Huaqing Pool’s modern claim to fame is as the setting for the Xi’an Incident in 1936. As Japanese troops continued to advance into China, Chiang Kai-shek virtually ignored them, concentrating instead on pursuing his policy of national unification – meaning the destruction of the Communists before all else. In December 1936, he flew to Xi’an, which was then under the control of Marshal Zhang Xueliang and his Manchurian troops. Although GMD supporters, they, like many others, had grown weary of Chiang’s policies, fuelled by the fact that their Manchurian homeland was now occupied by the Japanese. In secret meetings with Communist leaders, Zhang had been convinced of their genuine anti-Japanese sentiments, and so, on the morning of December 12, Nationalist troops stormed Chiang’s headquarters at the foot of Li Shan, capturing most of the headquarters staff. The great leader himself was eventually caught halfway up the slope in a house at the back of the complex, behind the pools – a neo-Grecian pavilion on the lower slopes of the mountain marks the spot. Still in his pyjamas and without his false teeth, he had bolted from his bed at the sound of gunfire. Chiang was forced to pay a heavy ransom but was otherwise unharmed, his captors allowing him to remain in control of China – provided that he allied with the Communists against the Japanese. Today, tourists line up here to don GMD uniforms and have their pictures taken.

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