Puyi spent 5.5 million Liang to invite Mei Lanfang to play farewell my concubine

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Wanrong was the last empress in Chinese history. She entered the palace in December 1922 and was expelled from the palace by fengyuxiang together with the last emperor Puyi in November 1924. She lived in the Forbidden City for a total of two years. How was Wanrong married to the palace? What was her life like in the palace? Through the original Qing palace archives, we can have a general understanding.

Wanrong entered the palace without leaving the Daqing gate

Puyi got married on December 1st, 1922. Both he and Wanrong were 17 years old. The wedding of the Qing emperor was called a grand wedding. Although the Qing Dynasty had been overthrown for 11 years at that time, Puyi still maintained the title of emperor and continued to live in the Forbidden City according to the preferential conditions of the royal family, so it was still called a grand wedding internally and externally. This time, in addition to the empress Wanrong, the imperial concubine Wenxiu is welcome to the Forbidden City.

It was a lot of trouble for Wanrong to be chosen as Queen. At the beginning, after the news spread that Puyi was going to choose a queen, people proposed marriage one after another. However, according to the custom-made in the Qing Dynasty, the empresses were selected from the daughters of the princes and ministers of Manchuria. Therefore, those recommended by xushichang and zhangzuolin were politely declined. It is said that at that time, on the table of Zai Tao, uncle Puyi, who was responsible for summarizing the marriage proposal, the photos of the girls could be bound into volumes. Among the dazzling crowd of women, after repeated screening, four were shortlisted as candidates. After careful selection, Wanrong and Wenxiu remained.

There is only one empress, Wanrong or Wenxiu. The imperial family is intrigued, especially those imperial concubines. They all want the little emperor to choose the girl they like, so as to consolidate their power in the palace. In this way, Puyi was forced to be the “Saint judge” in the end. After seeing the photos of Wanrong and Wenxiu, he finally chose Wanrong as the queen, and Wenxiu was named Shufei. According to the folklore, Wanrong’s father Rongyuan spent 200000 liang of gold to buy the Queen’s crown for his daughter. This is just a rumor, which is hard to prove.

The ritual ceremony of marrying Wanrong as the queen was all conducted according to the old practice of the Qing Dynasty. It was divided into four steps: receiving the betrothal ceremony, the grand expedition ceremony, the book ceremony and the grand wedding ceremony. The betrothal ceremony was held on October 21, 1922. Puyi sent his chief and Deputy envoys with nearly a thousand guards of honor and more than 100 sedan chair carrying gifts to Wanrong’s home in maoerhu alley outside Di’anmen gate in Beijing to present the betrothal ceremony to his father Rongyuan. In the next two months, a grand expedition ceremony and a Book ceremony were held. The grand expedition ceremony was to tell the woman the exact date of marriage at home, and the book ceremony was to officially give the queen the title. Speaking of it, Wanrong’s wedding is still a pity. According to the custom of the Qing Dynasty, the queen was welcomed into the palace. No matter where the Queen’s home was in the capital, the wedding procession had to pass through the Daqing gate and then enter the palace through the Meridian Gate, the main gate of the Forbidden City. At ordinary times, except for the Empress Dowager and the emperor who can go in and out at any time, no officials can walk without authorization, and the queen can only enjoy it once on her wedding day. However, Wanrong did not enjoy this honor. She did not go to the daqingmen nor the Meridian Gate when she entered the palace. Wanrong walked along Donghuamen street and entered the palace from Donghuamen. From this point of view, she, the queen of the small imperial court, is still different from the real queen of the Qing Empire. At this time, Puyi was already a abdicated emperor. Although he was allowed to live in the harem, the area south of the Qianqing gate in the Forbidden City was under the control of the Beiyang government, so he could no longer be so particular about it.

In the past few years, the 10 emperors of the Qing Dynasty who entered the pass have successively established 24 queens. If Wanrong can still be called the queen, then she is the 25th and the out of print queen of ancient China.

