Marco Polo Bridge Incident

Last updated
Marco Polo Bridge Incident
Part of the Second Sino-Japanese War
Japanese Bombarded Wanping.gif
Japanese forces bombarding Wanping Fortress, 1937
Date7–9 July 1937
Vicinity of Peking, China

39°50′57″N116°12′47″E / 39.84917°N 116.21306°E / 39.84917; 116.21306 Coordinates: 39°50′57″N116°12′47″E / 39.84917°N 116.21306°E / 39.84917; 116.21306
  • Strategic Japanese victory
  • Tactical Chinese victory
  • Japanese attack repulsed [1]
  • Beginning of the full scale invasion of China in the Second Sino-Japanese War
Flag of the Republic of China.svg Republic of China Merchant flag of Japan (1870).svg Empire of Japan
Commanders and leaders
War flag of the Imperial Japanese Army (1868-1945).svg Kanichiro Tashiro
c. 100 [1] + unknown reinforcements [3] 5,600 [4]
Casualties and losses
All but 4 soldiers killed in action [1] Unknown

The Marco Polo Bridge Incident, also known by Lugou Bridge Incident or Double-Seven Incident, was a battle between the Republic of China's National Revolutionary Army and the Imperial Japanese Army. It is widely considered to have been the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945).

Republic of China (1912–1949) 1912–1949 country in Asia, historical period of the present-day Republic of China (Taiwan)

The Republic of China (ROC), was a state in East Asia which controlled the Chinese mainland between 1912 and 1949. The state was established in January 1912 after the Xinhai Revolution, which overthrew the Qing dynasty, the last imperial dynasty of China. Its government fled to Taipei in 1949 due to the Kuomintang's defeat in the Chinese Civil War. The Republic of China's first president, Sun Yat-sen, served only briefly before handing over the position to Yuan Shikai, leader of the Beiyang Army. His party, then led by Song Jiaoren won the parliamentary election held in December 1912. Song Jiaoren was assassinated shortly after and the Beiyang Army led by Yuan Shikai maintained full control of the Beiyang government. Between late 1915 and early 1916, Yuan Shikai tried to reinstate the monarchy before abdicating due to popular unrest. After Yuan Shikai's death in 1916, members of cliques in the Beiyang Army claimed their autonomy and clashed with each other. During this period, the authority of the Beiyang government was weakened by a restoration of the Qing dynasty.

National Revolutionary Army Nationalist Army of the Republic of China

The National Revolutionary Army (NRA), sometimes shortened to Revolutionary Army (革命軍) before 1928, and as National Army (國軍) after 1928, was the military arm of the Kuomintang from 1925 until 1947 in the Republic of China. It also became the regular army of the ROC during the KMT's period of party rule beginning in 1928. It was renamed the Republic of China Armed Forces after the 1947 Constitution, which instituted civilian control of the military.

Imperial Japanese Army Official ground-based armed force of the Empire of Japan, from 1868 to 1945

The Imperial Japanese Army was the official ground-based armed force of the Empire of Japan from 1868 to 1945. It was controlled by the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff Office and the Ministry of the Army, both of which were nominally subordinate to the Emperor of Japan as supreme commander of the army and the navy. Later an Inspectorate General of Aviation became the third agency with oversight of the army. During wartime or national emergencies, the nominal command functions of the emperor would be centralized in an Imperial General Headquarters (IGHQ), an ad-hoc body consisting of the chief and vice chief of the Army General Staff, the Minister of the Army, the chief and vice chief of the Naval General Staff, the Inspector General of Aviation, and the Inspector General of Military Training.



Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, Allied Commander-in-Chief in the China theatre from 1942 to 1945 Chiang Kai-shek in full uniform.jpeg
Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, Allied Commander-in-Chief in the China theatre from 1942 to 1945

Tensions between the Empire of Japan and the Republic of China had been heightened since the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931 and their subsequent creation of a puppet state, Manchukuo, with Puyi, the deposed Qing dynasty Emperor, as its head. Following the invasion, Japanese forces extended their control further into northern China, seeking to obtain raw materials and industrial capacity. A commission of enquiry from the League of Nations made a critical report into their actions, leading to Japan pulling out of the League. [5]

Empire of Japan Empire in the Asia-Pacific region between 1868–1947

The Empire of Japan was the historical nation-state and great power that existed from the Meiji Restoration in 1868 to the enactment of the 1947 constitution of modern Japan.

