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Sir Reginald Fleming Johnston


1874 - 1938

Academic, diplomat and tutor to the last Emperor of China. Johnston was born in the Morningside district of Edinburgh, the son of a lawyer. He entered the University of Edinburgh, but discontinued his studies there to take up a place at Magdalen College, Oxford (1894). In 1898 Johnston joined the Colonial Office and was posted to Hong Kong, becoming a District Officer in China. Johnston became famous as the tutor to Pu Yi, the Last Emperor of China and as the first foreigner to enter the Forbidden City of Beijing. In 1919, Johnston elected to take on the teaching of the 13 year old, having a great influence on the emperor, whose trust and friendship he gained. As Chinese Nationalism swept through the country in 1924, Johnston was forced to flee. He returned to Britain, becoming the Professor of Chinese at the University of London.

In 1934, Johnston looked for a residence in Scotland to retire to. He found a house on Eilean Righ, a small island in Loch Craignish, some 9 miles (15 km) NW of Lochgilphead. He moved there with his enormous library, which included a Chinese Encyclopaedia in 1734 volumes and a complete collection of Buddhist scriptures in 1500 volumes.

Johnston died in Edinburgh and was quietly cremated at Warriston Crematorium, with his ashes scattered on his beloved Eilean Righ.


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