Princess Youlan – Emperor Puyi’s birthmother who committed suicide




Princess Youlan
(public domain)

Princess Youlan’s life was very tragic and heart-wrenching. She was the birthmother of Puyi, the Last Emperor of China. Because her infant son was the Emperor of China, she had to give him up for adoption to one of Emperor Guangxu’s imperial consorts. Therefore, Princess Youlan only saw her son on a few occasions. When the Qing Dynasty fell, Princess Youlan conspired with Emperor Puyi’s adopted mother, Imperial Consort Duan Kang, to restore her son’s throne. When their plans failed, Princess Youlan attempted suicide. Tensions strained her relationship with Imperial Consort Duan Kang, which led to her suicide. Emperor Puyi felt guilty and blamed himself for her death. Even though Princess Youlan left Emperor Puyi at a young age, she would have a lasting impact on him. Because of her, Emperor Puyi would make plans to restore his throne, which would eventually prove disastrous.

In 1884, Princess Youlan was born in Beijing. She was from the Gūwalgiya clan, which was one of the Manchu Eight Banners. Her father was Ronglu, a prominent military official who played a major role in the Boxer Rebellion. Her mother was a member of the royal family. She had a sister. Gūwalgiya Youlan was Empress Dowager Cixi’s goddaughter.[1] In October 1902, Empress Dowager Cixi arranged for Gūwalgiya Youlan to marry Zaifeng, the Prince of Chun and the half-brother of Emperor Guangxu.[2] Prince Zaifeng was nineteen years old, and Gūwalgiya Youlan was eighteen years old. The wedding was very grand.[3] Prince Zaifeng liked Princess Youlan very much and was very satisfied with his bride.[4]

On 7 February 1906, Princess Youlan gave birth to Prince Puyi. On 16 April 1907, she gave birth to her second son, Prince Pujie. On 14 November 1908, Emperor Guangxu died. Empress Dowager Cixi chose Emperor Puyi to be the next ruler. When Princess Youlan heard that her two-year-old son was to be the next Emperor, she immediately fainted.[5] She did not want her son to be taken from her.[6]

Against Princess Youlan’s will, Emperor Puyi was brought to the Forbidden City, where he was officially adopted by Imperial Consort Duan Kang (Emperor Guangxu’s imperial consort). Imperial Consort Duan Kang became the official mother of Emperor Puyi. Because Princess Youlan was not acknowledged as Emperor Puyi’s mother, she was given very little access to Emperor Puyi.[7] For the next ten years, she visited the Forbidden City only on a few occasions.[8] On the few occasions that Princess Youlan did visit Emperor Puyi, she was very strict with her son. She often spoke to him in a condescending manner.[9] Her cold treatment of her son caused Emperor Puyi to be afraid of her.[10]

Initially, Princess Youlan and Imperial Consort Duan Kang had a positive relationship and were close friends.[11] Both of them wanted what was best for their son, Emperor Puyi.[12] Later, when the Qing Dynasty fell in 1912, they would make plans to restore Emperor Puyi’s throne.[13] Thus, it was not until after the fall of the Qing Dynasty that the relationship between the two mothers became strained.[14] Their fallout would be the main driving force behind Princess Youlan’s suicide.[15]

In 1909, Princess Youlan gave birth to her eldest daughter, Princess Yunying. In 1911, she gave birth to her second daughter, Princess Yunhe. However, she was sad and dearly missed her son.[16] Her relationship with her husband grew worse.[17] Prince Zaifeng took a beautiful woman from the Denggiya clan to be his concubine. Prince Zaifeng fell madly in love with Lady Denggiya and preferred her over Princess Youlan.[18] Prince Zaifeng’s love for his concubine left Princess Youlan heartbroken.[19] She began smoking opium to relieve her broken heart.[20]

In 1912, the Qing Dynasty fell, and Emperor Puyi abdicated his throne. The royal family were still allowed to retain their imperial titles, and Emperor Puyi still lived in the Forbidden City.[21] However, Princess Youlan found the fall of the Qing Dynasty to be very humiliating.[22] She and Imperial Consort Duan Kang made plans to restore their son’s throne.[23] They asked prominent warlords for help.[24] However, the warlords refused to help them.[25] Princess Youlan was so angry with the warlords’ refusal to help her son that she decided to commit suicide by mixing opium with wine.[26] However, her servant prevented her from successfully committing suicide.[27] In 1913, Princess Youlan gave birth to her third daughter, who was also named Princess Yunying.

