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Ma Zhanshan
General Ma Zhanshan
Governor of Heilongjiang (1st time)[1]

In office
November 1931 – 1933
Preceded by Wan Fu-lin
Governor of Heilongjiang (2nd time)[2]

In office
Personal details
Born (1885-11-30)November 30, 1885
Huaide (Gongzhuling), Jilin
Died November 29, 1950(1950-11-29) (aged 64)
Nationality Hui
Political party Kuomintang
Religion Gedimu Hanafi Sunni Islam
Military service
Allegiance  Republic of China (1912–1949)
Years of service 1913–1950
Rank general
Commands General in the National Revolutionary Army
Battles/wars Mukden Incident, Pacification of Manchukuo, Second Sino-Japanese War

Ma Zhanshan (Ma Chan-shan; simplified Chinese: 马占山; traditional Chinese: 馬占山; pinyin: Mǎ Zhànshān; Wade–Giles: Ma3 Chan4-shan1; November 30, 1885, Huaide (Gongzhuling), Jilin – November 29, 1950, Beijing),[3] was a Chinese Muslim general who initially opposed the Imperial Japanese Army in the invasion of Manchuria, briefly defected to Manchukuo, and then rebelled, and fought against the Japanese in Manchuria and in other parts of China.


Early life

Ma was born in Gongzhuling, in Jilin province, in a poor shepherding family,. At the age of 20 he became a security guard of Huaide County.[4] He was promoted to Guard Monitor of the 4th Security Guard Battalion for his good marksmanship and equestrianism, by Wu Junsheng, Commander of Tianhou Road Patrol and Defense Battalion of Mukden in 1908. According to some western sources Ma Zhanshan was Born in Liaoning in 1887.[5] However most others give it as 1885.[2] Ma's Muslim name was Muazzam Husain.[6][7](Arabic language: حسین لمعظم‎)

Ma Zhanshan was a Chinese Muslim.[4][8] In 1913, Ma was appointed as Major and Company Commander of 3rd Company, 3rd Regiment, 2nd Brigade of the Central Cavalry Army in the Army of the Republic of China. In 1920, he was promoted to colonel and followed his patron, warlord Wu Junsheng.

He started his military career in Zhang Zuolin's Northeastern Army, serving as a brigade commander of 5th Cavalry Brigade, 17th Cavalry Division then as brigadier of 3rd Infantry Brigade of the Heilongjiang Army. After Zhang's death in 1928 Ma was nominated as Heilongjiang Provincial Bandit Suppression Commander, and Heilongjiang Provincial Cavalry Commander-in-chief in 1928.

British diplomatic documents described him as one of the "bandit" military men who received no training and did not receive learning or instruction, he was a master sharpshooter and horserider.[9]

Invasion of Manchuria

After the Mukden Incident, when the Kwantung Army invaded the provinces of Liaoning and Jilin, Governor Wan Fulin of Heilongjiang Province was in Beijing, leaving no one in authority in the province to take charge of defenses against the Japanese. Zhang Xueliang telegraphed the Nanjing Government to ask for instructions, and then appointed Ma Zhanshan to act as Governor and Military Commander-in-chief of Heilongjiang Province on October 10, 1931. Ma arrived in the capital Qiqihar on October 19 and took office the next day. He held military meetings and personally inspected the defense positions while facing down parties advocating surrender, saying “I am appointed as Chairman of the province, and I have the responsibility to defend the province and I will never be a surrendering general”.

Ma became famous around the world after the incident.[10][11]

The Japanese invaders repeatedly demanded to repair the Nen River Bridge, that had been dynamited in earlier civil strife to prevent an advance by a rival Chinese warlord. These demands were refused by Ma Zhanshan. The Japanese, determined to repair the bridge sent a repair crew, guarded by 800 Japanese soldiers. Nearby were 2,500 Chinese troops and a Battle of Nenjiang Bridge ensued. Each side charged the other with opening fire without provocation, and thus began the Jiangqiao Campaign. Although eventually forced to withdraw his troops in the face of Japanese tanks and artillery, Ma became a national hero for his resistance to the Japanese, which was reported in the Chinese and international press. Ting Chao and other senior commanders followed Ma's example at the industrial city of Harbin in Jilin province and elsewhere, and his successes inspired the local Chinese to aid or enlist in his forces. On November 18, Ma evacuated Qiqihar. However, after the General Ting Chao was driven from Harbin, Ma's forces suffered serious casualties and were soon driven over the Soviet border. Ma appealed in a telegram to the League of Nations asking for help against the Japanese.[12]

