The Chinese Emperor Who Made Prank Calls

Puyi was the last emperor of China. In 1908, he became the Xuantong Emperor of the Qing dynasty at the young age of two, when his aunt died and he was forced to take the throne. As the royal heir, Puyi was indulged and revered, causing him to quickly become spoiled. With all the adults in his life being strangers, no one was able to discipline him. His every whim was catered to and he loved the power he had over people.

During the Xinhai Revolution, Puyi was forced to abdicate in 1912, but growing up in the royal palace, he was given the utmost protection and world-class education. In 1921, when Puyi was only 15, one of his tutors taught him about the invention of the telephone. Puyi was fascinated by this magnificent piece of equipment. He was intrigued by the prospect of being able to easily communicate with others at a distance further than the natural strength of his own voice.

Puyi began to demand for a telephone to be installed in his palace room. This sparked a problem within the palace. Puyi had never had any official contact with the outside world, and his advisors were concerned that giving Puyi a phone would give him too much independence. They tried to deter him by suggesting that it would go against tradition. Even his father tried to dissuade him by saying that it would hurt the imperial dignity if an outsider had the ability to call into the palace’s inner sanctum. In his autobiography, Puyi mentions that they only hesitated because they wanted to continue his isolation and were actually afraid of what would happen when he had contact with the outside world.

In the end, Puyi won the battle, and was given a telephone set of his own. Waiting with bated breath to see the consequences of their actions, the palace officials need not have worried. As any typical teenager, Puyi got hold of a telephone directory and began to make prank calls. He would call famous opera singers and just giggle uncontrollably before hanging up. Another favorite of his, was to call and order large quantities of food from restaurants and have them sent to random addresses.