The Last Emperor

Topics: Puyi, Qing Dynasty, Forbidden City Pages: 13 (5759 words) Published: January 1, 2013
He was the Lord of Ten Thousand Years, the absolute monarch of China. He was born to rule a world of ancient tradition. Nothing prepared him for our world of change. A dramatic history of Pu Yi, the last of the Emperors of China, from his lofty birth and brief reign in the Forbidden City, the object of worship by half a billion people; through his abdication, his decline and dissolute lifestyle; his exploitation by the invading Japanese, and finally to his obscure existence as just another peasant worker in the People's Republic. Arrival. A train pulls into a station in North China. It's 1950. Soldiers are everywhere. The train is a prison train and all who depart from it are war criminals. The prisoners are hustled into the station building to wait. After a short while, four prisoners suddenly get up, congregate across the room, and worshipfully prostrate themselves before a well dressed, bespectacled man (John Lone). The venerated man looks around uncomfortably. Guards lead the four worshipers away. The man retreats to a bathroom and locks the door behind him. After filling a sink with hot water he slits his wrists and plunges them into the water. A short time later the prison governor (Ruocheng Ying) goes to the bathroom door. Finding it locked the governor pounds on the door, repeatedly shouting, "Open the door!" Inside the bathroom, the venerated man, prisoner, war criminal, watches his blood cloud the water in the sink. The man's name is Pu Yi. He is the last emperor of China. The Emperor of China, 1908. The sound of the governor's pounding and shouting transports Pu Yi's thoughts to a time, 42 years earlier, when mounted soldiers similarly demanded entry to his family's estate. By command of the Empress Dowager Cixi, three year-old Pu Yi (Richard Vuu) has been ordered to the Forbidden City, the seat of power and abode of Chinese emperors. As the boy sobs, Pu Yi's mother (Dong Liang) hands him over to his nurse, Ar Mo (Jade Go), saying, "My son is your son." When the procession arrives in the Forbidden City, Pu Yi and his father (Basil Pao) are given audience before the dying Empress Dowager. Her last official act is to proclaim the boy to be the successor of the previous emperor, who has died that very day. "Little Pu Yi. I have decided that you will be the new Lord of Ten Thousand Years. You will be the Son of Heaven." With those words, the Empress Dowager dies. Pu Yi turns to his father and asks if they are going home. Without reply, his father prostrates himself before his son. Shortly, Pu Yi is seated on the imperial throne in the Hall of Supreme Harmony. He is being invested. As the imperial seal is imprinted on the proclamation, Pu Yi bolts out of the hall and into the huge courtyard beyond. Thousands of government officials and household servants are arrayed in ranks in the courtyard and in the square beyond. To rhythmic chants and commands, they all kowtow to the new emperor in a seemingly endless series of prostrations. When they are done and silence finally arrives, the sound of a cricket reaches Pu Yi's ears. The High Tutor (Victor Wong), makes the cricket a gift: "Ah. See? He is kowtowing to Your Majesty. Now he can be the emperor's cricket." Later, the boy emperor is attended by court eunuchs. They bathe him and entertain him while the imperial physician (Zhendong Dong) checks his stool. Ar Mo arrives and Pu Yi flies into her arms exclaiming, "I want to go home!" That night Pu Yi and Ar Mo are in bed together. She sings him a lullaby. Failed Suicide. The remembrance of Ar Mo's lullaby is interrupted by the prison governor. He is slapping Pu Yi's face. "Where am I?" the adult Pu Yi asks from where he lies on the bathroom floor. "In the People's Republic of China," the governor curtly replies. Pu Yi's suicide attempt has failed. The prisoners are trucked to the Bureau of Public Security Detention Center in Fushun. They are given supplies and the rules of conduct. As Pu Yi sits on the plank bed...
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