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Saturday, September 22, 2018

An Interview with Pu Yi

Photo: Wikimedia
The impression depicted by the movie “The Last Emperor” by Bernardo Bertolucci about Pu Yi’s childhood was that of a playful, cute, and innocent boy, although a bit naughty like any other boy of his age. A three year old boy who suddenly became the Emperor of China, leaving his parents and siblings to be isolated within the walls of the Forbidden City, served by the eunuchs loyal to him. The boy who still liked to play outside was appointed to be the emperor of this great country. Imagine that!

This impression stuck in my mind until I met Pu Yi for a conversation at the Salt Tax Palace, his exile in Manchuria. When I met him as an adult the impression I got about the boy depicted by the movie suddenly disappeared. Off course, his childhood history is only a beautiful memory of his past which is a small part of his dramatic life.

His face pale, looked tired dan didn’t like to talk. He had a fixed stare behind his black-framed glasses. When we were introduced, he responded with a friendly nod. But his smile lasted only a second.

I opened the conversation:
 “Surely you still remember that day when you were picked-up from your home by the palace officials at 3 years old to be carried to the Palace.”

Pu Yi:
“On the evening of 13th November 1908, without any advance notice, a procession of eunuchs and guardsmen led by the palace chamberlain left the Forbidden City for our home to inform my father  that they were taking away his three-year-old son Pu Yi to be the new emperor. I screamed and resisted as the officials ordered the eunuch attendants to pick me up. My parents said nothing when they learned that they were losing their son. As I cried, screaming that I did not want to leave my parents, I was forced into a palanquin that took me back to the Forbidden City. My nanny Wang Wen-Chao was the only person to go with me, and she calmed me down by allowing him to suckle one of her breasts; this was the only reason she was taken along.”

I said:
“And then how was the your coronation ceremony to be the Emperor on 2nd December 1908?”

Pu Yi:
 “The ceremony was very long and tiresome, it was moreover a very cold day, so when they carried me into the Hall of Supreme Harmony and put me up on the high and enormous throne I could bear it no longer. My father who was kneeling below the throne and supporting me, told me not to fidget, but I struggled and cried, “I don’t like it here. I want to go home.” My father grew so desperate that he was puring with sweat. As the officials went on kowtowing me my cries grew louder and louder. My father tried to sooth me by saying, “Don’t cry, don’t cry; it’ll be soon finished, it’ll be soon finished.”

When the ceremony was over the officials ask each other surreptiously, “How could he say ‘It’ll be soon finshed’? What does it mean, his saying that he wanted to go home?” All these discussions took place in a very gloomy atmosphere as if these words had been a bad omen.  Some books said that these words were prophetic as within three years the Qing dynasty was in fact “finished” and the boy who wanted to go home did go home, and claimed that the officials had a presentiment of this.”

I said:
“ And then how was the situation of your abdication from throne?”

Pu Yi:
 “ After making a very poor show as emperor for three years I made a very poor show of abdicating. One incident of those last days stands out clearly in my mind. My foster mother  Empress Lung Yu was sitting on a paltform in the Mind Nurture Palace wiping her tears with a handkerchief while a fat old man knelt on a red cushion before her, tears rolling down his face. I was sitting to the right of my foster mother feeling rather bewildered and wondering why the two adults were crying. There was nobody in the room besides us three and it was very quite; the fat man was sniffing loudly while he talked and I could not understand what he was saying. If what I had been told is right, this was the occasion on which General Yuan Shi Kay directly brought up the question of abdication and to end the Qing dyansty.”

I said:
“On the 12th of February 9012 your forster mother formally proclaimed your abdication as the Empreror of China, and then China became a Repubic, and you were exclied in the Forbidden City. How did you feel?”

Pu Yi:
“It was this tiny world where I was to spent the most absurd childhood possible until I was driven out by the National Army in 1924. I called it absurd because at a time when China was called a republic and when time that mankind had advanced into the 20th century I was still living the life of an emperor, breathing the dust of the 19th century.
Whenever I think of my childhood my head fills with a yellow mist. The glaced tiles were yellow, my sedna-chair was yellow, my chair cushions were yellow, the lining of my hats and clothes were yellow, the girdle round my waist was yellow, the dishes and bowls from which I ate and drank were yellow, the padded cover of the rice-gruel sauce pan, the material in which by books were covered, the window curtains, the bridle of my horse.. everything was yellow. This color, the so called “briliant yellow”, was used exclusively by the imperial household and made me feel from my earliest years that I was unique and had a “heavenly” nature different from that of everybody else.

