Fortress Village - The Ethnic Minorities of Southwest China  

Li Guang-Ming
A Brief Introduction of Li Guang-Ming
Wang Ming-Ke

What would be a good way to introduce Li Guang-Ming? He had no great academic achievements, his career path was rocky and difficult, his personality may have been flawed, and he finally passed away during turbulent times overflowing with tragic and fascinating stories that made his own seem utterly unremarkable.

Li Guang-Ming was one of the earliest researchers at Academia Sinica’s Institute of History and Philology. He contributed to the Institute a volume of his work, Survey Report on the Cultural Practices of Ethnic Groups in Sichuan and Xikang, which was completed in 1929. He first began his investigative journey in 1928, the same year that the Institute of History and Philology was established. The Institute is well known for its excavation of the Anyang Yin ruins as well as its scholars Fu Sinian and Li Ji, but not Li Guang-Ming. In fact, he was little-known even within the Institute. Of course, for a researcher working for a prestigious academic research institute in contemporary China, academic achievement is an important determinant of whether he makes a name for himself. Li did not stay for long at the Institute, nor did he accomplish anything great academically, and therefore naturally few people knew about him. Furthermore, the fact that his Survey Report has been collecting dust in the Institute’s library for seventy-four years indicates that it is considered to have little academic value.

There are not many documents that contain references to Li’s life. Thus I will introduce him and his close associate, Wang Yuan-Hui, by referring only to three documents: sketches of Li in the biography section of the Gazetteer of the Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture (Aba Gazetteer for short); an article titled “A Brief Biography of Li Guang-Ming” published in a book by Wang Yuen-Hui, called Shenyu xiangbang; and finally, a few records on Li in the Institute’s old document files.1
州志資料見於﹐四川省阿壩藏族自治州地方志編纂委員會編﹐《阿壩藏族羌族自治州志》(成都市 : 民族出版社﹐1994)﹐頁 2604-2605。有關傅斯年與黎光明之來往電文﹐見歷史語言研究所公文檔﹐原檔號﹕元 115-20-1﹐元 115-9﹐元 230-9, 230-10, 230-11,。王元輝之著作﹐見王天元﹐《近西遊副記》(四川﹕四川文藝出版社)﹔《神禹鄉邦》(台北﹕川康渝文物館﹐1983)。
These three sources each belong to a different genre—gazetteer, memoir, and official document. As a structured medium of social memory, each of these genres possesses a unique meaning.

Relatively detailed descriptions of Li Guang-Ming’s life are in the Aba Gazetteer. Guang-Ming was from Guankou, Guan prefecture, a member of the Hui people, and had a byname of Jinxiu. He was born in 1901 and died in 1946. He was a history major at Southeast University in Nanjing in 1922, but was later expelled for joining the Kuomintang and participating in anti-warlord and anti-imperialism student movements. Thereafter, he arrived at Guangzhou and enrolled at Sun Yat-Sen University, from which he graduated in 1927. Similar descriptions can be found in Wang Yuen-Hui’s memoir Shenyu xiangbang, which states that Li “joined the revolution after the Kuomintang regrouped in 1924, and participated in anti-warlord student movements.”

The following is an interlude recorded in the Aba Gazetteer. When Li arrived in Guangzhou, he had originally meant to enroll at the Whampoa Military Academy. However, because he worried that he would not be able to live a military lifestyle as a Muslim, he decided to enroll at Sun Yat-Sen University instead. Wang Yuen-Hui recalled that “Li’s old friends had all left the academic field and entered military school, but since he was a Muslim and feared that life in the military would be inconvenient for him, he decided to stay at Sun Yat-Sen University.” Not only does this explain the important decisions that Li made in his life, but it also shows who Li socialized with, and that Wang Yuen-Hui was part of that circle of friends. Participating in the May Fourth student movements and deciding not to enroll at the Whampoa Military Academy apparently caused a big impact on the rest of Li’s life and career. Afterwards, he kept swaying back and forth between two worlds—fighting to save his country, and teaching.

After he graduated from Sun Yat-Sen University, Guang-Ming joined the newly-founded Institute of History and Philology at Academia Sinica in 1928. This naturally had something to do with the fact that at the time, the Institute of History and Philology was temporarily located within Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou. The Institute was officially established in July of the same year, and in late August Li departed from Shanghai “to do ethnological research on the Sichuan border,” as Fu Ssu-Nien stated in the annual report. From this, we can see that Li can be considered one of the founding researchers of the Institute. Li arrived in Chengdu in late September, but he lingered there until January of the following year, when he began to invite his friends to accompany him westward to the upper stream of the Min River. He also sent a few telegrams to Fu Ssu-Nien asking for travel stipends. Fu was not too happy about his dawdling in Chengdu and on top of that, inviting his friends to come along. In a letter written to Li on February 16, 1929, Fu repeatedly urged Li to stop socializing in Chengdu, and conduct more careful observations rather than meddle with political affairs. Fu was also displeased about the fact that Li had been spending too much money on this trip, without producing adequate reports. Originally, there might have been others who went with Li, but after Die Creek in northern Mao prefecture was blocked due to war, they returned to Chengdu. In March of the same year, Li Guang-Ming once again set out towards the Songpan region, and only Wang Yuen-Hui accompanied him. When the two ended their trip and returned to Chengdu in June, the Institute of History and Philology had been moved north to Beijing. Li headed to Beijing, where he was again chided by Fu Sinian.

