'The Last Emperor'
(b. 1906 - d. 1967)
"The words 'yes sire, yes Your Majesty' have today become a lost echo."
About Emperor Xuantong (Puyi)
As the last emperor, he was called Xuantong. But the world knows him as Puyi. In 1908, at age three, he was named the new emperor. In 1912, at age six, he abdicated the throne. He remained in the palace, however, living only within the buildings of the Inner Court, for the next 12 years. In 1924, at age eighteen, he was forced to leave the imperial palace – the Forbidden City – forever.
What was life like for a young boy emperor in a waning empire? As a child he was like other children, full of energy and playfulness, but he was also a prisoner in his own palace, ruled by those around him. Puyi didn't meet another child – his own brother – until he was ten.
Within the Forbidden City
Puyi grew up in the Forbidden City. After his abdication in 1912, he remained ruler of his own little empire, the Inner Court of the Forbidden City, until he was forced to leave in 1924.
Imperial seals were symbols of power, and 25 were inherited by each emperor. In 1924, a day after Puyi was forced to flee the palace, the entire set was handed over to the Government of the Republic of China, signalling the official end of the 2000-year-old Chinese monarchy.
Emperor's festive summer robe (jifu)
Emperors, even child emperors, followed the imperial dress codes that were dicated by law. In the Qing dynasty, only the emperor was allowed to wear robes of bright yellow. This robe, worn by Puyi, shows the distinct "horsehoof cuffs", reflecting his dynasty's Manchu heritage.
The decoration on this bathtub, used by Puyi, was fitting for an emperor, with gold lotus flowers and waterweeds covering the red lacquer. Eunuchs would bring his bath to his room, help him bathe, and remove everything once done.