I said:
“ That was probably why you got angry when you saw him wearing a robe with yellow inner lining, the color of Qing Dynasty, in the palace.”

Pu Yi:
“He thought the color was apricot. I said that the color was the imperial bright yellow. My brother then apologized ‘Yes Sir.. Yes Sir…’ and stood away from me with his hands on his sides. I said ‘The color is bright color, you have no right to wear it.’ ….. ‘Yes Sir…..’ he answered. With the ‘Yes Sir…” he answered me like how my servants answer me. The sound ‘Yes Sir..’ has disappeared for long time and sounds funny if I think about it.”

I said:
“A sweet memory but also bitter for you. But your chilhood wasn’t always funny and innocent as depicted in the movie ‘The Last Emperor’, I heard that since childhood you like to order flogging your eunuchs, is that true?”

Pu Yi:
“Wherever I went, grown men would kneel down in a ritual kowtow, averting their eyes until I passed. The Emperor was Divine. I could not be remonstrated with, or punished.  Flogging eunuchs was part of my daily routine. My cruelty and love of wielding power were already too firmly set for persuasion to have any effect on me.

But no account of my childhood would be complete without mentioning the eunuchs. They waited on me when I ate, dressed and slept; they accompanied me on my walks and to my lessons; they told me stories; and had rewards and beatings from me, but they never left my presence. They were my slaves; and they were my earliest teachers.”

I said:
“ But till you are an adult you treat the eunuchs as you like. You don’t trust them dan consider all of them are thieves. You obsessively went over the account books for signs of fraud. You also drastically cut back on the food allocated for your staff, who suffered from hunger.”

Pu Yi:
“They are basically all thieves, everyone, from the highest to the lowest. I found that by the end of my wedding ceremony, the pearls and jade in the empress's crown had been stolen. Locks were broken, areas ransacked, and on 27 June 1923, a fire destroyed the area around the Palace of Established Happiness. I suspected that the arson were caused by the eunuchs as they tried to cover up the extent of their theft.

 I heard that all the time the eunuchs smuggled treasures out of the palace and sold them in antique shops. I ordered an audit of the palace's collections. But before it began, the fire consumed the place.”

I said:
“Your wife, Empress Wan Rong, Western educated, is known as a woman who loved to go out dancing, play tennis, wear western clothes and make-up, listen to jazz music,  play piano , ride horses, read debauch foreign novels, write petty verses, and to socialize with her friends.”

Pu Yi:
“ I admit that I also like to buy Western goods, especially Wrigley's chewing gum, Bayer aspirin, cars, gramophone and movies. I like the new technology of cinema, I was so delighted with the movies, especially Harold Lloyd films, that I had a film projector installed in the Forbidden City despite the opposition of the eunuchs who disliked foreign technology in the Forbidden City.

Wanrong liked to go shopping with her friends, to the Central Plains, strolling the  streets, to Shunde Shihlin Ji to drink, eat,  also to Asgard saloon which had popular hair style, to the theatre to see a Mei Lanfang's "Shi Ming". She was spending money like water like she was still the empress.”

I said:
“But people say that Wan Rong complained that her life as an "empress" was extremely dull as the rules for an empress forbade her from going out dancing as she wanted, instead forcing her to spend her days in traditional rituals that she found to be meaningless, all the more so as China was a republic and her title of empress was symbolic only. Then she began to smoke opium during the exile period. Is it true?”

Pu Yi:
 “I encouraged her to do so as I found her more ‘manageable’ when she was in an opium daze. My arriage to Wanrong began to fall apart as they spent more and more time apart, meeting only at mealtimes.”

I said:
“In your autobigography “From Emperor to Citizen”  you said that one time her brother introduced her to a Japanese military officer. She subsequently had an affair with the man. And in 1935 you found out that she was when she was close to giving birth. How did you feel?”

Pu Yi:
“My feelings at that time were hard to describe, I was angry but did not want the Japanese man to know. All I could do was express this anger against her in person.“

I said:
“In the original edition of the autobiography, you wrte that after Wan Rong gave birth o a baby girl, you told her that his brother had adopted the child and insisted she make monthly payments for his upkeep. How did Wan Rong feel that time?”

Pu Yi:
 “'Until her death, she kept having the same dream, in which her child was living next to her. After the end of the war and our separation, her opium addiction worsened and her body became weaker. She died of illness in 1946.”

I said:
“And how is her baby girl?”

