Battle of Pingxingguan

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Battle of Pingxingguan
Part of the Second Sino-Japanese War
115D in the Battle of Pingxing Pass.jpg
Chinese soldiers at the Battle of Pingxing Pass
DateEvening of 24 September – noon of 25 September 1937
Location Pingxingguan, Shanxi
39°20′43.98″N113°57′34.23″E / 39.3455500°N 113.9595083°E / 39.3455500; 113.9595083
Result Chinese victory
Flag of the Republic of China.svg  Republic of China

Merchant flag of Japan (1870).svg  Empire of Japan

Commanders and leaders
Lin Biao
Zhu De
Itagaki Seishiro
Units involved

Flag of the Republic of China Army.svg  National Revolutionary Army

War flag of the Imperial Japanese Army.svg  Imperial Japanese Army
6,000 troops of the 115th Division 15,000 troops (5th Division), however only certain supply troops and the 3rd Battalion of the 21st Regiment were involved in the actual ambush
Casualties and losses
~400 [1] 400–500 [1]

The Battle of Pingxingguan, commonly called the Great Victory of Pingxingguan in Mainland China, was an engagement fought on September 25, 1937, at the beginning of the Second Sino-Japanese War, between the Eighth Route Army of the Communist Party of China and the Imperial Japanese Army. [2]

Mainland China geopolitical area under the jurisdiction of the Peoples Republic of China excluding Special Administrative Regions

Mainland China, also known as the Chinese mainland, is the geopolitical as well as geographical area under the direct jurisdiction of the People's Republic of China (PRC). It includes Hainan island and strictly speaking, politically, does not include the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau, even though both are partially on the geographic mainland.

Second Sino-Japanese War military conflict between the Republic of China and the Empire of Japan from 1937 to 1945

The Second Sino-Japanese War was a military conflict fought primarily between the Republic of China and the Empire of Japan from July 7, 1937, to September 2, 1945. It began with the Marco Polo Bridge Incident in 1937 in which a dispute between Japanese and Chinese troops escalated into a battle.

Eighth Route Army

The Eighth Route Army, officially known as the 18th Army Group of the National Revolutionary Army of the Republic of China, was a group army under the command of the Chinese Communist Party, nominally within the structure of the Chinese military headed by the Chinese Nationalist Party during the Second Sino-Japanese War.


The battle resulted in the loss of 400 to 600 soldiers on both sides, but the Chinese captured 100 trucks full of supplies. The victory gave the Communists a tremendous propaganda boost. It was the only division-size battle fought by the Chinese Communists during the entire war. [2]


After the capture of Beiping (present Beijing) at the end of July 1937, Japanese forces advanced along the Beijing–Baotou Railway to Inner Mongolia. Having anticipated the move, Chiang Kai-shek had appointed the Shanxi warlord Yan Xishan as Pacification Director of Taiyuan. Theoretically Yan had authority over all the Chinese military forces in his theatre of operations, including Lin Biao's 115th Division of the Communist 8th Route Army, Liu Ruming's ex-Kuomintang troops and various Central Army contingents responsible to Chiang Kai-shek. In reality these forces operated independently from Yan's provincial army.

Beiping name of Beijing from 1928 to 1949

Beiping or Peiping, is a former name of Beijing, which means "Northern Capital". The city was called Beiping from 1368 to 1403 and from 1928 to 1949, when the Chinese capital was at Nanjing. In 1403 and again in 1949, the city's name was changed from Beiping to Beijing. From 1937 to 1945, the city under Japanese occupation served as the capital of a puppet regime and was renamed Beijing but most Chinese histories use the name Beiping for the city during that time period.

Inner Mongolia Autonomous region

Inner Mongolia or Nei Mongol, officially the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region or Nei Mongol Autonomous Region (NMAR), is one of the autonomous regions of the People's Republic of China, located in the north of the country. Its border includes most of the length of China's border with Mongolia. The rest of the Sino–Mongolian border coincides with part of the international border of the Xinjiang autonomous region and the entirety of the international border of Gansu province and a small section of China's border with Russia. Its capital is Hohhot; other major cities include Baotou, Chifeng, and Ordos.

Chiang Kai-shek Chinese politician and military leader

Chiang Kai-shek, also known as Generalissimo Chiang or Chiang Chungcheng and romanized as Chiang Chieh-shih or Jiang Jieshi, was a Chinese politician and military leader who served as the leader of the Republic of China between 1928 and 1975, first in mainland China until 1949 and then in Taiwan until his death. He was recognized by much of the world as the head of the legitimate government of China until 1971, during which the United Nations passed Resolution 2758.

Japanese forces, mainly the 5th Division and 11th Independent Mixed Brigade, moved out from Beiping and advanced on Huailai County in Chahar. A Japanese column advanced quickly into Shanxi, making use of the railway which the Chinese did not attempt to destroy. The Chinese abandoned Datong on September 13, falling back to a line from Yanmen Pass on the Great Wall east to the mountain pass of Pingxingguan. Yan Xishan's troops became more demoralised as the Japanese exerted their air supremacy.

Huailai County County in Hebei, Peoples Republic of China

Huailai is a county in northwestern Hebei province, People's Republic of China, under the administration of the prefecture-level city of Zhangjiakou.

