Thursday, April 26, 2012
Royal Profile: Prince Pu-Chieh of China
His Imperial Highness Prince Aisin-Gioro Pu-Chieh was born on April 16, 1907 to Prince Chun (Zaifeng) and the Lady Youlan. He is mot well known for being the younger brother of the last Emperor of China. As a child he was taken to the Forbidden City to be a playmate of his brother who had never met another child in his life before that time. Prince Pu-Chieh was taught to treat his brother with extreme deference and was quite happy and relieved to see that he was, in fact, a “normal” child. In his memoir the Emperor relates playing hide-and-seek with his brother and a sister only to become outraged when he noticed Prince Pu-Chieh was wearing a yellow gown -a color reserved for the Emperor alone. Most people know of this incident due to its inclusion in the famous film about “The Last Emperor” but too much can be made of it. The two brothers developed a very close bond and remained devoted to each other for the rest of their lives with very few problems ever arising between them.
Anything involving the Emperor was delicate but Prince Pu-Chieh was someone who was free to move about, had yet to really establish a role for himself and so was a better candidate for solidifying ties between the Japanese and the Qing Dynasty. Prince Pu-Chieh learned Japanese from a well-connected tutor the Emperor selected for him and he began to enquire about going to Japan to study, perhaps even to attend the Imperial Japanese Army Academy. He was told this would not be possible right away but that another school could certainly be found to give Pu-Chieh the proper educational preparation. The only potential complication was that in 1924 the Prince had married the Manchu Princess Tung Shih-hsia. However, as the two had no children it was not considered a totally “solidified” marriage as most would understand it and so would not prevent him from going off on his own.
Prince Pu-Chieh returned to Japan to collect his bride-to-be and on February 2, 1937 they held their formal engagement ceremony at the Manchukuo embassy in Tokyo. On April 3 the two were married at the Imperial Army Hall in Kudanzaka, Tokyo. In the fall the newlyweds moved to Hsinking (Changchun) in Manchukuo to be near the Emperor. Part of the reason for the Japanese insistence on this marriage was because the Emperor had no children and so, in Manchukuo at least, Prince Pu-Chieh was heir to the throne. They were determined that by this marriage the future Imperial Family of Manchukuo would be a mixture of Manchu and Japanese royal bloodlines. Because of all of these political considerations it would be easy to dismiss the marriage of Prince Pu-Chieh and Princess Hiro Saga as being merely for show; all form and no substance. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The two were extremely devoted to each other and their commitment remained steadfast throughout the years and all the political turmoil (including a world war) that was soon to come. Prince Pu-Chieh truly loved his wife and she him.
Unfortunately, the evacuation was not fast enough and Prince Pu-Chieh was captured along with the Emperor and his entourage before their plane could take off. They spent the next five years in prison in Siberia before, in a new show of Sino-Soviet friendship, they were handed over to the Communist Chinese government in 1950. With his brother he was held at the Fushun War Criminals Prison to undergo “reeducation through labor”. During his years of confinement he learned in a letter from his wife in Japan that his eldest daughter had been murdered. Whether the indoctrination he received worked or if the Prince was putting on an act for the authorities, we will never know, but the official story is that Prince Pu-Chieh was a model prisoner even, toward the end of his term, writing propagandistic plays extolling the “New China” and ridiculing her enemies. After he was released he was reunited with his wife, Princess Hiro Saga, in 1961 who had faithfully waited for him and left her own country to live in China with him. The two resumed their married life as if no time at all had elapsed. Like the rest, Prince Pu-Chieh joined the Chinese Communist Party and was given a number of minor government positions as a show of how the Maoist system could “reform” anyone.