$2,000 were cabled by Chinese in America to Ma to help him fight.[13]


Because of his fame and heroics efforts in resisting the Japanese invasion of Manchuria, Colonel Kenji Doihara offered Ma Zhanshan a huge sum of $3,000,000 in gold to defect to the new Manchukuo Imperial Army.[14] Ma agreed, and offered to tour the country to reconcile the local inhabitants to the new government. He flew to Shenyang in January 1932, where he attended the meeting that founded the puppet state of Manchukuo. Ma was ill at that time, and thus avoiding signing the Independence Declaration of Manchukuo. He attended the inaugural ceremony of Pu Yi as Emperor of Manchukuo in March the same year, and he was appointed as War Minister of Manchukuo and Governor of Heilongjiang Province under the new government. However, the Japanese did not fully trust Ma, and (as with other Manchukuo officials), he had to ask approval from his Japanese advisor about all matters of the province before taking any actions.

General Ma had secretly decided to rebel against the Japanese after his "defection", using large amounts Japanese money to raise and reequip his new volunteer force with munitions.[15] He secretly transported weapons and ammunition out of the arsenals and evacuated the wives and families of his troops to safety. On 1 April 1932, he led his troops from Qiqihar supposedly on a tour of inspection.[16] However, at Heihe on April 7 he announced the reestablishment of the Heilongjiang Provincial Government, and his independence from Manchukuo. Ma reorganized his troops into 9 brigades at the beginning of May, and then he established another 11 troops of volunteers at Buxi, Gannan, Keshan, Kedong and other places. This force was styled the “Northeast Anti-Japanese National Salvation Army” and Ma appointed as nominal Commander-in-chief, over the other volunteer armies in the region, commanding a total fighting force of about 300,000 men at its peak strength. The units under Ma undertook ambushes along the major roads and badly mauled Manchukuo and Japanese troops in several engagements. In the “Ma Chan-shan Subjugation Operation” the Kwantung Army transferred a large mixed force of Japanese and Manchukuo troops to encircle and destroy Ma's Army. Ma Zhanshan's troops, though seriously depleted in the fierce battles, escaped due to the laxity of the Manchukuo troops. In September Ma Zhanshan arrived in Longmen County and established relationship with the Heilungkiang National Salvation Army of Su Bingwen. In the “Su Ping-wei Subjugation Operation”, 30,000 Japanese and Manchukuo troops forced Ma Zhanshan and Su Bingwen to retreat across the border into the Soviet Union in December. Most of these troops were then transferred to Rehe.

General Ma Zhanshan commanded 3,500 guerilla fighters against the Japanese, conducting attacks such as a raid on the Manchukuo treasury, attacking Changchun, the capital, and hijacking from an airfield six Japanese planes.[17]

General Ma caused so much trouble to the Japanese, that when his equipment and horse were captured, the Japanese presented them to the Emperor in Tokyo, assuming that he was dead. They were enraged to discover that he had survived and escaped.[12] The China monthly review reported that "the persistence with which the Japanese telegrams reiterate and insist that General Ma Chan-san is dead is little short of comical"[18] The Japanese, over the course of several months, continuously invented different versions of how Ma Zhanshan allegedly "died".[19]

After General Ma escaped, his men kept up the fight, terrorizing the Japanese invaders. They seized 350 Japanese and Korean hostages and held them for weeks and kidnapped foreigners such as a British General's son and an American executive's wife.[20]

Second Sino-Japanese War

Ma himself stayed abroad in the Soviet Union, Germany and Italy only returning in June 1933.[8]

Ma Zhanshan was allegedly one of the commanders of the Soviet army during the Xinjiang War (1937), during which he fought against the fellow Muslim General Ma Hushan. It was reported that he led Russian troops disguised in Chinese uniforms along with bombers during the attack, which was requested by Sheng Shicai.[21] Other sources do not mention this doubtful participation of Ma Zhanshan in this war, since he was a Commander in Chief of Cavalry in the National Revolutionary Army in China in 1937.[2] He went to Chiang Kai-shek ask for armies to fight against the Japanese but was refused assistance. Ma then settled in Tianjin until October 1936 when Chiang Kai-shek suddenly sent him to the front of the Chinese Civil War. At Xi'an at the time of Xian Incident, he suggested to Zhang Xueliang not to kill Chiang Kai-shek while the country was in trouble and signed on the “Current Political Situation Declaration” issued by Zhang Xueliang and Yang Hucheng. Zhang Xueliang appointed Ma Zhanshan as the Commander-in-chief of the “Anti-Japanese Aid Suiyuan Cavalry Group Army”, which was suspended afterwards when Zhang Xueliang was detained by Chiang Kai-shek.

