Students across China started their new school year Monday with a lesson on the history of World War II.
In a packed auditorium at Yucai Middle School in Shenyang, capital of northeast China's Liaoning Province, hundreds of students and teachers were in tears after Zhang Zhuoya, daughter of WWII General Li Zhaolin, told them about her family's experience during the war.
"One of my brothers was born in the winter of 1940, when my parents were in the army fighting the Japanese aggressors," Zhang told the audience. "A female soldier cut his umbilical cord with her teeth and carried him in a bundle."
The army had to flee the Japanese soldiers, who were heavily armed and outnumbered them. "Fearing the baby's cries might expose the whole army to danger, my father left the bundle in the wild mountains despite my mother's tears."
Zhang was still very young when her father died in 1946, so she learned much of what she knows about him from her mother. "My father told her he could not put the entire army's fate at risk to save his own son."
Her account moved many students to tears. "Her family's experience is a vivid account of China's wartime past," said Xu Boyu, 16. "This is the best history lesson I've ever had. We must learn the history of the war, but not because we must fight again or seek revenge. Instead, we need to draw lessons from history and avoid repeating tragedies."
A native of Yanan, a revolutionary base of the Communist Party of China, Pang Tingting learned for the first time that a school for Japanese prisoners of war was built on nearby Pagoda Mountain during WWII.
"The mountain is a landmark in my hometown, but I never knew over 500 Japanese studied there and many of them repented and joined the anti-fascist war."
Pang, 17, said she was deeply impressed by this first lesson of the school year at Yanan Middle School on Sunday.
"It's very impressive, because it touched upon things that are not in our textbooks but actually happened on this land. I'll visit the old school building someday and have a closer look."
Zhu Yutao, a student at Nanjing Foreign Languages School, visited a cluster of more than 20 burial sites of Nanjing Massacre victims and drew a map of their locations.
He shared his visits with his schoolmates Monday at the school's open class on war history. "I hope more people will visit these tombs, mourn the dead, remember history and cherish life."
"War history should be a regular lesson," said Prof. Pan Xun with Southwest University in Chongqing Municipality. "It's important to visualize history through stories and videos for the younger generation to learn more about China's past."
Students in most Chinese cities attended an open class on war history Sunday and Monday. But in Beijing, schools will start on Sept. 7 to make way for a military parade on Sept. 3, the culmination of a series of activities to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII and the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression.
Five cities, including Yanan, Nanjing, Chongqing and Shenyang, have recorded videos of their open classes and posted them on popular web portals including Youku.com.
"This is a very important way to keep the public informed," said Huang Kaihong, a history researcher with Chongqing Education Science Institute. "Otherwise, most people forget all about history after they graduate."