At mu­seum, bru­tal tes­ti­mony to history

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE -

History this way passed. The Lu­gouqiao, adorned with hun­dreds of lion fig­urines, near the Wan­ping Fortress in Bei­jing’s Feng­tai dis­trict — of­ten re­ferred to as the Marco Polo Bridge — still stands.

It’s been ren­o­vated, but some of the paving stones that re­ver­ber­ated to the clack­ing hob­nail boots of the Ja­panese Im­pe­rial army are still in place.

We are mark­ing the an­niver­sary of Ger­many’s and Ja­pan’s sur­ren­der in 1945, but it is le­git­i­mate to sug­gest that the in­ci­dent that sparked the con­flict that be­came World War II oc­curred not in Poland in 1939 but in China, near this 11-arched bridge, in 1937.

Let’s look at the undis­puted facts. Ja­pan oc­cu­pied Manchuria in 1931. A wider in­va­sion be­gan in 1937, and by the time Ja­pan sur­ren­dered in 1945, be­tween 13 mil­lion and 20 mil­lion Chi­nese peo­ple had died. Refugees try­ing to flee the fight­ing num­bered 100 mil­lion.

The in­ci­dent, in fact a bloody skir­mish be­tween Chi­nese and Ja­panese troops, was ig­nited by re­ports of a miss­ing Ja­panese soldier who was later found, sparked a wider Ja­panese in­va­sion of China that took place on the out­skirts of Bei­jing, and be­came known as the Marco Polo Bridge In­ci­dent.

His­to­ri­ans are re-eval­u­at­ing the sig­nif­i­cance of what hap­pened here and are be­gin­ning to view it as the first shots of what be­came World War II.

The con­flict is re­ferred to in China as the War of Re­sis­tance against Ja­panese Ag­gres­sion (1937-45) and the Anti-Fas­cist War. Ja­pan’s ex­pan­sion­ist pol­icy of the 1930s, driven by the mil­i­tary, was to set up what it called the “Greater East Asia Co-Pros­per­ity Sphere”.

A sphere. Such a mun­dane word. The Great Vic­tory and His­tor­i­cal Con­tri­bu­tion ex­hi­bi­tion at the Mu­seum of the War of the Chi­nese Peo­ple’s Re­sis­tance Against Ja­panese Ag­gres­sion, lo­cated in­side the Wan­ping Fortress, was opened on July 7, 1987, on the in­ci­dent’s 50th an­niver­sary. It shows the con­se­quences of try­ing to es­tab­lish the sphere.

Its air-con­di­tioned halls dis­play the relics of war — rusty ri­fles, ma­chine guns and tat­tered tu­nics — and from the walls hang grainy black-and­white pic­tures that bear tes­ti­mony to the bru­tal­ity in­flicted upon Chi­nese civil­ians.

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