National Records of Scotland

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Sir Reginald Fleming Johnston (1874-1938)

Sir Reginald Fleming Johnston (1874-1938)

Sinologist and tutor to the last emperor of China

Reginald Fleming Johnston was educated at the University of Edinburgh and Magdalen College, Oxford before entering colonial service. While based in China he travelled widely and published scholarly works on Chinese language, religion and culture. In 1918 he was appointed tutor to Asin Gioro Puyi, the last emperor of China, who had remained at the imperial palace in 'The Forbidden City' since abdicating six years earlier. He stayed with Puyi for many years before returning to Britain in 1930 where he held a chair at the School of Oriental Studies in London. He bought Eilean Righ in Argyll but died soon after his retirement. His specialist library of 16,000 volumes was bequeathed to the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). Peter O'Toole played the part of Reginald Fleming Johnston in a 1987 film about Puyi's life, 'The Last Emperor'.

Birth in 1874

Reginald Fleming Johnston was born on 31 October 1874, the son of Robert Fleming Johnston, Writer to the Signet, and Isabella Ann Catherine Irving. The entry in the statutory register of births for the registration district of Newington in Edinburgh gives his place of birth as Goshen Bank in Jordan Lane and the place of his parents' marriage as County Donegal in Ireland.

Birth entry for Reginald Fleming Johnston

Birth entry for Reginald Fleming Johnston (30 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, 1874/685-5/1358

Death in 1938

Sir Reginald Fleming Johnston, Commissioner, Consular Service (retired) died on 6 March 1938, aged 63 years. The entry in the statutory register of deaths for the district of Haymarket in the city of Edinburgh shows he was single, the place of death was 19 Drumsheugh Gardens in Edinburgh and his usual residence Eilean Righ, Kilmartin in Argyll. The cause of death related to complications following an operation to remove a kidney stone on 20 February.

Death entry for Reginald Fleming Johnston

Death entry for Reginald Fleming Johnston (35 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, 1938/685-1/148