Tomb of General Zhang Zizhong, Beibei District, Chongqing

Zhang Zizhong was a general of the Chinese National Revolutionary Army during the Anti-Japanese War. On the 16th of May 1940, he was killed in a battle at Shilichangshan, a small village in the region of Hubei. Titled the highest-ranking Chinese officer to die in combat throughout the war, he has evolved into the most celebrated Chinese martyr of the ‘War of Resistance against Japan’.

Remembered as a fierce and determined fighter, Zizhong rose to fame after his involvement as a commander in the first major victory against the Japanese in 1938. After his death on the battlefield two years later, his notoriety as a military leader led the Japanese Army to carefully wash his body and bury him in an embankment in a wooden coffin. When the Chinese recaptured the battleground, Zizhong’s body was recovered and transported to a nearby village for preparation of a traditional burial. What followed was a nationwide expression of grief and memorialisation for the General.

The funeral procession passed over 400 miles and took almost one whole week to reach Zizhong’s final resting place at Chongqing. Hundreds and thousands of people turned out along the way to pay their respects, make offerings and mourn the passing of a national hero. Buried within a tomb made of and boulder strip and bluestone at a place called Shuangboshu, the final official memorial was attended by numerous high level leaders, including Chiang Kai-shek and Zhou Enlai. A tablet was erected at the front of the tomb with the words ‘Immortal Martyr’ inscribed on the front.

At the conclusion of the war, Zhizhong was further memorialised in the form of street names countrywide, being featured in school textbooks, having scholarships named after him and even the production of a musical album that featured songs that celebrated his life. Following the victory of the communists, the commemoration of wartime heroics slowly vanished from the public sphere. For many years the history of the Anti-Japanese War was played down and instead the victories of the communist party was celebrated. Gradually throughout the 1980s, after Mao Zedong’s death, the government once again commemorated the victories of the Chinese military, including those of Zhang Zizhong.

Since 1985, official memorial ceremonies have been held at the tomb of Zizhong. Each year on tomb sweeping day (held in April), hundreds of local people pay their respects to General Zizhong and remember his role in the war against the Japanese.

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