The Last Emperor - Essay

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Asian Studies 102

“The Last Emperor” was a very interesting film, rich in historical truth and an accurate portrayal of past events that occurred in China during the 1900s. The story was very easy to follow and gave a more modernized approach to teaching the impacts of historical proceedings by using the English language but not forgetting to keep the facts in order. This approach gave me the opportunity to see the different actors as if it were truly identical to what this time period was all about. Given that the plot was centralized around Puyi, the last Emperor of China, and the director did an excellent job making the movie fit the timeline. The film moves back and forth from when Puyi was imprisoned as an older man and then to when he was just a child. The story starts off in Manchuria in 1950 near the Chinese-Russian boarder, where there are many war criminals exiting a train. The general orders the war criminals to line up or be punished. The importance of this scene was to show how stern the government was at this time. The men of order are demanding and it seems as though no one has even the courage to look them in the eye without the repercussions of being punished severely. Other prisoners bow to a man who seems to be someone of importance, not caring of the consequences of their actions. This man is introduced as Puyi later in life and arrested as a war criminal. Puyi, out of fear, cuts his wrists in the bathroom sink as a demonstration of how he knew he started the whole mess in Asia during this time. The story moves onto Beijing or as they call it “Peking” in 1908 where it shows the little boy with head shaven and pony tail in back. This immediately caught my attention from the very first reading we were assigned. A Manchu man’s hairstyle during this time was a shaved head in the front and the rest of his hair in a long braid called a “queue”, and this style had been around since the Jin Dynasty. Next the story introduces the imperial majesty, Empress Dowager Cixi, which was also very interesting to see. The actor who played the Empress Dowager was very similar to the image of her in Modern East Asia. The Empress dowager commands little boy and his mother to be sent to the Forbidden City. The story brings us to monks chanting in the next scene in an area that is so beautiful with colors and amazing architecture. At this time Puyi is presented to the Empress Dowager. She is bedded and old with face paint; she calls herself the “old Buddha”. She explains to them that the emperor has died and she is well on her way too. She seems very sick and unstable. She explains how the other men are all eunuchs, waiting for her to die. They put her bed in the middle of the room under the black pearl until her final breath. She tells the boy that he will be the new lord of 10,000 years and that he will be the new son of Heaven. I thought it was very interesting when then Empress Dowager dies and they stick a ball in her mouth then cover her up and parade around her with music. Next in the story, Puyi sits on thrown then walks out and everyone bows to him. I noticed that all of the men have queues. An old man who seems to be a faithful and loyal mentor of some sort gives Puyi a wooden container with a cricket inside as a gift of his excellence. I could really see the loyalty the Manchurian people had for their leader. Even as a young boy who wouldn’t know any better, he was treated with such amazing royalty with servants, imperial baths, and dancing for his pleasure. Puyi is growing older at this point and he starts to understand that he can do anything he pleases. He starts to act quite smug, splashing his servants with water. The story jumps back to Puyi as a man, where the general finds him on the floor almost bleeding to death from his attempted suicide. I believe that at this time he is in People’s Republic of China and is deemed a criminal by the general. He is bleeding from...
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