The last emperor's widow is dead

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The Independent Online
Peking - Li Shuxian, second wife of China's last emperor but never herself an empress, has died aged 73, writes Teresa Poole. The woman who shared the final years of the last imperial ruler of the Middle Kingdom passed away on Monday, the official Xinhua news agency announced yesterday.

Li was a commoner, not descended from the "eight major surnames", the families who in imperial China could marry into the emperor's family.

Li did not meet Pu Yi until after he was finally released by the Communists in 1959. In 1960 he was assigned a job in a machine repair shop in a Peking botanical garden. Li was working as a nurse in a hospital where he came for treatment and they married in 1962, when she was 38 and he was 55. Pu Yi died of cancer in 1967, aged 60. The couple had no children.

"On 1 May, I and my bride Li Shuxian started our own little home, and this ordinary home was, to me, something extraordinary," Pu Yi wrote in his autobiography From Emperor to Citizen. It is quite likely these final years were the happiest of his life. Pu Yi married his first wife, Empress Wan Rong when they were both 17 but Wan became an opium addict and died in 1946. Li's death breaks another link with the last members of the Manchu Qing dynasty, which was overthrown in 1911. Obituary, page 22