After the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, Ma Zhanshan was appointed as Commander of the Northeastern Advance Force in charge of the four northeastern provinces Liaoning, Jilin, Heilongjiang and Rehe. Ma Zhanshan established a headquarters in Datong in August 1937 and led his troops to fight the Japanese in Chahar, Suiyuan Datong and Shanxi and he cooperated with Fu Zuoyi's troops in the defense of Suiyuan and in the Yinshan War.

Ma Zhanshan abhorred the nonresistance policy of the Kuomintang government and he sided with the Chinese Communist Party in its anti-Japanese policy. He visited Yanan in 1939 in order reach an accommodation with the Chinese Red Army. Ma Zhanshan was appointed as Chairman of the Provisional Government of Heilongjiang in August 1940 by the Chinese Communist Party, and held that title in secret to the end of the war.[22]

After the defeat of Japan, the Kuomintang government appointed Ma Zhanshan as Northeast Deputy Security Commander. He took office in Shenyang, but a half year later he retired to his home in Beijing saying he was ill. He crossed over to the Communist Party in January 1949 after persuading General Fu Zuoyi to allow the city to be taken bloodlessly by the Communists. After the founding of the People's Republic of China, Chairman Mao Zedong invited him to attend the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference in June 1950, but he failed to attend because of illness and he died the same year on November 29 in Beijing.

