A look at the Xi'an Incident hero's formative years

By Xu Fan ( China Daily ) Updated: 2016-01-21 07:50:31

A look at the Xi'an Incident hero's formative years

Actor Wen Zhang portrays marshal Zhang Xueliang in TV series, Shao Shuai.[Photo provided to China Daily]

Most Chinese are familiar with the name Zhang Xueliang because of the Xi'an Incident, which changed the course of Chinese history but made the military leader lose freedom for the rest of his life.

The Xi'an Incident, which occurred on Dec 12, 1936, halted China's civil war and united the Kuomintang and the Communist Party, who together turned their guns against the Japanese invaders.

While scores of screen titles hail him as a patriotic hero, a recent hit TV series stretches its tentacles to his lesser-known early years, when the young Zhang was still a playboy and a troublemaker for his prestigious family.

Shao Shuai (Young Marshal, Zhang's nickname), a 48-episode biopic, has been airing on Beijing Satellite TV since Jan 11, with two episodes every night.

For those who missed the earlier episodes, streaming-video sites Youku and Tudou provide a second chance, as the series has been released on the two online platforms.

With flashbacks to Zhang's last years in the United States, the series mainly chronicles the legendary figure's life from the age of 12 to 36.

His multiple romances, including first wife Yu Fengzhi and soul mate Edith Chao, are featured in the series.

Actually Zhang's life was more dramatic and astounding than a writer could fictionalize.

At 12, the first and most spoiled son of Northeast China's warlord, Zhang Zuolin, Zhang had to live with his dictator father's four concubines after losing his mother.

At 27, the young man had to take his father's position after Zhang Zuolin was murdered by Japanese invaders.

At 36, Zhang allied with Yang Hucheng, a general commanding much of northwestern China, to arrest the Kuomintang's leader, Chiang Kai-shek, to force him to make a truce with the Communist Party.

After that it was all downhill, just like Zhang told the historian Te-Kong Tong: "All my stories conclude at 36."

After the truce, Zhang accompanied the released Chiang to the Nationalist government's capital but was put under house arrest for the next 40 years.

He regained his freedom only after Chiang died in 1975.

The TV series' writers were never short of material.

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