Twilight in the Forbidden City

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Johnston was tutor to the Emperor and eye witness Chinese events in the crucial years of the 1920s and 1930s. Many of his views are at variance with those held today and deserve reconsideration. Johnston was also a professor of Chinese at the University of London and as well a British Commissioner of Wuhaiwei.
"Twilight in the Forbidden City" is prefaced by the Emperor Hsüan-T'ung himself in the year 1931. Johnston was an unabashed monarchist with nothing but sympathy for the last reigning ruler of the Manchu royal house. This is in stark contrast to the usual portrayal of Henry P'u-Yi as a dissolute opportunist who eventually became the willing and exclusive tool of the fascist Japanese and their expansionist dreams in Manchuria and China itself. In Johnston's rogue gallery are of course figures such as Yüan Shih-k'ai (Yuan Shikai, 1859-1916). Also included is the father of China's modernization himself, Sun Yat-sen (1866-1925) and the many seemingly deluded student activists with their Communist affiliations. A persistent and nefarious influence, according to Johnston, was of course the Soviets. Johnston wishes us to believe China would have fared infinitely better in a monarchical arrangement where western corrupted radicals would have been kept in check. Johnston paints an entirely different portrait of a monarch consistently betrayed and abused by those pretending to represent the modernization of China.
Johnston provides a good deal of anecdotal material for the last days of the Ch'ing (Qing Dynasty) court before the 1911 Revolution. He of course knew many of the active players in those events. His observations on the Ch'ing court's political structure, and particular the Nei Wu Fu or Imperial Household Department, are deserving of any historian's attention. Johnston had little use for the Empress T'zu-hsi (Empress Dowager Cixi) and many other principal players in these events.
The erroneous view that there was widespread distaste for the Manchu regime among the Chinese masses is one Johnston attributes to Europeans and foreign-educated Chinese students. Johnston explains that the Chinese had a good deal more freedom before the baleful influences of those like Sun Yat-sen who felt the liberty the Chinese enjoyed under the old regime was "excessive". Johnston dismisses the Three Principles of the People or San-min Chu-i as "purile" and "rambling".
"Twilight in the Forbidden City" is very much a history of an entire period and not an exclusive portrait of the last Emperor of China. The latter impression is perhaps a result of the film The Last Emperor having been based on the book.
Table of Contents
Translation of Preface
Chapter I The Reform Movement of 1898
Chapter II The Collapse of the Reform Movement
Chapter III Reaction and the Boxer Movement, 1898-- 1901
Chapter IV The Last Years of Kuang-Hsti, 1901 -- 1908
Chapter V The Empress-Dowager, T'zu-Hsi
Chapter VI The Revolution, 1911
Chapter VII The "Articles of Favourable Treatment"of the Manchu Imperial House
Chapter VIII The Ta Ch'ing and the Hung Hsien Emperors
Chapter IX Chang Hstin and the Restoration of 1917
Chapter X Autobiography of the Old Man of the Pine-tree(Translated from the Chinese)
Chapter XI The Forbidden City, 1919-- 1924
Chapter XII The Imperial Tutors
Chapter XIII The Manchu Court in Twilight,
Chapter XIV The Imperial Household Department (Nei Wu Fu)
Chapter XV The Dragon Unfledged
Chapter XVI Monarchist Hopes and Dreams
Chapter XVII The Dragon Restless
Chapter XVIII The Dragon Flaps His Wings
Chapter XIX Dragon and Phoenix
Chapter XX Plots and Stratagems
Chapter XXI The Imperial Garden
Chapter XXII The Summer Palace
Chapter XXIII The Fifth of November
Chapter XXIV The Dragon Caged
Chapter XXV The Flight of the Dragon
Epilogue: the Dragon Goes Home
The Pedigree of the Manchu Emperors
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Twilight in the Forbidden City