Battle of Xinkou

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Battle of Xinkou
Part of the Second Sino-Japanese War
Chinese troops marching in Xinkou.jpg
Chinese troops marching to defend Xinkou mountain passes
Date13 September – 11 November 1937
Result Japanese victory
Flag of the Republic of China.svg China Merchant flag of Japan (1870).svg Japan
Commanders and leaders
Flag of the Republic of China Army.svg Yan Xishan
Flag of the Republic of China Army.svg Wei Lihuang
Flag of the Chinese Communist Party (Pre-1996).svg Zhu De
War flag of the Imperial Japanese Army (1868-1945).svg Itagaki Seishiro
280,000 in 52 divisions 140,000 in 4 divisions
350+ artillery guns
150+ tanks
300 aircraft [1]
Casualties and losses
100,000 dead, injured or missing [2] [3] 20,000 killed [2] [3]
Tens of thousands more wounded
Dozens of tanks and 24+ planes [4]

The Battle of Xinkou (simplified Chinese :忻口会战; traditional Chinese :忻口會戰; pinyin :Xīnkǒu Huìzhàn) was a decisive engagement of the Taiyuan Campaign, the second of the 22 major engagements between the National Revolutionary Army and Imperial Japanese Army during the Second Sino-Japanese War.

Simplified Chinese characters Standardized Chinese characters developed in mainland China

Simplified Chinese characters are standardized Chinese characters prescribed in the Table of General Standard Chinese Characters for use in mainland China. Along with traditional Chinese characters, they are one of the two standard character sets of the contemporary Chinese written language. The government of the People's Republic of China in mainland China has promoted them for use in printing since the 1950s and 1960s to encourage literacy. They are officially used in the People's Republic of China, Malaysia and Singapore.

Traditional Chinese characters Traditional Chinese characters

Traditional Chinese characters are Chinese characters in any character set that does not contain newly created characters or character substitutions performed after 1946. They are most commonly the characters in the standardized character sets of Taiwan, of Hong Kong and Macau. The modern shapes of traditional Chinese characters first appeared with the emergence of the clerical script during the Han dynasty and have been more or less stable since the 5th century.

Pinyin Chinese romanization scheme for Mandarin

Hanyu Pinyin, often abbreviated to pinyin, is the official romanization system for Standard Chinese in mainland China and to some extent in Taiwan. It is often used to teach Standard Mandarin Chinese, which is normally written using Chinese characters. The system includes four diacritics denoting tones. Pinyin without tone marks is used to spell Chinese names and words in languages written with the Latin alphabet, and also in certain computer input methods to enter Chinese characters.



After battles at Nankou, the Chahar Expeditionary Force of the Japanese Kwangtung Army occupied Datong in Shanxi province, and began their assault on the Yenbei area. The Japanese Fifth Division started their attack from Hebei marching westwards and taking the towns of Guanglin, Linchou, Hungyuan in northwest Shanxi.

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.

Shanxi Province

Shanxi is a landlocked province in Northern China. The capital and largest city of the province is Taiyuan, while its next most populated prefecture-level cities are Changzhi and Datong. Its one-character abbreviation is "晋", after the state of Jin that existed here during the Spring and Autumn period.

5th Division (Imperial Japanese Army) division of the Imperial Japanese Army

The 5th Division was an infantry division of the Imperial Japanese Army. Its call-sign was the Carp Division. The 5th Division was formed in Hiroshima in January 1871 as the Hiroshima Garrison, one of six regional commands created in the fledgling Imperial Japanese Army, and was destroyed in the battle of Okinawa in June 1945. Its personnel were drafted from Hiroshima, Yamaguchi and Shimane.

By late September, the Japanese commander Itagaki Seishiro ordered the fifth division and the Chahar Expeditionary Force to begin attacking the Chinese defense line along the inner Great Wall in Shanxi. The Commander of the 2nd War Zone, Yan Xishan, ordered Chinese troops to retreat and set up a defense line in Niangziguan and Pingxingguan.

Yan Xishan Chinese general

Yan XishanIPA: [jɛ̌n ɕǐʂán]; 8 October 1883 – 22 July 1960) was a Chinese warlord who served in the government of the Republic of China. He effectively controlled the province of Shanxi from the 1911 Xinhai Revolution to the 1949 Communist victory in the Chinese Civil War. As the leader of a relatively small, poor, remote province, he survived the machinations of Yuan Shikai, the Warlord Era, the Nationalist Era, the Japanese invasion of China and the subsequent civil war, being forced from office only when the Nationalist armies with which he was aligned had completely lost control of the Chinese mainland, isolating Shanxi from any source of economic or military supply. He has been viewed by Western biographers as a transitional figure who advocated using Western technology to protect Chinese traditions, while at the same time reforming older political, social and economic conditions in a way that paved the way for the radical changes that would occur after his rule.

