World History Moment: China’s Other Last Emperor

Henry Pu-Yi, former child emperor of China, is shown wearing the uniform of Admiral of the Fleet of the Manchukuan Navy, in 1936, at unknown location in china.
Henry Pu-Yi, former child emperor of China, is shown wearing the uniform of Admiral of the Fleet of the Manchukuan Navy, in 1936, at unknown location in China. AP Photo
Henry Pu-Yi, former child emperor of China, is shown wearing the uniform of Admiral of the Fleet of the Manchukuan Navy, in 1936, at unknown location in china.
Henry Pu-Yi, former child emperor of China, is shown wearing the uniform of Admiral of the Fleet of the Manchukuan Navy, in 1936, at unknown location in China. AP Photo

World History Moment: China’s Other Last Emperor

Pu-Yi became emperor of China in 1908. He was only three years old, so a regency ruled in his name. Three years later, popular uprisings broke out in different parts of the country. The revolutionaries proclaimed a republic with Dr. Sun Yatsen as provisional president of China.

General Yuan Shikai was a military hero and the Emperor’s prime minister. Sun sent a telegram to the general — if General Yuan would back the new republic, then the general could have the office of president for himself. Once he was assured no harm would come to the imperial family, the general agreed to the plan. So in February 1912, Emperor Pu-Yi abdicated. Dr. Sun stepped aside, and Yuan Shikai became President of China.

But Historian John Schmidt says that wasn’t the end of the empire. In today’s World History Moment, he tells us how the empire re-emerged on Dec. 12, 1915.