Honor­ing the re­mains of fallen he­roes

China Daily (Canada) - - SHANGHAI - By ZHOU WENTING in Shang­hai

zhouwent­ing@chi­nadaily. com.cn

The Lab­o­ra­tory of Con­tem­po­rary An­thro­pol­ogy at Fu­dan Univer­sity in Shang­hai is cur­rently on a quest to find the de­scen­dants of 347 sol­diers from the Chi­nese ex­pe­di­tionary force that fought against the Ja­panese Im­pe­rial Army dur­ing World War II.

Ear­lier in May, the re­mains of these sol­diers were un­earthed from a ceme­tery near a school in the Burmese city of My­itky­ina, ac­cord­ing to Chen Liang, an ar­chae­ol­o­gist from North­west Univer­sity in Xi’an, Shaanxi province. Chen was one of the vol­un­teers on this pro­ject to bring the re­mains of Chi­nese sol­diers back home.

“While the mis­sion to look for de­scen­dants of these fallen he­roes, who died while de­fend­ing the mother­land in a for­eign land, is like look­ing for a nee­dle in a haystack, it is very mean­ing­ful. The best way to honor their con­tri­bu­tions is to bring them back home,” Chen said.

Be­tween 1942 and 1945, a to­tal of 300,000 Chi­nese sol­diers were sent to Myan­mar af­ter Bri­tish author­i­ties had re­quested for China’s as­sis­tance in pre­vent­ing the Ja­panese troops from cap­tur­ing a vi­tal road that linked Yun­nan to Myan­mar.

These ex­pe­di­tionary sol­diers spent half a year in Myan­mar and their ef­forts have been rec­og­nized as be­ing an im­por­tant chap­ter in the War of Re­sis­tance against Ja­panese Ag­gres­sion (1937-45). Most of the sol­diers who died dur­ing the bat­tles were buried in this re­gion be­tween the two coun­tries.

Find­ing the iden­ti­ties of these sol­diers has proved to be chal­leng­ing as the re­mains were poorly pre­served due to the acid­ity lev­els in the soil, as well as the cli­mate in the trop­i­cal rain­for­est area, said Li Hui, a pro­fes­sor from the lab­o­ra­tory. How­ever, the lab­o­ra­tory has man­aged to as­cer­tain that some of these sol­diers came from prov­inces such as Guang­dong, Hu­nan, and Shan­dong. Sci­en­tists at the lab now need to find ge­netic matches to the re­mains.

“We can­not de­ter­mine which fam­ily the sol­diers come from so we’re look­ing for their de­scen­dants. For sol­diers who did not have de­scen­dants at that time, we can com­pare the genes from the re­mains with those of their sib­ling’s off­spring to de­ter­mine their iden­tity,” said Li.

He also added that from an aca­demic view­point, be­ing able to iden­tify the na­tive homes of these fallen sol­diers can help con­trib­ute to a more com­plete un­der­stand­ing of con­scrip­tion dur­ing that pe­riod.

This is not the first time that the re­mains of sol­diers from this ex­pe­di­tionary force have made the jour­ney back to China. In 2011, the re­mains of 19 sol­diers were re­turned and buried in a ceme­tery in Teng­chong city. In June 2014, more than 600 re­mains were brought home by the Yun­nan Pro­vin­cial Fed­er­a­tion of Re­turned Over­seas Chi­nese and buried in the same ceme­tery.

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