Erdet Wenxiu – The Imperial Consort who divorced the Emperor (Part three)




wenxiu
(public domain)

Read part two here.

Erdet Wenxiu (formally known as Imperial Consort Shu) had suffered abuse and neglect from Puyi, the Last Emperor of China. She decided to get out of her marriage by divorcing him. However, it would not be easy. Emperor Puyi was unwilling to agree to it and did everything he could to stop the divorce. His tremendous pressure on her only made Imperial Consort Shu more determined to regain her own freedom. Imperial Consort Shu’s battle with the Emperor would inspire other abused women in China to have the courage to divorce their own husbands. This event became known as The Consort’s Revolution.

On 12 July 1931, Wenshan asked Emperor Puyi if she could take her sister, Imperial Consort Shu, to the city to cheer her up. Emperor Puyi agreed and let them take his special car. Wenshan, Imperial Consort Shu, and her palace eunuch got in the car and drove to the National Grand Hotel. Imperial Consort Shu never saw Emperor Puyi again.[1] Upon her arrival, she met with three lawyers and prepared the divorce documents. Then, she sent her eunuch back to the villa to inform Emperor Puyi about the divorce.[2] Afterwards, she left the National Grand Hotel and stayed with her sister’s friend until the divorce was finalised.[3]

Emperor Puyi was shocked that Imperial Consort Shu had dared to divorce him.[4] There had never been a Consort in Qing Dynasty history who had actually divorced an Emperor.[5] Once the Consort entered the palace, she would remain married to the Emperor until the end of her life.[6] If he were divorced, Emperor Puyi would be publicly humiliated.[7] Emperor Puyi immediately sent his servants to fetch Imperial Consort Shu back to his villa. However, she had already left the National Grand Hotel. Instead, his servants were greeted by her lawyers.[8] Emperor Puyi then sent his servants to look for her in Wenshan’s house, but they were unsuccessful.[9]

Emperor Puyi did not know where to look for Imperial Consort Shu. In order to bring her back, he sent his representatives to meet her lawyers.[10] However, the lawyers sent him the divorce application. They threatened that if he did not agree to the divorce, Imperial Consort Shu would sue the Emperor in court.[11] The courtroom would bring him greater humiliation because it would air the dirty details of the Emperor’s marriage in public and would make for sensational headlines around the world.[12] Hearing the news, Emperor Puyi was infuriated and did not know what to do.[13] He knew he would lose in court because the new Chinese law, which stated that men and women had equal rights, would not be on his side.[14] He was very furious at Imperial Consort Shu because she had brought shame to him and to the Qing Dynasty.[15] He swore that if Imperial Consort Shu was returned to him, she would be severely punished for what she had done.[16] Still, Emperor Puyi needed his Consort to come back to him before it created a huge scandal.[17] Therefore, he had to find ways to reconcile with his wife.[18] However, Imperial Consort Shu refused to see her husband again.[19] She would only meet with her lawyers. Thus, there was no hope for a reconciliation meeting between the couple.[20]

Emperor Puyi gradually began to realise that Imperial Consort Shu would never come back.[21] His initial anger turned into anguish.[22] He began to miss her.[23] He was saddened to learn that all her personal belongings in her room were gone.[24] He expressed his grievances to his eunuch. He told him that he would most likely have no choice but to grant her divorce.[25] He just hoped that Imperial Consort Shu would not take him to court.[26] Emperor Puyi still could not fathom why his wife would divorce him.[27] He was unwilling to let her go because he had some affection for Imperial Consort Shu.[28] He still liked her intelligence, honesty, and literary talent.[29] He continued to make attempts at reconciliation, but he realised it was too late.[30]

Imperial Consort Shu gave a list of five demands for Emperor Puyi to meet if she would return to him again. The first demand was that she lived in a house of her own away from Emperor Puyi.[31] The second was that Emperor Puyi had to pay her 500,000 yuan for her to live on.[32] The third was to let Imperial Consort Shu attend school and go wherever she wanted, including visiting other countries.[33] The fourth was to eliminate her young female attendants who waited on her and for the Emperor to visit her twice a week.[34] The final demand was that there would be no damage to her personal reputation.[35] If these demands were not met, she would continue her divorce proceedings and take the Emperor to court.[36] Emperor Puyi was shocked that Imperial Consort Shu had made demands of him and even asked him for money.[37] He refused all her demands.[38]

