History Lessons

Nicholas Quirke was absorbing the fact by the end of the day on 18 July 2021 he had covered 4 Provinces by train in as many days. He had left Inner Mongolia for Heilongjiang and the city of Harbin which, was swiftly followed by a stop in Jilin and its capital Changchun and now he was ending his day in Shenyang and the province of LIaoning. Though Changchun had few charms, his main reason for wanting to visit the city was to see the Imperial Palace of Manchukuo, the official residence created in 1931 by the Japanese, in an attempt to give legitimacy to their occupation, for China’s last emperor Puyi to live in as part of his role as Emperor of the puppet state Manchukuo the area of modern-day Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces which, were historically known as Manchuria. The palace was the actual setting in Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1987 biographical film of Puyi, The Last Emperor, depicting Puyi’s reign as Emperor of Manchukuo. With the entrance fee came an exhibition ‘From Emperor to Citizen’ that proved to be a fascinating perspective to see the deposed Emperors life from. He had seen the film and read the biography and he had always felt a little sorry for treatment the last emperor had received at the hands of the communists, but after the lessons he had learned of his trip through the north east he deemed the pawn of the Japanese jolly lucky not to have not been executed. He had promulgated reactionary imperial edicts and laws and colluded with the invaders in the cruel torture and murder of people in the region. It was easy to see why he was a criminal in the eyes of the Chinese people and ten years reeducation was a lenient sentence for the man who eventually served a useful purpose in society. He had been pleased to see that shared bikes were available, though unlike most schemes the bikes had to be locked and parked in specific areas and not just left outside the station or place he was visiting. Therefore, when he got to the palace and couldn’t find where to put the velocipede he was horrified by the reaction of the officer he asked for assistance. The guard literally ran away from him in horror and refused to help. Nicholas was so incensed by the behaviour that he photographed the bigot, indiscriminately parked his unlocked bike and when he bought his ticket he made a formal complaint to their customer service. They apologised profusely and he didn’t let the incident colour his enjoyment of the surprisingly spare accommodation. He had a train to catch and was surprised that when he left the compound the unlocked bike was still there and he returned to the subway on the vehicle encountering yet another mysteriously hidden parking space. Peng came to the rescue and managed to lock the bike through the app and he didn’t get a fine. It was only an hour train ride to Shenyang and he had time to fit in a relic. As home to the Qing Dynasty family there was plenty to see, but he chose as his first visit Zhang’s Marshal Mansion, the official residence of Zhang Zuolin and his son Zhang Xueliang, a warlord of Feng Faction. To his amusement the translation of the buildings in the east and west courts are referred to as the Large and small brothels. Although it only dates from 1914, three years after the founding of the republic of China it was the history of the incumbents he found fascinating and strangely moved by. It is also home to the National Fengtian Library housing Chinese thread-bound books including Wensuge’s ” Siku Quanshu”. ” and part of the archives of the Ministry of War of the Ming Dynasty and the Qing Dynasty. Zhang Zuolin was an influential Chinese bandit, soldier, and warlord during the Warlord Era in China and briefly became the military dictator of the Republic of China in 1927. He invaded and gained control of Peking but his success was quickly followed by defeat at the hands of the National Revolutionary Army of the Kuomintang under Chiang Kai-shek and in early June 1928 he was assassinated and killed by a bomb planted by the Japanese Kwantung Army which, made way for the eventual invasion of Manchuria. His son Chang Hsüeh-liang was the effective ruler of Northeast China after the assassination of his father and though was known as a womanizer and an opium addict, he surprisingly proved to be more independent and skilled than anyone had expected. He was an instigator of the 1936 Xi’an Incident, in which Chiang Kai-shek was arrested in order to force him to enter into a truce with the insurgent Communist Party of China and form a united front against Japan. As a result, he spent over 50 years under house arrest by Chiang, first in mainland China and then in Taiwan. He is regarded by the Communist Party of China as a patriotic hero for his role. Under house arrest for forty years in a Villa in Taipei he spent his time studying Ming dynasty literature, the Manchu language, collecting Chinese fan paintings, calligraphy and other works of art by illustrious artists. Zhang and his wife, Edith, became devout Christians and after Chiang Kai-Shek’s death in 1975, his freedom was officially restored and he immigrated to Honolulu where he died of pneumonia at the age of 100. The CCP pleaded with gab him to return to China but he refused citing his close connections with the KMT but so highly is he regarded he was given the nickname “Hero of History” because of his desire to reunite China and rid it of Japanese invaders and the atheneum had even charmingly recreated his apartment in Hawaii in the building. Nicholas had immersed himself thoroughly in the narrative of the museum and was surprised when he heard the announcements that he had to leave as it was closing. He also realised how hungry he was and as both Jieyu, who had been a student in Shenyang and Peng had sourced suitable restaurants for him he went to eat. The restaurant he chose was a Buddha vegan Buffet style and he liberally filled his plate with food. He had two iced teas at the hotel and exhausted by the pace he had set himself retired for a good nights sleep.

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