Heal­ing old wounds in a med­i­cal melt­ing pot

Af­ter Liu Shiyue lost al­most ev­ery­thing he held dear dur­ing Ja­pan’s oc­cu­pa­tion of China, his ha­tred for ‘the in­vaders’ was in­tense and long-lived. How­ever, years later when he worked with a group of Ja­panese physi­cians, the Chi­nese oph­thal­mol­o­gist grad­ual

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The hard­est time in Liu Shiyue’s life came in 1945, when he dis­cov­ered that his mother had been mur­dered three years ear­lier.

In 1942, Liu’s mother was killed in a fire set by Ja­panese sol­diers dur­ing the War of Re­sis­tance against Ja­panese Ag­gres­sion ( 1937- 45), but be­cause the war had sep­a­rated them, the boy didn’t learn about her death un­til he was 12.

Born in 1930 in Shanxi province, Liu joined the army at age 8 and was sent to the front, and although he was too young to han­dle a weapon, he toured the bat­tle­fields as a mem­ber of a pro­pa­ganda team. “My job was to give cul­tural per­for­mances to com­rades and spread news about the progress of the war to res­i­dents of ru­ral ar­eas.” he said.

The job gave him a first­hand view of the atroc­i­ties com­mit­ted by the Ja­panese troops.

“I had seen so many in­juries and deaths caused by the Ja­panese that I couldn’t shed my in­tense ha­tred of them un­til later in life,” he said.

“Although I sur­vived the war, seven mem­bers of my fam­ily, in­clud­ing my mother, were burned to death by the Ja­panese,” he said. “One time (when the Ja­panese en­tered the vil­lage), I nar­rowly es­caped death my­self,” he said, adding that he only sur­vived by hid­ing be­neath a dead sheep for an en­tire night.

Liu’s fa­ther also sur­vived the war. “My fa­ther served in the army as a doc­tor. He was at a med­i­cal cen­ter far away from home at the time.” Liu said.

Ac­cord­ing to Liu, his fa­ther treated tens of thou­sands of wounded sol­diers: “My fa­ther was my role model. I wanted to be­come a doc­tor like him and save lives.”

When the war ended in 1945, Liu be­gan study­ing medicine. When he grad­u­ated, he served as a gen­eral physi­cian dur­ing the Chi­nese Civil War (1945-1950), and later worked as an oph­thal­mol­o­gist at the Bethune In­ter­na­tional Peace Hos­pi­tal in Shi­ji­azhuang, the cap­i­tal of He­bei province, which had orig­i­nally been an Eight Route Army field hos­pi­tal for wounded sol­diers in the Shanxi-Cha­har-He­bei re­gion, an im­por­tant anti-Ja­panese mil­i­tary base.

Af­ter his wartime ex­pe­ri­ences, Liu was shocked and deeply un­happy when 120 Ja­panese med­i­cal staff ar­rived to work at the hos­pi­tal in 1951. At the time, Liu’s ha­tred of the Ja­panese was so strong that he had dif­fi­culty work­ing with them or even re­gard­ing them as col­leagues. “Their faces al­ways re­minded me of the evil deeds com­mit­ted by the Ja­panese troops,” he said.

The 120 Ja­panese in­cluded 45 doc­tors, 34 nurses, eight phar­ma­cists, and a small num­ber of ad­min­is­tra­tive staff, who worked at the hos­pi­tal un­til 1953, with sev­eral hold­ing top po­si­tions, ac­cord­ing to hos­pi­tal records.

Liu’s at­ti­tude to­ward his new col­leagues grad­u­ally changed, thanks to his wife, Fu Huimei, who had been born in Ja­pan and lived there with her par­ents be­fore mov­ing to China dur­ing the Ja­panese oc­cu­pa­tion. Fu also worked at the hos­pi­tal, and she helped her hus­band to forge friend­ships with the Ja­panese visi­tors.

Fu’s su­pe­rior at the hos­pi­tal was a Ja­panese den­tist called Kazu­michi Inoue, who worked at the hos­pi­tal for seven years, from 1946 to 1953. Inoue’s en­thu­si­asm and mas­terly treat­ment of pa­tients won him great ac­claim from both sol­diers and the lo­cal civil­ian pop­u­la­tion.