The news of Imperial Consort Shu’s divorce proceedings with Emperor Puyi became world headlines.[39] Emperor Puyi’s divorce became the greatest royal scandal of the era and shocked the public because they thought the Emperor enjoyed a happy marriage with his two wives.[40] Because it was rare for a woman to divorce at the time, Imperial Consort Shu was urged by many royalists to return to her husband.[41] However, Imperial Consort Shu desired her freedom.[42] She claimed she wanted to have an ordinary husband who would love her rather than an Emperor.[43] The divorce proceedings became known as The Consort’s Revolution. Imperial Consort Shu immediately became a feminist icon within China because she was the face of women’s rights and malpractices in Chinese marriages.[44] Many women who suffered abuse from their husbands began to get a divorce.[45] Imperial Consort Shu eventually began to gain support from the media. Many of them supported her because they opposed the monarchy.[46] Soon, Emperor Puyi began to be mocked and insulted in the media. This angered him greatly.[47]

On 30 August 1931, the summons that Emperor Puyi had dreaded arrived. [48] He had to undergo interrogation on 2 September 1931. If he did not show up, he would be fined.[49] This summons greatly embarrassed him.[50] However, Imperial Consort Shu and Emperor Puyi decided to discuss the proceedings out of the courtroom.[51] Emperor Puyi turned to Imperial Consort Shu’s clan for help to stop the divorce. He hoped that her family would pressure Imperial Consort Shu to return to him.[52] Her family began to protest against Imperial Consort Shu’s divorce. They told her that since the family benefited from her marriage to the Emperor, she should go back to him.[53] If she continued her divorce, then they would lose all the privileges that the Emperor had given them.[54] They also said that since she is the subject of the Emperor, she has to do whatever he commands, even if he orders her to die.[55] Puyi was the Emperor, and this demanded her obedience.[56] Her family’s pressure did not have the effect on her that Emperor Puyi had expected. Instead, it only strengthened her resolve to divorce him.[57] 

Emperor Puyi tried to do everything he could to stop the divorce, but Imperial Consort Shu still would not be persuaded. He made more reconciliations, but she turned them down.[58] He even made a condition that if she divorced him, she could not marry again.[59] Much to his shock, Imperial Consort Shu agreed to his condition.[60] Emperor Puyi did not want a divorce, but he could not stop it because of her determination.[61] He expressed his helplessness to his eunuchs.[62] He asked them what had led him to this moment and why Imperial Consort Shu was so determined to divorce him.[63] He told them that he felt he had brought great shame to his royal ancestors.[64] Against his will, Emperor Puyi finally agreed to the divorce.[65]

On 22 October 1931, Emperor Puyi and Imperial Consort Shu officially divorced. Emperor Puyi gave her alimony of 55,000 yuan. They also agreed not to damage each other’s reputation.[66] The next day, Wenxiu was stripped of all her imperial titles and was demoted from a royal to a commoner.[67] She was expelled to her mother’s house and was ordered never to marry again.[68] Emperor Puyi wrote an article detailing how anguished he was over his divorce.[69] He found himself in admiration of Imperial Consort Shu’s tenacity to divorce him and felt sorry for how she was treated during their marriage.[70]  However, he refused to believe he had ever wronged her. Emperor Puyi placed all the responsibility and blame for Imperial Consort Shu’s mistreatment solely on Empress Wanrong.[71]

Erdet Wenxiu finally won the battle against Emperor Puyi. Imperial Consort Shu was resolute, courageous, and daring. This earned her Emperor Puyi’s admiration. Erdet Wenxiu was married to Emperor Puyi for nine years. After her divorce, did she finally gain the happiness that she had fought so hard to achieve? The next article will explore her life as a commoner. It will examine whether Erdet Wenxiu ever achieved her personal happiness and if she ever regretted her decision to divorce the Emperor.

Read part four here.

Sources:

iNews. (n.d.). “After the last imperial concubine and Puyi divorced, they married the coachman. After their death, the husband recalled: got the imperial concubine’s true love”. Retrieved on 22 September 2022 from https://inf.news/en/history/70e066a3621c09f05ef91d206cacb0ee.html.

iNews(n.d.). “Wenxiu: 13-year-old married Puyi 16-year-old, 22-year-old ran away filed for divorce: living together for nine years, not lucky” Retrieved on 22 September 2022 from https://inf.news/en/history/e45d88f73b5b6c726b76f9c2b975b7a2.html.

iNews. (n.d.). “What was the reason for this last imperial concubine to choose to divorce?”. Retrieved on 22 September 2022 from https://inf.news/en/history/a28fa90808412678def2946b8cbf9c5a.html.

Luju Bar. (May 25, 2020). “Pu Yi “s autobiography reveals Wenxiu “s divorce reason: Shidi was not lucky for nine years”. Retrieved on 22 September 2022 from https://lujuba.cc/en/amp/288812.html.

The World of Chinese. (March 30,2022) “Romance and Rebellion in Republican China”. Retrieved on 22 September 2022 from https://www.theworldofchinese.com/2022/03/romance-and-rebellion-in-republican-china/.

