Xian Incident documents at Bonhams



2015-06-26 10:36:23

Xian Incident documents at Bonhams

Bonhams will present a selection of significant papers relating to the Xi’an incident, a pivotal moment in recent Chinese history, in a December 11th auction.

The Xi’an Incident, December 12-24, 1936, occurred due to a Nationalist Chinese General Zhang Xueliang placed Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek under house arrest, in order to persuade the communist forces led by Mao Zedong to cease hostilities and join forces against the invading Japanese army.

Earlier that year, Chiang Kai-shek had become suspicious of Zhang’s intentions. He travelled to Xi’an to test the loyalty of Zhang’s Nationalist forces, and to attack nearby Communist troops.

Zhang Xueliang attempted to convince Chiang to temporarily join forces with the Communist army, in order to resist the Japanese. He refused to be convinced, and so on December 12, 1936, Zhang stormed his headquarters and arrested him.

While described as a treasonous coup, really this act was forced negotiation. Chiang was kept under house arrest for two weeks, while Zhang communicated with the Communists to discuss China’s fate. An informal agreement was reached and internal hostilities ceased, allowing for successful resistance against the Japanese army.

Zhang Xueliang was arrested and tried following Chiang’s release, and after ten years in prison, spent the greater part of the rest of his life under house arrest.

These papers, including documents signed by Mao Zedong and other high-ranking Chinese officials of the Communist party, came into the hands of an American ex-Hollywood stunt man, now mechanic and co-pilot working for Zhang Xueliang, Hyland ‘Bud’ Lyon. At Zhang’s request, Lyon acted as a bodyguard for his wife and son while Zhang was in prison. Lyon returned to Los Angeles in 1941 with these letters, now made available to the public for the first time.

A highlight among the documents is a three page letter to Zhang Xueliang signed by Mao Zedong and Peng Duhuai from April 1936, suggesting that Communist and Nationalist forces should work together to resist the Japanese invasion, estimated at $300,000-$500,000.

A letter to Zhang sent by the Chinese Communist Party presents a detailed plan to pressure Chiang Kai-shek to co-operate. It is valued at $200,000-$300,000. Two copies of a peace accord, signed by Mao Zedong and prepared for Zhang Xueliang’s signature, were presented instead by Zhang to Chiang for his signature during his confinement, are estimated to sell for $500,000-$700,000. An archive of letters, documents, and over 10,000 photos taken by Hyland ‘Bud’ Lyon in China throughout 1935-1941 are expected to fetch $60,000-$80,000.

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