Even after the Eighth Route Army led by Lin Biao successfully ambushed the Japanese at the Battle of Pingxingguan, the Chinese defenders suffered heavy casualties under Japanese artillery and tank assaults and were forced to retreat to Wutaishan to set up another defense line at Xinkou.

Eighth Route Army

The Eighth Route Army, officially known as the 18th Group Army 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.

Lin Biao Vice Chairman of the Communist Party of China

Lin Biao was a Marshal of the People's Republic of China who was pivotal in the Communist victory in the Chinese Civil War, especially in Northeast China. Lin was the general who commanded the decisive Liaoshen and Pingjin Campaigns, in which he co-led the Manchurian Field Army to victory and led the People's Liberation Army into Beijing. He crossed the Yangtze River in 1949, decisively defeated the Kuomintang and took control of the coastal provinces in Southeast China. He ranked third among the Ten Marshals. Zhu De and Peng Dehuai were considered senior to Lin, and Lin ranked directly ahead of He Long and Liu Bocheng.

Battle of Pingxingguan battle

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.

The Battle of Xinkou

Yan Xishan gathered all available Chinese troops under his command to make a stand at Xinkou, because this location is flanked by Wutaishan and Yunzhonshan, which is favorable for the defenders and is also a gateway to Taiyuan, the capital of Shanxi. On October 1, Japanese central command ordered Itagaki Seishiro to lead the Fifth Division and Chahar Expeditionary Force for the final assault on Taiyuan.

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

Taiyuan is the capital and largest city of Shanxi province in Northern China. It is one of the main manufacturing bases of China. Throughout its long history, Taiyuan was the capital or provisional capital of many dynasties in China, hence the name Lóngchéng.

On the same day, the military commission of the Chinese Nationalist government ordered the 14th Group Army (commanded by Wei Lihuang) to fight the Japanese at Xinkou. The 14th Group Army, along with Yan Xishan’s eight armies, organized a frontal defense of Xinkou, while the 18th Group Army (without the 120th division) and 101st division, 73rd division and the newly formed 2nd Division organized the defense on the right flank along the Sutou River’s south bank, commanded by Zhu De, while one division was sent to the enemy's rear to harass their left flank.

Wei Lihuang Chinese military officer

Wei Lihuang was a Chinese general who served the Nationalist government throughout the Chinese Civil War and Second Sino-Japanese War as one of China's most successful military commanders.

Zhu De Marshal of the Peoples Republic of China

Zhu De ( was a Chinese general, warlord, politician, revolutionary and one of the pioneers of the Communist Party of China. Born poor in 1886 in Sichuan, he was adopted by a wealthy uncle at age nine; this prosperity provided him a superior early education that led to his admission into a military academy. After his time at the academy, he joined a rebel army and soon became a warlord. It was after this period that he adopted communism. He ascended through the ranks of the Chinese Red Army as it closed in on securing the nation. By the time China was under Mao's control, Zhu was a high-ranking official within the Communist Party of China. He served as Commander-in-Chief of the Eighth Route Army during the Second Sino-Japanese War. In 1955 he became one of the Ten Marshals of the People's Liberation Army, of which he is regarded as the principal founder. Zhu remained a prominent political figure until his death in 1976. As the chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress from 1975 to 1976, Zhu was the head of state of the People's Republic of China.

The 6th Group Army organized into two divisions and one brigade, comprised the Chinese defense on the left flank along with the 120th division (commanded by Yang Aiyuan), which concentrated their forces at Heiyu and Yangfangkou, while one division was sent to the enemy's rear to harass their right flank. The 34th and 35th Armies were in reserve, commanded by Fu Zuoyi, to control the Dingxiang and Xinxian area.

On October 2, the 2nd brigade from the Chahar Expeditionary Force started their attack on Gouxian (now Gouyangxian), and the 19th Army’s Chinese defenders held off the attack until October 9, by then the Gouxian had fallen into Japanese hands. The 15th brigade from the Chahar Expeditionary Force marched around Gouxian and attacked Yuanping, and engaged the 34th Army’s 196 brigade, led by Jiang Yuzhen. After intense close-quarter combat, the defending Chinese soldiers were wiped out and the Japanese took Yuanping on October 12. By this time, the invading forces were ready to make their move on Xinkou.

Due to the unfavorable developments on the battlefields, Chinese commander Wei Lihuang had to re-organize the defense line on October 2. He positioned the 9th, 61st, and 35th Armies to form the central defense line, holding their position along the Xinkou mountains passes; while the 14th Army, 71st and 66th Divisions commanded by Li Mo'an formed the left flank, controlling the Yunzhongshan area. Finally, the 33rd, 17th and 15th Armies formed the right flank, controlling Wutaishan.

