The Northern Expedition

2017-04-28 12:00:58 , Source : The Government Website of Shaanxi Province

In the beginning of the 20th century, Shaanxi and the whole of China were brewing tremendous changes. Many historical events happened here, such as the Xi’an Uprising, the Constitution Protection Movement against Yuan Shikai, Yang Hucheng and Li Huchen Guarding Xi’an City against the Northern Warlords, the Weihua (Weinan and Huaxian) Uprising, and the Xi’an Incident. As the holy land of the revolution, Yan’an in Shaanxi became the command center for the national revolution and was worshipped by the masses. Numerous people with lofty ideals, together with heroes and martyrs, cultivated the loess and composed heroic and glorious pieces of music with patriotic zeal and enthusiasm. Shaanxi, which had been gradually losing its prominent status since the Tang Dynasty, once again, became the center of Chinese politics and the focus of the world’s attention.

On October 10, 1911, a historical revolution, the Revolution of 1911, broke out in Wuchang. On October 22, Shaanxi revolutionists coordinated with Gelaohui, launched an uprising under the leadership of Zhang Fenghui, and restored Xi’an City after two days of fighting. Shaanxi took the lead in response to the Wuchang Uprising, being the first province in Northern China and the second province in China to take action to support the uprising (the other one was Hunan).

The successful uprising in Xi’an was a heavy political and military blow to the Qing Dynasty and provided effective support for the new revolutionary government in the South. It quickened the arrival of the revolutionary upsurge, promoted the development of the revolutionary situation in northern areas and in the whole country, accelerated the collapse of the Qing Dynasty, and left a glorious page in the history of the Revolution of 1911.

On December 12, 1915, Yuan Shikai announced the restoration of the monarchy, regardless of the historical trend towards democracy, which led to a great wave of fighting against the restoration of the monarchy, support for the republic and crusades against Yuan Shikai. Shaanxi was one of the five provinces regarded as Yuan’s bases, and yet it was the sixth province to declare independence after Yunnan, Guizhou, Guangxi, Guangdong and Zhejiang. The victory in the war against Yuan and the banishment of Lu Jianzhang (Lu was Yuan Shikai’s crony who was in charge of military affairs in Shaanxi) accelerated the demise of Yuan, increased the momentum of fighting against him and protected the country.

On June 6, 1916, Yuan Shikai died with worry and fear of objections from the people of the whole country. Duan Qirui, the Anhui Clique warlord, became Prime Minister of the Northern Warlords Government of China. In opposition to Duan’s dictatorship, as well as to his dissolution of parliament and refusal to restore The Provisional Constitution, Sun Yat-sen raised the banner to protect the constitution in Guangzhou on July 19, 1917, thus beginning the war to protect the constitution. In January 1918, the Shaanxi Jingguo Army (literally meaning the army for pacifying the state) was established in Sanyuan. Under the leadership of Yu Youren, Jing Wumu and Hu Jingyi, the Shaanxi Jingguo Army, which was only based in several counties in the north of Weinan County and lacked money and firearms, resisted several besiegements from the coalition warlord forces of five northern provinces and kept fighting for five years. Although it was eventually defeated, its important position in the revolutionary movement in modern times can not be ignored. It was the only northern military political power responding to Sun Yat-sen’s Constitution Protection Movement and had a significant impact on the movement as well. It conformed to the fact that people were against the northern warlord’s dictatorship, to the historical trend that people were for a true democratic republic; and it supported the Constitution Protection Movement in the South. Therefore, it made an indelible achievement in the history of China’s democratic revolutions.

In July 1926, China’s National Revolutionary Army, the representative of progressive forces, started the Northern Expedition from Southern China, fighting against the northern warlords in control of northern China. On the eve of the war, Xi’an became an important military city for the northern warlords. In the spring of 1926, with the Zhensong Army under the Henan warlord Liu Zhenhua as their main force, the Northern Warlords organized 100,000 troops who burned and looted their way to Xi’an, soon surrounding the city. Although there were fewer than 10,000 troops in Xi’an City, led by General Yang Hucheng and General Li Huchen, soldiers and civilians fought against the common enemy together, and crushed the attacks again and again in extremely difficult conditions to protect the city. The war to protect Xi’an City took place at a time when the Northern Expedition, under the cooperation between the KMT (the Nationalist Party) and the CPC (Communist Party of China), was ongoing. The protection of the city was significant in that it stalled the Northern Warlord force of 100,000 troops so that Wu Peifu could not get a lot of manpower and material resources from the northwest supplement and it threatened the Zhili Clique in the Central Plains, Hunan, and Hubei so that Wu Peifu’s attempt to gain a firm foothold in Luoyang failed, thus supporting the Northern Expedition. Therefore, the war to protect Xi’an was an important part of the first revolutionary war.

Yu Youren’s cursive works

It is worth noting that, Yu Youren, the former military commander of the Shaanxi Jingguo Army and the deputy commander of the National Army in the war to protect Xi’an, whose homeland was in Sanyuan County, Shaanxi. Being later known as the pioneer of the democratic revolution and the senior KMT officer, he was a calligraphist and poet because of his profound knowledge of traditional Chinese culture and beloved calligraphy. He was especially good at the calligraphy style combining Weibei (the style of calligraphy typified by inscriptions carved on the stone tablets of the Northern Wei Dynasty) and Xingshu (running script). In addition, he absorbed the calligraphy styles of others and created his own standard cursive, which not only improved the cursive standardization but also provided a good model for understanding, learning, and appreciating cursive. For this scene, he was called “Contemporary Saint of the Cursive Style”, “Calligraphy Sage of Modern Times” and “one of the three milestones in the history of Chinese calligraphy”.

When the Northern Expedition approached Central China, the national coalition forces were stationed in Xi’an. The cooperation between the Chinese communists and the KMT leftists enabled the revolutionary movement in Shaanxi to develop rapidly. On March 10, 1927, Sun Yat-sen College was officially inaugurated under the headquarters of National Army as well as the Northwest Temporary Political Committee. Known as the highest revolutionary institution in Northwest China, the college was established on the basis of the former State Northwest University. Liu Hanchu, a communist, was appointed president, and Li Zizhou was the vice president and chief of general affairs. The college trained more than 1,000 students. In May, 1927, communists Shi Kexuan and Deng Xiaoping founded the Sun Yat-sen Military and Political Academy in Xi’an, training a large number of those who were the backbone of the revolution. At that time, it enjoyed a reputation as “Huangpu Military Academy in Northwestern China” and “No.2 Huangpu Military Academy.” The peasant revolution around Xi’an was also booming at this time, and echoed the peasant revolutions in Hunan and Hubei. During this period, Xi’an became the revolutionary base for all provinces in the north, echoing the southern base in Guangzhou, and adding a glorious chapter in modern Chinese history.

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