Proud concrete warriors

Source:Global Times Published: 2013-9-9 18:58:01

Chinese sculptor Li Chunhua sits among his sculptures of soldiers from the China Expeditionary Force (CEF) at a memorial park on Songshan Mountain in Longling county, Yunnan Province. Photo: IC

Chinese sculptor Li Chunhua sits among his sculptures of soldiers from the China Expeditionary Force (CEF) at a memorial park on Songshan Mountain in Longling county, Yunnan Province. Photo: IC

Sculptures of CEF soldiers are displayed at the memorial park on Songshan Mountain. Photo: IC

Sculptures of CEF soldiers are displayed at the memorial park on Songshan Mountain. Photo: IC

 

A daughter of Chinese general Duan Guojie from the CEF weeps in front of a sculpture of her father. Photo: CFP

A daughter of Chinese general Duan Guojie from the CEF weeps in front of a sculpture of her father. Photo: CFP

Above: A CEF veteran takes photo with a sculpture of himself. Photo: IC

Above: A CEF veteran takes photo with a sculpture of himself. Photo: IC

While the thousands of 2,200-year-old Terracotta Warriors attract constant visitors from home and abroad in Northwest China, an army of 402 concrete warriors was erected silently 2,000 kilometers away on a mountain in Longling county, Southwest China's Yunnan Province.

Differing from the Xi'an warriors guarding their emperor's tomb, the concrete ones were set up to commemorate the Chinese Expeditionary Force (CEF), which was established in 1942 to halt a Japanese plot to cut off the Yunnan-Myanmar road, the only one supply route from Allied territory to China during World War II.

After fixing the head to the last warrior on September 2 at Songshan Mountain, a significant site reclaimed by Chinese forces after a three-month fight in which 4,000 Chinese soldiers died, sculptor Li Chunhua from Guangdong's city of Foshan felt relieved. After three years of efforts with several assistants and at a personal cost of 2 million yuan ($327,000), his dream to "resist oblivion through sculpture" finally came true.

The replica army, with each soldier being up to two meters tall and weighing up to a ton, is divided into 12 types, including child soldiers, infantry and artillery troops. Joseph Warren Stilwell (1883-1946), a US general who commanded the allied forces in the war and the CEF commander Wei Lihuang (1897-1960) are also depicted. In addition, 28 soldiers who are still alive also stand among their brothers-in-arms.

One veteran Shao Yingren, 91, who moved to Taiwan in 1950, almost burst into tears when he first saw the sculpture of himself, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

Li Chunhua got the idea for the sculptures while watching a documentary about the CEF in 2005. Starting in 2011, he began to collect historical materials and paid visits to the CEF veterans.

"When I told them my plan, the veterans kept saluting me. They feel their contribution was finally being recognized. This touched me the most as we should be saluting them," Li told the Global Times on Tuesday.

"The veterans waited too long. I want to use art to bring them overdue care and appreciation," he said.

On September 3, with hundreds of doves being released into the sky and with 13 veterans in attendance, the 402 sculptures atop Songshan mountain were officially unveiled.

Li expects the park to become a popular memorial site for visitors, rather than just being for CEF soldiers and their offspring.

Soon, Li will start his next creation, sculpting figures from the Battle of Changde, Hunan Province, a major action in 1943 against Japanese troops which saw the use of biological and chemical weapons.

"It's meaningful to remember this period of strong Chinese unity against outside invasion. What's more important is that I hope the warriors can help enhance national cohesiveness toward rejuvenation," Li noted.

Global Times

Posted in: In-Depth

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