Historical story

The Emperor's Lost Treasure

In August 1945, the last Chinese emperor Puyi was captured by the Soviets. He had suitcases full of treasures with him. Most of them disappeared into thin air.

On August 19, 1945, Emperor Puyi arrived at the airport in the city of Mukden (Shenyang). At one point, Soviet troops surrounded him. After brief negotiations, the Chinese monarch and his entourage were ushered into the Soviet transport plane. After a few minutes, the machine moved north. The next day, the Manchurian authorities sent a letter to Stalin reporting the disappearance of the emperor, expressing their belief that Puyi would "be released immediately."

A prisoner of special importance

Puyi and his entourage went to the city of Chita. Aleksander Żełwakow was supposed to be responsible for the protection of the emperor. From his commander, General Filashkin, he heard:" This Puyi is a scoundrel, and his entire entourage consists of only disgusting individuals . You are responsible for each one with your own head. We will provide external protection. We need Puyi safe and sound ”.

Emperor Puyi in the Forbidden City

The prisoners were housed in an ordinary residential building with a brick fence. There were always guards in front of the house. From the outside, it was guarded by a dozen or so soldiers with machine guns. High-ranking officers are stationed inside to keep an eye on the arrested. The emperor and his men were at home around 16-17. Żełvakov noticed that the Chinese had briefcases and leather suitcases with them. General Filashkin, however, forbade him to touch his luggage, from which it can be concluded that there were valuables there.

Letter to Stalin

In November 1945, the emperor was sent to Khabarovsk. He was waiting there for the trial of Japanese criminals, in which he was to be one of the key witnesses. It was probably the first time since his arrest that he felt unbridled longing and despair. Even if he was released from Russian captivity and returned to China, he would probably be imprisoned . So at the end of December Puyi decided to take a desperate step - to write a letter to Joseph Stalin.

"To my great satisfaction, the government of your country gave me the widest support in saving my life, which gave me the opportunity to live peacefully in the USSR, for which I once again express my deep gratitude. Let me make another request: I am asking the authorities of your country for a permanent residence permit in the USSR which will be a great opportunity for me to supplement my scientific knowledge. I would like to know the Soviet reality with all my heart (...). If the Soviet government exceptionally allows me to live in the USSR, it will fulfill my innermost desire and also evoke in me a feeling of the greatest gratitude ”.

Żełvakov noticed that the Chinese had briefcases and leather suitcases with them.

Puyi also asked to ... be admitted to the ranks of the Communist Party. " Are there emperors in your party?" Asked the monarch. When he heard the answer in the negative, he replied, "Then I'll be first."

Mysterious suitcases

The days passed in anticipation of Stalin's response. Prisoners woke up at 7 am, rinsing themselves in cold water. Some practiced Chinese gymnastics, others read Buddhist prayers. After breakfast they sat down to play cards. In conversations they complained about the Japanese or recalled the old days. The emperor was worried about his valuables. In Khabarovsk the suitcases with the treasures were confiscated. Their value was then estimated. 111 pieces of jewelry were to cost 473,975 rubles.

This number is probably greatly underestimated. A gold ring (750 attempts) with a 1.7 carat pearl was priced at just 400 rubles, while two gold earrings (958 attempts) with four 3.3 carat pearls were priced at 600 rubles. And among the imperial jewels there were also some truly unique pieces . Two gold discs (1000 attempts) weighing 218.3 and 596.0 carats, a gold case (958 attempts) with a watch inlaid with small grenades, a gold pin (1000 attempts) in the shape of a spider with a large pearl, onyx head, agate wings, pearl eyes and neck - these are just some of the treasures.

Soviet scam

The Soviets were tempted to buy Chinese valuables. But even the Soviet authorities could not confiscate them without a court order. Therefore, it was decided to resort to deception. On May 10, 1946, the emperor was transferred to the suburban residence of the Ministry of the Interior. He was led into a bright hall. At the head of the table sat a certain Colonel Kudriawtsev, who invited a Chinese man to dinner.

The emperor realized this was a veiled order. He replied, "I am happy to donate all my jewelry to the Soviet authorities."

During the meal, the gentlemen had a friendly, calm conversation. The officers emphasized that it was not an interrogation, but only a private conversation. At one point, Kudriavtsev said, "Mr. Puyi, I wonder what are you going to do with your jewelry? The fact is that now in the Soviet Union we need money to rebuild the national economy. If you would agree to donate your jewelry to the government of the USSR, we would be very happy ". The emperor realized this was a veiled order. He replied, "I didn't have a proper opportunity to start a conversation on this before, but since the Lord started it, I will gladly hand over all my jewelry to the Soviet authorities ”.

Paper and pen were brought immediately. "I express my sincere desire that the government of the USSR will agree to accept the jewels from me, that they will be used for the purpose of rebuilding and developing the national economy ”Wrote Puyi. From then on, the Chinese dynastic jewels belonged to the Soviet Union.

The jewels dissolved into thin air

In the fall of 1950, the Soviet Union handed over the Emperor and his treasures to China. However, many items were missing from the Soviet-prepared list :ritual swords, silver fan inlaid with stones and many others.

It is not known what happened to them. In the 1950s, the golden sword was in the state treasury, then it ended up in one of the museums in Moscow, where no trace of it was ever found. A few years ago, an exhibition was held in Kiev, during which several items from Puyi's collection were presented. It is not known how they ended up in the capital of Ukraine. A few specimens were also exhibited in Lviv. According to the historian Dmitry Likhanov, some of the valuables are still in private collections.


  1. Лиханов Д., Сокровища последнего китайского императора, rg.ru (access:24/01/2022).
  2. Куда исчезли сокровища последнего императора Китая ?, www.pravda.ru (access:24/01/2022).
  3. Documentary film "Последний император и национальные сокровища"