In ad­di­tion to his rou­tine work on the wards, Inoue also taught. He trained nearly 100 den­tists dur­ing his stay in China, and many of his for­mer stu­dents be­came the back­bones of hos­pi­tals in the Bei­jing Mil­i­tary Re­gion dur­ing the 1980s.

Fu spoke Ja­panese flu­ently, so she was regularly in­vited to trans­late cor­re­spon­dence and records for var­i­ous hos­pi­tal de­part­ments, in­clud­ing the eye clinic where Liu worked.

“My wife’s trans­la­tion skills made it eas­ier for me to com­mu­ni­cate with the Ja­panese doc­tors, and I grad­u­ally came to re­al­ize that they were re­spon­si­ble, care­ful peo­ple. They were not the same as the Ja­panese in­vaders. My at­ti­tude to­ward them be­gan to change, and I even made friends with sev­eral of them,” Liu said. “One of them once called me from Ja­pan just to tell me that he was ex­cited be­cause a Chi­nese team had won a ta­ble ten­nis com­pe­ti­tion in Ja­pan.”

Those Ja­panese visi­tors bonded with China and the hos­pi­tal, ac­cord­ing to Liu. They cared about the de­vel­op­ment of the coun­try and the hos­pi­tal, even af­ter they re­turned to Ja­pan, and many have re­turned sev­eral times to visit their for­mer work­place and col­leagues.

As con­fir­ma­tion of her hus­band’s view, Fu quoted one of the re­turnees: “China is our sec­ond home. We love the Bethune In­ter­na­tional Peace Hos­pi­tal and we miss our col­leagues and com­rades.”

Susumu Omiya, one of the most fre­quent re­turnees, has vis­ited China ev­ery sec­ond year since 1993, and she was in­stru­men­tal in help­ing the hos­pi­tal to es­tab­lish a work­ing re­la­tion­ship with the Saka Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal in Shiogama, Miyagi pre­fec­ture, Ja­pan, in 1999.

“To us, the Ja­panese peo­ple are not the same as the Ja­panese in­vaders. We hate the in­vaders, and that will never change,” Liu said. “But we also re­spect the Ja­panese peo­ple and made friends with those who worked with us.”

Ac­cord­ing to Fu, one of her col­leagues, Masako Torikai, once told her, “Af­ter the Ja­panese troops sur­ren­dered, the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Party re­cruited some Ja­panese med­i­cal work­ers like me, who had served in the Ja­panese army in North­east China.”

Most of those who re­mained were anti-war, and they chose to stay in China rather than re­turn home. Torikai said she had seen the mis­ery and pain the war had brought to the Chi­nese peo­ple. She wanted to help save lives, so she didn’t hes­i­tate to stay and join the PLA Army, ac­cord­ing to Fu, who re­mem­bered her say­ing, “The Ja­panese and their Chi­nese col­leagues are like sib­lings.” Bethune’s legacy

The fore­run­ner of the Bethune In­ter­na­tional Peace Hos­pi­tal was founded in 1937 dur­ing the Ja­panese oc­cu­pa­tion. “I was hon­ored to work there be­cause it was partly es­tab­lished by Doc­tor Nor­man Bethune,” said Liu, who worked at the hos­pi­tal for half a cen­tury.

The name of Nor­man Bethune (1890-1939) is still fa­mous through­out China be­cause of the med­i­cal aid he pro­vided for Chi­nese troops dur­ing the oc­cu­pa­tion. The Cana­dian physi­cian, who ar­rived in China in 1938, treated both civil­ians and wounded sol­diers. To pro­vide bet­ter treat­ment for the troops, he ex­panded and re­lo­cated a small field hos­pi­tal orig­i­nally es­tab­lished by the Eighth Route Army, trans­form­ing it into a “Model Hos­pi­tal” in the vil­lage of Songyankou, Shanxi province. A large num­ber


Liu Shiyue (right), con­ducts an eye checkup on Susumu Omiya, one of 120 Ja­panese med­i­cal staff who ar­rived to work at the hos­pi­tal in 1951.


Cana­dian physi­cian Nor­man Bethune (18901939) is fa­mous through­out China be­cause of the med­i­cal aid he pro­vided for Chi­nese troops dur­ing the Ja­panese oc­cu­pa­tion.

• Novem­ber 1937

• Septem­ber 1938

• Fe­bru­ary 1940

• Jan­uary 1941

• Oc­to­ber 1948

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