(The following post is by Yuwu Song, Chinese Reference Specialist, Asian Division).
The Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945), also known as the Chinese War of Resistance Against Japan, refers to the war that took place between China and Japan from the 1930s to the 1940s. The war was the first and longest site of conflict in Asia during World War II. Its origins can be traced back to September 18, 1931, when the Imperial Japanese Army invaded Manchuria. Several years later, all-out war started on July 7, 1937, following the Marco Polo Bridge Incident just outside of Beijing.
The Library of Congress holds thousands of items related to the war in different languages and formats. Among these items are 2,100 rarely seen hand-written letters, booklets, and scrolls in Chinese that were created in wartime China. Transferred to the Library in 1945 from the United States Office of War Information, these letters, together with some additional items, form a unique collection in the Asian Division titled “Collection of Wartime Messages from China to the American People (1943-1945) and Other Materials.”
These letters, mostly written from 1944 to 1945, were sent as tributes from the Chinese people to President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the American people. According to one of the letters, Chinese author Lin Yutang returned from the United States to China’s wartime capital of Chongqing on September 22, 1943. He brought back with him a letter from the youth of New York City greeting the youth of China. The letter was soon published in several Chinese newspapers. In the spring of 1944, the national government of China began to mobilize and organize government agencies, civic groups, businesses, and schools to write letters of appreciation and gratitude to the people and the government of the United States. The letters were intended to commemorate the third anniversary of the U.S. entry into World War II and to thank the Americans for their strong moral, material and military support for China to resist Japan. They expressed the hope that the Allies would defeat the Axis Powers and win the war quickly and that world peace would be restored soon.
The majority of letter-writers were secondary school students from various regions (see below). Some prominent organizations and individuals from the Republic of China also participated in this activity. With representative individuals included in parentheses where applicable, examples include the Central Propaganda Department (Liang Hancao), National Government Examination Yuan (Dai Chuanxian), Bank of China (Kong Xiangxi), National Council of Government (Shao Lizi), Chinese National Diplomatic Association (Wu Tiecheng), Chinese Labor Association (Zhu Xuefan), Chahar Provincial Government (Feng Qinya), Central Political School, Tibetan Panchen Office in Beijing, Chinese Buddhist Association (Taixu), Chinese Muslim Association, China Wartime Child Care Association, China Airlines, China Travel Service, the Republic of China Current Affairs Newspaper Publishing House, China Finance Society, and the International Anti-Aggression Movement China Chapter. Most of these 2,100 letters are in Chinese, except for a few letters written in English. In addition, there is one letter written in Tibetan. It is worth noting that one letter from Yuhua Factory of Textiles in Chongqing was signed by 3,000 workers besides Su Taiyu, the Chair of the Board, and Wang Wenzhu, the General Manager.
One example of the letters was one written and signed by Dai Chuanxian, President of the National Government Examination Yuan as “A Tribute to the American People on the Third Anniversary of the U.S. Entry into WWII”:
Dear American Friends:
Although China and the United States are separated by thousands of miles in the Pacific Ocean, the two peoples share the same love of peace and the same spirit of justice. Since the treaty of commerce was signed between the two countries, our friendship has become more and more solid. Tyrannical Imperial Japan has become more and more aggressive to annex China, dominate East Asia, and then conquer the world. For fifty years, they have kept invading our country and have been severely condemned by our friends. After the war of resistance against Japan started in China, the American government and people, under the leadership of President Roosevelt, were able to distinguish between right and wrong and to administer justice, offering sympathy and assistance to us on the one hand, and sanctioning Japan as much as possible on the other, in the hope that the Japanese warlords would repent for their wickedness. Three years ago today, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and the United States became our great ally, fighting side by side against the aggressors in the world. Since then, the friendship between China and the United States has become more and more strengthened.
According to the authors’ places of residence or origin as stated in the letters, people from more than 17 provinces and regions across China participated in writing the greetings, the majority of whom came from Southwestern China, the rear areas in wartime China: Chongqing, Sichuan Province, Gansu Province, Guangxi Province, and Guizhou Province. A rough calculation is as follows:
1. Anhui (30 letters)
2. Chongqing area (387 letters)
3. Fujian (13 letters)
4. Gansu (188 letters)
5. Guangxi (87 letters)
6. Guizhou (214 letters)
7. Henan (17 letters)
8. Hubei (42 letters)
9. Jiangsu (1 letter)
10. Jiangxi (57 letters)
11. Qinghai (16 letters)
12. Shandong (3 letters)
13. Shaanxi (2 letters)
14. Sichuan (162 letters)
15. Tibet (1 letter)
16. Yunnan (5 letters)
17. Government agencies and social organizations (88 letters)
18. Region not identified (767 letters)
To view the “Collection of Wartime Messages from China to the American People (1943-1945) and Other Materials” by appointment, please contact Chinese reference librarians through Ask a Librarian. This Collection is part of the Chinese Rare Book Collection. Readers may use it according to the Asian Reading Room Rare Book Policy.