Special Imperial Collectible Souvenir Edition!
When advertorial propaganda was young, providing a happy gloss on a dark personal history.
While writing up the story of my grandfather’s possibly spying sideline, I came across scans of various mementos from the family’s time in 1930s Japan. Probably my favorite is the oversized March 1, 1934 Souvenir Enthronement Supplement of the Manchuria Daily News.
I’ve not been able to figure out the deal was exactly with this newspaper, other than it was an English-language periodical presumably funded as a propaganda organ by the Japanese. This supplement celebrated the coronation/installation of Aisin-Gioro Puyi, of The Last Emperor fame, as Japan’s puppet emperor of Manchuria, aka Manchukuo.
Puyi wasn’t too happy about being Japan’s pet emperor, but his wife Gobulo Wanrong was absolutely miserable.
By the time this “enthronement” she all but despised Puyi, was fairly open about hating the Japanese, and was getting more deeply addicted to opium. She was rarely permitted in public. Beyond the glamor shots at the beginning of the supplement are some highly stylized biographies, and one long parable.
The parable—illustrated with this sumptuous painted drawing—follows a dialogue between a scholar and a ghost about why the new emperor’s rule and lineage are legitimate. The locals all hated Puyi and the Japanese, so not sure who this was supposed to convince. Again, since it was in English, one assumes it was meant for the British and Americans. Speaking of Americans, how about the ads!
Of course General Motors Japan would cease to exist not long after this newspaper was published due to World War II, and one assumes they were not too keen to congratulate the other Asian emperor responsible.
One can console oneself with chocolate, at least. A lot of very speedy chocolate. But what’s better than chocolate? Smoking.
I love this ad. It’s the big prestige back-cover placement, and it shows. Also the most British-focused of the advertisements. There’s a monocle! These guys really do take their relaxation seriously.
Puyi lived for ten years as a puppet emperor before Manchukuo collapsed under Soviet invasion in 1945. He spent the rest of his life as a tool, prisoner, and/or scapegoat of the Soviets, then of Communist China under Mao Zedong, finally dying in 1967 of complications from cancer and heart disease. Wanrong had been captured by the Chinese back in 1946, quickly descending into agonizing opium withdrawal and mental illness in a military prison. She died six months after capture and was buried in an unmarked grave.