See also


  1. Hung-mao Tien (1972). Government and politics in Kuomintang China, 1927–1937. Stanford University Press. p. 185. ISBN 0-8047-0812-6. Retrieved 2010-06-28. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Steen Ammentorp (2000-2009). "The Generals of World War II Generals from China Ma Zhanshan". Retrieved 31 October 2010. 
  3. Index Ma-Mam
  4. 4.0 4.1 John Gunther (2007). Inside Asia - 1942 War Edition. READ BOOKS. p. 306. ISBN 1-4067-1532-8. Retrieved 2010-06-28. 
  5. Paul Preston, Michael Partridge, Antony Best. British documents on foreign affairs: reports and papers from the Foreign Office confidential print. From 1946 through 1950. Asia, Volume 1. University Publications of America. p. 37. ISBN 1-55655-768-X. Retrieved 2010-06-28. 
  6. M. Rafiq Khan (1963). Islam in China. Delhi: National Academy. p. 17. Retrieved 2010-06-28. 
  7. M. Rafiq Khan (1963). Islam in China. Delhi: National Academy. p. 17. Retrieved 2010-06-28. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 "SINO REFUGEE PARTY ARRIVES IN GERMANY". 20 Apr 1933.,1475822&dq=ma+chan-shan+moslem&hl=en. Retrieved December 12, 2010. 
  9. Great Britain. Foreign Office (1997). Paul Preston, Michael Partridge, Anthony Best. ed. British documents on foreign affairs--reports and papers from the Foreign Office confidential print: From 1940 through 1945. Asia. Volume 1 of Asia / ed. Anthony Best Part 3 of British documents on foreign affairs : reports and papers from the Foreign Office confidential print / general eds. Kenneth Bourne From 1940 through 1945. University Publications of America. p. 354. ISBN 1-55655-674-8.,+he+is+of+the+old+type+of+%22bandit%22+general+with+no+education+or+modern+military+knowledge&dq=He+is+now+again+%22+Chairman+of+Heilungchiang.%22+A+good+cavalryman+and+expert+shot,+he+is+of+the+old+type+of+%22bandit%22+general+with+no+education+or+modern+military+knowledge&hl=en&ei=S4vtTZO1Oae30gH-7JHiBw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CDIQ6AEwAQ. Retrieved 2011-06-06. 
  10. Nihon Gaiji Kyōkai (1938). Contemporary Japan: a review of Far Eastern affairs, Volume 7. The Foreign Affairs Association of Japan.. Retrieved 2010-06-28. 
  11. Nihon Gaiji Kyōkai (1938). Contemporary Japan: a review of Far Eastern affairs, Volume 7. The Foreign Affairs Association of Japan..,+during+the+Manchurian+Incident,+General+Ma+Chan-shan+won+world-wide+fame&dq=moslem+More+recently,+during+the+Manchurian+Incident,+General+Ma+Chan-shan+won+world-wide+fame&hl=en&ei=m5iVTOKaIMPflgfO8dCpCg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CCcQ6AEwAA. Retrieved 2010-06-28. 
  12. 12.0 12.1 John Gunther (2007). Inside Asia - 1942 War Edition. READ BOOKS. p. 306. ISBN 1-4067-1532-8. Retrieved 2010-06-28. 
  13. "CHINA-JAPAN: Hero Ma". 23 November 1931.,9171,742656,00.html. Retrieved December 12, 2010. 
  14. "JAPAN-CHINA: Heaven-Sent Army". 1 May 1933.,9171,847239,00.html. Retrieved December 12, 2010. 
  15. Chinese Materials Center (1982). Who's who in China, 1918-1950: 1931-1950. Volume 3 of Who's who in China, 1918-1950: With an Index,. Chinese Materials Center. p. 79. Retrieved 2011-06-06. 
  16. The China monthly review, Volumes 82-83. J.W. Powell. 1937. p. 164.,+he+swiftly+but+ingenuously+carried+out+a+coup+d'etat+in+Tsitsihar,+openly+departing+from+the+provincial+capital+on+a+pretended+inspection+tour&dq=after+obtaining+a+huge+sum+of+funds+from+the+Japanese+and+a+large+quantity+of+arms+and+ammunition,+he+swiftly+but+ingenuously+carried+out+a+coup+d'etat+in+Tsitsihar,+openly+departing+from+the+provincial+capital+on+a+pretended+inspection+tour&hl=en&ei=puXuTYPRAYn10gGV-cX2DA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CCoQ6AEwAA. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  17. Jonathan Fenby (2005). Chiang Kai Shek: China's Generalissimo and the Nation He Lost. Carroll & Graf Publishers. p. 216. ISBN 0-7867-1484-0. Retrieved 2010-12-28. 
  18. The China monthly review, Volume 61. FJ.W. Powell. 1932. p. 475. Retrieved 2011-06-01. 
  19. The China monthly review, Volume 61. FJ.W. Powell. 1932. p. 185. Retrieved 2011-06-01. 
  20. Jonathan Fenby (2005). Chiang Kai Shek: China's Generalissimo and the Nation He Lost. Carroll & Graf Publishers. p. 217. ISBN 0-7867-1484-0. Retrieved 2010-12-28. 
  21. Alfred Crofts, Percy Buchanan (1958). A history of the Far East. Longmans, Green. p. 371.,+and+closely+integrated+with+the+neighboring+Islamic+republics+of+the+USSR&dq=NKVD,+and+closely+integrated+with+the+neighboring+Islamic+republics+of+the+USSR&hl=en&ei=0oWVTNufEIa8lQeF97WnCg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CCUQ6AEwAA. Retrieved 2010-06-28. 
  22. Paul Preston, Michael Partridge, Antony Best. British documents on foreign affairs: reports and papers from the Foreign Office confidential print. From 1946 through 1950. Asia, Volume 1. University Publications of America. p. 37. ISBN 1-55655-768-X.,+he+is+of+the+old+type+of+%22bandit%22+general+with+no+education+or+modern+military+knowledge&dq=He+is+now+again+%22+Chairman+of+Heilungchiang.%22+A+good+cavalryman+and+expert+shot,+he+is+of+the+old+type+of+%22bandit%22+general+with+no+education+or+modern+military+knowledge&hl=en&ei=S4vtTZO1Oae30gH-7JHiBw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CCwQ6AEwAA. Retrieved 2011-06-06. 


  • Dupuy, Trevor N. (1992). Encyclopedia of Military Biography. I B Tauris & Co Ltd. ISBN 1-85043-569-3. 
  • Elleman, Bruce (2001). Modern Chinese Warfare. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-21474-2. 
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  • Mitter, Rana (2000). The Manchurian Myth: Nationalism, Resistance, and Collaboration in Modern China. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-22111-7. 
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