------Program code: DO-080912-00992 (what's this?)

Source: CCTV.com

09-12-2008 08:48

On July the 8th, 1937, Shanghai was in the midst of the hottest part of the year. After 8 am, the temperature rose relentlessly. By noon, the Oriental Hotel on Tibet Road was becoming noisy. Its new air-conditioning system made it a refuge from the overpowering heat.

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Up on the fourth floor, a north-facing room was the place where dramatist Hong Shen was living, That day, he had a lot of visitors to his room, who had come for a symposium on the state of drama in Shanghai. A major aim of the meeting was to select representatives, who would approach the authorities with a demand for an end to the censorship imposed on films and plays in the Shanghai concession. However, even by 3 pm, not everyone had turned up. Suddenly, someone burst into the room, with a newspaper in his hand: Out of breath, he cried: “Terrible news! War has broken out at Lugou Bridge!”

Meanwhile, another dramatist, 39-year-old Tian Han, was having a drink with Yang Hansheng and a few other friends in a Russian restaurant in Nanjing. On learning about the Lugou Bridge Incident, 39-year-old Tian Han immediately wrote a poem: Hearing about the Fighting at Lugou Bridge:

On the night of July the 7th 1937, a Japanese force stationed at Lugou Bridge in the western suburbs of Beijing, using the excuse of looking for one of their soldiers who had gone missing, provoked the local Chinese army into fighting. Thus they launched their long-planned full-scale invasion of China.

On the same night that he heard about the Lugou Bridge Incident, father-of-three Tian Han decided to write a play, called Lugou Bridge. He quickly did some research, then settled down to write.

The temperature in Nanjing had stayed above 35℃ for days. In the heat, Chiang Kai-shek was growing impatient.

The day after the Lugou Bridge Incident, the Communist Party of China, in an announcement to the nation, called for the setting up of an Anti-Japanese National United Front and for the CPC and KMT to cooperate in resisting the Japanese invasion. The Red Army leaders Mao Zedong, Zhu De and Peng Dehuai even sent Chiang Kai-shek a telegram, requesting that he make a stand against the Japanese in North China.

After the play Lugou Bridge was finished, Tian Han suggested several alternative locations for its premiere; the Dahua Theater, the National People’s Theater, the Capital Theater and the Xindu Theater in Nanjing. He invited his friend, 42-year-old Hong Shen to Nanjing to help him direct it. Hong Shen, in the meantime, had organized the Shanghai Playwrights Association to produce a three-act play, called Guarding Lugou Bridge. It was written by 18 dramatists, led by Hong Shen himself. At Tian Han’s invitation, Hong left for Nanjing to direct Lugou Bridge. Luguo Bridge was due to open at Nanjing’s Dahua Theater on August the 9th. Yet by 2 pm, the appointed time, nothing had happened.

While Nanjing’s Dahua Theater was staging the premiere of Lugou Bridge, the Penglai Theater, at No. 111, Xueqian Street in Shanghai, was packed with nearly a thousand people, watching the third day’s performance of Guarding Lugou Bridge. The play, performed by nearly 100 of Shanghai’s theatre and film actors, was also proving to be a huge success.

By then, the CPC and KMT had agreed to cooperate. On July the 15th, the CPC submitted the Declaration on Cooperation between the CPC and KMT. Two days later, the KMT Government recognized the Shanxi-Gansu-Ningxia Border Region Government. On August the 12th, the 40,000 soldiers of the main force of the Red Army in the northeast were reorganized as the 8th Route Army of the National Revolutionary Army. That same evening, the Penglai Theater staged Guarding Lugou Bridge for the last time. The next day, the Japanese attacked Shanghai. The Battle of Songhu had begun.

Eight days into the fighting, Shanghai’s professional film and theatre actors and amateur theatrical staff held a meeting at the Carlton Theater. They agreed to establish the Shanghai Drama Association for Saving the Nation. It consisted of 13 performing troupes, which would leave Shanghai for various destinations across China. They would use drama to encourage people to take up arms against the Japanese. Only Troupes No. 10 and 12 remained in Shanghai. Performance Troupe No. 2, which was destined for Nanjing, was led by Hong Shen, director of Lugou Bridge.

Guo Moruo, who had been forced to flee to Japan several years before due to his opposition to Chiang Kai-shek, had returned two weeks earlier, by the Japanese ship, The Queenr. Wanting to take part in the war effort, he had left his Japanese wife and 5 children behind. Huang Zuolin, a playwright studying in the UK, had also returned. Before his departure, his good friend, the great dramatist George Bernard Shaw, had said to Huang:

(Caption: ) Rise up, China! You are the future of the eastern world. If you have courage and determination to hold it, the future stage will be for Chinese drama. Don't follow my plays, you can create your own.

A Japanese actor Kyosuke Tomoda also arrived in China around this time. An engineer in the Japanese army, he fought in the Battle of Shanghai. Born in Tokyo in 1899, his original name was Gorou Banda . As one of Japan’s most popular actors, he had starred in plays such as Love and Deep in the Abyss.

In the Battle of Shanghai, the Chinese army put up stern resistance. The Japanese were forced to call up more men. At home in Japan, even writers and artists were being encouraged to join the war effort. Kyosuke Tomoda was one of many actors who joined the army. On the 10th day of the Battle of Shanghai, while he was crossing the Wusong River, Kyosuke Tomoda was shot and killed. His death shocked people back home in Japan. In the February 1938 Issue of Good Companions magazine, a full-page photograph of his wife Sumura appeared, with the caption, Irrevocable Past.

Voiceover: A month after Tomoda’s death, the Battle of Shanghai reached its climax. Both sides suffered heavy casualties. On October the 27th, the main Japanese force on the northern bank of the Suzhou River started to cross to the southern bank. In order to protect his army’s withdrawal, Lieutenant Colonel Xie Jinyuan, commanding the 524th regiment of the 88th division, led his men in a courageous defence of the Sihang Warehouse on the northern bank of the Suzhou River. For 4 days and nights, the regiment repelled repeated Japanese attacks. They would later become known as the “Eight Hundred Heroes”.

Soon afterwards, Cui Wei and Wang Zhenzhi from the No. 1 Performance Troupe of the Shanghai Drama Association for Saving the Nation, began work on a play about the Battle of Sihang Warehouse, called Eight Hundred Heroes. Performed in Wuhan and several other places, it had a major effect on encouraging soldiers and civilians to rise up against the Japanese. Meanwhile, in north China, however, the Japanese were slaughtering soldiers and civilians in the provinces of Shanxi, Hebei and Shandong.