Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Statue of General Zhang Zizhong in Tianjin

General Zhang Zizhong (1891-1940) was the highest ranking Chinese officer died in the battlefield during the war defending homeland from Japan invasion.

General Zhang was born in Linqing, Shangdong. He entered Tianjin Law and Government School in 1911. He was the mayor of Tianjin from 1936 to 1937. General Zhang visited Japan during April 28 to May 23 in 1937. Although he was sent by his commending officer Song Zheyuan, many Chinese saw the visit a poor judgement. At the time, it seemed General Zhang attempted to avoid a full scale war between China and Japan. In one instance, he ordered Chinese troops not to return fire even after Japanese army had started attacked Peking. He also stayed behind as a civilian political leader after Chinese troops retreated. These controversial moves made him a public enemy at the time.

Seeing diplomatic maneuver no longer a feasible option, he left Tianjin soon after its fell to Japan, and reassumed military command. Although the central government cleared him of any wrong doings, he was not forgiven by many Chinese at the time, and probably not by himself. In a scene of a biography movie of General Zhang, when he arrived home after fled from Japanese occupied Tianjin, he was shut out by his wife, and spit upon by his children. It is believed that General had the death wish of dying for the country on the battlefield, before the war would be lost.

Between 1937 and 1940, his troops participated in the battle of Taierzhuang as well as other battles. Each time, he would encourage his soldiers to die in a good place for a good cause. His troops was among the most effective Chinese military forces and won many major battles, often with high cost.

In May 1940, as the commanding officer of the 33rd Army Group, he led 2000 soldiers to intercept a much stronger Japanese attacking force. Some historian think General Zhang was by and large pessimistic on the outcome of the war, and this move was particular suicidal. Before he set out, he took his formal attire and wrote a letter to his associate commander, in which he said he was going to die for the country. General Zhang was out numbered and out gunned. He fought as a soldier after wounded several times to his death on May 16, 1940 in Nanguadian, Hubei. His command and his soldiers all died with him.

Many Chinese cities named roads after his name. In Tianjin, Zhang Zizhong Road and Zhao Dengyu (another general died defending homeland against Japanese invasion) Road accompanied each side of Haihe River winding through the city. In May 2, 2006, a bronze statue of General Zhang was erected on the intersection of Zhang Zizhong Road and Taian Road. The statue is made by professor Jing yumin of Tianjin Art Institute.

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