Imperial Consort Duan Kang was very upset that she could not restore her adopted son’s throne.[28] When Emperor Puyi continued to misbehave, Imperial Consort Duan Kang did not have the patience to handle Emperor Puyi’s misconduct.[29] Instead of reprimanding her adopted son, she decided to reprimand Emperor Puyi’s birth mother.[30] On 30 September 1921, Imperial Consort Duan Kang summoned Princess Youlan to the Forbidden City. She publicly reprimanded her for Emperor Puyi’s disobedience.[31] She made her kneel all morning.[32] 

Princess Youlan was so humiliated that after she returned home, she wrote a suicide note to her second son, Prince Pujie.[33] In the letter, she told Prince Pujie to help his brother restore his throne at all costs.[34] When Emperor Puyi read his mother’s suicide note that she had written to his brother, he was very upset and blamed himself for her death.[35] His mother’s death would be the main driving force to restore his throne and why he allied himself with the Japanese.[36] He thought that by restoring the Qing Dynasty, he would be honouring his mother’s dying wish.[37] After Princess Youlan wrote her suicide note, she mixed opium with wine.[38] On 30 September 1921, Princess Youlan committed suicide. She was thirty-seven years old.[39]

Princess Youlan was entirely devoted to her son, Emperor Puyi and the Qing Dynasty. She worked tirelessly to restore his throne. Her two suicide attempts (in which the second attempt would prove successful) were connected to Emperor Puyi. Princess Youlan would be one the most influential women in Emperor Puyi’s life.[40] She hoped that one day her son’s throne would be restored. Emperor Puyi worked tirelessly to fulfil his mother’s wish. However, it would lead to disastrous results.

Sources:

DayDayNews. (September 30, 2020). “Puyi’s biological mother, Cixi’s goddaughter, committed suicide twice, and finally died of Puyi”. Retrieved on 19 November 2022 from https://daydaynews.cc/en/entertainment/amp/826604.html.

iMedia. (n.d.). “The two people who had the greatest impact on Puyi, one of them forced the other to death”. Retrieved on 19 November 2022 from https://min.news/en/history/68879e1441ebc2a99ca9548be8ec7a94.html.

iNews. (n.d.). “Why did the birth mother of the last emperor Puyi suddenly commit suicide?”. Retrieved on 19 November 2022 from https://inf.news/en/history/f15af63e078a3d2d28982971596de211.html.


[1] DayDayNews, 30 September 2020, “Puyi’s biological mother, Cixi’s goddaughter, committed suicide twice, and finally died of Puyi”

[2] iMedia, n.d., “The two people who had the greatest impact on Puyi, one of them forced the other to death”

[3] iMedia, n.d., “The two people who had the greatest impact on Puyi, one of them forced the other to death”

[4] iMedia, n.d., “The two people who had the greatest impact on Puyi, one of them forced the other to death”

[5] iMedia, n.d., “The two people who had the greatest impact on Puyi, one of them forced the other to death”

[6] iMedia, n.d., “The two people who had the greatest impact on Puyi, one of them forced the other to death”

[7] DayDayNews, 30 September 2020, “Puyi’s biological mother, Cixi’s goddaughter, committed suicide twice, and finally died of Puyi”

[8] DayDayNews, 30 September 2020, “Puyi’s biological mother, Cixi’s goddaughter, committed suicide twice, and finally died of Puyi”

[9] iMedia, n.d., “The two people who had the greatest impact on Puyi, one of them forced the other to death”

[10] iMedia, n.d., “The two people who had the greatest impact on Puyi, one of them forced the other to death”

[11] iNews, n.d., “Why did the birth mother of the last emperor Puyi suddenly commit suicide?”

[12] iNews, n.d., “Why did the birth mother of the last emperor Puyi suddenly commit suicide?”

