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Author`s name Michael Simpson

Where are Treasures of Last Chinese Emperor?

Quite unexpectedly, treasure of the last Chinese Emperor P'u Yi now exhibited in Ukraine
One of private exhibitions working in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, drew particular attention of museum specialists and others. The exposition consists of about 400 items that once belonged to the last Chinese emperor P'u Yi. It is a mystery how the items came to Ukraine. It is well-know that a holder of national rarities must provide evidence of a source from which he got the things. Otherwise, the collection may be arrested if taken abroad; China may lay claims to the collection.

The well-known masterpiece by Bernardo Bertolucci is called The Last Emperor. This large-scale international film is based upon a book by the last Chinese Emperor P'u Yi that was published in the USSR. Unfortunately, Bertolucci didn't know that many people hunted the treasure of the emperor; otherwise he would have mentioned this fact in the film.

Let's focus on the personality of P'u Yi. He ascended to the throne at the age of 2. In six years, in 1911 he had to abdicate from the throne because of the revolution. However, in 1934 Japanese occupied Manchuria, they put P'u Yi on the throne as a puppet ruler in the Chinese puppet state of Manchukuo. In August 1945, when the Soviet troops broke the defence of the Japanese troops in Manchuria, Emperor P'u Yi was taken captive in the airport of Shenyang together with his retinue and his plane. He was first sent to the Russian city of Chita and then to a special camp in the city of Khabarovsk.

For fear of being extradited to China, P'u Yi offered his assistance to the USSR; he even appealed to Joseph Stalin and asked the Soviet leader to let him stay in the Soviet Union. He feared that the Chinese people would condemn him. As it turned out later, it was also seen from the memoirs of the last Chinese emperor that P'u Yi was cherishing an idea to further get to the USA, an ally of the Soviet Union in the anti-Hitler coalition. With this objective he hid great values in his luggage; the values were not discovered at the arrest as the luggage wasn't inspected for diplomatic reasons.

P'u Yi hid the values - the treasure of the Emperor dynasty - under the inner bottom of his suitcase. Another, a larger part of the treasure was transported by P'u Yi and his retinue; all the items were arrested, listed and sent to a special storage in the Khabarovsk Region. Later the values were handed over to the Chinese government. As it turned out later, not all items removed by the emperor and his retinue out of the country were listed by the Soviet law enforcement authorities. It means those items never got back to China. Those were Emperor's fan in silver framework, several imperial swords including those ones meant for ritual rites and other things. Many of these items are now represented at the Kiev exhibition. 

Specialists investigating the issue suppose that some time ago the items were carefully hidden in a Buddhist monastery in the Khabarovsk region; some rooms of the monastery were used as a special storage. And now the things have shown up in Ukraine. 

As for the hidden values of the last Chinese emperor he always kept them in special apartments of the Khabarovsk camp where the last Chinese emperor was kept after the arrest. Specialists say that although it was said that P'u Yi was kept in a special infrastructure of the camp meant for high-ranking generals and other VIPs, in fact he stayed at a special place called Krasnaya Gorka (Red Hill) near Khabarovsk. Only when it was clear that the last Chinese emperor might be extradited to China, he revealed his treasure and appealed to Joseph Stalin. He asked the Soviet authorities to receive the treasure for post-war restoration of the country and the national economy.

The former emperor supplied the appeal with loose pears, wonderful things made of gold and silver. However, the sacrifice didn't save the last Chinese emperor from extradition as Soviet leader Joseph Stalin was mostly interested in political issues. P'u Yi was handed over to the Chinese authorities on August 3, 1950 at the Pogranichnaya railway station where Chinese special services also got the treasures that the last Chinese emperor wanted to give to Joseph Stalin for post-war restoration.

From a note written by police head Lieutenant Colonel Klykov we see that a Chinese representative got rarities that belonged to P'u Yi. No valuation of the treasures was done at that. Then the police lieutenant colonel wrote: "P'u Yi, his retinue, ministers, generals and former officials of the Manchukuo government (58 people) were handed over to a representative of the Chinese government. Treasures belonging to P'u Yi and his retinue were handed over as well. No value of the treasure was mentioned at that."
 
Mao Zedong applied no punitive measures to the last Chinese emperor. He decided to reeducate the captive thus demonstrating the whole of the world the strength of his ideas. The regime of P'u Yi's imprisonment was a privileged one; he even wrote his memoirs, The First Part of My Life, at that very period. In 1959, P'u Yi was amnestied and lived in Beijing. In 1962 he was elected a deputy of the Chinese People's Political Advisory Council. P'u Yi died in 1967 in a Beijing hospital.

What happened to the treasures that remained in a Buddhist monastery in the Khabarovsk Region? It turned out that some person managed to obtain them and the values further showed up in Kiev. What is the status of the treasures that originally belonged to P'u Yi and his retinue but now are exhibited in Kiev as a private collection? It is supposed that the man who holds the collection want to legalize the things with a view to get a right to remove them abroad and dispose of the collection as the owner.

It is interesting that a decision has been recently made on the governmental level in China: the authorities want to buy back one million of Chinese rarities purchased at auctions outside China and held by other countries. On the contrary, the Chinese authorities prohibited foreigners to buy antique things at auctions in China.

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