Yoshiko Kawashima

Yoshiko Kawashima (川島 芳子, Kawashima Yoshiko, 24 May 1907 – 25 March 1948) was a Qing dynasty princess of Manchu descent. She was raised in Japan and served as a spy for the Japanese Kwantung Army and Manchukuo during the Second Sino-Japanese War. She is sometimes known in fiction under the pseudonym "Eastern Mata Hari". After the war, she was captured, tried, and executed as a traitor by the Nationalist government of the Republic of China. She was also a notable descendant of Hooge, eldest son of Hong Taiji.

Yoshiko Kawashima
Yoshiko Kawashima
Native name
川島 芳子
Birth nameAisin Gioro Xianyu
(愛新覺羅 顯玗)
Other name(s)Dongzhen (東珍)
Jin Bihui (金璧輝)
Nickname(s)Joan of Arc of Manchukuo
Born(1907-05-24)24 May 1907
Beijing, Qing Empire
Died25 March 1948(1948-03-25) (aged 40)
Beijing, Republic of China
Allegiance Manchukuo
 Empire of Japan
Service/branchKwantung Army
Battles/warsPacification of Manchukuo
(m. 1927; div. 1930)
RelationsShanqi (father)
Lady Zhanggiya (mother)
Naniwa Kawashima (adoptive father)
Other workspy
Aisin Gioro Xianyu
Yoshiko Kawashima in recording studio 1933.jpg
Kawashima in a recording studio, 1933
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese金璧輝
Simplified Chinese金璧辉
Birth name
Traditional Chinese愛新覺羅·顯玗
Simplified Chinese爱新觉罗·显玗
Courtesy name
Traditional Chinese東珍
Simplified Chinese东珍
Literal meaningEastern Jewel
Yoshiko Kawashima
Traditional Chinese川島芳子
Simplified Chinese川岛芳子
Japanese name
Hiraganaかわしま よしこ


She was born in the Aisin Gioro clan, the imperial clan of the Manchu-led Qing dynasty. Her birth name was Aisin Gioro Xianyu and her courtesy name was Dongzhen (literally "eastern jewel"). Her Sinicised name was Jin Bihui. She is best known by her Japanese name, Kawashima Yoshiko (川島 芳子), which is read as Chuāndǎo Fāngzǐ in Chinese.

Family background and early lifeEdit

Shanqi (1866–1922), Kawashima's biological father
Kawashima's mother Lady Janggiya, the 4th consort of Prince Suzhong

She was born Aisin Gioro Xianyu in Beijing in 1907 as the 14th daughter of Shanqi (1866–1922), a Manchu prince of the Aisin Gioro clan, the imperial clan of China's Qing dynasty. Her mother was Lady Janggiya (张佳氏), Shanqi's fourth concubine. Shanqi was a descendant of Hooge, the eldest son of Hong Taiji (the second ruler of the Qing dynasty). Shanqi was also the tenth heir to the Prince Su peerage, one of the 12 "iron-cap" princely peerages of the Qing dynasty.

After the Xinhai Revolution overthrew the Qing dynasty in 1912, Xianyu was given up for adoption in 1915 at the age of eight to her father's friend, Naniwa Kawashima, a Japanese espionage agent and mercenary adventurer. Her stepfather changed her name to "Yoshiko Kawashima" and took her back to Tokyo, Japan to be raised and educated in the Kawashima family house. As a teenage girl, Kawashima was sent to school in Tokyo for an education that included judo and fencing.

Around the time her adoptive family moved to Matsumoto. Kawashima's biological father, Shanqi, died in 1922. As Kawashima's mother had no official identity as Shanqi's concubine, she followed Manchu tradition and committed suicide to join Shanqi. At the age of seventeen, her adoptive father raped her and later continued to abuse her.[1]

Espionage careerEdit

In November 1927 at age 20, her brother and adoptive father arranged for her marriage to Ganjuurjab in Port Arthur (also known as Ryojun), who was the son of Inner Mongolian Army general Babojab, who once led the Mongolian-Manchurian Independence Movement there in 1911. The marriage ended in divorce after only three years and she left Mongolia, and she first traveled to teeming coastal towns of China and lived a bohemian lifestyle for some years in Tokyo with a series of rich lovers, both men and women.[2] Kawashima moved to the foreign concession in Shanghai.[3] While in Shanghai, she met Japanese military attaché and intelligence officer Ryukichi Tanaka, who utilised her contacts with the Manchu and Mongol nobility to expand his network. She was living with Tanaka in Shanghai at the time of the Shanghai Incident of 1932.