On October 13, Itagaki Seishiro led 50,000 Japanese troops on a major assault against Xinkou. The 5th Division was on the left wing, and concentrated their attack on Nanhuaihua; while the 15th Brigade was on the right wing, focusing their efforts on Dabaishui, with the 2nd Brigade was in the rear defending the inner Great Wall. The 5th Divisions used 30+ airplanes, 40+ heavy artilleries, 50+ tanks to flank the infantry’s assault; while the Chinese central defense forces used the favorable terrain to put up stiff resistances despite a lack of firepower.

The Xinkou battles rages on for days, with the Nanhuahua position changing hands many times. On October 16 the Chinese central defense force begin a major counter-attack to take the high grounds at Nanhuahua, during this battle the commander of the 9th Army Hao Mengling became the first Chinese army general to be killed in action during the Second Sino-Japanese War. Despite his death, the 61st Army commander Chen Zhangjie and subsequently the 19th Army commander Wang Jingguo continued to lead the defense of Xinkou and successfully held their defensive positions. 

During this time, the Communists’ Eighth Route Army executed several guerrilla attacks in the Japanese troops rear at Lingqiu, Guangling, Weixian, Pingxingguan, Ningwu and Yanmenguan. On the evening of October 19, the 769th Regiment of the 120th Division attacked Yangmingbao airbase, and successfully destroyed 24 Japanese airplanes on the ground.  

By this time the Japanese had suffered close to 20,000 casualties without making much progress on their assault of Xinkou. Therefore, the Japanese Northern China Area Army had to add three additional regiments on October 22, 27 and 29, to assist in the attack of Nanhauhua. However, the Japanese troops still could not take this important position and had to re-direct their attack to Dabaishui, and the Chinese defenders were able to fight the Japanese to a stalemate.

The Defense of Niangziguan

Chinese troops going into battle in Xinkou Chinese troops going into battle.jpg
Chinese troops going into battle in Xinkou

The military commission of the Chinese Nationalist government ordered troops of the 1st War Zone to relocate and set up defense at Niangziguan, with the 17th and 30th Divisions defending the center, 3rd Army positioned at the right wing and 14th Group Army on the left wing. The Chinese commander for this operation was assigned to Huang Shaohong, the deputy commander of the 2nd War Zone.

On October 11, the 20th division of the Japanese army captured Jingxing. The Japanese only used some troops to attack Niangziguan, while their main force marched around and captured Jiuguan. With the defenders at Niangziguan effectively surrounded at this time, Yan Xishan hasty ordered the 26th Army led by Sun Lianzhong stationed at northern Shanxi to move to Niangziguan and organized and conducted counter-attacks, but did not retake Jingxing as planned. On October 21, the 20th division was reinforced by the 109th division and continued their attack on Niangziguan from the south, aided by Japanese bombers and fighters.

On October 26, four Japanese commando battalions were able to break through the Chinese 3rd Army defense at Ceyuzhen, and breach the Niangziguan defense line. The Chinese forces were forced to retreat to Taiyuan, and were chased by the Japanese attackers along the ShijiazhuangTaiyuan railways. On November 11, the Japanese troops captured Shouyang after repelling an ambush by the 41st Army. By this time, all Chinese troops at Xinkou were ordered to retreat to Taiyuan to avoid being encircled by the enemy, and the Japanese army had finally won the battle of Xinkou.


The battle of Xinkou marked the first large-scale cooperation between the provincial army (Yan Xishan’s Shanxi troops), Chinese Communists (Eighth Route Army), and Chiang Kai-shek’s Central Army (14th Group Army) during the Second Sino-Japanese War. Although the Chinese defenders fought bravely on a united front against the enemy during this campaign, they had a large shortage of firepower, especially with the ill-equipped 8th route army. A personal account of General Li Mo'an stated that the only weapon the Chinese infantry had against Japanese tanks was Molotov cocktails, and many defenders on the left flank were simply run over by tanks. [1]

After this battle and the subsequent battle around the city of Taiyuan, the Chinese effectively lost control of northern China and resistance was reduced to minor guerrilla attacks behind enemy lines. However, because the communists and nationalists co-operated well and the Japanese also took serious losses, many Chinese were inspired to join the fight against the Japanese invaders, especially when Jiang Yuzhen and other officers were martyred. [1]

In conclusion, the Chinese forces ultimately lost the battle, paying the price of 100,000 troops dead, injured or missing, and were forced to retreat. However, they were able to kill some 20,000 Japanese troops, wound thousands more, and destroy dozens of tanks and more than 24 aircraft, setting a record high for the scale of damage inflicted to the Japanese in a single battle in Northern China. [3]

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Coordinates: 38°00′00″N112°00′00″E / 38.0000°N 112.0000°E / 38.0000; 112.0000