Datong Prefecture-level city in Shanxi, Peoples Republic of China

Datong is a prefecture-level city in northern Shanxi Province in the People's Republic of China. It is located in the Datong Basin at an elevation of 1,040 metres (3,410 ft) and borders Inner Mongolia to the north and west and Hebei to the east. It had a population of 3,318,057 during the 2010 census, of whom 1,629,035 lived in the built-up area made of the three urban districts of Chengqu, Kuangqu and Nanjiao.

Yanmen Pass mountain pass in China which includes three fortified gatehouses along the Great Wall

Yanmen Pass, also known by its Chinese name Yanmenguan and as Xixingguan, is a mountain pass which includes three fortified gatehouses along the Great Wall of China. The area was a strategic choke point in ancient and medieval China, controlling access between the valleys of central Shanxi and the Eurasian Steppe. This made it the scene of various important battles, extending into World War II, and the area around the gatehouses and this stretch of the Great Wall is now a AAAAA-rated tourist attraction. The scenic area is located just outside Yanmenguan Village in Yanmenguan Township in Dai County, Xinzhou City, Shanxi Province, China.

The main body of the Japanese 5th Division, under the command of Itagaki Seishiro, [2] advanced from Huaili to invade northeastern Shanxi. Although it had a motorised transport column, its rate of advance was limited by the poor roads. By the time they reached the Shanxi border, Lin Biao's 115th Division, after a forced march from Shaanxi, was in place at Pingxingguan on September 24 to ambush the Japanese army.

Shanxi Province

Shanxi is a province of the People's Republic of China, located in the North China region. Its one-character abbreviation is "晋", after the state of Jin that existed here during the Spring and Autumn period.

Shaanxi Province

Shaanxi is a province of the People's Republic of China. Officially part of the Northwest China region, it lies in central China, bordering the provinces of Shanxi, Henan (E), Hubei (SE), Chongqing (S), Sichuan (SW), Gansu (W), Ningxia (NW), and Inner Mongolia (N). It covers an area of over 205,000 km2 (79,151 sq mi) with about 37 million people. Xi'an – which includes the sites of the former Chinese capitals Fenghao and Chang'an – is the provincial capital. Xianyang, which served as the Qin dynasty capital, is located nearby. The other prefecture-level cities into which the province is divided are Ankang, Baoji, Hanzhong, Shangluo, Tongchuan, Weinan, Yan'an and Yulin.


Eighth Route Army troops entering Pingxingguan. Photograph by Sha Fei. Battle of Pingxingguan 1937.jpg
Eighth Route Army troops entering Pingxingguan. Photograph by Sha Fei.

The pass of Pingxingguan was a narrow defile worn through the loess, with no exit for several kilometres except the road itself. Lin's division were able to ambush two columns of mainly transportation and supply units and virtually annihilate the trapped Japanese forces.

Defile (geography) A narrow pass or gorge between mountains or hills

In geography, a defile is a narrow pass or gorge between mountains or hills. It has its origins as a military description of a pass through which troops can march only in a narrow column or with a narrow front. On emerging from a defile into open country, soldiers are said to "debouch".

On September 25, the 21st brigade of the Japanese 5th Division stationed at Lingqiu received a request from the 21st Regiment that they urgently needed supplies due to falling temperature. The supply troops of the 21st Regiment set out with 70 horse-drawn vehicles with 50 horses, filled with clothes, food, ammunition and proceeded westwards towards Pingxingguan. Around 10:00, the supply column passed into a defile with the two sides rising up more than 10 meters; they were heading towards Caijiayu about 3 km away.

At the same time, a motorized column of Japanese supply troops in about 80 trucks left Guangou and headed east. Both of these non-combat formations entered into the ambush set by the 115th division after 10 a.m. on the 25th and were largely wiped out. A relief force consisting of the 3rd Battalion of the 21st Regiment was rebuffed by Chinese troops and suffered almost 100 casualties. Lin Biao's troops eventually withdrew from the battlefield, allowing the Japanese to finally reach the site of the ambush on September 28.

The total, the Japanese casualties in the battle have been estimated at 400 to 500 and the Chinese at about 400. [1] The Chinese forces destroyed about 70 trucks and an equal number of horse-drawn carts and captured 100 rifles, 10 light machine guns, 1 gun, 2000 shells as well as some clothing and food. [1]


Memorial Hall of the battle Pingxingguan 2007 10 05 2.jpg
Memorial Hall of the battle

The Kuomintang official history of the Second Sino-Japanese War deals with it in a sentence, without any credit to the communists. Communist accounts, on the other hand, describe Pingxingguan as a typical example of Red guerrilla tactics, inspired by Mao Zedong's conceptualization of People's war . Japanese losses were greatly exaggerated for propaganda purposes. However, like the victory at the Battle of Taierzhuang, Pingxingguan was explained by Japan as Japanese officers succumbing to what they came to call "victory disease". [3] [ dubious ]

After a series of easy victories against their opponents, they failed to take elementary precautions. Japanese commanders seldom repeated the operational blunders that had led to Pingxingguan. Nonetheless, the battle gave the Chinese a major boost in morale and credence to the Communists in the eyes of the people. The battle was constantly cited by CPC leaders as an example of their commitment to battling the Japanese occupation. [3] [ dubious ]

See also

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  1. 1 2 3 4 Yang Kuisong, "On the reconstruction of the facts of the Battle of Pingxingguan"
  2. 1 2 3 Spencer C. Tucker (December 23, 2009). "A Global Chronology of Conflict: From the Ancient World to the Modern Middle East". ABC-CLIO.
  3. 1 2 Mao: The Unknown Story by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday, p. 279