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A royal encyclopedia

By Zhu Yuan  (China Daily)

08:52, April 02, 2013

Jia Yinghua has dedicated more than 40 years of research to China's last emperor. Based on his efforts, he has written about a dozen books related to the final imperial family. Zhu Yuan reports.

With a dozen books about the last royal family under his name, Jia Yinghua is known as a living encyclopedia of the imperial court.

What is particularly noteworthy about his achievements are the efforts he has made in the past 40 years to interview scores of people related to the royal family and collect records and relics.

His book The Extraordinary Life of the Last Emperor was awarded the country's top prize for biographies this year.

Based on his interviews with more than 300 people - either members of the royal family or related to it in one way or another - and based on hundreds of photos and documents, files or other relevant objects, he unraveled one mystery after another about Pu Yi, the last emperor of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), and his family.

His interest started with his childhood relationship with Li Shuxian, Pu Yi's last wife, in 1970. It was three years after Pu Yi's death and Li moved to Dongsi Batiao in east Beijing and became Jia's neighbor.

The widow seldom talked to anyone, Jia recalls. But she was close to Jia's mother, who was one of the more educated women in the neighborhood. Li took Jia to see a traditional Chinese medicine doctor when he suffered from a kidney ailment.

It was at Li's home that Jia first came into contact with Pu Yi's diaries, which were in poor condition. Jia offered to sort out the diaries and mend the manuscripts' worn pages.

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