Empress Wanrong

Lady Gobulo, Empress Xiaokemin (13 November 1906 – 20 June 1946), better known as Empress Wanrong, was the empress of Puyi, the last Emperor of China and final ruler of the qing dynasty. She became empress of the puppet state of Manchukuo when Puyi was installed as its nominal ruler during the Second Sino-Japanese War.

Early life and marriage to Puyi

Wanrong was of Daur ancestry. She was the daughter of Rongyuan (榮源), a Minister of Domestic Affairs (內務府大臣) in the Qing imperial court. Her mother was the fourth daughter of Yuchang (毓長), a descendant of Puxu (溥煦), an heir to the line of the Qianlong Emperor's eldest son Yonghuang (永璜). Wanrong was educated in an American missionary school in Tianjin , where she was tutored by Isabel Ingram, and was given the Western name Elizabeth.

It was decided by the four dowager consorts (the widows of the emperors before Puyi) and the Prince-Regent Prince Chun (Puyi's father), that Puyi would marry. Puyi was shown a selection of poor quality photographs of several young women, from which to choose a wife. The photos were of such a poor quality that Puyi had trouble distinguishing one person from another. He had decided that since he could not tell them apart, it did not matter which one he chose, so he selected Wenxiu. Upon discussion with the imperial consorts, he learned that Wenxiu was merely a 12 year old girl. It was suggested by them that he choose Wanrong, who was of the same age and with whom he shared a similar family background. This met with his approval, but since he had already chosen Wenxiu, it was decided that he should marry her as well to fulfill the Manchu tradition of having both a primary and a secondary wife. The wedding of Puyi and Wanrong took place on November 30th, 1922, at 3 AM according to Manchu custom.

The Forbidden City

Life in the Forbidden City was full of daily rituals and observances for Wanrong. So much in fact, that she would often stay up studying until 2am with her tutor, Isabel Ingram. Puyi would frequently interrupt their studies by stopping in to see what they were doing, playing jokes, or calling Wanrong on the phone. Despite these interruptions, she remained a dedicated student, often surprising her tutor with her progress.

She was also often visited by and enjoyed the company of friends and family as well as spending time with Puyi. She enjoyed reading mystery novels, playing the piano, writing in English, and photography.


After Puyi was forced out of the Forbidden City by the warlord Feng Yuxiang in 1924, he fled with Wanrong, Wenxiu, and the remaining imperial court to the Quiet Garden Villa within the Japanese concession in Tianjin . . In the Quiet Garden Villa, they lived in relative peace and enjoyed an active public and social life. Puyi showed a preference for Wanrong and spent more time with her, which successively led Wenxiu to divorce him in 1931.


With hope of restoring the qing dynasty, Puyi accepted offers from the Empire of Japan to head the new puppet state of Manchukuo and relocated to Changchun, Jilin , which had been renamed Hsinking, in March 1932. In 1934 the Japanese government proclaimed Puyi as the first Emperor of Manchukuo and Wanrong as Empress. The couple lived in the Russian-built Weihuang Palace (now the Museum of the Imperial Palace of the Manchu State), a tax office that had been converted into a temporary palace while a new structure was being built.

During the Evacuation of Manchukuo during the Soviet invasion of Manchuria in 1945, Puyi attempted to flee Manchukuo, leaving behind Wanrong, his concubine Li Yuqin, and some other imperial household members, ostensibly because his immediate entourage was at risk of arrest and the women would be safe.

Wanrong, her sister-in-law Hiro Saga, and the other members of her group attempted to flee overland to Korea but were arrested by Chinese soldiers in Talitzou, Manchukuo, in January 1946. In April they were moved to a police station in Changchun, eventually released only to be rounded up again and locked up at a police station in Jilin . Wanrong's opium supply had run out for a long time, and she was suffering the effects of withdrawal. When Chiang Kai-shek's army bombed Kirin, Wanrong and Hiro Saga were both moved to a prison in Yanji, Jilin .

Death and burial

Wanrong died in the Yanji prison on June 20, 1946 from the effects of malnutrition and opium withdrawal at the age of 39. Her body is suspected to be buried in a common grave at the prison. Puyi did not receive news of her death until three years later.

In October 2006, Wanrong's younger brother, Gobulo Runqi (1912–2007), had a monument built for her at the western qing Tombs that contained Wanrong's hand mirror.

Last update 06-06-2012

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