After Tanaka was recalled to Japan, Kawashima continued to serve as a spy for the general Kenji Doihara. She undertook undercover missions in Manchuria, often in disguise, and was considered "strikingly attractive, with a dominating personality, almost a film-drama figure, half tom-boy and half heroine, and with a passion for dressing up as a male. She possibly did this in order to impress the men, or she may have done it in order to more easily fit into the tightly-knit guerrilla groups without attracting too much attention".[4][5]

Kawashima was well-acquainted with Puyi, the last emperor of the Qing dynasty, who regarded her as a member of the imperial family and welcomed her into his household during his stay in Tianjin. It was through this close liaison that Kawashima was able to persuade Puyi to become a figurehead ruler for Manchukuo, a puppet state created by the Japanese in Manchuria. However, Kawashima privately criticised Puyi for being too amenable to Japanese influence.[6]

After Puyi became Emperor of Manchukuo, Kawashima continued to play various roles and, for a time, was the mistress of Hayao Tada, the chief military advisor to Puyi. She formed an independent counter insurgency cavalry force in 1932 made up of 3,000-5,000 former bandits to hunt down anti-Japanese guerrilla bands during the Pacification of Manchukuo, and was hailed in the Japanese newspapers as the Joan of Arc of Manchukuo.[7] In 1933, she offered the unit to the Japanese Kwantung Army for Operation Nekka, but it was refused. The unit continued to exist under her command until sometime in the late 1930s.[8]

Kawashima became a well-known and popular figure in Manchukuo, making appearances on radio broadcasts and even issuing a record of her songs. Numerous fictional and semi-fictional stories of her exploits were published in newspapers and also as pulp fiction. However, her very popularity created issues with the Kwantung Army because her utility as an intelligence asset was long gone, and her value as a propaganda symbol was compromised by her increasingly critical tone against the Japanese military's exploitative policies in Manchukuo as a base of operations against China in the Second Sino-Japanese War, and she gradually faded from public sight.

Capture, trial and executionEdit

After the end of the war, on 11 November 1945, a news agency[which?] reported that "a long sought-for beauty in male costume was arrested in Beijing by counter-intelligence officers."[citation needed] She was held at Hebei Model Prison.

The Supreme Court of Hebei originally addressed Kawashima as "Chuandao Fangzi" (the Chinese pronunciation of her Japanese name). When her trial began a month later, Kawashima identified herself by her Chinese name, "Jin Bihui", which eventually became the name court officials used. However, in accordance with her lawyers' strategy to deflect her charge of treason, she gradually began to emphasise a Japanese or Manchu banner identity. The court rejected the defence's bid to have her tried as a war criminal rather than as a domestic traitor, based on a combination of jus sanguinis and Kawashima's failure to formally renounce her citizenship through China's Department of Civil Affairs.[6]

Charged with treason as a hanjian on 20 October 1947, she was executed by a bullet shot into the back of her head on 25 March 1948,[9] and her body was later put on public display.

Her body was collected by a Japanese monk to be cremated. Her remains were sent back to her adoptive family and later buried at Shōrinji temple in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, Japan.[citation needed]


In popular cultureEdit

  • In the Chinese language, Kawashima's name (both Chuandao Fangzi and Jin Bihui) are synonymous with the idea of a "female spy" or a hanjian.[6]



'The private papers of Eastern Jewel' by Maureen Lindley. Based on the real-life story of Yoshiko Kawashima, Chinese princess turned ruthless Japanese spy, with fictional embellishments.

Video gamesEdit


  1. ^ Zhu, Aijun. Feminism and Global Chineseness: The Cultural Production of Controversial Women Authors, p.254 Cambria Press, 2007, ISBN 9781934043127
  2. ^ Yue, Audrey. Ann Hui's Song of the Exile, Hong Kong University Press, 2010, ISBN 9789888028757
  3. ^ Yamamuro, Manchuria Under Japanese Domination, pp.98
  4. ^ Deacon,A History of Japanese Secret Service, 1982, p.151
  5. ^ Grant, Battle Cries and Lullabies, pp.260
  6. ^ a b c Shao, Dan (2005). "Princess, Traitor, Soldier, Spy: Aisin Gioro Xianyu and the Dilemma of Manchu Identity". In Tamanoi, Mariko Asano (ed.). Crossed Histories. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. pp. 83–120. she did not use the term 'Manzu' (Manchu) or 'Manren' in her vocabulary of identity.
  7. ^ Woods, Princess Jin.
  8. ^ Jowett, Rays of the Rising Sun, vol. 1, p.31.
  9. ^ TIME magazine, Monday, 5 April 1948 Foreign News: Foolish Elder Brother
  10. ^ James Kirkup (20 July 1995). "Obituary: Ryoichi Sasakawa". The Independent. Retrieved 14 February 2015.

Crowdy, Terry, The Enemy Within (Oxford: Osprey, 2006), Chapter 10


External linksEdit

  Media related to Kawashima Yoshiko at Wikimedia Commons