[13] iNews, n.d., “Why did the birth mother of the last emperor Puyi suddenly commit suicide?”

[14] iNews, n.d., “Why did the birth mother of the last emperor Puyi suddenly commit suicide?”

[15] iNews, n.d., “Why did the birth mother of the last emperor Puyi suddenly commit suicide?”

[16] DayDayNews, 30 September 2020, “Puyi’s biological mother, Cixi’s goddaughter, committed suicide twice, and finally died of Puyi”

[17] DayDayNews, 30 September 2020, “Puyi’s biological mother, Cixi’s goddaughter, committed suicide twice, and finally died of Puyi”

[18] DayDayNews, 30 September 2020, “Puyi’s biological mother, Cixi’s goddaughter, committed suicide twice, and finally died of Puyi”

[19] DayDayNews, 30 September 2020, “Puyi’s biological mother, Cixi’s goddaughter, committed suicide twice, and finally died of Puyi”

[20] DayDayNews, 30 September 2020, “Puyi’s biological mother, Cixi’s goddaughter, committed suicide twice, and finally died of Puyi”

[21] DayDayNews, 30 September 2020, “Puyi’s biological mother, Cixi’s goddaughter, committed suicide twice, and finally died of Puyi”

[22] DayDayNews, 30 September 2020, “Puyi’s biological mother, Cixi’s goddaughter, committed suicide twice, and finally died of Puyi”

[23] iNews, n.d., “Why did the birth mother of the last emperor Puyi suddenly commit suicide?”

[24] DayDayNews, 30 September 2020, “Puyi’s biological mother, Cixi’s goddaughter, committed suicide twice, and finally died of Puyi”

[25] DayDayNews, 30 September 2020, “Puyi’s biological mother, Cixi’s goddaughter, committed suicide twice, and finally died of Puyi”

[26] DayDayNews, 30 September 2020, “Puyi’s biological mother, Cixi’s goddaughter, committed suicide twice, and finally died of Puyi”

[27] DayDayNews, 30 September 2020, “Puyi’s biological mother, Cixi’s goddaughter, committed suicide twice, and finally died of Puyi”

[28] DayDayNews, 30 September 2020, “Puyi’s biological mother, Cixi’s goddaughter, committed suicide twice, and finally died of Puyi”

[29] DayDayNews, 30 September 2020, “Puyi’s biological mother, Cixi’s goddaughter, committed suicide twice, and finally died of Puyi”

[30] DayDayNews, 30 September 2020, “Puyi’s biological mother, Cixi’s goddaughter, committed suicide twice, and finally died of Puyi”

[31] DayDayNews, 30 September 2020, “Puyi’s biological mother, Cixi’s goddaughter, committed suicide twice, and finally died of Puyi”

[32] DayDayNews, 30 September 2020, “Puyi’s biological mother, Cixi’s goddaughter, committed suicide twice, and finally died of Puyi”

[33] DayDayNews, 30 September 2020, “Puyi’s biological mother, Cixi’s goddaughter, committed suicide twice, and finally died of Puyi”

[34] iNews, n.d., “Why did the birth mother of the last emperor Puyi suddenly commit suicide?”

[35] DayDayNews, 30 September 2020, “Puyi’s biological mother, Cixi’s goddaughter, committed suicide twice, and finally died of Puyi”

[36] DayDayNews, 30 September 2020, “Puyi’s biological mother, Cixi’s goddaughter, committed suicide twice, and finally died of Puyi”

[37] DayDayNews, 30 September 2020, “Puyi’s biological mother, Cixi’s goddaughter, committed suicide twice, and finally died of Puyi”

[38] DayDayNews, 30 September 2020, “Puyi’s biological mother, Cixi’s goddaughter, committed suicide twice, and finally died of Puyi”

[39] DayDayNews, 30 September 2020, “Puyi’s biological mother, Cixi’s goddaughter, committed suicide twice, and finally died of Puyi”

[40] iMedia, n.d., “The two people who had the greatest impact on Puyi, one of them forced the other to death”






About Lauralee Jacks 178 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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