Pu Yi:
“The baby actually died shortly after birth………”

This is an imaginary interview in memory of Pu Yi, The Last Emperor.
Source: Authobiography “From Emperor to Citizen”, South China Morning Post, Wikipedia.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Tokyo Disneyland, Latin songs

The Minnie Oh! Minnie! show in Tokyo Disneyland is a high energy show containing Latin songs and dancing. Minnie Mouse is the star in this colorful performance along with Donald, Goofy, Chip & Dale, and of course, Mickey Mouse. 

The show offers songs in English, Japanese & Spanish. There are two lead singers that move the show along, and it also features incredible dancers in wonderful costumes. Some costumes consist of feathers, wings, bright colors, and it is really impressive. Characters come down from the stage too, to help make it more fun.

All the performers join in the fun and dance along, leading to a hot Latin finale at the Theatre Orleans. The show ends with the Characters striking a pose as the curtains fall.

Tokyo Disneyland was the first Disney park to be built outside the United States, and it opened in 1983.  The park was constructed in the same style as Disneyland in California and Magic Kingdom in Florida.

The park has seven themed areas: the World Bazaar; the four traditional Disney lands: Adventureland, Westernland, Fantasyland and Tomorrowland; and two mini-lands: Critter Country and Mickey's Toontown.


Sunday, September 9, 2018

Paris, at the Latin Quarter

The Latin Quarter of Paris is an area in the 5th and the 6th arrondissements of Paris. It is situated on the left bank of the Seine, around the Sorbonne. Known for its student life, lively atmosphere, and bistros, the Latin Quarter is the home to a number of higher education establishments besides the Sorbonne university itself.

In spite of its adaptation and the loss of its former identity, the many streets in Latin Quarter surrounding what was the student and intellectual center continues to attract tourists and Parisians.

The area gets its name from the Latin language, which was widely spoken in and around the University during the Middle Ages, after the twelfth century philosopher Pierre Abélard and his students took up residence there.  The church St Nicolas du Chardonnet, located here,  still performs the traditional Latin mass untill today (read also the article ‘Paris, at St Nicolas du Chardonnet’ in this blogspot).

Students still frequent the area, although not speaking Latin.  The world famous university of Sorbonne enrolls about 24,000 students in 20 departments specializing in arts, humanities and languages, divided in 12 campuses in Paris. Seven of the campuses are situated in the Latin Quarter, including the historic Sorbonne university building and three in the Marais, Malesherbes and Clignancourt. Paris-Sorbonne also houses France's prestigious communication and journalism school, CELSA, located in the Parisian suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine.

The history of Latin Quarter paralysed by demonstration is now half a century old. May 1968 is still regarded as the biggest upheaval to have hit modern French society, and it has forever recast the tree-lined boulevards of Paris’s fifth arrondissement as the embodiment of France’s famous spirit of rebellion.

The volatile period of civil unrest in France during May 1968 was punctuated by demonstrations and massive general strikes as well as the occupation of universities and factories across France. At the height of its fervor, it brought the entire economy of France to a virtual halt.
The unrest began with a series of student occupation protests against capitalism, consumerism, American imperialism and traditional institutions, values and order. The protests spurred an artistic movement, with songs, imaginative graffiti, posters, and slogans.

The well known philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre roused students, nurses, doctors and teachers into a frenzy of protest from his crudely constructed pulpit under the oak trees of the Boulevard Saint Jacques, demonstrators lobbed cobblestones over barricades by the elegant arches of the Sorbonne, and the noise of rioting echoed through the Pantheon.


Saturday, September 1, 2018

Paris, at St. Nicolas du Chardonnet

St. Nicolas du Chardonnet is a church in the centre of Paris, France, located in the 5th arrondissement.  Originally built in the 13th century, it was largely reconstructed during 1656-1763. Many changes have occurred in St. Nicolas's interior over the centuries.

Since 1977, the church has been used by traditionalist Society of St. Pius X . Under this society the church performs the traditional Latin mass untill today.

St. Nicolas church is one of a few churches in the secular Paris that regularly and exclusively perfoms  the traditional Latin-rite Mass. The Mass will be focused on the Holy Sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross. There will be respectful and prayerful silence before, during, and after  the Mass.

During the first part of the Mass, Psalm 42 is sung:

As a deer yearns for running streams, so I yearn for you, my God.

I thirst for God, the living God; when shall I go to see the face of God?

I have no food but tears day and night, as all day long I am taunted, 'Where is your God?'

St. Nicolas of Myra is revered by many Christians as a saint, because of the many miracles attributed to his intercession. He was a very rich man because his parents died when he was young and left him a lot of money. After his parents died, Nikolas is said to have distributed their wealth to the poor.

His reputation evolved among the faithful, and his legendary habit of secret gift-giving gave rise to the traditional model of Santa Claus in the modern world.