Wang, Q. (2014). The Last Emperor and His Five Wives. (Translated by Jiaquan Han et al.). Beijing, China: China Intercontinental Press.


[1] Wang, 2014

[2] Wang, 2014

[3] Wang, 2014

[4] Wang, 2014

[5] iNews, n.d., “After the last imperial concubine and Puyi divorced, they married the coachman. After their death, the husband recalled: got the imperial concubine’s true love”

[6] iNews, n.d., “What was the reason for this last imperial concubine to choose to divorce?”

[7] Wang, 2014

[8] Wang, 2014

[9] Wang, 2014

[10] Wang, 2014

[11] Wang, 2014

[12] Wang, 2014

[13] Wang, 2014

[14] Wang, 2014

[15] Wang, 2014

[16] Wang, 2014

[17] Wang, 2014

[18] Wang, 2014

[19] Wang, 2014

[20] Wang, 2014

[21] Wang, 2014

[22] Wang, 2014

[23] Wang, 2014

[24] Wang, 2014

[25] Wang, 2014

[26] Wang, 2014

[27] Wang, 2014

[28] Wang, 2014

[29] Wang, 2014

[30] Luju Bar, 25 May 2020, “Pu Yi “s autobiography reveals Wenxiu “s divorce reason: Shidi was not lucky for nine years”

[31] iNews, n.d., “Wenxiu: 13-year-old married Puyi 16-year-old, 22-year-old ran away filed for divorce: living together for nine years, not lucky”

[32] iNews, n.d., “Wenxiu: 13-year-old married Puyi 16-year-old, 22-year-old ran away filed for divorce: living together for nine years, not lucky”

[33] iNews, n.d., “Wenxiu: 13-year-old married Puyi 16-year-old, 22-year-old ran away filed for divorce: living together for nine years, not lucky”

[34] iNews, n.d., “Wenxiu: 13-year-old married Puyi 16-year-old, 22-year-old ran away filed for divorce: living together for nine years, not lucky”

[35] iNews, n.d., “Wenxiu: 13-year-old married Puyi 16-year-old, 22-year-old ran away filed for divorce: living together for nine years, not lucky”

[36] iNews, n.d., “Wenxiu: 13-year-old married Puyi 16-year-old, 22-year-old ran away filed for divorce: living together for nine years, not lucky”

[37] Wang, 2014

[38] Wang, 2014

[39] Wang, 2014

[40] Wang, 2014

[41] Wang, 2014

[42] Wang, 2014

[43] Wang, 2014

[44] Wang, 2014

[45] The World of Chinese, 30 March 2022, “Romance and Rebellion in Republican China”

[46] Wang, 2014

[47] Wang, 2014

[48] Wang, 2014

[49] Wang, 2014

[50] Wang, 2014

[51] Wang, 2014

[52] Wang, 2014

[53] Wang, 2014

[54] Wang, 2014

[55] The World of Chinese, 30 March 2022, “Romance and Rebellion in Republican China”

[56] The World of Chinese, 30 March 2022, “Romance and Rebellion in Republican China”

[57] Wang, 2014

[58] Wang, 2014

[59] iNews, n.d., “Wenxiu: 13-year-old married Puyi 16-year-old, 22-year-old ran away filed for divorce: living together for nine years, not lucky”

[60] iNews, n.d., “Wenxiu: 13-year-old married Puyi 16-year-old, 22-year-old ran away filed for divorce: living together for nine years, not lucky”

[61] Wang, 2014

[62] Wang, 2014

[63] Wang, 2014

[64] Wang, 2014

[65] Luju Bar, 25 May 2020, “Pu Yi “s autobiography reveals Wenxiu “s divorce reason: Shidi was not lucky for nine years”

[66] Wang, 2014

[67] Wang, 2014

[68] Wang, 2014

[69] Wang, 2014

[70] Wang, 2014

[71] Wang, 2014






About Lauralee Jacks 171 Articles
I am a former elementary teacher in Tennessee. I have a bachelor’s degree in Liberal and Civic Studies from St. Mary’s College of California, a master’s in Elementary Education from the University of Phoenix, and a doctorate in Educational Leadership from the College of Saint Mary. Because my family are from East Asia, I have a passion for historical Chinese and Korean television shows. I always wanted to separate fact from fiction in dramas. Writing articles from History of Royal Women gives me a chance to dig deeper and explore these royal women as they might have been in real life. Also, it gives me a chance to look at the history and culture of where my family originated. I love researching East Asian royalty because they rarely get enough attention in the West often being overshadowed by European royalty. I find these royal women to be just as fascinating and their stories deserve to be told. Thus, I am excited to write for History of Royal Women!

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