Japanese invasion of Manchuria part of the Second Sino-Japanese War

The Japanese invasion of Manchuria began on 19 September 1931, when the Kwantung Army of the Empire of Japan invaded Manchuria immediately following the Mukden Incident. After the war, the Japanese established the puppet state of Manchukuo. Their occupation lasted until the Soviet Union and Mongolia launched the Manchurian Strategic Offensive Operation in 1945.

Manchukuo former Japan puppet state in China

Manchukuo was a puppet state of the Empire of Japan in Northeast China and Inner Mongolia from 1932 until 1945. It was founded as a republic, but in 1934 it became a constitutional monarchy. It had limited international recognition and was under the de facto control of Japan.

The Kuomintang (KMT) government of China refused to recognize Manchukuo, but did agree to a truce with Japan in 1933. Subsequently, there were various "incidents", or armed clashes of a limited nature, followed by a return to the uneasy peace. The significance of the Marco Polo Bridge Incident is that following it, tensions did not subside again; instead, there was escalation, with larger forces committed by both sides and fighting spreading to other parts of China. With hindsight this (small) incident can therefore be regarded as the starting point of the major conflict. [6]

Kuomintang political party in the Republic of China

The Kuomintang of China is a major political party in the Republic of China on Taiwan, based in Taipei and is currently an opposition political party in the Legislative Yuan.

Tanggu Truce peace treaty

The Tanggu Truce, sometimes called the Tangku Truce, was a cease-fire signed between Republic of China and Empire of Japan in Tanggu District, Tianjin on May 31, 1933, formally ending the Japanese invasion of Manchuria which had begun two years earlier.

Under the terms of the Boxer Protocol of 7 September 1901, China had granted nations with legations in Beijing the right to station guards at twelve specific points along railways connecting Beijing with Tianjin. This was to ensure open communications between the capital and the port. By a supplementary agreement on 15 July 1902, these forces were allowed to conduct maneuvers without informing the authorities of other nations in China. [7]

Boxer Protocol peace treaty

The Boxer Protocol was signed on September 7, 1901, between the Qing Empire of China and the Eight-Nation Alliance that had provided military forces plus Belgium, Spain and the Netherlands after China's defeat in the intervention to put down the Boxer Rebellion at the hands of the Eight-Power Expeditionary Force. It is often regarded as one of the Unequal Treaties.

Beijing Municipality in Peoples Republic of China

Beijing, formerly romanized as Peking, is the capital of the People's Republic of China, the world's third most populous city proper, and most populous capital city. The city, located in northern China, is governed as a municipality under the direct administration of central government with 16 urban, suburban, and rural districts. Beijing Municipality is surrounded by Hebei Province with the exception of neighboring Tianjin Municipality to the southeast; together the three divisions form the Jingjinji metropolitan region and the national capital region of China.

Tianjin Municipality in Peoples Republic of China

Tianjin, formerly romanized as Tientsin, is a coastal metropolis in northern China and one of the nine national central cities of the People's Republic of China (PRC), with a total population of 15,621,200 as of 2016 estimation. Its built-up area, made up of 12 central districts, was home to 12,491,300 inhabitants in 2016 and is also the world's 29th-largest agglomeration and 11th municipality-most populous city proper.

By July 1937, Japan had expanded its forces in China to an estimated 7,000 to 15,000 men, mostly along the railways. This number of men, and the amount of concomitant matériel, was several times the size of the detachments deployed by the European powers, and greatly in excess of the limits set by the Boxer Protocol. [7]

By this time, the Imperial Japanese Army had already surrounded Beijing and Tianjin.

On the night of 7 July, the Japanese units stationed at Fengtai crossed the border to conduct military exercises. [8] Japanese and Chinese forces outside the town of Wanping—a walled town 16.4 km (10.2 mi) southwest of Beijing—exchanged fire at approximately 23:00. The exact cause of this incident remains unknown. When a Japanese soldier, Private Shimura Kikujiro, failed to return to his post, Chinese regimental commander Ji Xingwen (219th Regiment, 37th Division, 29th Route Army) received a message from the Japanese demanding permission to enter Wanping to search for the missing soldier. The Chinese refused. Although Private Shimura returned to his unit, by this point both sides were mobilising, with the Japanese deploying reinforcements and surrounding Wanping. [8]

Later in the night, a unit of Japanese infantry attempted to breach Wanping's walled defences and were repulsed. An ultimatum by the Japanese was issued two hours later. As a precautionary measure, Qin Dechun, the acting commander of the Chinese 29th Route Army, contacted the commander of the Chinese 37th Division, General Feng Zhian, ordering him to place his troops on heightened alert.


