Saturday, April 30, 2016

Museum of the War of Chinese People's Resistance Against Japanese Aggression

After visiting the bridge I entered the grounds to the old Wanping fort. One thing I was immediately impressed with was that the city walls had remained, largely, intact. This is strange because just about everything in Beijing, regardless of historical significance, gets torn down in the name of progress. It was kind of cool to be in the old walls. I walked quite a bit to the museum itself and when I arrived at the front gate I was told to go to a small side booth to buy a ticket. Inside they asked for ID. I didn’t have my passport, but I did have a copy, which they took down the information from and issued me a ticket, no charge. I was then directed to go around the side of the building to enter from a somewhat basement entryway. At first I thought, oh, this is going to be bad. Most of the display was poorly reproduced pictures, no English text. After milling about there for a few minutes I saw people where ascending a stair so I followed and ended up in the main part of the museum.
The museum is indeed quite big and actually well put together. Displays of relics, lengthy descriptions, many in English were all around. As I walked around the museum I was kind of expecting some ultra nationalistic displays, but that didn’t really happen. Most displays were straightforward. Many other tourists were there as well and I got a couple of “Haaallooo” from visiting students as well as two gents who asked to take a picture with me. At a tourist attraction, even the tourists themselves can be something to see. I like to think I am hanging on that gents wall somewhere, maybe his office, and he tells people about the business ties he has or something like that.

I was getting to the end of the museum and thinking, oh, that wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be and then I came across it. In the last room before the exit, there is a display of Japanese and Chinese relations over the years and how those relations have gotten better, but also ways in which Japan has provoked China. One of the first displays says, “The pursuit for peace and harmony has been deeply imprinted in the spirit of the Chinese nation and melted in the blood of the Chinese people.” Ok, great. Then a nearby panel states, “The painful memories of the Japanese invasion remains fresh in the memories of the Chinese people.” So which is it, have the  Chinese people forgiven the past or are they still holding on to painful memories? The hall was a sour end to the museum, which was largely impartial. Relations between China and Japan are provoked by both sides, but most Japanese people couldn’t care less about China. The only times I every heard anything about it was when the ultra nationalistic citizens black bus rolled around, slogans coming from their loud speakers, but the thing is that every person I talked to about that bus said they were nutters and did not represent Japan.
On the other hand, since I have been in Beijing I have been discomforted by China’s unhealthy obsession with relations with Japan and other nations. As China has gained power, they have also started to push. Push to forget China’s past, push their territory in the South China Sea, and push for a better international standing. This hasn't gone down too well with everyone outside of China, but in China it has created solidarity among the citizens and I would guess an external enemy on which to vent their frustrations, rather than the party. 
I've had a number of people, unprovoked, tell me they don't like Japanese people. I've seen bumper stickers denouncing Japan. Of course, this fall there was the celebration of anniversary of the end of the war with Japan which was understandably a momentous occasion for China to celebrate, but to have a military parade to mark the event was beyond the pale. 
The other day I was having breakfast and reading the China Daily when I came across this op-ed piece, about the upcoming visit from a Japanese politician. It was incredibly sour in its tone.
If you look at the article in the China Daily you get phrases like, "To put an end to the finger pointing circle, Japan, first of all, must stop encroaching upon China's strategic interests... because China is willing to and well capable of safeguarding its sovereignty." Hearing, seeing, and experiencing things like this in China really make me questions if, “The pursuit for peace and harmony has been deeply imprinted in the spirit of the Chinese nation..."

Marco Polo Bridge

A few months ago I visited the Museum of the War of Chinese People's Resistance Against Japanese Aggression. I had been waiting for a day when I had lots of free time and the air was nice. This is a rare combo in Beijing, but it finally came. It took me quite a while to get there as its on the south west side of Beijing and where I live is on the north east, basically as far opposite as one can get. When I arrived at the nearest subway station I wasn’t quite sure if I was in the right place, but I did finally arrive at the Marco Polo bridge. The bridge dates back to 1189 and is somewhat famous in the modern context because it is where the Japanese invaded Beijing and in an ancient context because Marco Polo commented on it in his travels, hence the modern unofficial name. The bridge itself has been restored and looks quite nice. Lucky for me there were not too many people there so I got a little quiet time. One thing I was a bit perplexed by, the maps show a river that the bridge crosses, but it was more like a pond. One end of the river was clearly dry. Why build a bridge? Seriously though, Beijing is getting drier and drier. Maybe someday in the near future the bridge will span a sand dune. When I looked this up I came across the gem of a description, In recent years, the water of Yongding River has been diverted to different areas of Beijing so often there is no water under the bridge.Apparently there is not so much water under the bridge (Ba-dam-ching!!), because right across the street was the war museum.