By Xinhua writers Bai Xu, Lyu Qiuping
BEIJING, July 6 (Xinhua) -- Lugou Bridge, about 15 km southwest of Beijing's city center, is a quiet place, but the bullet-riddled wall of the nearby fortress serves as a reminder of the infamous conflict here 77 years ago.
Also known as Marco Polo Bridge after the Venetian traveler who praised its architecture, the 800-year-old stone structure saw the beginning of China's eight-year resistance against Japanese invasion.
Before the anniversary of the "July 7 Incident" which marked the start of the war, Xinhua reporters spoke to locals about their memories of the era and the fate of the bridge since then. We found that, while it at one point fell into a state of disrepair, the bridge and its surrounding area have now been preserved as powerful monuments for the Chinese people.
MEMORIES OF TRAUMA
Seventy-seven years ago, Yang Shufang was relaxing in the summer heat. The 91-year-old's home was then four kilometers from the fortress, or Wanping Town.
"We heard gun shots," she recalled. "At first, I thought it was shooting practice, but then someone shouted, 'The Japanese are coming'."
Another elderly woman, 83-year-old Zhou Rui, lived by the bridge in 1937. She can still recall her fright after the gun shots. "We found shelter under the bed," she told Xinhua. "We had no watch and thus couldn't tell how long we hid."
The shots heralded the July 7 Incident, which later led to all-out war.
International opinion is divided on what exactly happened, but most in China believe that on that evening, the Japanese army present at Lugou Bridge for a military maneuver insisted on entering Wanping Town to search for a missing soldier. When their demand was rejected, they attacked the Chinese troops, who fought back. However, the Chinese soldiers were outnumbered and ill-equipped. In less than a month, Beijing was taken over by the Japanese.
Several Japanese soldiers soon went to Zhou's house for accommodation.
Yang became a refugee, fleeing all the way to south China, and then the east. "There were so many refugees," she said. "Some were killed in bombing by the Japanese army, while some died as their ships capsized."
She had no income. "Some young women died after gang rapes in factories run by the Japanese," according to Yang. In the hope of avoiding trouble by hiding their beauty, she and her friends covered their faces with soot before going out. But Yang's youngest brother died of shock, after a Japanese soldier pointed his gun at him.
In 1945, the Japanese invaders finally surrendered. Yang cooked fish and made dumplings in celebration as people partied around her.