Speech given at CESL at CUPL on February 27, 2012
Not one month after the Marco Polo Bridge Incident of July 7, 1937, the Japanese military captured Beiping and Tianjin. At the beginning of August Japanese troops approached the Beiping-Suiyuan line in an effort to cut off frontline Chinese troops in Chahar. Chinese troops, however, resisted, and with their back to the Great Wall they snatched Nankou in an effort to stop the Japanese advance into North-Western China. During more than twenty days of fierce fighting between Chinese and Japanese forces in Nankou, Deshengkou, Juyongguan, Hengling, Zhenbiancheng around 10,000 Chinese soldiers died.
Today when passing through Nankou or climbing the Great Wall at Juyongguan rarely do we think of the nearly 10,000 Chinese troops who perished between the Taihang Mountains and the Yanshan Mountains, their lives forever a part of their homeland’s magnificent scenery.
In military terms the Battle of Nankou probably does not count as a victory for the Chinese. Nevertheless, they rose up against all odds in the clear understanding that they could never win, and still fought bravely, crying, “Forward into the enemy’s canon fire”, "Use our blood and sweat to make a new Great Wall”. It is precisely this spirit of the Chinese people that led to ultimate victory against the invaders.
Even as time passes and history is gradually forgotten, at least one person is still completely immersed is in the memory of this solemn and stirring period. This not only comes from one person’s sense of history, but also collectively awakens a sense that history must not be forgotten.
Our guest today, Yang Guoqing, is like no other. For nearly eight years he has been carrying out interviews at the Nankou battleground, looking for artefacts, visiting heroes of the anti-Japanese movement, and memorialising martyrs. He used his own resources to create a museum of the Battle of Nankou in the basement of his shop. Saving precious objects and rescuing a period of history from a cold and forgotten fate. This is an ordinary Changpinger acting upon his moral convictions.