In English, the battle is usually known as the "Marco Polo Bridge Incident". [9] The Marco Polo Bridge is an eleven-arch granite bridge, an architecturally significant structure first erected under the Jin and later restored by the Kangxi Emperor in 1698. It gained its Western name from its appearance in Marco Polo's record of his travels. It is less often referred to as the "Battle of Marco Polo Bridge". [10]

It is also known as the "Lukouchiao", [11] "Lugouqiao", [12] or "Lugou Bridge Incident" from the local name of the bridge, derived from a former name of the Yongding River. [13] This is the common name for the event in Japanese ( 盧溝橋 事件 , Rokōkyō Jiken) and is an alternate name for it in Chinese ( t 盧溝橋 事變 , s 卢沟桥 事变 , p LúgōuqiáoShìbiàn) and Korean ( 노구교 사건 , Nogugyo Sageon). The same name is also expressed or translated as the "Battle of Lugou Bridge", [14] "Lugouqiao", [15] or "Lukouchiao". [16]

In China and Korea, it is more often known as the "July 7th Incident" [17]


At 02:00 in the morning (18:00 UTC) of 8 July, Qin Dechun, executive officer and acting commander of the Chinese 29th Route Army, sent Wang Lengzhai, mayor of Wanping, alone to the Japanese camp to conduct negotiations. However, this proved to be fruitless, and the Japanese insisted that they be admitted into the town to investigate the cause of the incident. [8]

At around 04:00 (20:00 UTC), reinforcements of both sides began to arrive. The Chinese also rushed an extra division of troops to the area. About an hour or so later the Chinese Army opened fire on the Japanese Army and attacked them at Marco Polo Bridge (210 metres [690 ft] west-southwest of Wanping), along with a modern railway bridge (334 metres [1,095 ft] north of the Marco Polo Bridge).

At 04:45 (20:45 UTC) Wang Lengzhai had returned to Wanping, and on his way back he witnessed Japanese troops massing around the town. Within five minutes of Wang's return, the Chinese Army fired shots, thus marking the commencement of the Battle of Beiping-Tianjin, and, by extension, the full scale commencement of the Second Sino-Japanese War at 04:50 on 8 July 1937. [8]

Colonel Ji Xingwen led the Chinese defenses with about 100 men, with orders to hold the bridge at all costs. The Chinese were able to hold the bridge with the help of reinforcements, but suffered tremendous losses. [3] At this point, the Japanese military and members of the Japanese Foreign Service began negotiations in Beijing with the Chinese Nationalist government.

A verbal agreement with Chinese General Qin was reached, whereby an apology would be given by the Chinese to the Japanese; punishment would be dealt to those responsible; control of Wanping would be turned over to the Hopei Chinese civilian constabulary and not to the Chinese 219th Regiment; and the Chinese would attempt to better control "communists" in the area. This was agreed upon, though Japanese Garrison Infantry Brigade commander General Masakazu Kawabe initially rejected the truce and, against his superiors' orders, continued to shell Wanping for the next three hours, until prevailed upon to cease and to move his forces to the northeast.


Although a ceasefire had been declared, further efforts to de-escalate the conflict failed, largely due to actions by the Chinese Communists and the Japanese China Garrison Army commanders.[ citation needed ] Due to constant Chinese attacks, Japanese Garrison Infantry Brigade commander General Masakazu Kawabe ordered Wanping to be shelled on 9 July. The following day, Japanese armoured units joined the attack. The Chinese 219th regiment staged an effective resistance, [8] and full scale fighting commenced at Langfang on 25 July. [3] After launching a bitter and bloody attack on the Japanese lines on the 27 July, General Sung was defeated and forced to retreat behind the Yongding River by the next day.

Battle of Beiping-Tianjin

On 11 July, in accordance with the Goso conference, the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff authorized the deployment of an infantry division from the Chosen Army, two combined brigades from the Kwangtung Army and an air regiment composed of 18 squadrons as reinforcements to Northern China. By 20 July, total Japanese military strength in the Beiping-Tianjin area exceeded 180,000 personnel. [8]

The Japanese gave Sung and his troops "free passage" before moving in to pacify resistance in areas surrounding Beijing and Tianjin. After 24 days of combat, the Chinese 29th Corps was forced to withdraw. The Japanese captured Beiping and the Taku Forts at Tianjin on 29 and 30 July respectively, thus concluding the Beiping-Tianjin campaign. [8] However, the Japanese Army had been given orders not to advance further than the Yongding River. In a sudden volte-face, the Konoe government's foreign minister opened negotiations with Chiang Kai-shek's government in Nanking and stated: "Japan wants Chinese cooperation, not Chinese land." Nevertheless, negotiations failed to move further. On 9 August 1937, a Japanese naval officer was shot in Shanghai, escalating the skirmishes and battles into full scale warfare. [18]

The 29th Army's resistance (and poor equipment) inspired the 1937 "Sword March", whichwith slightly reworked lyricsbecame the National Revolutionary Army's standard marching cadence and popularized the racial epithet guizi to describe the Japanese invaders.


