Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Searching for Monarchists in China

Recently, the question was posed about what Chinese monarchist groups are operating currently, who these are and who those wishing to restore the Great Qing Empire can support. I regret to say that my ‘easy’ answer is that there are none and so, Qing loyalists have to get to work on the problem. I say that is the “easy” answer because it is not exactly the whole answer. There are some monarchist groups that are currently operating but there are none that I would whole-heartedly recommend. If others wish to, that is their business, but to bring some light to this somewhat confused situation I will highlight those I am most familiar with and explain why I have problems with all of them and why virtually everything about them is disputable; such as whether they are even Chinese, Qing dynasty or monarchist.

The first Chinese monarchist person and/or group (pretty much a one man show I think) that I was ever contacted by was that of a Sino-American from Hawaii named Ji Yao Sui. He claimed to be the successor of the ancient Zhou dynasty, though also a relative of the Great Qing for good measure, and claimed to be the legitimate, “secret” Emperor of China. If there was any doubt about the veracity of his claims, suffice it to say he also claimed to be a practicing Jew, a representative of the late Ming dynasty as well and spent as much time pleading for money to pay his legal bills than he did on anything else (he claimed he was the victim of ‘persecution’ on the part of the Hawaiian police). Obviously, a joke that even I, in my very naïve early monarchist years, was able to recognize instantly. Still, he carpet-bombed a lot of forums, chat rooms websites and emailed a ton of people so his name and claims ended up with an internet presence out of all proportion to his actual importance.

Next on the list of Chinese pretenders we have one Mr. Lee Chee Chuan. He is the purveyor of the website for the so-called Imperial Qing Restoration Organization. I say “so-called” because (as his name implies) Lee Chee Chuan, who styles himself as “His Imperial Highness” claims descent from the Tang rather than the Qing dynasty and because, as his website states, his goal is not the restoration of the Qing dynasty but rather, “To officially pass the mandate of heaven from the last ruling Qing dynasty back to Han Chinese dynasty.” On another page it is stated that the goal is to “restore” the Qing Emperor only so that he may abdicate in favor of a Han candidate (presumably Mr. Lee Chee Chuan himself). So, despite the name and their use of the Qing Imperial flag, the Imperial Qing Restoration Organization is not at all about a restoration of the Qing Empire. The website also voices support for the Manchuria independence movement (mentioned below) which would also seem to run contrary to any idea of a full restoration of the Great Qing Empire as it existed prior to the 1911 Revolution. Also, as with the Zhou claimant above, this group is not based in China (for obvious reasons) but rather is headquartered out of Malaysia.

Next we have the, evidently serious, Manchukuo Temporary Government. This rather unique organization, when you boil it down, is simply a Manchurian separatist group which seems to have most of its support in Japan and which lists among its aims the revival of the wartime Japanese model of the “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere”. Now, one could point out that (tragically in my view) the Manchurian people are effectively extinct today and that linking to the expansionist policies of World War II Japan is making a nearly impossible goal even more impossible to attain but if it were only the idea of reviving the Empire of Manchukuo and becoming allies of Japan and so on, I would at least have no objections. However, aside from the appropriation of Manchukuo symbols and history there seems to be very little about this organization that has anything to do with the actual Manchukuo Empire or the Manchurian people at all. One could even argue that they are not even monarchist. Rather than advocate for the restoration of the Manchukuo imperial line (which is different from that of the Great Qing as in Manchukuo the heir of the last Emperor was his brother who was married to a Japanese noblewoman) but rather this group practices democracy as well as advocating it. Originally, oddly enough, they claimed the late last Emperor of China as their Emperor from their founding in 2004 (proclaiming themselves a constitutional monarchy in 2006) but later had elections for a new “Emperor” in 2008. That choice, listed as Aisin-Gioro Hrkit, seems to have lost interest in the project and after being MIA for two years was declared dead by the government in 2010 and after new elections one Aisin-Gioro Sungai was declared “Emperor Yi” of Manchukuo. Most of their officials do not seem to be Asian at all, let alone Manchurian, and one can make of them of what you will. They were enterprising enough to offer anyone Manchukuo citizenship and have passports for sale along with other items so we can also say that, while they may not be anywhere on the Chinese (or Manchu) mainland, capitalism is alive and well with the Manchukuo Temporary Government.

