This Day in History: The Huanggutun Incident

By Ned Kelly, June 4, 2018

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. 

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 assissination 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: Queen Elizabeth II Visits China

Joined by gaffe-prone 'Great Wally of China' Prince Philip...

This Day in History: Palace of Sino-Soviet Friendship Completed

The 'wedding cake' still stands today with a Soviet star atop its gilded spire.

This Day In History: Mao Coins Communist Slogan Serve the People

'Though death befalls all men alike, it may be weightier than Mount Tai or lighter than a feather...'

This Day In History: Small Sword Society Take Shanghai

Never underestimate an emaciated, opium smoking Cantonese ex-sugar broker...

This Day In History: Death of the Dogmeat General

The day warlord Zhang Zongchang found out that it's a dog eat dog world.

This Week In History: Central China Floods of 1931

The deadliest natural disaster ever recorded.

This Day in History: First NBA Team Plays in China

On August 24, 1979, the Washington Bullets became the first professional US sports team invited to China.

This Day in History: Shanghai Closes to Jews Fleeing Nazi Persecution

The total number Jews arriving at the open port of Shanghai by sea and land between November 1938 and 1941 is estimated at 20,000.

0 User Comments

In Case You Missed It…

We're on WeChat!

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

7 Days in Shanghai With thatsmags.com

Weekly updates to your email inbox every Wednesday

Subscribe

Download previous issues

Never miss an issue of That's Shanghai!

Visit the archives

Get the App. Your essential China city companion.