Damage from the Japanese shells on the wall of Wanping Fortress is marked with a memorial plaque now. The text on the stone drums below summarizes the history of the war that followed the incident. Wanping-Castle-south-wall-3514.jpg
Damage from the Japanese shells on the wall of Wanping Fortress is marked with a memorial plaque now. The text on the stone drums below summarizes the history of the war that followed the incident.

The heightened tensions of the Marco Polo Bridge Incident led directly to full-scale war between the Empire of Japan and the Republic of China, with the Battle of Beiping–Tianjin at the end of July and the Battle of Shanghai in August.

In 1937, during the Battle of Beiping–Tianjin the Chinese government was notified by Muslim General Ma Bufang of the Ma clique that he was prepared to bring the fight to the Japanese in a telegram message. [19] Immediately after the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, Ma Bufang arranged for a cavalry division under the Muslim General Ma Biao to be sent east to battle the Japanese. [20] Ethnic Turkic Salar Muslims made up the majority of the first cavalry division which was sent by Ma Bufang. [21]

In 1987, the bridge was renovated and the People's Anti-Japanese War Museum was built near the bridge to commemorate the anniversary of the start of the Sino-Japanese War. [22]


There is debate over whether the incident could have been planned like the earlier Mukden Incident, which served as a pretext for the Japanese invasion of Manchuria. [23] According to Jim Huffman this notion has been "widely rejected" by historians, as the Japanese would likely have been more concerned over the threat posed by the Soviets. Controversial conservative Japanese historian Ikuhiko Hata has suggested that the incident could have been caused by the Chinese Communist Party, hoping it would lead to a war of attrition between the Japanese army and the Kuomintang.[ citation needed ] However, he himself still considers this less likely than the "accidental shot" hypothesis, that the first shot was fired by a low-ranking Chinese soldier in "an unplanned moment of fear."

Order of battle

National Revolutionary Army (Kuomintang)

In comparison to their Japanese counterparts, the 29th Route Army, and generally all of the NRA for that matter, was poorly equipped and under-trained. Most soldiers were armed only with a rifle and a dao (a single-edged Chinese sword similar to a machete). Moreover, the Chinese garrison in the Lugouqiao area was completely outnumbered and outgunned; it consisted only of about 100 soldiers. [1]

NameMilitary Post(s)Non-Military Post(s)
General Song Zheyuan
(宋哲元; Wade-Giles: Sung Che-yuan)
Commander of 29th Route ArmyChairman of Hopeh Legislative Committee
Head of Peking security forces
General Qin Dechun
(秦德純; Wade-Giles: Chin Teh-chun)
Vice-Commander of 29th ArmyMayor of Peking
General Tong Lin'ge
Vice-Commander of 29th Army
General Liu Ruming
Commander of the 143rd DivisionChairman of Chahar Province
General Feng Zhian
Commander of the 37th DivisionChairman of Hopeh Province
General Zhao Dengyu
(趙登禹; Wade-Giles: Chao Teng-yu)
Commander of the 132nd Division
General Zhang Zizhong
(張自忠; Wade-Giles: Chang Tze-chung)
Commander of the 38th DivisionMayor of Tientsin
Colonel Ji Xingwen
Commander of the 219th Regiment
under the 110th Brigade of the 37th Division

Imperial Japanese Army

The Japanese China Garrison Army was a combined force of infantry, tanks, mechanized forces, artillery and cavalry, which had been stationed in China since the time of the Boxer Rebellion. Its headquarters and bulk for its forces were in Tianjin, with a major detachment in Beijing to protect the Japanese embassy.

Lieutenant General Kanichiro Tashiro
Commander China Garrison ArmyTientsin
Major General Masakazu Kawabe
Commander China Garrison Infantry BrigadePeking
Colonel Renya Mutaguchi
Commander 1st Infantry RegimentPeking
Major Kiyonao Ichiki
Commander, 3rd Battalion, 1st Infantry RegimentW of Marco Polo Bridge, 510 men

See also

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Events in the year 1937 in Japan.

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Ji Xingwen, or "Shaowu", was a general in the National Revolutionary Army of the Republic of China. He served in the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Chinese Civil War.



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