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Monday, December 11, 2000, updated at 09:45(GMT+8)

Life of Last Chinese Emperor's Nephew

In an office in a governmental building two kilometers from the Imperial Palace of the Forbidden City, Jin Yuzhang, the eldest nephew of China's last emperor of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), reads some government documents, while enjoying sipping at a cup of Chinese tea.

Jin's original family name was Aisin Giorro, a surname for emperors and princes of the Qing Dynasty. Yet Jin himself now is the deputy director of Beijing Ethnic Affairs Committee and the deputy-director of the Chongwen District in south Beijing, which covers an area of 16.6 sq m and has a population of 400,000.

If the dynasty had not been ousted in the revolutionary storm in 1911, Jin may have possessed a totally different standing today.

He may have ascended the throne and become an emperor, or at least become a noble and wealthy prince. He might do his reading in the Forbidden City or in an extensive palace, instead of in the present public office.

A little bit overweight in stature and face, wearing a pair of black enamel glasses, Jin is used to being casually dressed in a grey suit with no tie. When off duty, he moves onto the street and quickly vanishes in huge crowd. "He is no more than a common person," Bo Yimin, Jin's assistant in the government, commented.

Of course, Jin is a descendant of the imperial family by inheriting a "royal" strain, while he is also a senior official selected by the constituents in the district. "I am now a civil servant, and I pursue as my lifetime goal to better serve the people," Jin said.

Jin's forefathers, a nomadic ethnic group called the Mans in northeast China, formed a valiant cavalry in the 17th century and swept the board all the way south, capturing Beijing, then the capital of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), and founding the Qing Dynasty in 1644.

Man aristocrats ruled the country efficiently in the early period of the Qing Dynasty, but like many other rulers of previous dynasties, they became involved in corruption and fell into incorrigible decadence.

Jin himself mostly respects two emperors of the Qing Dynasty, Emperor Kangxi and Emperor Qianlong. In the rein of the two emperors, "Chinese feudal society reached its peak prosperity," Jin noted.

In 1909 Aisin Giorro Pu Yi, Jin's uncle who was 3-year-old at the time, took to the throne to be the last emperor of the last imperial dynasty in China's history. Two years later, a bourgeois revolution broke out and overthrew the Man people's ruling which lasted for 268 years.

Jin's father, Aisin Giorro Pu Ren, also the fourth younger brother of the last emperor, is the only living brother of the late emperor.

In viewing the dynasty's ruin, Jin thinks that close-door polices poses a fundamentally detrimental cause. "Conservatism resulted in the under-developed state, which made the country vulnerable to foreign attack," Jin said.

"In addition, growing corruption undermined the national strength, for the offspring of former gallant cavaliers were no longer enterprising, living pleasure-seeking lives instead." Jin added.

However, there were still some enlightened Man aristocrats who knew the importance of learning from foreign developed countries. Jin's grandfather, Prince Chun, was among the first group of nobles to dressed themselves in Western-style suits. And Chun's palace was the first one, in all princes' residences, to have motor vehicle and a telephone.

"But these little tricks could not save the corrupting dynasty from collapsing," Jin said, noting that "no matter which family member became emperor, he would have end up with the breakdown of the dynasty." The modern history of China proves that imperialism is doomed to be put to an end and will not be restored for ever, Jin added.

From the beginning of the 20th century to the founding of the People's Republic of China, Jin's elders experienced a lot of the bitterness caused by the Mans' ever changing fortune from prosperity to decline.

"At that time, Man people were looked down upon. A large number of Mans changed their surname into Jin, Ai, Guan or Zhao in order to survive," Jin recalled.

Jin was born in 1943 in his grandfather's palace, which was expropriated by the new government in 1949. Jin and his families moved to a spacious house at the government's arrangement. "From then on I began to go to elementary school and middle school, just like other boys and girls from general families in Beijing."

"When I was a child, I dreamed of being a teacher like my father," Jin said. Jin's father, who supported his family by teaching at a school in his new life, felt most satisfied when he was venerably addressed "Teacher Jin."

But Jin's dream did not come into true. Instead of becoming a teacher, he went to the Beijing Geological University and was sent to be a geological worker in Qinhai Province, west China after he graduated.

Jin was brought back to Beijing in 1995 to be a technician at the Beijing Chongwen District Environment Protection Bureau. From early 1999, he began to hold his current two posts in the Chongwen District Government.

"Being sent away had nothing to do with my special 'royal' kinship," Jin stressed. It was common at that time for a lot of so-called disgraced people and their children, like Jin and his kindred, to be sent to work in remote areas.

"We youngsters enthusiastically responded to the call of the government to do grass-roots work in remote areas," Jin said. "Besides, we got paid four to five times the salaries we would have

got in Beijing. And work in Qinghai was less strenuous than in Beijing, which made me feel comfortable," Jin recounted.

In 1974 while he was still a geologist, Jin went back to Beijing and had a simple wedding with an ordinary girl of Han origin.

"In accordance with Mans' royal tradition in the dynasty period, it would have been incredible for an imperial descendant to marry a Han person," Jin spoke humorously.

Like Jin, his two younger brothers also married ordinary Han ladies. "That is best manifestation of nationalities' integrity in the country," Jin said.

Most of Jin's sisters and brother engaged in science and engineering. "It is because of my father's influence. He used to advise us to master certain skills to better serve the country while making a living. He hoped we would not become an idler deserted by society like the play boy nobles in the late Qing Dynasty." Jin explained.

Jin Yuquan, Jin's eldest younger-brother, is vice president of the Energy and Environment Protection College of the Beijing University of Industries, and he is also a doctoral advisor at the university.

Jin's 24-year daughter is his only child. Her occupation would never have been anticipated by her royal ancestors: This "princess" has already worked for three years in one of the world's Top 500 Companies -- Motorola China Electronics Co. Ltd. since graduating as a computer major.

Every day at home, Jin likes to play with his pet cat or look after the flowering plants he has cultivated. In his spare time, Jin likes to go to watch the Peking Opera. During holidays he and his wife and daughter travel to the western outskirts of Beijing to climb mountains there.

"Yes, I also watch TV each day, and sometimes go to the cinema.I watch sometimes, just for fun, those TV series and movies with stories happened in the Qing Dynasty. They are definitely two different things, being entertained by watching TV or films and researching history." Jin noted.

Jin has in recent times started to learn to use a computer and the Internet, and his daughter, a computer major, naturally plays a role by acting as his teacher.

The Forbidden City, starting construction in 1406, was the palace for the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties. It was also the holiest site for members of Aisin Giorro's family, and now it is a museum opening to hundreds of thousands of domestic and overseas visitors each year.

"I went there to visit only once in the 1970s when I accompanied my friend. The entrance ticket cost 0.1 yuan (0.01 US dollar). I always think of it as a "far-off" place for me." the last emperor's nephew said.

In This Section

In an office in a governmental building two kilometers from the Imperial Palace of the Forbidden City, Jin Yuzhang, the eldest nephew of China's last emperor of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), reads some government documents, while enjoying sipping at a cup of Chinese tea.

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