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Tue, Oct 16, 2001 - Page 4 News List

Newsmakers: The life and times of Old China's `Young Marshal'

HISTORY Chang Hsueh-liang, the man who kidnapped Chiang Kai-Shek in 1936 and was then put under house arrest by the KMT until 1991, died yesterday in Honolulu

By Lindy Yeh  /  STAFF WRITER

Chang Hsueh-liang, right, has a meal with Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek shortly before the ``Xian Incident.''

TAIPEI TIMES FILE PHOTO

"Young Marshal," the embodiment of China's struggles, died yesterday at the age of 101.

Like Madame Chiang Kai-shek (蔣宋美齡), who is 104 and still lives in the US, Chang Hsueh-liang (張學良), or the "Young Marshal," was both a survivor of and key participant in the revolutionary struggles that gripped China in the early half of the last century.

Chang, who spent more than half a century under house arrest, died yesterday in Honolulu at the age of 101. Leaders on both sides of the Taiwan Strait expressed their condolences yesterday. These included Taiwan's President Chen Shui-Bian (陳水扁), his Chinese counterpart Jiang Zemin (江澤民), Taiwan's premier Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄) and KMT chairman Lien Chan (連戰).

"I don't have much praise for his role in history," commented professor Chen Yung-fa (陳永發), a historian and researcher at the Academia Sinica. "As a person, he was fine, but as a politician, he was too naive," Chen said.

Chang was born on June 4, 1901 in Liaoning province. In 1928, his father Chang Tso-lin (張作霖), known as the "Old Marshal" and the most powerful and influential warlord in Manchuria, was seriously injured in a Japanese assassination attempt. He died on June 4 of that year -- the younger Chang's birthday.

From then on, the Young Marshal always celebrated his birthday at the end of May, rather than June 4.

A military life and a complex love life

Chang's story is one of military leadership, political intrigue and a somewhat complex love life in which he eventually found a soulmate in Edith Chao (趙一荻) and a partnership of apparently intense devotion.

He was married to Yu Feng-chih (于鳳至) in 1916 in a marriage arranged by his father.

But in 1922, Chang met the 18-year-old Gu Rei-yu (谷瑞玉), daughter of a businessman in Tianjin, and married her in 1924. The Old Marshal later tacitly acquiesced to this second marriage, but his first wife never accepted it.

Relations between Chang and Gu gradually deteriorated, however, and they separated in 1927. They divorced in 1931. Gu had never been allowed to live in the Changs' family residence in Shen-yang.

Edith Chao, daughter of a vice minister of transportation, was born in Hong Kong in 1912. At the age of 16 she fell in love with the Young Marshal at first sight when they met at a ballroom dance in Tianjin.

In 1929, Chao left her family home to live with Chang, despite the fact that he already had two wives. Humiliated by his daughter's shocking move in the extremely conservative society of the time, Chao's father published a statement in a newspaper to declare that Edith Chao was no longer his daughter.

From then on, Chao and Chang remained together until Chao died last year at the age of 88.

After Chang's father had died, the Japanese took political control of Manchuria as a springboard from which to invade China.

As the leader of the Manchurian army, with hundreds of thousands of soldiers under his command, Chang Hsueh-liang realized that his army alone was still too weak to fight the Japanese. In 1928, he decided to submit to the Nationalist government under Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek's (蔣介石) leadership, with the goal of uniting the divided military forces under the command of warlords in different parts of China.

When Japan invaded Manchuria in 1931 Chang withdrew his troops from northeast China and immediately left the three provinces of Manchuria in Japanese hands, in accordance with Chiang's "no resistance policy." He became known as "the general of no resistance."

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