Visit the past and present lives of Zhangzizhong road in Beijing

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The former site of duanqiruizhi government at No. 3, Zhangzizhong Road

Sun Yat Sen, the forerunner of the Chinese revolution, Zhangzizhong, the famous general of the Anti Japanese War, and yoshiji Okamura, the commander-in-chief of the Japanese invasion army, have at least one intersection in their life path – the iron lion alley in Beijing. They all lived in that area, even neighbors. This alley is now called Zhangzizhong road to commemorate Zhangzizhong, the highest ranking Chinese general and commander of the 33rd group army who died in the Anti Japanese War 74 years ago.

Zhangzizhong Road, located in Dongcheng District of Beijing and parallel to Chang’an Street, is less than 800 meters long from east to west, but it is home to important historical sites such as the former Duan qiruizhi government, three Qing Dynasty houses including Princess House and Baylor house, and the memorial site of Dr. Sun Yat Sen’s death.

Due to the particularity and importance of these ancient buildings, they are not open to the outside world. The staff are more accustomed to using house numbers to refer to them. The odd numbers in the north of the road and the even numbers in the south of the road.

As time passed, the road changed its name, from the iron lion alley to Zhangzizhong Road, to Di’anmen East Street, zhangside Road, gongnongbing street before and after the “Cultural Revolution”, until it was renamed Zhangzizhong road in 1984.

In the meantime, the courtyard along the road also changed its owners. The old residents still say that after the fall of Peiping, the Japanese garrison occupied yard 3 as the North China headquarters of the Japanese invaders. The underground water prison in the yard held Anti Japanese martyrs and built the first section of asphalt in the capital to pass by the horse brigade. However, the history witnessed by this road has been forgotten by most people.

Who is this man?

Today, the No. 1 courtyard of Zhangzizhong road is located at the Zhangzizhong Road Station of Metro Line 5 opened in 2007. Inside the station stands a bronze bust about two meters high, with “national hero Zhangzizhong” written on the base. General Zhang was dressed in military uniform with a solemn expression.


Two sixorseven year old children circled around the statue and asked the adult who was holding the camera to urge them to stand up and take photos: “who is this man?”

“A general who fought the Japanese.”

“Where did you hit him? Was he killed by the Japanese?”

“Stand up!”

Zhangqingcheng, Zhang Zizhong’s direct grandson, was not surprised by such a dialogue because “history moves forward”. At 68, he never met his grandfather. Linqing in Shandong, Yicheng in Hubei and Meihua Mountain in Chongqing are the birthplace, martyrdom and burial place of Zhang Zizhong respectively.

Zhangqingcheng often goes to three places to worship, but he never feels sad: “the greatest glory of a soldier is to die for his country. I am not sad.”

But he was deeply saddened by the sevenoreight hundred unsung heroes buried in the Anti Japanese army cemetery at the foot of plum blossom mountain.

“What are their surnames? What are their names? Where is their hometown? Do you want me to take them home? Every time I think about this, I can’t help feeling sad. They are all heroes who have given their lives for the life and death of the Chinese nation.”

“Young people should understand that peace, development and the construction of the motherland are not peaceful around China. At the critical moment, young people should have ideas and sacrifice their lives for the country and the nation. They should not lose an inch of what their ancestors left behind.”

From “red translator” to diplomat in Japan

Lizonghui, a 78 year old retired Japanese professor at Renmin University of China, is an “old resident” of Zhangzizhong Road, where he spent more than 50 years.

Born in Tianjin, lizonghui lived a hard life during the Japanese occupation. He still remembers that when his mother worked in a Japanese food station, she was afraid to take home the corn kernels hidden in the “three inch Golden Lotus” and mashed the porridge for him to drink. He could not forget the experience of bowing to the Japanese every time he passed the Japanese sentry post, or he would be beaten.

In 1954, with the idea of “dedicating herself to the country”, lizonghui chose the Japanese major of the Eastern Language Department of Peking University, which was not favored by others.

“The feelings of the Chinese people who lived through those years towards Japan were very complicated. When I was admitted to university, many people thought that translation meant speaking for foreigners, let alone for the Japanese. It was a traitor.” Lizonghui recalled that he was very tangled when he entered the University, but the first slogan he saw when he entered the University “welcome the future red translators” made him regain his confidence.

Lizonghui became a Japanese teacher at Renmin University of China after graduation. After the founding of new China, the University moved from Yan’an fell into the No. 3 College of the former Duan Qirui government. In 1983, lizonghui was selected to work in the Education Office of the Chinese Embassy in Japan. After that, he taught Chinese in Japan and spent 12 years, “traveling all over 47 prefectures and prefectures in Japan”.

“If a person’s life is condensed into one week, I will be in Japan one day,” lizonghui thought that he had experienced several ups and downs in China Japan relations. Despite the current stale relations between the Chinese and Japanese governments, he is still full of confidence in the friendship between the two countries. He believes that there are foundations and opportunities, which need the rational treatment of the two governments, especially the Japanese government.

