The Tragic Life Of China’s Last Empress Wanrong

April 2, 2022

Wanrong, the last woman to hold the title Empress of China was born on November 13, 1906, in Beijing. Born Gobulo Wanrong (Gobulo was her clan name) to Rongyuan, a Qing imperial Minister of Domestic Affairs, her mother died after her birth. She was raised by her stepmother, Aisin Gioro-Hengxian and her father, who believed she should have a good education. She attended school at the American missionary school in Tianjin, where she learned English and how to play the piano.  

Wanrong with Puji. Source: (Wikimedia/colorized).

In 1922 when she was only 22, Wanrong married Puyi, the Xuantong Emperor. Empress Dowager Cixi had chosen him for the position when he was only two, in 1906, but he did not hold the position for very long, as he was forced to abdicate during the Xinhai Revolution in 1912. The abdication simply meant a loss of power, as he and his court continued to live in the Forbidden City because many expected the monarchy to be reinstated, which it was for a brief period in December 1915. During this brief restoration, Yuan Shikai was the emperor, but he abdicated in March 1916.

The Marriage Was Not A Fairy Tale Wedding

In her Empress regalia. Source: (Wikipedia/colorized).

Prior to the marriage, the Dowager Consorts showed Puyi photographs of girls they considered acceptable for him to marry when he was 16 years old in 1922. He preferred Wenxiu, but some of the Dowager Consorts were not happy with his choice. Puyi agreed to marry Wanrong, who was more attractive, but he kept Wenxiu as his concubine.

Puyi married both Wanrong and Wenxiu on the same night, October 21, 1922 (at this time in China, men could marry their concubines, and concubines were recognized as sexual partners and expected to bear children, just as a wife would). For the marriage night, he went with both Wanrong and Wenxiu to the Palace of Earthly Tranquility to consummate the marriages, but he fled and left them to sleep alone. Reportedly, Puyi did not know anything about sex and may have been a homosexual. He also was sadistic, as he was known to torment the eunuchs who waited on him, and he also admitted to having sadistic tendencies toward women.