Peking, 1908. A three year old boy is removed from his home and mother and taken to the Forbidden City, deep in the heart of ancient China and placed upon the Dragon Throne.
Thus begins the story of Pu Yi, "Lord of Ten Thousand Years", "The Son of Heaven", and ruler over almost half the world's population. Three years after his ascension to the throne China becomes a republic and the Qing dynasty is forced to abdicate, ending more than three thousand years of imperial rule. While the outside world is transformed by the convulsive tides of modern history, life inside the Forbidden City continues on unchanged until 1924 when a warlord captures Peking and expels the ex-emperor.
Forced to live on the outside, Pu Yi goes from western playboy to puppet emperor of Manchukuo to a gardener in the Peking Botanical Gardens as a citizen of the People's Republic of China.