Capital street preserves memory of heroic general

GMT 10:27 2015 Monday ,06 July

Arab Today, arab today Capital street preserves memory of heroic general

The national memorial
Beijing - XINHUA

Tonglinge street in the heart of Beijing is one of the few places named after a person in China's capital.

There used to be a sign at one end, telling people Tong Linge's story, but it has been removed. When the Japanese assaulted the Lugou Bridge in the western suburbs of Beijing on July 7, 1937, the deputy commander led the Chinese army to fight, and became the first high-ranking officer to die in the eight-year war of resistance against Japanese invasion.

Tong Bing, 90, regularly frequents the street. Once, when a passer-by asked him if he knew the general, he told them: "Yes, I do. He is my father."

"To me, he was not only a hero, but also a good dad," he said.

General Tong had seven children, with Tong Bing the youngest.

"He was busy and only came home on Saturdays," he recalled. "When we heard the beep of cars, we would rush out to welcome dad. He then kissed us one by one."

Meanwhile, the general was strict with his children. "He told us not to coo the rich and look down upon the poor," Tong said. While having dinner, none of them were allowed to waste any food.

On July 7, 1937, the Japanese army arrived at Lugou Bridge for a military maneuver. They insisted on entering Wanping Town to search for a missing soldier. When their demand was rejected, they attacked the Chinese troops, who fought back.

The shots heralded the July 7 Incident, which later led to all-out war.

The Chinese soldiers at the Lugou Bridge were outnumbered and ill-equipped. Some of Tong's army were students, not even real soldiers.

The general fought for 20 days, retreating from Lugou Bridge to Guangcai road about 22 kilometers away in the south.

Liu Su, a research fellow with the Beijing Municipal Archives, once met a villager namely Qiao Delin who witnessed the the general's last moments.

"Qiao was 13 in 1937," Liu said. "The Japanese fired machine guns from the roof of his house, while the Chinese soldiers were in the corn field."

The general was shot in the leg, before he was killed by shelling.

"His guard Gao Hongxi carried his body," Tong Bing said. "Gao was later too tired to move and hid the body in a shed. He brought my father's watch and camera to my home."

Tong Linge could hardly be identified by the time his family retrieved the body. His children cleaned the wounds, and put the body into a coffin which had been prepared for the general's father.

A national funeral was held in 1946, one year after the Japanese surrendered.

The Chinese government in 1945 changed the name of a street which was about four kilometers west to the Tian'anmen Square in memory of Tong Linge.

The street, about 1,500 meters long, is now flanked by more than a dozen restaurants and two schools.

To a 59-year-old cleaner surnamed Yang, it is a street that is hard to clean. "Too many restaurants," he said.

To Li Dong, manager of a Japanese restaurant, it is a street with not many customers. "We are close to the Xidan high street, but it is not convenient to get there," he said.

To Tong Bing, however, it is a reminder. "The name of my dad always brings me back to my happy childhood."

He turned down the invitation of a teacher who asked him to give a lecture to students. "My heart aches whenever I talk about his death."

But Han Junying, dean of the Shoushuihe primary school which was near the street, believed it necessary for students to learn more about the past.

"They should know why the street was so named," said Han. "They should know that there was such a general, who died for a better future of the nation, which they now enjoy."

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