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The Last Manchu: The Autobiography of Henry Pu Yi, Last Emperor of China Paperback – March 1, 2010

4.1 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Henry Pu Yi is more commonly known as “the last emperor.” He lived in Beijing, Manchuria, and Siberia before becoming an ordinary citizen of the People’s Republic of China. He died in 1967.

Paul Kramer (1915–2008) was a naval officer and a secret service agent. He acquired and edited Henry Pu Yi’s autobiography in 1965 after learning about it from Chinese American friends.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing (March 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1602397325
  • ISBN-13: 978-1602397323
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 5.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #196,507 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A very interesting story, especially if you have an interest in China history. The movie, "The Last Emperor" covers the book pretty well, so if you have just a passing interest in this subject stick with the movie and save yourself the time. But the book is much more detailed (as they usually are) and so provides many interesting side notes not covered in the movie. As to Henry Pu Yi, it is hard to know whether to pity him or despise him more. Certainly both emotions come out when reading the book. He was for the most part a very unpleasant man, totally self-center and uncaring those about him, and seemingly consumed with fear about his own death. He allowed himself to be used by the Japanese to further his own future. But it may be argued that all of this behavior was a result of his upbringing where he was the total center of attention since age 2. Overall a good book and a fairly easy read.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
My interest (in part) was stimulated: Viewing film The Last Emperor
several years ago and travel to China (just returned) with my Family. I was
intrigued by the Title of this Book. Very easy to read. Worth your time
reading if you too are a novice to China's past OR if you are just interested
in reading historical many first/second person accounts. Reading it filled in many
gaps in my understanding of China's Imperial System of governing which became
very turbulent prior WW2. I ENJOYED "The Last Manchu".
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Paul Kramer's efforts to bring Pu Yi's words to the West are to be commended; however, by the time we get into Pu Yi's account of his multiple mothers (which would be Chapter Three), the typos begin to confuse the story. Is the woman who caused his biological mother's suicide Than Kang or Tuan Kang? The "h" and "u" switch throughout the chapter making you wonder if there is sixth mother somewhere.

As interesting as some of the accounts are, I have not been able to stay with it beyond the Imperial Palace because Pu Yi's depth of perception is disturbingly short. When his second wife Wen Hsiu asks for a divorce, he records it as an event, but we have no sense of her before that account beyond the fact that she felt some competition being number two when it came to how much she could get in material things. Pu Yi writes he was too worried about regaining his throne to be a good husband to any wife. Granted. But in his account, Wen Hsiu died in 1950 and never remarried. According to Wiki, she lived until 1953 and remarried in 1947, a Major Liu. Although Pu Yi admits he has no idea what happened to her after she left him, he has left those two notes for posterity. Who has the truth? Presumably Wiki, and that tells us how little of Pu Yi's accounts outside of his own circle can be relied upon.

The man had an incredible life, and survived against all odds, so he should be interesting -- but he isn't. This account, approved by the Communists (so perhaps ultimately a propaganda piece), shows someone spoilt and incapable of learning from experience. He appears to feel nothing about his mother's suicide beyond the fact that it got the witchy Than Kang or Tuan Kang off his back. He has nothing but contempt for his father.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
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.
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By cja on February 1, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Loved this book as a wonderful look at the history behind modern China - visit Beijing, watch the Last Emperor movie, read the book - a great combination to understand China. Well written and engaging auto biography of a weak man who managed to stay alive against the odds.
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Format: Paperback
The Last Manchu is fascinating reading and explains many things about Chinese history. The Manchu Dynasty was located in the north, near the Mongolian border, and the Japanese and then the communists depended on the patriotism of the Manchus; it is one reason why the cult of the emperor remains, so that the Manchurians will feel proud enough to defend the country’s borders. The description of re-education sounded like a Steiner school experience, however, which I’m quite sure it wasn’t. It was, after all, imprisonment in labor camps with hours-long self-criticism sessions until you finally came around to seeing how arrogant everything you ever thought and did was and how life is better in a humbler state. I just don’t buy it. My Chinese teacher painted a quite different picture of this life – starvation, back-breaking labor, and no education for a decade, leaving entire generations far behind in schooling. The personal details were interesting, but what they suggested to me was a life of intense emotional deprivation. The details are homely but without much feeling, beyond primitive ones of anger and disappointment. The restoration of joy through humiliating work and scrutiny is just further proof of this underlying emptiness. There was one insight that resonated with me in the re-education period: Pu Yi was told that previously, because he couldn’t do his laundry, he was angry and resentful of others’ leisure time, but once he was equal to everyone in his work ability, he was able to enjoy his time off and find happiness, and so he was told that he had the key to his own problems all along. I think this is really true, although I don’t think you can really find life lessons in inhuman conditions. The fecklessness of the life is the most highlighted feature of the narrative.Read more ›
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