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This Month in History (December)


December 14, 1408

The Yongle Encyclopedia, commissioned by Emperor Yongle (1360-1424), was finally completed, becoming one of the world's earliest, and in the time of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the world's most famous general encyclopedia. The 22,900 volumes were compiled by more than 2,000 scholars between 1403 and 1408. The set incorporated about 8,000 works or pieces from ancient to contemporary times, and covered a wide range of subjects, including literature, history, philosophy, religion, drama, medicine and agriculture, with their sources precisely recorded.

December 8, 1633

This date marks the passing of Xu Guangqi (1562-1633), a Ming Dynasty mathematician, agricultural scientist, politician and astronomer. Xu was a trendsetter in East-West cultural exchange. He collaborated with Italian Jesuits Matteo Ricci and Sabatino de Uris on the translation of several classic Western texts into Chinese, including part of Euclid's Elements. He is also the author of the Nong Zheng Quan Shu, one of the first comprehensive agricultural treatises.

December 9, 1935

A mass student protest broke out in Beiping (present-day Beijing), which became known as the December 9th Movement. The insatiable Japanese army was already occupying Northeast China's Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces where they had established the puppet state of Manchukuo (1932-1945). At this time they were attempting to push further into North China and create another separate regime, while the Kuomintang (KMT) exercised a policy of nonresistance. Patriotic students were incited to protests and sent petitions to the KMT leadership, demanding it stop the civil war and join forces with the Communist Party to fight the Japanese invasion, preventing the establishment of another puppet government in North China. During the protest over 100 students were injured and more than 30 arrested, but the fearless action greatly encouraged resistance to Japanese aggression around the country. Today, commemorative activities are held every year on December 9 in universities across China's mainland.

December 12, 1936

The Xi'an Incident, as it became known, occurred during the Chinese Civil War between the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party (CPC), when KMT leader Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek (1887-1975) was arrested by Marshal Zhang Xueliang (1901-2001), a former warlord of Manchuria and head of the Northeastern Army, and General Yang Hucheng (1893-1949), a former general of the Northwestern Army. Their aim was to urge Chiang to abandon civil war and jointly counter the Japanese invasion with CPC armies. The incident that shocked the world remains an important episode in Chinese modern history as it led the Nationalist and the Communist forces to set aside their differences and form a united front against the Japanese invasion.

December 13, 1937

The infamous Nanjing Massacre, the six-week-long mass murder launched by invading Japanese troops during World War II, began on this date in the capital of East China's Jiangsu Province. It left about 300,000 Chinese residents of Nanjing dead and thousands of its women raped. In 1985, to commemorate the victims, the Nanjing municipal government built the Memorial Hall for Compatriots Killed in the Nanjing Massacre by Japanese Forces of Aggression. The site is located in the southwest of the city, near the "pit of ten thousand corpses," where untold numbers of bodies were tossed during the holocaust. In 2009 film director Lu Chuan made a feature film called City of Life and Death (also known as Nanking! Nanking!). Shot in black and white, the film thrust that painful period in China's history back into public focus.

December 18, 1978

China's reform and opening-up policy came to life. The Third Plenary Session of the 11th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, convened in Beijing, destined to be a turning point in the Party's history since New China was founded in 1949. The session made the historic decision to shift the focus of the CPC's work to socialist modernization, transforming the poverty-stricken country into one of the world's largest economies in just 30 years.

December 20, 1999

The Macao hand-over ceremony took place on this date, formalizing the establishment of Macao Special Administrative Region on the same day. Administered by Portugal for over 400 years, this marked the official resumption of exercise of sovereignty over Macao by the People's Republic of China. Under a "one country, two systems" policy, the Macao people govern Macao with a high degree of autonomy.

December 11, 2001

On this date, China greatly boosted its national economy by officially joining the World Trade Organization (WTO), becoming its 143rd member. China immediately sent a delegation and an ambassador to the Geneva headquarters and has since maintained full participation in all the organization's activities.

December 27, 2002

This date saw the launch of the South-North Water Diversion Project, involving the construction of large-scale infrastructure to better distribute the water resources available to China, especially throughout China's arid and heavily populated northern areas. The project diverts water from the upper, middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River to meet demand in the parched northern cities via three routes to the east, west and center of the region.

VOL.59 NO.12 December 2010 Advertise on Site Contact Us