“Most of the people of the two countries I know hope for friendship. Commemorating General Zhang and other anti Japanese heroes is not about remembering hatred, but about learning lessons, not about inciting war, but about pursuing peace. This is the most important reason why we engrave the name of a general on the map of China’s capital.” He said.

Foreign trade shoe stores of “counterattack against imperialism”

Lixiaojie, from rural Nanchong, Sichuan, and her husband have run a foreign trade shoe store on Zhangzizhong road for more than ten years. In the Fuxue community of Zhangzizhong Road, migrant workers like them account for more than one third of the permanent population.

Today, Zhangzizhong road is also a famous foreign trade street in Beijing. A large number of exported clothes, shoes and socks are sold here. They are cheap and good, and are very popular with Taoke.

The goods in lixiaojie’s shop are produced in Guangdong, the “shoe capital of the world”. In the 1980s, Guangdong became the forefront of China’s reform and opening up.

“General Zhang resisted foreign aggression. All the shoes in our shop were exported to earn foreign money. Is this a counter attack against imperialism? Is it progress?” Lixiaojie joked.

She didn’t know that Zhang Zizhong led the army to resist the Japanese invading army, but she simply described it as a foreigner. But when she mentioned the war of resistance against Japan, she “felt hate” because “so many people were killed, the country is someone else’s, it is pain and shame. Being backward will be beaten”.

Historical data show that before Japan launched the all-round war of aggression against China in 1937, China’s industrial growth rate reached more than 7.7%, and its social and economic conditions also showed a trend of vigorous development, entering the beginning of industrialization. However, the war severely hit Chinese national enterprises and quickly depressed. Experts say that China’s modernization process has been delayed for at least 20 years.

In 2010, China overtook Japan to become the second largest economy after the United States. According to the Nihon Keizai Shimbun, this can be regarded as a historical turning point of the world economy, marking the shift of the world’s focus from developed countries represented by the United States to emerging countries such as China with great growth potential.

Such a drastic change is hard for Zhang Zizhong, who used foreign weapons more than 70 years ago, to imagine.

Inclusion of tradition in the pioneer of rock and roll Holy Land

For Qi Zhi, another “frequent visitor” on Zhangzizhong Road, this place represents another kind of pioneer. The Yugong Yishan performing arts bar he participated in is one of the landmarks of Beijing’s avantgarde pop music culture.

The bar is located in the West courtyard of the former Duan Qirui government. It is a favorite performance place for many non mainstream Chinese and foreign musicians. There are also independent films, DJ parties, and sometimes small plays, which attract “fashionable, alternative, and even restless people” in the eyes of many old residents.

“Courtyard No. 3 is a place where Chinese and Western cultures are combined, and so is” Yugong Yishan “, which embraces tradition among pioneers,” Qi Zhi said.

At night, the dazzling columns of light, the wild music, the heads of Qing Dynasty officials on the backs of high chairs, and the people dancing with the rhythm make this place look more or less like a farewell to an era.

The key words of that era were “suffering, backwardness and self isolation”, and the “rebellion, release and integration” that Yugong Yishan bar wanted to represent was just another group of notes that jumped with the pulse of China’s current social development.

However, Qi Zhi reminded that the bar is a gathering place for Peking Opera fans during the day. Two years ago, a symposium was held to commemorate the three heroes of the Anti Japanese War, Tong linge, zhaodengyu and Zhangzizhong.

“The lifestyle of young people has changed. There are more fast-paced and personalized things, and they have forgotten more about history. We are not trying to arouse hatred for Japan, but to face up to how neighbors should communicate and face problems,” Qi said.

Zhao Benyu from Shanghai came to Beijing with his friends on a high school graduation tour to worship the rock Holy Land in his heart.

“I came to Yugong Yishan to know who Zhang Zizhong was,” he said. “My favorite ’21 guns’ is an anti war rock. Does this conflict with general Zhang’s pursuit? He protects his country and pursues peace.” He said.

Zhangzizhong Road, originally named after a pair of iron lions cast in the Yuan Dynasty, has become a microcosm of the diversity and prosperity of the current Chinese society against the backdrop of the profound historical accumulation.

“We can’t look at Japan from the perspective of more than 70 years ago. They looked at us from the perspective of more than 70 years ago, and we are also very disgusted. This is not conducive to the exchanges and development between the two countries,” lizonghui said. “We must gradually learn to understand this and that from the current perspective and advance with the times. Taking history as a mirror, facing the future and leaving behind is incomplete.”.

Facing the future, zhangqingcheng and lizonghui need to wake up and remember history, Li Xiaojie and his wife need to work hard, and Qi Zhi needs to tolerate and absorb the unknown and different. In this way, what people once thought was forgotten or faded out will return in some way.

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