December 12, 1936
Xian Incident Shocked the World
It was an extremely critical event in contemporary Chinese history. However it took place at an extremely elegant and romantic place – Huaqing Chi (Huaqing Hot Spring).
It was a military exhortation by nature.
Xian Incident didn’t only make Huaqing Chi famous as a tourist spot. It made the name of Xian appeared on international news headlines and drew the entire world’s attention in December 1936.
Romantic Huaqing Chi Became a Battle Field
Zhang Xue Liang and Yang Hu Cheng initiated the military exhortation during the 10-year civil war by capturing their Generalissimo Chiang Kai Shek.
When you visit Huaqing Chi, your final destination must be Suite Wujian(五間廳 also known as Five Room Hall). It was the place where Xian Incident took place. Now it is like a mini museum. You can see the holes left on the walls by bullet shots during the gun battle. You can also see the window through which Generalissimo Chiang Kai Shek escaped up to the Li Mountain.
There you can also see the first-hand information in texts and photos, newspaper clippings etc.
Take a walk at Suite Wujiang, you’ll feel like witnessing the Xian Incident. If you would like to take a 45-minute walk, you will reach Li Mountain. A Military Exhortation Pavilion was built at where Chiang was captured.
Capturing of Generalissimo Chiang Kai Shek
It started on the chilly morning of 4am, December 12, 1936 in Suite Wujian of Huaqing Chi. Chiang Kai Shek was woken by fire shots. He sensed himself in danger and escaped out of the window on bare feet.
Zhang’s troop felt the warmth in Chiang’s bed and was sure he was somewhere nearby.
They did a thorough search on Li Mountain. Generalissimo Chiang was captured alive around 7.30am. He was found in his pajamas, cold and shoeless in a small cave. During the process, he shouted at the soldier “I am your Commander-in-Chief”. The soldier saluted and replied “but you are also our hostage”.
A press conference was held at 11.30am. Zhang and Yang announced the capturing of their Commander-in-Chief. At the same time, they told the public why they did it.
In the early thirties, China was in civil war between Kuomintang (KMT, lead by Chiang Kai Shek) and Chinese Communist Party (CCP, lead by Mao Zedong). At the same, we were facing Japanese invasion.
Chiang Kai Shek’s national policy was “solving external problem must come after solving internal problem”. That said before defending China against Japanese, he must defeat the CCP first.
Well, this policy didn’t seem practical, did it? Manchuria was in the hands of Japanese. They were moving further south. People in northeast China were in hot waters and couldn’t put up with Chiang's policy at all.
The two young Northeast Troop leaders Zhang and Yang had to executive Chiang’s policy by order. Somehow Chiang sensed something off track. He flew to Xian in December 4, 1936 and stayed at Suite Wujian of Huaqing Chi. He was aiming to force Zhang and Yang to execute his orders.
Xian Incident happened one week after Zhang kept crying and begging Chiang to change his policy.
Romantic story happened in Huaqing Chi ended in tragedy. However the military event happened here finished in a peaceful way. Because nature of the event was not a rebel, it was an exhortation.
Zhang and Yang announced their proposal to reform the Nanjing ROC Government. At the same time, they called upon the CCP to send their representatives to Xian. Negotiation went on between CCP and KMT to determine the fate of Chiang and China. Of course Chiang’s wife Soong May Ling played an important role.
After all, Chiang committed stop suppressing the CCP. He agreed to form a united front against Japanese. He was then released on December 25, 1936.
Xian Incident shocked the world. As a Chinese I was also shocked when I first learned about it. Events of same nature had never happened in Chinese history. If someone implied military to the king or their superior, it would be either a rebel or revolution. However Xian Incident was neither. It was an exhortation.
Chinese have lots of ways to exhort including suicide. Zhang cried for a week in Huaqing Chi to beg Chiang changing his policy. Chiang told Zhang that he would never change his mind even if Zhang suicide in front of him. Zhang therefore changed his strategy and took action to capture Chiang.
Did Chiang take revenge on Zhang and Yang? Well, here are some facts for your reference. Zhang was kept in custody for the rest of his life. Yang was killed just before KMT retreated to Taiwan.
Zhang never told more details about the incident until his death in 2001. Some facts about Xian Incident still remain mysterious with all of its parties passing away. Thus, there are controversies over the cause, process and effect of the incident.