Mei Lanfang performs farewell my concubine for Wanrong’s wedding

In the preserved Puyi archives, there are two gift books for the grand wedding ceremony. On the cover is the book of articles for grand wedding ceremony, which lists the names, types and quantities of gifts. In the list, not only the old ministers of the Qing Dynasty, but also the important officials of the government of the Republic of China, warlord politicians and foreign envoys are also included. Liyuanhong, the then president, sent a special envoy with 20000 silver dollars to congratulate him. Celebrities such as Caokun, wupeifu, fengyuxiang, xushichang and zhangzuolin, as well as celebrities such as Kang Youwei, also gave gifts such as Ruyi and furniture.

In order to organize the wedding, the small imperial court at that time set up a special “preparation office for the grand wedding”. They consulted the grand wedding ceremony of the Qing Dynasty and the archives of the grand wedding of the emperors of the Qing Dynasty, and finally decided to do it according to the scale of the wedding of emperor Tongzhi, because the grand wedding cost less. Although the small imperial court could not be extravagant, it still spent more than 400000 silver dollars in the end. At that time, two yuan could buy a bag of flour. And Emperor Guangxu’s wedding cost 5.5 million liang of silver!

During the wedding, the palace sang for three days, which cost more than 30000 silver dollars. It is worth mentioning that Mei Lanfang and yangxiaolou were specially invited to perform farewell my concubine. At that time, it was suggested that such a sad play was not appropriate on such a happy day. But Puyi thought it was ok, so he decided to play. When the play reached the emotional place, the princess and the prince’s family members all shed tears. After the end of the play, some old princes and ministers were worried and thought it was a bad omen. Two years later, when Puyi and Wanrong were driven out of the palace, some people said: This is all the trouble caused by the performance of farewell my concubine when they got married!

Wanrong’s English name in the palace is Elizabeth

In the Qing Dynasty, the emperor’s birthday was called Wanshou Festival, and the Queen’s birthday was called Qianqiu Festival. Whenever there was such a festival, the palace would sing operas to celebrate for a few days. September, 1923 was the first Qianqiu Festival after Wanrong entered the palace. Although he repeatedly said that he should be frugal, he still sang in the shufangzhai of the Forbidden City for a day, and rewarded the eunuchs around him and the palace guards with silver dollars, ranging from 2 yuan to 5 yuan, and more than 10 yuan. Even in peacetime, Wanrong spent onehundredandtwohundred yuan on her daily living expenses.

It is said that Wanrong, who grew up during the period of the Republic of China, was nurtured by her father who did business and received a lot of westernization education. In the Forbidden City, Wanrong and Puyi often ride bicycles and play ball games together. Wanrong taught Puyi to eat Western food. Puyi, Wanrong and Wenxiu, the masters of the small imperial court, also took many photos in the palace, leaving their body and appearance.

In Puyi’s archives, there are many English text messages written by Wanrong to Puyi in the palace. They met every day and corresponded in English, which showed that their relationship was good at that time. In order to learn English, Wanrong invited two American female teachers to teach her in the palace. Wenxiu also studies English, but only invites Chinese female teachers. In Wanrong’s letter to Wenxiu, some English words are mixed from time to time. At that time, Wanrong also had an English name called Elizabeth. At that time, she wrote “Elisabeth” by transliteration, and Puyi’s English name was Henry. Westernization has entered and affected the life of the last court.

On November 5, 1924, Feng Yuxiang’s army entered the Forbidden City. At that time, luzhonglin, the garrison commander of Beijing, came to the inner court with more than 20 policemen, forcing Puyi’s small court to accept the revised “preferential treatment conditions” and to leave the Forbidden City on the same day. The Imperial Palace was in a panic. Puyi held his cheeks in his hands and said nothing. Wenxiu said helplessly, “it’s OK to move out, so don’t be afraid here!” Only Wanrong took a tough attitude and shouted, “anyway, I’m determined not to move today. I can’t move!” However, whether they were willing or unwilling to move, the army entered the palace at 9 a.m. and at 4 p.m., Puyi handed over the two seals of “the treasure of the emperor” and “the treasure of Xuantong”. With Wanrong and a group of family members around him, they took five cars and temporarily moved to Prince Chun’s residence where their father zaifeng lived. The last emperor Puyi and the last empress Wanrong left the Forbidden City forever.

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