Amanda's Reviews > The Last Manchu: The Autobiography of Henry Pu Yi, Last Emperor of China

The Last Manchu by Pu Yi
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's review
Aug 05, 2011

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bookshelves: standalone, nonfiction-history, wwii, nonfiction-memoir, chinese-lit
Read from August 05 to 13, 2011

This autobiography traces the unique life of Henry Pu Yi, the last emperor of China, from when he first ascended the throne at 2 years 10 months of age, through his time in hiding, to his time puppet ruling Manchukuo for the Japanese in WWII, to his thought reform under the communists.

The first 3/4 of the book will make you very angry at Pu Yi. He is incredibly self-centered with all of his focus being on his own continued life and continuing imperialism in China. He not once thinks of the good of the Chinese citizens, let alone those in his own household. He even routinely beats them and sees nothing wrong with this. It takes thought reform under the communist Chinese for him to see his flawed character and false perception of the world. Although the translator calls this time-period his "brain washing," I think that is a biased view. Pu Yi never once recalls being tortured or dehumanized by the communists. He is put in a cell with others, forced to take care of himself for the first time in his life, shown he is not above others simply because of who his parents were. He reads and studies communism and comes to regret how he treated those beneath him when he was emperor and afterward. He comes to see flaws in his character and simply wants to find a career and contribute to China. This transformation is fascinating and makes the read worth it, although I do believe this autobiography will mainly only appeal to those with an interest in Chinese history.

Check out my full review. (Link live August 16, 2011).

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