Li Yuqin – The Last Imperial Concubine of China (Part two)




Li Yuqin
(Public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Read part one here.

Li Yuqin (also formally known as Noble Lady Fu) was the fourth wife of Puyi, the Last Emperor of China. Li Yuqin was the last Imperial Concubine in Chinese history. However, in 1945, Li Yuqin’s life as an imperial concubine had abruptly come to an end. Li Yuqin would soon face a series of hardships. She would constantly struggle with poverty as she tried hard to find a good job. She also faced discrimination because she married the Emperor, whom many people believed to be a traitor.[1] These difficulties led Li Yuqin to divorce the Last Emperor of China.

On 18 August 1945, Manchukuo collapsed, and the imperial family were forced to leave Changchun Palace. The imperial family left Changchun and sought refuge in Dalizigou.[2] However, the situation grew so dire that Emperor Puyi began to fear for his life.[3] Thinking solely of his own safety, he left Empress Wanrong and Noble Lady Fu behind.[4] He took a plane where the pilot betrayed him.[5] Emperor Puyi was captured and became a prisoner of the Soviet Union.[6] Because both Empress Wanrong and Noble Lady Fu were abandoned by Emperor Puyi, they began to depend on each other.[7] They were so grateful for each other’s company because they did not know the outcome of their situation.[8]

Since Noble Lady Fu was a hostage under the Chinese army, she was under intense scrutiny.[9] The Chinese army asked her to join the army, but her devotion to Emperor Puyi led her to refuse.[10] Then, they began to pressure her to divorce the Emperor.[11] They assured her that she could go home to her family once she did.[12] Noble Lady Fu initially refused because of her fondness for Emperor Puyi.[13] She believed that she should remain faithful to her husband.[14] However, the army let her parents visit Noble Lady Fu and persuaded her to divorce the Emperor so that she could return home.[15] Noble Lady Fu realized that there was no choice but to agree.[16]

Noble Lady Fu wrote a divorce letter and was allowed to return home.[17] However, the divorce letter was considered to be insufficient for a divorce.[18] Noble Lady Fu was still considered to be the legal wife of Emperor Puyi.[19] She felt guilty about leaving Empress Wanrong behind, but there was nothing she could do.[20] She went home, where she grieved for betraying her husband.[21] She tried to become a Buddhist nun. However, none of the nunneries would accept her because she was a member of the Chinese imperial family.[22]

In 1946, Noble Lady Fu left her parents’ home to live with Emperor Puyi’s relatives in Tianjin. In Tianjin, Prince Puxiu became Noble Lady Fu’s tutor.[23] Noble Lady Fu learned calligraphy, poems, and female virtue.[24] However, the imperial family often struggled with hunger.[25] There was not enough food, so the imperial family often went hungry.[26] Because Noble Lady Fu was not from the Manchu Eight Banners clan, Emperor Puyi’s relatives began to look down on her.[27] Noble Lady Fu began to wash laundry and do other chores for them.[28] They would not even give her the money to buy toilet paper![29] She stayed with Emperor Puyi’s family for seven years.

In 1953, Noble Lady Fu returned to Changchun to take care of her mother while still waiting for news of Emperor Puyi.[30] From 1953-1956, Noble Lady Fu went through a series of temporary jobs such as working in food factories, as a governess, as a cleaner, and as a printing factory worker.[31] Because she was Emperor Puyi’s wife, many people looked at her with hatred and called her a traitor.[32] Noble Lady Fu kept searching for news of Emperor Puyi, but her search remained ineffective. She did not know whether her husband was dead or alive.[33]

In the summer of 1955, Noble Lady Fu finally received a letter from her husband. Noble Lady Fu was so relieved and happy to have received word from Emperor Puyi.[34] The letter stated that he was currently a prisoner in Fushun, China.[35] Noble Lady Fu wrote him a letter back. The letter that Emperor Puyi received touched him so deeply while he was undergoing difficulties in prison.[36]

Noble Lady Fu visited her husband three times. In order to see him, she had to borrow money from her friends.[37] While Emperor Puyi was genuinely happy to see her, seeing Emperor Puyi in prison reminded Noble Lady Fu of her hardships.[38] Noble Lady Fu had struggled with poverty and attracted hatred from strangers for being the Emperor’s wife.[39] Emperor Puyi seemed oblivious to her own sufferings and the sacrifices she had made for him.[40] Emperor Puyi also did not seem like he would get out of prison anytime soon.[41] Noble Lady Fu began to wonder if it was worth it to remain married to the Emperor.[42]

In August of 1956, Noble Lady Fu finally got a job as a librarian at Changchun City Library.[43] Noble Lady Fu loved her job.[44] However, she was given an ultimatum. She either had to divorce Emperor Puyi or lose her job.[45] Noble Lady Fu did not want to quit her job.[46] Therefore, she decided it was time to discuss divorce with Emperor Puyi.[47] 

