Wan Rong

Wan Rong

Infobox Monarch|royal|consort
name =Empress Xiao Ke Min
title =Empress of China
Empress of the Manchurian Empire

spouse =Emperor Puyi
consortreign =1908 - 1912
father =Rong Yuan
mother =
date of birth = birth date|1906|11|13
date of death = death date and age|1946|6|20|1906|11|13
place of death = Yanji|

Empress Xiao Ke Min ( _zh. 孝恪愍皇后郭博勒氏); also known as Empress Wan Rong ( _zh. 婉容皇后) (13 November 1906 - 20 June 1946) was the last Empress Consort of the Qing Dynasty in China, and later Empress of Manchukuo (also known as the Manchurian Empire).


Early life

Gobulo Wan Rong ("Beautiful Countenance") was the daughter of Rong Yuan, the Minister of Domestic Affairs of the Qing Government and head of one of Manchuria's most prominent, richest families. She was highly educated at an American missionary school in Tianjin by the American tutor Isabel Ingram, where she had been given the Christian name of "Elizabeth". [Gunther, John, Inside Asia. pp.146 ]

At the age of 17, Wan Rong was selected from a series of photographs presented to the Xuan Tong Emperor (a.k.a. Puyi), who resided in the Forbidden City as a non-sovereign monarch of China, as potential candidates for the post of Imperial consort. The wedding took place when Puyi reached the age of 16, and many expensive gifts were given to the bride and her family, although Puyi never showed much interest (sexual or otherwise) in either Wan Rong or his concubine Wen Xiu. [Cotter, Kids Who Rule, pp.85]


The union between Puyi and Wan Rong never produced any heirs, and some historian state that they might never have been sexually intimate. Some believed Puyi was infertile, but this could have been a delicate way to avoid discussion of his sexuality Fact|date=January 2008. It is widely believed that Puyi was homosexual, and while living in Changchun as the puppet Emperor of Manchukuo, there were rumors of his sexual involvement with various pageboys. His sister-in-law Hiro Saga wrote of Puyi's relationship with young boys in her memoirs. [Edward Behr, "The Last Emperor", 1987, p. 248-250]

Empress Wan Rong started using opium when she was a teenager. According to Puyi's memoirs [Puyi, The Last Manchu, ] , it was fashionable for educated girls to smoke cigarettes at that time, and a small amount of opium was often added by the Chinese as an analgesic.

After Puyi was forced out of the Forbidden City by the Chinese warlord Feng Yuxiang in 1924, he fled with Empress Wan Rong and moved to the foreign concession in Tianjin. There, they resided in the "Quiet Garden Villa" in the Japanese Concession in Tianjin. [Rogaski, R: Hygienic Modernity, page 262. University of California Press, 2004] . In Tianjin, Wan Rong grew to despise Puyi and they led increasingly separate lives.


With hope of restoring the Manchu Empire, Puyi accepted Japanese offers to head the new state of Manchukuo, and relocated to Changchun, Jilin Province, which had been renamed Hsinking, in March 1932. He lived in the Russian-built Salt Rates Palace, a tax office that had been converted into a temporary place while a new structure was being built. [Edward Behr, "ibid", p. 247] Relations between Wan Rong and Puyi remained strained, and she lived in a separate room, rarely coming out or eating meals with Puyi. Even after the move into the new and luxurious Wei Huang Gong, Wang Rong continued to sleep in separate quarters. Realizing her husband was only a puppet ruler with no real political power, and having all the burdens of an Empress but none of the advantages, Wan Rong's addiction to opium started to become serious. She was taking about two ounces of opium a day, a huge quantity, between July 1938 and July 1939. [Edward Behr, "ibid", p. 247]

Rumours has it that in 1940, Empress Wan Rong became pregnant by one of her servants, her driver Li Tieh-yu. Instead of having him executed, as he could have, Puyi paid him off and told him to leave the town. When Wan Rong gave birth, the doctors killed the baby girl with a lethal injection. It is also speculated that in his memoir, Puyi wrote that he had thrown Wan Rong's baby into a fire, but records such as this were deleted upon inspection before his memoirs were published. It can only be speculated how this may have affected Wan Rong's mental health, and indeed from that moment she lived in a near-constant opium haze. [Edward Behr, "ibid", p. 256]

During the Evacuation of Manchukuo during the Soviet invasion (Operation August Storm) in 1945, Puyi attempted to flee Manchukuo, leaving behind his empress (Wan Rong), his concubine (Li Yuqin) and some other imperial family members, ostensibly because his immediate entourage was at risk of arrest and the women would be safe. [Edward Behr, "ibid", p. 264]

Empress Wan Rong, her sister-in-law Hiro Saga and the other members of her group attempted to flee overland to Korea, but were arrested by the Chinese communist army in Talitzou, Manchukuo, in January 1946. In April, they were moved to a police station in Changchun, eventually released only to be rounded up again and locked up at a police station in Jilin. Wan Rong's opium supply had long since dried up and she was suffering the effects of withdrawal. When Chiang Kai-shek's army bombed Kirin, Wan Rong and Hiro Saga were both moved to Yanji Prison in Jilin Province (吉林省延吉监狱). [Edward Behr, "ibid", p. 268-9] Empress Wan Rong died in Yanji Prison in June 1946 from the effects of malnutrition and opium withdrawal, aged thirty-nine. However, Puyi did not receive the news until three years later.

In October 2006, Empress Wan Rong's younger brother, Gobulo Runqi (1912-2007), had a tomb built for Wan Rong at the Western Qing Tombs. [末代皇后婉容衣冠冢入葬清西陵. http://news.sina.com.cn/s/2006-10-24/012710306918s.shtml ]


Empress Wan Rong was portrayed famously by Joan Chen for the 1987 picture "The Last Emperor". The film elaborates specifically on her opium addiction and her spiral into deep depression, where she is portrayed as almost dying when she leaves Puyi. However, there are a number of inaccuracies in the film, for instance, the teenage Puyi is shown being sexually intimate with his two wives when there is only contrary evidence.

A dramatization of the life of Prince Pujie and Hiro Saga appeared as a television drama on TV Asahi in Japan in the autumn of 2003, under the title "Ryuuten no ouhi - Saigo no koutei" (流転の王妃・最後の皇弟). The role of Empress Wan Rong was played by actress Ichikawa Yui.


*cite book
last = Behr
first = Edward
coauthors =
year = 1977
title = The Last Emperor
publisher = Bantam
id = ISBN 0553344749

*cite book
last = Cotter
first = Edward
coauthors =
year = 2007
title = Kids Who Rule: The Remarkable Lives of Five Child Monarchs
publisher = Annick Press
id = ISBN 1554510627

*cite book
last = Gunther
first = Edward
coauthors =
year = 2007
title = Inside Asia: 1942 War Edition
publisher = Holly Press, reprint
id = ISBN 1406715328

*cite book
last = Puyi
first = Edward
coauthors = Paul Kramer
year = 1967
title = the Last Manchu; the Autobiography of Henry Pu Yi, Last Emperor of China
publisher = Putnam
id = ASIN: B000NRUCZ8


External links

* [http://www.iht.com/articles/2000/02/08/mia.t.php The Odyssey of a Chinese Imperial Favorite]


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