Li Yuqin


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Li Yuqin (15 July 1928 – 24 April 2001), sometimes referred to as the “Last Imperial Concubine”, was the fourth wife of China’s last emperor Puyi. She married Puyi when the latter was the nominal ruler of Manchukuo, a puppet state established by the Empire of Japan during the Second Sino-Japanese War.

Biography

Li Yuqin was a Han Chinese by birth and her ancestral home was in Shandong. She was born in a peasant family in Changchun, Jilin.

Li attended Nanling Girls’ Academy in Jilin, then known as Hsinking, the capital of Manchukuo. In February 1943, Li and nine other girl students were taken by their principal Kobayashi and teacher Fujii to a photography studio for portraits. Three weeks later, the school principal and teacher visited Li’s home and told her that Manchukuo’s emperor Puyi had ordered her to go to the palace to study. She was first taken directly to Yasunori Yoshioka, who thoroughly questioned her. Yoshioka then drove her back to her parents and told them Puyi ordered her to study at the palace. Money was promised to the parents. She was subjected to a medical examination and then taken to Puyi’s sister Yunhe and instructed in palace protocol. Li then became a concubine of Puyi and was given the title of Noble Lady Fu .

In 1945 the Manchukuo regime collapsed following the Japanese surrender at the end of World War II. Li attempted to flee from Changchun, alongside Puyi, Empress Wanrong and other remaining members of the old Qing court. Empress Wanrong was experiencing significant opium withdrawal symptoms at that time. She, as well as the rest of Puyi’s family was evacuated with him by train from Changchun to Dalizigou. From there, however, Puyi continued by plane with only two of his sisters, his brothers, three nephews, his physician and a servant to Mukden, where he was arrested and taken to the Soviet Union. According to Puyi, Li Yuqin was very frightened and begged to be taken with him, when he left from Dalizigou to Mukden, but he assured her that she and Wanrong could reach Japan as well by train.

They were shortly arrested by Soviet forces and sent to a prison in Changchun. Li was released in 1946 and sent back home. She worked in a textile factory and in a library in Changchun, studying the works of Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin. In 1955 she began visiting Puyi in prison. After applying to the Chinese authorities for a divorce, the government responded on her next prison visit by showing her to a room with a double bed and ordered her to reconcile with Puyi, and she said the couple obeyed the order.

Li officially divorced Puyi in 1958. She later married a technician named Huang Yugeng, with whom she had two sons. During the Cultural Revolution Li became a target for attack by the Red Guards because she used to be Puyi’s concubine. She died in 2001 at the age of 73 in Changchun after a six-year battle with cirrhosis.

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