Continued from Part II
In actuality, the life of the Emperor had in a way regressed to what it had been like for him as a boy in the Forbidden City, only with a change in handlers. He signed what documents the Japanese put before him, he followed their advice on who he was to meet and what he was to say and was not allowed to leave the palace unless the trip had been cleared by the Japanese and he was accompanied by an official escort. Japanese scrutiny and his own paranoia only increased as the defeat of Japan loomed closer. This is unfortunate because the Emperor was legitimately popular among the native Manchu people, if for no other reason than that he was one of their own. Even the majority who grumbled about Japanese rule still felt sympathy for their Emperor in whom they saw a brief vision of their former glory and status. When the end finally came PuYi hoped to fly to Japan where he could surrender to the Americans, but unfortunately for him, he was overtaken by the Russian invasion, captured and placed under house arrest in the Soviet Union for five years. Having long held the Communists to be the worst of all revolutionary, republican groups, he was certain that his fate was sealed.
Whatever his feelings about Marxist doctrine he certainly did not want to go back to China and fall into Red Chinese hands, certain that he would face death at their hands. The Soviets soon grew uncomfortable keeping him and realized they could not use him to their benefit. So, as a gesture of friendship to the government of Chairman Mao Tse-tung who had recently seized power; even standing triumphantly over the gates of the Forbidden City announcing that the world had stood up, and turned over the despised former monarch to them in 1950. PuYi and his entourage were returned to Manchuria and incarcerated in the Fushun prison for war criminals. He underwent a constant battery of communist indoctrination and reeducation through labor. Famously, he had to learn to dress himself, tie his own shoes, make his own bed, wash his own clothes; all of which he had no idea how to do since he had never had to do anything for himself. He was a tragic figure, especially at that time, being a man who had never known real personal freedom except perhaps for his few years in Tientsin, and yet even the comfort of his previous prisons denied him of any independence and self worth because of his pampering.
Chairman Mao officially pardoned PuYi who returned to Beijing and became a simple worker at the Botanical Gardens. Having abandoned his wives in Manchukuo, Empress Wan Jung died in Communist prison in 1946 and his surviving concubine divorced him, the government played matchmaker to see him married to a nurse, also a member of the Communist Party of course, who he stayed with for the rest of his life. PuYi served on the Chinese People‘s Political Consultative Conference from 1964 and wrote his memoir, "From Emperor to Citizen" in which he recounts the story of his life, remarking on how very wicked he and his compatriots were in his time as Emperor and lavishing praise on the Communists for saving his life and helping him to see the truth and be apart of their remaking of China into a much better country than it had ever been before -as he had been duly taught. The life of the last Emperor of China finally came to an end in 1967 when he died in a hospital in Beijing from cancer. At this time, China was at the height of the horrific Cultural Revolution and rumors began that he had been assassinated by Red Guards. The truth, as with much of his life, may never be known. The Cultural Revolution was a reaction against all things traditional, and as the former Emperor PuYi inherently represented the old China, yet as a reborn Communist he also represented the new China and it would seem a little late to kill him. Interestingly, that night the sky turned brown and eerie from a Mongol sand storm that was quite unheard of at that time of year. The strange light and sounds caused many elder Chinese especially to guess that the "last dragon" had flown into the clouds.