Tientsin Incident (1931)

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Puyi, as Emperor of Manchukuo, 1932 Kangde Emperor of Manchukuo.JPG
Puyi, as Emperor of Manchukuo, 1932

The Tientsin incident of 1931 was the operation planned by the Kwantung Army of the Empire of Japan to place Puyi on the throne of the Japanese-controlled Manchuria. The plan, orchestrated by Colonel Kenji Doihara and Colonel Itagaki Seishiro was successful, and Pu Yi was enthroned as "Emperor Datong" of Manchukuo the following year.

Kwantung Army military unit

The Kwantung Army was an army group of the Imperial Japanese Army from 1906 to 1945.

Empire of Japan Empire in the Asia-Pacific region between 1868–1947

The Empire of Japan was the historical nation-state and great power that existed from the Meiji Restoration in 1868 to the enactment of the 1947 constitution of modern Japan.

Puyi last Emperor of China

Puyi or Pu Yi, of the Manchu Aisin Gioro clan, was the 12th and last Emperor of the Qing dynasty. When he was a child, he reigned as the Xuantong Emperor in China and Khevt Yos Khaan in Mongolia from 1908 until his forced abdication on 12 February 1912, after the Xinhai Revolution. He was briefly restored to the throne as emperor by the warlord Zhang Xun from 1 July to 12 July 1917.



After the Xinhai Revolution of 1912 overthrew the Qing Dynasty in China, the last Qing Emperor, Puyi, continued to live in the Forbidden City in Beijing. He was expelled by the warlord Feng Yuxiang in 1924, and found refuge within the extraterritorial Japanese concession in Tientsin.

Xinhai Revolution revolution in China that overthrew the Qing dynasty and established the Republic of China

The Xinhai Revolution, also known as the Chinese Revolution or the Revolution of 1911, was a revolution that overthrew China's last imperial dynasty and established the Republic of China (ROC). The revolution was named Xinhai (Hsin-hai) because it occurred in 1911, the year of the Xinhai stem-branch in the sexagenary cycle of the Chinese calendar.

China Country in East Asia

China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia and the world's most populous country, with a population of around 1.404 billion in 2017. Covering approximately 9,600,000 square kilometers (3,700,000 sq mi), it is the third or fourth largest country by total area. Governed by the Communist Party of China, the state exercises jurisdiction over 22 provinces, five autonomous regions, four direct-controlled municipalities, and the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau.

Forbidden City Art museum, Imperial Palace, Historic site in Beijing, China

The Forbidden City is a palace complex in central Beijing, China. It houses the Palace Museum, and was the former Chinese imperial palace from the Ming dynasty to the end of the Qing dynasty. The Forbidden City served as the home of emperors and their households and was the ceremonial and political center of Chinese government for almost 500 years.

In 1931, the Imperial Japanese Army invaded Manchuria without prior authorization from either the Imperial General Headquarters or the civilian government in Tokyo. After quickly overrunning the territory, and carving out a new state theoretically independent of Japan, the Japanese Army needed to find symbols of legitimacy, whereby the new state would be accorded international diplomatic recognition. Restoration of Puyi to the throne of his Manchu ancestors provided one such symbol, and emphasized Japan's stance in favor of tradition over communism and republicanism, and had tremendous propaganda value.

Imperial Japanese Army Official ground-based armed force of the Empire of Japan, from 1868 to 1945

The Imperial Japanese Army was the official ground-based armed force of the Empire of Japan from 1868 to 1945. It was controlled by the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff Office and the Ministry of the Army, both of which were nominally subordinate to the Emperor of Japan as supreme commander of the army and the navy. Later an Inspectorate General of Aviation became the third agency with oversight of the army. During wartime or national emergencies, the nominal command functions of the emperor would be centralized in an Imperial General Headquarters (IGHQ), an ad-hoc body consisting of the chief and vice chief of the Army General Staff, the Minister of the Army, the chief and vice chief of the Naval General Staff, the Inspector General of Aviation, and the Inspector General of Military Training.

Imperial General Headquarters Part of the Supreme War Council of Japan

The Imperial General Headquarters was part of the Supreme War Council and was established in 1893 to coordinate efforts between the Imperial Japanese Army and Imperial Japanese Navy during wartime. In terms of function, it was approximately equivalent to the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff and the British Chiefs of Staff Committee.