On 25 December 1956, Noble Lady Fu visited Emperor Puyi in prison and painfully told him that she wanted a divorce.[48] Emperor Puyi was heartbroken to hear Noble Lady Fu’s request to divorce him.[49] He told her he would never agree to it.[50] However, Noble Lady Fu was determined. She told him she wanted to have a normal life and be free from discrimination.[51] Throughout the conversation, Noble Lady Fu was crying because she still loved him and did not want to part from him.[52] Emperor Puyi went back to his cell, where he broke down in tears about the inevitable ending of his marriage to Noble Lady Fu.[53]

Emperor Puyi asked the Chinese government for help in reconciling his marriage with Noble Lady Fu.[54] During Noble Lady Fu’s fifth visit, the government allowed Emperor Puyi to cohabit with his wife.[55] Noble Lady Fu and Emperor Puyi were given a room with a double bed.[56] This was the only time that they had ever consummated their marriage.[57] The government had hoped that this would lead to a reconciliation between the couple.[58] Instead, it only strengthened Noble Lady Fu’s resolve to divorce Emperor Puyi.[59] 

On 16 March 1957, Noble Lady Fu officially filed for divorce. In May 1958, the divorce was granted.[60] She no longer held the title of Noble Lady Fu.[61] She was married to Emperor Puyi for fifteen years. Li Yuqin became a member of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party.[62] In 1958, Li Yuqin married Huang Yugeng, an engineer at Jilin Provincial Radio Station.[63] The couple produced a son.[64] In the 1980s, Li Yuqin was a member of the advisory council of the Changchun City Government.[65] On 24 April 2001, Li Yuqin died of cirrhosis in Changchun.[66] She was 73 years old.[67] Li Yuqin’s death represented the passing of Imperial China and the Qing Dynasty.

Sources:

DayDayNews. (June 15, 2020). “The last imperial concubine of the Qing Dynasty, who lived to the 21st century, told her secret marriage to Puyi before her death”. Retrieved on 11 November 22 from https://daydaynews.cc/en/history/amp/618200.html.

iNews. (n.d.). “She was the last imperial concubine of the Qing Dynasty. She lived to 2001 and told her marriage secret with Puyi on her deathbed”. Retrieved on 11 November 2022 from https://inf.news/en/history/cc154bac85073acf6fa1d882ba08dc6c.html.

Poole, T. (June 27, 1997). “The Last Concubine”. The IndependentRetrieved on 11 November 2022 from https://www.independent.co.uk/news/the-last-concubine-1258129.html?amp.

The New York Times. (April 28, 2001). “Li Yuqin; Chinese Emperor’s Widow, 73”. Retrieved on 11 November 2022 from https://www.nytimes.com/2001/04/28/world/li-yuqin-chinese-emperor-s-widow-73.html.  

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] Poole, The Independent, 27 June 1997, “The Last Concubine”

[5] Poole, The Independent, 27 June 1997, “The Last Concubine”

[6] Poole, The Independent, 27 June 1997, “The Last Concubine”

[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] DayDayNews, 15 June 2020, “The last imperial concubine of the Qing Dynasty, who lived to the 21st century, told her secret marriage to Puyi before her death”

[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] Wang, 2014

[31] Wang, 2014

[32] Wang, 2014

[33] Wang, 2014

[34] Wang, 2014

[35] Wang, 2014

[36] Wang, 2014

[37] Wang, 2014

[38] Wang, 2014

[39] Wang, 2014

[40] Wang, 2014

[41] Wang, 2014

[42] Wang, 2014

[43] Poole, The Independent, 27 June 1997, “The Last Concubine”

[44] Poole, The Independent, 27 June 1997, “The Last Concubine”

[45] Poole, The Independent, 27 June 1997, “The Last Concubine”

[46] Poole, The Independent, 27 June 1997, “The Last Concubine”

[47] Wang, 2014

[48] Wang, 2014

[49] Wang, 2014

[50] DayDayNews, 15 June 2020, “The last imperial concubine of the Qing Dynasty, who lived to the 21st century, told her secret marriage to Puyi before her death”

[51] Wang, 2014

[52] Wang, 2014

[53] Wang, 2014

[54] Wang, 2014

[55] Poole, The Independent, 27 June 1997, “The Last Concubine”

[56] Poole, The Independent, 27 June 1997, “The Last Concubine”

[57] Poole, The Independent, 27 June 1997, “The Last Concubine”

[58] Poole, The Independent, 27 June 1997, “The Last Concubine”

[59] Poole, The Independent, 27 June 1997, “The Last Concubine”

[60] Wang, 2014

[61] Wang, 2014

[62] Wang, 2014

[63] iNews, n.d., “She was the last imperial concubine of the Qing Dynasty. She lived to 2001 and told her marriage secret with Puyi on her deathbed”

[64] iNews, n.d., “She was the last imperial concubine of the Qing Dynasty. She lived to 2001 and told her marriage secret with Puyi on her deathbed”

[65] The New York Times, 28 April 2001, “Li Yuqin; Chinese Emperor’s Widow, 73”

[66] The New York Times, 28 April 2001, “Li Yuqin; Chinese Emperor’s Widow, 73”

[67] The New York Times, 28 April 2001, “Li Yuqin; Chinese Emperor’s Widow, 73”






About Lauralee Jacks 189 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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