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Tutor to the Dragon Emperor: The Life of Sir Reginald Fleming Johnston at the Court of the Last Emperor Hardcover – 19 Aug 1999
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In 1919, Reginald Fleming Johnston became tutor to the last emperor of China. This was the beginning of an extraordinary friendship which ultimately lead to mutual betrayal: Johnston's writings about their relationship unwittingly condemned Pu Yi as a willing tool of the Japanese during World War II; while the emperor, facing possible execution for war crimes, effectively called his former tutor a liar and his book a fabrication. This biography examines Johnston's life, from his early travels in and studies of China as a young employee of the colonial service, to his six years as tutor and confidante to the young emperor, where he witnessed the country slide into ruin and war, and finally, his last days on the Scottish island of Eilean Righ.
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Johnston was also, from 1919 until the mid-1920s, tutor to Pu Yi, the last Emperor of China - his relationship was famously dramatised in the film 'The Last Emperor'. This biography focuses primarily on the intertwined story of the two men.
The Scot quickly befriended Pu Yi and was his informal adviser for many years, a role that did not always please the British authorities. This was, at least in part, because Johnston tended to believe that a constitutional monarchy on the British model was a more appropriate form of government for China at this time than the Republic that come into being in 1911. Japan, on the other hand, had a preference for Pu Yi and he became the “puppet leader” of their colony in Manchuria in the 1930s. Johnston helped Pu Yi join the Japanese, another action that bought him few friends in official circles.
The book can be read alongside Johnston's own volume on this period, Twilight in the Forbidden City. But it takes the story further, drawing on other sources, and indeed as far as Pu Yi's discomfort in front of the post-WW2 war crimes tribunal in Toyko – partly due to some of Johnston's writings - and his eventual rehabilitation by the People's Republic of China in 1959.
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