Twilight in the Forbidden Cityby Published 05 Sep 2007
|Twilight in the Forbidden City.pdf|
As part of China's 2008 Olympic welcome to visitors Xiaomina Press, presents this book about the last emperor of China. This book is essential reading for all visitors to China The Author Sir Reginald Fleming Johnston was a Scottish diplomat and the tutor of Puyi, the last emperor of China. Johnston was eye witness Chinese events in the crucial years of the 1920s and 1930s. Johnston was the only foreigner in history to be allowed inside the inner court of the Qing Dynasty. The author carried high imperial titles and lived in both the Forbidden City and the New Summer Palace. In 1934, Johnston looked for a residence in Scotland to retire to. He found a house on Eilean Righ, a small island in Loch Craignish, some 9 miles (15 km) NW of Lochgilphead. He moved there with his enormous library, which included a Chinese Encylopaedia in 1734 volumes and a complete collection of Buddhist scriptures in 1500 volumes. Twilight in the Forbidden City is very much a history of an entire period and not an exclusive portrait of the last Emperor of China. Twilight in the Forbidden City is prefaced by the Emperor Hsuan-T'ung himself in the year 1931 Chosen by Dowager Empress Cixi while on her deathbed, Puyi ascended the throne at age 2 years 10 months in December 1908 following his uncle's death on November 14. Puyi's introduction to emperorship began when palace officials arrived at his family household to take him. Puyi screamed and resisted as the officials ordered the eunuchs to pick him up. His wet-nurse, Wen-Chao Wang, was the only one who could console him, and therefore accompanied Puyi to the Forbidden City. Puyi would not see his real mother again for six years. Puyi's upbringing was hardly conducive to the raising of a healthy, well-balanced child. Overnight, he was treated as a god and unable to behave as a child. The adults in his life, save his wet-nurse Mrs. Wang, were all strangers, remote, distant, and unable to discipline him. Wherever he went, grown men would kneel to the floor in a ritual kow-tow, averting their eyes until he passed.
Twilight in the Forbidden City Reviews
A fairly difficult read for me. I wish I had a better understanding of the people and events of the day. I also wish the book would be republished with proper pinyin (with tones) for all names instead of whatever system he used. I can't figure out how to pronounce most proper nouns, which drives me nuts. There are so many people that I wish there were a quick reference list of who's who, and maybe some background on each. I guess that's what you get form a first person account.
There are some really interesting stories, such as someone cutting out a chunk of their own flesh from their leg to use as medicine for someone else.
A rather illuminating look at the imperial court, but I think Johnston's view of Pu Yi was rather too positive. But he was proven correct that Pu Yi's unideal youth and unhealthy surrounding ultimately had a negative effect.
The book is also a good look at the failure of republicanism in China, and put Sun Yat Sen in a rather bad light. I need another view, though, just to balance things.
One of the few if not the only true remaining accounts of the last days of the forbidden city. Johnston was the last emperor's tutor (portrayed by Peter O'Toole in the movie). Since Johnston was a westerner, his records were not destroyed by Mao in the communist attempt to destroy Chinese history.
It's a bit of a slog (the writing's stiff), but it forms the basis for a portion of the Bertolucci film, "The Last Emperor" and provides more context for the teacher's role in the royal household.