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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Cai Tingkai - the national hero from Lingnan Lau, Wing-Hong

Abstract

On 28th January 1932, Cai Tingkai ([Chinese Characters]) (1892-1968), and Jiang Guangnai ([Chinese Characters]) (1888-1967) led the Chinese 19th Route Army to fight the Japanese in Shanghai for 33 days and became instant household names among the Chinese. The battle was known as the 1.28 Incident. Lloyd Eastman in 1974 pointed out that historians from then onwards would have difficulties in deciding who is the greater among the two. In the thesis I shall argue that Cai Tingkai is a military hero comparable to Yue Fei ([Chinese Characters]) (1103-1142). My thesis will explicate why, on the heel of patriotism and regionalism Cai became a national hero in the 1930s. In China, military hero often belongs to a period of unrest and warfare, whose single-minded sincerity and faith in his cause will not allow him to escape and compromise in face of a challenge. His courage, sense of destiny and duty guide him forward, but he is tied to the losing side that will eventually doom him. In 1932 Cai took the cause so common among heroes: in practical term the struggle has been futile, and in many instances, even counter-productive. Cai lived in a period when the old social order had disintegrated. It was a good opportunity for regionalism to manifest itself: the North was China's traditional political center of authority and orthodoxy, but in the 1930s the South generated a current to challenge it. Unknown to Cai, he was a participant as well as a creator of that historical current. Cai discarded his Guomindang (GMD) ([Chinese Characters]) identity in November 1933, but he never was a Communist. Because he was a non-conformist in the GMD, his historical position as a national hero has been undeservedly played down by the Nanjing regime. Also, because of his former GMD identity, for political reasons, he is unlikely to be remembered as a national hero in Mainland China. The purpose of this thesis is to put Cai back to the right place in the annuals of history.

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