Tokyo Capital of Japan

Tokyo, officially Tokyo Metropolis, is one of the 47 prefectures of Japan. It served as the Japanese capital since 1869. As of 2018, the Greater Tokyo Area ranked as the most populous metropolitan area in the world. The urban area houses the seat of the Emperor of Japan, of the Japanese government and of the National Diet. Tokyo forms part of the Kantō region on the southeastern side of Japan's main island, Honshu, and includes the Izu Islands and Ogasawara Islands. Tokyo was formerly named Edo when Shōgun Tokugawa Ieyasu made the city his headquarters in 1603. It became the capital after Emperor Meiji moved his seat to the city from Kyoto in 1868; at that time Edo was renamed Tokyo. The Tokyo Metropolis formed in 1943 from the merger of the former Tokyo Prefecture and the city of Tokyo. Tokyo is often referred to as a city but is officially known and governed as a "metropolitan prefecture", which differs from and combines elements of a city and a prefecture, a characteristic unique to Tokyo.


Puyi had occasion to meet with many Japanese military and civilian leaders during his stay in Tientsin, and his distant relative (and occasional house guest) Yoshiko Kawashima was a close confidant of Doihara. Puyi was receptive to the scheme, which he saw as a potential stepping stone to restoration of his rule over all of China; on the other hand, he feared becoming a pawn of the Japanese, and the dangers to himself should such a plan fail.

Yoshiko Kawashima Japanese spy in China

Yoshiko Kawashima was a Chinese princess of Manchu descent. She was raised in Japan and served as a spy for the Japanese Kwantung Army and puppet state of Manchukuo during the Second Sino-Japanese War. She is sometimes known in fiction under the pseudonym "Eastern Mata Hari". After the war, she was captured, tried and executed as a traitor by the Nationalist government of the Republic of China. She was also a notable descendant of Hooge, eldest son of Hong Taiji.

Doihara was on a tight schedule. For the plan to succeed, it was necessary to land Puyi at Yingkow before that port became frozen; therefore, it was imperative that the operation be brought to a successful conclusion before 16 November 1931.

Japanese Foreign Minister Kijuro Shidehara had learned of the scheme to return Puyi to Manchuria and had instructed the Japanese Consul-General at Tientsin to oppose the plan. On the afternoon of 1 November 1931, the Consul-General contacted Doihara, but Doihara was determined and stated that if the Emperor was willing to risk his life by returning to Manchuria, it would be easy to make the whole affair appear to be instigated by Chinese royalists; he further stated that he would confer with the Emperor; and if the Emperor was not willing, then he would dispatch a telegram to the military authorities at Mukden to call off the operation.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan is the Cabinet member responsible for Japanese foreign policy and the chief executive of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

During the evening of 2 November 1931, Doihara visited Puyi and informed him that conditions were favorable and that such an opportunity should not be missed. Japan would recognize him as Emperor of an independent state and conclude defensive and offensive alliances with his new country to defend against the possibility that Chinese Nationalist armies would attack. Puyi appeared willing to follow Doihara's advice upon being told that the Imperial House of Japan favored his restoration, but still refused to give a definite answer.

The Japanese Consul-General continued his efforts to dissuade Doihara, but without results. Some difficulty was encountered by Doihara when a Chinese newspaper in Shanghai published an account of the operation and alleged that Puyi had refused Doihara's offer.

To hasten Puyi's decision, Doihara resorted to various schemes. Puyi received a bomb concealed in a basket of fruit; he also received threatening letters from the "Headquarters of the Iron Blood Group", as well as from others. Doihara instigated a riot in Tientsin on 8 November 1931 with the assistance of underworld characters, secret societies and rogues of the city, whom he paid and supplied with arms furnished by Itagaki. Arrested rioters swore later that they had been paid forty Mexican dollars each by Japanese agents provocateurs.

The Japanese Consul-General, in a further attempt to carry out Shidehara's orders, warned the Chinese police of the impending riot and they were able to prevent it from being a complete success; but it threw Tientsin into disorder. A Chinese mob of 2,000 clashed with Chinese police near the border between the Chinese city and the foreign concession. The Japanese garrison commander repulsed rioters from the vicinity of the Japanese concession with warning bursts of machine gun fire, but fired his field pieces into the Chinese quarter of Tientsin to create further confusion.

The riots continued into the night of 10 November 1931, when Doihara secretly removed Puyi from his residence to a pier in a motor car guarded by a party equipped with machine guns, entered a small Japanese military launch with a few plainclothed men and four or five armed Japanese soldiers and headed down the river to Tanggu District. At Tanggu, the party boarded the ship Awaji Maru bound for Yingkow. Puyi arrived at Yingkow on 13 November 1931. A statement was issued to the news agencies that Puyi had fled for his life as a result of threats and the riots in Tientsin.

On 1 March 1932, Puyi was installed as Chief Executive of Manchukuo. On 1 March 1934, he was inaugurated as Emperor of Manchukuo.

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