Tan Yuling – Was Emperor Puyi’s Imperial Consort murdered by the Japanese?




tan yuling
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Tan Yuling (formally known as Noble Consort Mingxian) was the third and favourite wife of Puyi, the Last Emperor of China. However, she died tragically at the young age of twenty-two. Tan Yuling’s death has always been one of history’s greatest mysteries. It has long been assumed that Tan Yuling was murdered by the Japanese.[1] Could there be another explanation for her death? This article examines Tan Yuling’s death and whether she was murdered at the hands of the Japanese.

On 11 August 1920, Tan Yuling was born in Beijing. Her surname was originally Tatala, but the Tatala clan changed their name to Tan to blend in with the Han Chinese.[2] Her father’s name was Zhaoxu, and her mother was of Korean descent. She had an older brother. Tan Yuling had connections to royalty. Two of her aunts were the Imperial Consorts of Emperor Guangxu. They were Consort Jin and Consort Zhen.[3]

In 1937, Puyi (the puppet Emperor of the Japanese state of Manchukuo) had sent Empress Wanrong to the cold palace because she gave birth to an illegitimate daughter.[4] Therefore, he needed another wife.[5] He looked through the photographs of suitable candidates, and his eyes settled on Tan Yuling’s photograph.[6] He selected her to be his Imperial Concubine. When Tan Yuling learned that she was to be Emperor Puyi’s Imperial Concubine, she was a seventeen-year-old middle school student in Beijing.[7] She left Beijing and travelled to Changchun to marry Emperor Puyi.

On 6 April 1937, Tan Yuling married Emperor Puyi in Changchun Palace. After the wedding, she was given the title of Noble Concubine Xiang.[8] Emperor Puyi had a deep affection for Noble Concubine Xiang.[9] She was said to be kind, thoughtful, and intelligent.[10] He often ate meals in her room.[11] He also loved taking photos of his Imperial Concubine.[12] Noble Concubine Xiang loved to knit sweaters for Emperor Puyi and often cooked meals for his sisters.[13]

Emperor Puyi also listened to Noble Concubine Xiang’s advice.[14] One day, Emperor Puyi was going to punish a guard who stole a banana from the imperial garden.[15] However, Noble Concubine Xiang pleaded for him, and Emperor Puyi let him go.[16] The only time Emperor Puyi did not listen to her was an issue concerning Empress Wanrong.[17] Because Empress Wanrong was sent to the cold palace, Noble Concubine Xiang never saw her.[18] Noble Concubine Xiang begged Emperor Puyi to free the Empress, but he ignored her plea.[19]

Noble Concubine Xiang’s deepest desire was to have a child. This desire often left her so depressed that she spent the nights crying on her pillow.[20] However, Emperor Puyi could not consummate his marriage.[21] This was because he was sexually abused when he was a child, and it had traumatized him as an adult.[22] Emperor Puyi tried to fulfil her desire by getting hormone injections and medicines, but it didn’t work.[23] It left him extremely disappointed that he could not perform his duties as a husband.[24]

Even though Emperor Puyi loved Noble Concubine Xiang, he would often beat her whenever he was in a foul mood.[25] For no reason, he would often yell at Noble Concubine Xiang.[26] He would throw things at her, push her, and pull her.[27] One time, he tore up the cheongsam that Noble Concubine Xiang was wearing.[28] Noble Concubine Xiang never complained about Emperor Puyi’s mistreatment of her. Instead, she always tolerated it.[29]

In 1942, Noble Concubine Xiang became ill.[30] Her illness grew worse. Emperor Puyi began to be concerned for Noble Concubine Xiang. He sent for Chinese doctors, but they could not cure her.[31] A Japanese officer named Yoshioka Anzhi then suggested to Emperor Puyi to get a Japanese doctor to cure her.[32] Emperor Puyi was so desperate to save her that he agreed.[33] The Japanese doctor examined her and diagnosed Noble Concubine Xiang’s illness as cystitis.[34] He then gave her an injection. Just before the injection, Yoshioka Anzhi and the Japanese doctor had a three-hour private discussion in the room next door.[35] This secret meeting raised Emperor Puyi’s suspicions.[36] Noble Concubine Xiang died the next day, on 14 August 1942.[37] She was twenty-two years old.

Was Noble Concubine Xiang murdered by the Japanese? Emperor Puyi believed his wife was murdered at the hands of Yoshioka Anzhi.[38] The first reason was that Yoshioka Anzhi and the Japanese doctor had a private three-hour discussion before they treated his wife.[39] The second reason was that right before her death, Yoshioka Anzhi asked Emperor Puyi to look at the photographs of Japanese girls to choose his next Imperial Concubine.[40] Emperor Puyi refused to look at them because Noble Concubine Xiang was ill, and he hoped that she would get better.[41] Thus, Emperor Puyi believed the Japanese murdered his wife.[42] However, Emperor Puyi’s accusations were mere speculations with no solid evidence.[43]

There have been doubts about Emperor Puyi’s accusations.[44] Li Yuqin (Emperor Puyi’s fourth wife) believed the Emperor had misunderstood the Japanese.[45] She claimed the Japanese treated Noble Concubine Xiang with the same care and concern as the Chinese doctors.[46] Yoshioka Anzhi also stated that the Emperor misunderstood the meeting between him and the Japanese doctor.[47] He claimed that the meeting was about whether they should give her an injection since the Japanese doctor believed that her illness was too late to cure.[48] However, they eventually decided to go ahead with the treatment.[49] Yoshioka Anzhi also denied showing pictures of Japanese girls to Emperor Puyi right before Noble Concubine Xiang’s death.[50] Therefore, many scholars doubt Emperor Puyi’s accusations that the Japanese murdered Noble Concubine Xiang.[51] They believe that Noble Concubine Xiang was so ill that by the time she was under Japanese care, it was already too late to save her.[52] Thus, the Japanese did not kill Noble Concubine Xiang.[53]