Finally we have the one organization, again not one I would call genuinely monarchist, which does at least claim to operate in China and given their platform that may well be true. That is the Imperial Chinese Court Regency, also known as the Imperial Revival Movement, headed by another pretender claiming to be of noble descent. They are definitely not about restoring the last monarchy to rule in China, nor do they really seem to be about restoring monarchy at all. Rather, they wish to unite all the noble families of the Chinese Empire of the Han nationality to hold the mandate of heaven prior to the fall of the Ming dynasty -so Manchurians need not apply and the Yuan Dynasty does not count either- into a social club existing within and in support of the Chinese Communist Party and the People’s Republic of China. Unlike the previous two organizations mentioned, they are no friends of the Dalai Lama of Tibet and helpfully suggest that he surrender himself to the communist authorities, beg for mercy and then perhaps be restored to a ceremonial position in Tibet. Their goal is to form, from candidates put forward by the assembled dynasties, a collective of rulers whose leader will be elected to the position of ceremonial emperor and upon whose death the leader of another clan will be chosen to succeed him and so on. They claim to support constitutional monarchy for China yet they also support the retention of the People’s Republic of China, which would seem to me to make as much sense as the barefoot boy with shoes on who stood sitting in the grass one cold summer’s day in the middle of the night.
Now, just for the sake of bringing us back to earth, let me say that none of the actual heirs of the last reigning monarchy in China have had anything to do with these individuals or organizations and I doubt they even know they exist. According to the last official rules of succession in China, following the death of the last Emperor the throne would have passed to his brother, Prince Pu-Chieh (Pujie) and as he had only daughters and the rule was for male succession only, after his death the throne would have passed to his younger half-brother Prince Puren, a Chinese historian born in 1918 who has sons to succeed him. However, in his memoirs the last Emperor states that he adopted his cousin, Prince Yu-yan to be his heir and successor. Also born in 1918 he also has sons to succeed him. Finally (on the 'third' hand) in Manchukuo the only legal succession was for Prince Pu-Chieh who was married to a Japanese woman for the very purpose of succeeding his brother with a new imperial line that would incorporate Japanese blood. If that line is adhered to regardless of the fact that he had no sons the "Empress" of Manchukuo would be his second daughter Princess Sheng-yun (the first being killed in Tokyo in 1957.

9 comments:

  1. These are 2 articles in spanish, one is an interview to thi last Emperor and thi other one about his "comunist" brother (one of them), who still lived some years ago.

    http://www.elmundo.es/magazine/m1/textos/emperador1.html

    http://www.elmundo.es/magazine/2004/248/1088157652.html

    Luis

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  2. That is one unholy mess of a situation, one would assume for a nation of a billion people there would be a wider variety of opinion and at least some serious attempts at Restoration societies. Your strife with the Chinese pretender from Hawaii reminds me of when I was contacted by a relatively new Irish Nationalist Monarchist who 'tracked down' the legitimate heir to the Irish 'Throne' via the Half hearted German promise during world war one to give the Irish a German Prince should the Easter rising succeed with German help, (a mess), and such a pretender was none other then Grand Duke George Mikhailovich of Russia, of House Romanov-Hohenzollern. While I would very much like such a strong link to Both Illustriust houses, I had to inform him this claim was decidedly ludicrous.

    Ah to be a Young Monarchist experimenting with genealogy again. Such fun times.

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  3. a note on people claiming descend from the tang dynasty, chinese people keep detailed records of geneaologies, and being of descent from an important family is really no big deal in china, just read "Ancestors: 900 Years in the Life of a Chinese Family", by Frank Ching, who details his ancestors who served in various important positions throughout the past 900 years.

    many chinese may be descended from formal royal families since kings had thousands of concubines, and many families have ruled china,and they really wouldn't care about i

    official rules of succesion do not matter, there are many more descendants of the aisin gioro family like Aisin Gioro Yuhuan, passed away in 2003, has three sons, and his great great grandfather was the Daoguang emperor

    Qigong was another member of aisin gioro who passed away in 2005. both of them are succesful artists

    puyi might not be popular in China do to perceived weakness in his public image, he never was much of a public speaker and was associated with the japanese, there are tons of other descendants of aisin gioro who have succesfully achieved fame in their own right like the two artists mentioned above.

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  4. I assume that was the line of Prince Joachim of Prussia? I always thought that was an interesting idea -but interesting in an odd sort of way. Ireland was then in rebellion against a "German" foreign Protestant royal family so it would seem a little bit of a leap to think the country would accept another German foreign Protestant royal as king, simply on the grounds that he was not British. Just a case of taking the "other" side I suppose. If the United Irishmen had met with more success there may have later been similar talk of doing the same with a Bonaparte perhaps.

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  5. Like you had mentioned earlier, interestingly all chinese monarchist group are located outside china (both prc and Taiwan). Most of them are in Malaysia, who in turn is also a Monarchy, in my opinion hitherto prc government is still relatively hostile toward monarchism.
    Until a couple months ago I encountered a Chinese blog from within prc that openly celebrated the ideas of the late Emperor Guangxu of the Qing Dynasty; although the creator had explicitly stated that she has no direct intention to restore the monarchy in china, alas now that blog is already disappeared. Memoirs of palaces, was the name of the blog if I am not mistaken.
    I think, however most of Chinese people residing in prc or in Taiwan simply don’t care about the government of their country, either that is a republican or a monarchical one; just like the rest of the world.
    Money and the accumulation of wealth is the only thing that filled the mind of present capitalistic, secularistic, hedonistic civilization.

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  6. I would agree, other than the "capitalistic" part. Socialism is much more the rage these days. However, the Communist Chinese (and they call it communism though it isn't just as it isn't capitalism really either) and so many others have simply discovered what the Romans learned thousands of years ago. As long as the people can eat and have TV and their little toys you can rule them with an iron fist and they don't really care.

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  7. I don't like the Manchus. Better the Qing rulers.

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  8. You do realize that the Qing •were• Manchus?

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  9. We've seen the "Ji Yao Sui Show" (aka Lester Y.K. Chow) at the local Walmart here in Honolulu. It would be fair to say the boy is definitely not playing with a "full deck".

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