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Unforgettable History
Text by Xiao Bian


Chinese troops garrison the Marco Polo Bridge in Wanping County, Beijing, on the day of the July 7 Incident of 1937.  Cultural Communication/Fotoe Japanese troops bomb Wanping County during the July 7 Incident of 1937. That day, Japanese forces attacked the Chinese army garrisoning the Marco Polo Bridge under the pretext of a military maneuver.  by Gao Yanzhi/CFP August 22, 1937: After the July 7 Incident of 1937, Japanese reinforcements disembark from an armored train along the Beiping-Suiyuen Railway.  Rolls Press/Popperfoto/Getty Images/CFP

The year 2015 marks the 70th anniversary of the Allies’ victory in World War II as well as the Chinese People’s War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1937-1945), the largest anti-invasion war in Chinese history. The war broke out as the Japanese army invaded the country, with the Chinese mainland as the major battlefield. After a long series of Japanese defeats, Tokyo finally declared unconditional surrender on August 15, 1945.

The July 7 Incident of 1937, also known as Marco Polo Bridge Incident, marked the start of the Chinese people’s war against Japanese aggression across the country as well as the beginning of full-scale invasion of China by Japan.

At about 11:00 p.m. on July 7, 1937, Japanese forces maneuvered near the Marco Polo Bridge in southwestern Beiping (now Beijing), demanding permission to enter Wanping Town to search for a missing soldier. The request was refused by Ji Xingwen, commander of the 219th Regiment of the  37th Division, 29th Army. The Japanese army opened fire on the defending Chinese troops and bombarded Wanping. The 219th Regiment fought against the invading army, leading to the outbreak of the July 7 Incident of 1937.

The day after the Incident, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) spread the word to the whole country, calling for a “nationwide war of resistance against Japan” and urging citizens to “never let the Japanese imperialists occupy an inch of the Chinese territory!” The national government also gave orders “to defend Wanping tenaciously and hold the Marco Polo Bridge and Changxindian at all costs.”

The incident proved like a fuse, exacerbating Japan’s regional warfare in northeastern China that had been ongoing for a few years into all-out war against China, igniting flames of World War II in the Orient and leading to an eight-year Chinese war against Japanese aggression.

In recent years, more documents of the Japanese invasion of China have been constantly discovered and publicized. In 2014, for instance, 89 sets of related records were discovered and sorted by the Jilin Provincial Archives, which outline Japanese invaders’ crimes in eight aspects, including Nanjing Massacre, forceful recruitment of comfort women, enslavement of laborers, and details of the Japanese army’s many atrocities.

Changchun served as the capital of the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo and the headquarters of the Japanese military police. A great number of archives detailing Japanese aggression were left behind after the war, which now serve as ironclad proof of Japan’s war crimes in China.

In 2015, the Chinese government purchased a digital copy of the color documentary Kukan, shot by American photojournalist Rey Scott 75 years ago. From 1937 to 1940, Scott paid four visits to Shanghai, Nanjing, Guangzhou, and Hong Kong, where he captured images of life during the war. On August 19 and 20, 1940, he documented Chongqing before and after bombing, with 17 minutes of footage.



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