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The empire, extinguished

Sibling of last emperor Puyi has died

Late last Friday news emerged that Jin Youzhi, the only surviving sibling of China’s last emperor Puyi, had died in Beijing aged 96.

He died of complications arising from pneumonia, state media reported.

Jin, whose courtly name was Puren, was born in 1918, six years after the Xinhai Revolution that forced his brother to abdicate, bringing the 270-year Qing Dynasty to an end.

Puren lived a relatively quiet life, focused on education. In the 1940s he set up a school with his father and he worked there until the late 1960s. He was regarded as a friend of the ruling Communist Party because he didn’t join his brother’s attempt to resurrect his imperial role in Manchuria in the 1930s. Later, he served as a delegate on the CPPCC (an advisory body to the Chinese parliament) for three terms. But despite his efforts to blend in, the people of the Bejing hutong in which he lived always referred to him as “younger imperial brother”.

Netizens said the world had lost a witness to an epic era. “A true lord from the Qing Dynasty finishes his life naturally as an ordinary man. What a great story,” one noted.

Others simply wrote “farewell, my lord”.

The use of the honorific title irritated some. “Have you all forgotten how our county suffered under the Qing?” one commenter queried. “Our grandparents fought so that no Chinese man should call another lord again. You should all be ashamed,” scolded another.

Jin was a half-brother to Puyi, sharing the same father. But Puyi had no children and thus when a middle brother Pujie died in 1994, Puren became the notional heir to the Qing throne.

Jin repudiated any claim to the Qing Dynasty at a young age in a rather sensible attempt to live a more ordinary life.

He is survived by three sons and two daughters.

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