This Day in History: Mukden Tiger Warlord Assassinated by Japan

By Ned Kelly, June 4, 2021

0 0

On June 4, 1928, a train carrying warlord Zhang Zuolin from Beijing to Shenyang was ripped apart by a huge explosion, mortally wounding the ‘Mukden Tiger,’ in what is now dubbed the Huanggutun Incident.

Following the Xinhai Revolution of 1911, China had fractured into military cliques, ushering in a period known today as the Warlord Era. It was within this shaky societal structure that Zhang went from a poor village urchin known by the nickname ‘pimple,’ by way of a bandit gang, to become the supreme ruler of Manchuria.

His was a power supported by the Empire of Japan, who had hungry eyes on the region’s largely untapped natural resources. Zhang agreed to provide security for extensive Japanese economic interests, suppressing Manchuria’s endemic banditry problem, while the Imperial Japanese Army assisted him in resisting uprisings by rival factions. 

READ MORE: Train Robbing Bandits and the Lincheng Outrage

Zuolin.jpg
‘Mukden Tiger’ Zhang Zuolin

But Zhang’s ambition was not sated, and in his adventurism, overtaxed Manchuria. Despite capturing Beijing in June 1926 – and proclaiming himself Grand Marshal of the Republic of China – the economy collapsed in the winter of 1927-28. The Nationalists, led by Chiang Kai-shek (and backed by the Soviet Union, Tokyo’s strategic rival) attacked his forces in May 1928, and Zhang was forced into retreat. 

Infuriated by his failure to stop the advance, Japanese militarists decided it was time to replace Zhang with a less self-interested puppet, applying pressure on him to return to Manchuria. As Zhang’s train reached Huanggutun on the outskirts of Shenyang and passed beneath the Japanese-operated South Manchuria Railroad, a bomb planted on the bridge exploded.

The assassination failed to have the desired effect. Zhang’s own son, Zhang Xueliang, quietly carried out a policy of reconciliation with Chiang Kai-shek, which left him as recognized ruler of Manchuria instead of Japan’s  preferred successor, General Yang Yuting, considerably weakening Japan's political position in Northeast China. They were forced to wait several years before creating another episode to justify the Invasion of Manchuria, the Mukden Incident of September 1931.

Click here for more history stories.

more news

This Day In History: Korean War's Operation Big Switch

The repatriation of remaining prisoners from both sides of the Korean War came with a few surprises.

This Day in History: The Foreign Founder Member of the CPC

The Dutch socialist who attended the First National Congress of the CPC.

This Day in History: China's Otherworldly 'Alien Sky Spiral' of 1981

A giant spiral in the sky, a spiral allegedly seen by 10 million people in Sichuan and Yunnan provinces.

This Day in History: Henry Kissinger Secretly Visits China

Half a century ago, then-US National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger flew to Beijing to meet with Chinese officials.

This Day in History: Hong Kong Handover From UK to China

On July 1, 1997, China resumed its control of Hong Kong after 156 years of British rule.

This Day in History: China Develops the Hydrogen Bomb

June 1967 sees China become the world's fourth thermonuclear power.

This Day in History: Zhu Jianhua Sets High Jump Record

On June 11, 1983 Shanghai-born high jumper Zhu Jianhua cleared 2.37m at a meet in Beijing, setting a new world record.

This Day in History: Did This Chinese Man Have Sex With an Alien?

There's strange, and then there's this story...

0 User Comments

In Case You Missed It…

We're on WeChat!

Scan our QR Code at right or follow us at ThatsBeijing for events, guides, giveaways and much more!

7 Days in Beijing With thatsmags.com

Weekly updates to your email inbox every Wednesday

Subscribe

Download previous issues

Never miss an issue of That's Beijing!

Visit the archives