Emperor Puyi held a grand funeral for Tan Yuling in Banruo Temple. He gave her the posthumous name of Noble Consort Mingxian.[54] He cremated her and ordered his nephew to guard her ashes.[55] After he married Li Shuxian, he went to where Noble Consort Mingxian’s ashes were stored and brought them back with him.[56] However, Li Shuxian was so afraid of getting Noble Consort Mingxian’s illness that she forced her husband to give the ashes back to his nephew.[57] Emperor Puyi did keep her photograph with him until his death.[58] On the back of her photograph are the words, “My dearest Yuling.” [59] Before he died, Emperor Puyi wished to be buried with Noble Consort Mingxian.[60] Noble Consort Mingxian is buried next to Emperor Puyi near the Western Qing Mausoleum.[61]

Tan Yuling was Emperor Puyi’s favourite Imperial Consort. She was married to Emperor Puyi for five years. However, she died at an early age due to unknown causes. Her sudden death caused Emperor Puyi to place the blame on the Japanese. Yet, it is clear that it was simply a misunderstanding between the Japanese and the Emperor. Emperor Puyi continued to mourn her for the rest of his life. Even though Tan Yuling died young, she became the great love of Emperor Puyi.

Sources:

DayDayNews. (September 4, 2020). “The “pain” of Puyi’s life, his beloved wife Tan Yuling was killed by the Japanese lieutenant general and asked to be buried with her on the deathbed”. Retrieved on 25 September 2022 from https://daydaynews.cc/en/history/amp/783379.html.

iMedia. (n.d). “Tan Yuling: The cause of Puyi’s wife’s death is a mystery. After a cold, she died of a serious illness under the care of the Japanese”. Retrieved on 25 September 2022 from https://min.news/en/history/fb4b6c5ab6c62a0f313630ba9c1c4c41.html.

iNews. (n.d.). “The woman who only got along with Puyi for 5 years, but let Puyi love her life, they were buried together after death”. Retrieved on 25 September 2022 from https://inf.news/en/history/ed8cc2b7faf4e9226d71b028ab6492f1.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] DayDayNews, 4 September 2020, “The “pain” of Puyi’s life, his beloved wife Tan Yuling was killed by the Japanese lieutenant general and asked to be buried with her on the deathbed”

[5] Wang, 2014

[6] Wang, 2014

[7] DayDayNews, 4 September 2020, “The “pain” of Puyi’s life, his beloved wife Tan Yuling was killed by the Japanese lieutenant general and asked to be buried with her on the deathbed”

[8] Wang, 2014

[9] Wang, 2014

[10] Wang, 2014

[11]Wang, 2014

[12] Wang, 2014

[13] iMedia, n.d. “Tan Yuling: The cause of Puyi’s wife’s death is a mystery. After a cold, she died of a serious illness under the care of the Japanese”

[14] iMedia, n.d. “Tan Yuling: The cause of Puyi’s wife’s death is a mystery. After a cold, she died of a serious illness under the care of the Japanese”

[15] iMedia, n.d. “Tan Yuling: The cause of Puyi’s wife’s death is a mystery. After a cold, she died of a serious illness under the care of the Japanese”

[16] iMedia, n.d. “Tan Yuling: The cause of Puyi’s wife’s death is a mystery. After a cold, she died of a serious illness under the care of the Japanese”

[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] DayDayNews, 4 September 2020, “The “pain” of Puyi’s life, his beloved wife Tan Yuling was killed by the Japanese lieutenant general and asked to be buried with her on the deathbed”

[26] Wang, 2014

[27] Wang, 2014

[28] Wang, 2014

[29] DayDayNews, 4 September 2020, “The “pain” of Puyi’s life, his beloved wife Tan Yuling was killed by the Japanese lieutenant general and asked to be buried with her on the deathbed”

[30] DayDayNews, 4 September 2020, “The “pain” of Puyi’s life, his beloved wife Tan Yuling was killed by the Japanese lieutenant general and asked to be buried with her on the deathbed”

[31] Wang, 2014

[32] Wang, 2014

[33] Wang, 2014

[34] Wang, 2014

[35] DayDayNews, 4 September 2020, “The “pain” of Puyi’s life, his beloved wife Tan Yuling was killed by the Japanese lieutenant general and asked to be buried with her on the deathbed”

[36] Wang, 2014

[37] DayDayNews, 4 September 2020, “The “pain” of Puyi’s life, his beloved wife Tan Yuling was killed by the Japanese lieutenant general and asked to be buried with her on the deathbed”

[38] Wang, 2014

[39] DayDayNews, 4 September 2020, “The “pain” of Puyi’s life, his beloved wife Tan Yuling was killed by the Japanese lieutenant general and asked to be buried with her on the deathbed”

[40] Wang, 2014

[41] Wang, 2014

[42] Wang, 2014

[43] Wang, 2014

[44] Wang, 2014

[45] Wang, 2014

[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] Wang, 2014

[56] Wang, 2014

[57] iMedia, n.d. “Tan Yuling: The cause of Puyi’s wife’s death is a mystery. After a cold, she died of a serious illness under the care of the Japanese”

[58] Wang, 2014

[59] iNews, n.d., “The woman who only got along with Puyi for 5 years, but let Puyi love her life, they were buried together after death”, para. 10

[60] Wang, 2014

[61] iMedia, n.d. “Tan Yuling: The cause of Puyi’s wife’s death is a mystery. After a cold, she died of a serious illness under the care of the Japanese”






About Lauralee Jacks 183 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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