu Yi seems to be someone who goes with flow and will do everything to Disclaimer: I hate WW1 and WW2 period China is a country I am completely in love with. Therefore, the beginning, when Pu Yi describes his live in The Forbidden City, court intrigues, Empress Cixi and so on, I was enjoying the most. Then come WWI, and WW2, and then the last chapters that read like piece of propaganda. One reviewer said he felt like above the author's arm was looming the shadow of aparatchik, I agree with that. Pu Yi seems to be someone who goes with flow and will do everything to better his lot.

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