The year that Li Guang-Ming left the Institute should be 1929. Among the Institute’s official documents is one issued by Fu Ssu-Nien, asking the authorities to punish Li Guang-Ming for “disturbing others” by entertaining his own guests in the library’s public reading room, as well as other “inappropriate behavior.”

史語所公文書檔﹐檔號﹕元 115-9。
The Aba Gazetteer contains a detailed account of Li Guang-Ming’s career. After leaving the Institute of History and Philology in 1929, Li went to work at the Yanjing Library. From 1931 to 1932, he taught at Chengdu University and Sichuan University. In 1933, he went to Xingzi in Jiangxi Province and became a drill instructor for a special training class at the Central Military Academy. In 1934, he once again returned to Sichuan, and taught first at Chongqing University, and then at Sichuan University. From 1936 to 1938 he returned to the military and took on the position of colonel political cadre at the Chengdu branch of the Central Military Academy. From 1938 to 1941, Li served as principal at Mienyang High School and Chengdu Yintang High School. In 1941, the politically active Li was simultaneously serving as the director and secretariat for the Sichuan branch of Youth Group of the Three Principles of the People, a committee member of the Kuomintang in Chengdu, and a senator of the Chengdu City temporary senate. In 1942, he once again went back to the education field, serving as the principal at the Provincial Chengdu High School. In 1943, he served as supervisor of the sixteen regions, and secretary of the Security Protection Command Department. In January of 1946, he became head of Jinghua County, but was assassinated in March that very same year.

From his resume we can see that Li was constantly wandering back and forth between politics and education. Wang Yuen-Hui’s memoir captured the views that Li’s “friends” had of Li:

From the way Li went from the Institute of History and Philology to the Yanjing University Library, followed by several years of teaching and serving twice as a school principal, many friends saw him as a complete scholar, and some even thought he was a nerd. Li did not like this reputation very much, so he left his education work and began to participate in youth group activities. Later, he even went to serve as a secretary for the Office of Sixteen Regions in Mao County.

The reason why Li Guang-Ming was accounted for in the Aba Gazetteer was obviously because he died trying to rid Jinghua of evil as the head of the county. Below is a brief outline of the incident. Since the beginning of Republican China, the planting of opium became widespread in the upper-stream regions of Min River and Jinsha River, which resulted in a large influx of gang leaders and members, as well as many migrants from eastern Sichuan and southern Shaanxi who came to work in opium factories. The central government dispatched troops over to “clean it up,” but the military authorities in charge often used this as a cover-up for their illegal deeds, such as conspiring with the local drug-dealing gangsters, interfering with and monopolizing the opium market, or even taking the drug themselves. Troops from Gansu and Sichuan would battle each other over territory along the upper Min River. The Communist Party’s “Long March” division reached there in 1935 and proceeded to enter Shaanxi. In 1936, in order to fortify this area, the Nationalist government established Sichuan Province’s Sixteenth Administrative Supervised Public Bureau and a Security Protection Command Department in Mao prefecture. This shows that the local troops were losing their power, and that the central government was regaining military control over the area. In 1942 Zhang Qun, the head of Sichuan Province, appointed the then vice commander of the Security Protection Department Wang Yuen-Hui as supervisor of the sixteen administrative regions, assigning him the major task of “shoveling out the opium.” This assignment more or less had to do with Wang’s previous experience in the Sichuan-Xikang region.

Wang Yuen-Hui was from Guan prefecture, Sichuan. He graduated from the Central Military Academy, and was a member of the Blueshirts. After he was appointed supervisor of the sixteen administrative regions, he started forcefully clearing away the opium near the borders of Sichuan and Xikang. In 1942, he personally led troops into Fangong and directed a campaign to destroy opium. However, he underestimated his enemies, and was surrounded and attacked by a group of opium crop protectors. According to the Aba Gazetteer, Wang was finally able to escape from Fangong with the help of some powerful local figures. Wang also supported the newly appointed Songpan County magistrate Wang Yi-Neng in organizing an anti-opium military force in the Songpan area. The Aba Gazetteer describes Wang Yi-Neng’s anti-opium tactics as so radical and unreasonable that it aroused hatred from the people. However, Wang Yuen-Hui described him as a benevolent local official who carried out sound and well-intended policies. During an opium raid in 1943, Wang Yi-Neng was surrounded and captured by gangsters and villagers from each village, abused, and finally beheaded and slit in the abdomen. This incident caused a huge blow to Wang Yuen-Hui. Wang Yi-Neng was from Nanchong, Sichuan, had studied at Sun Yat-Sen University and trained at the Whampoa Military Academy, and was a Blueshirt as well. His background and experiences overlapped in many ways with that of Wang Yuen-Hui’s and Li Guang-Ming’s.

In 1943, Li Guang-Ming became supervisor of the sixteen regions, and secretary for the Security Protection Command Department. This arrangement probably had much to do with his old buddy Wang Yuen-Hui being assigned to straighten out the regions’ military, political, and social issues at the time. At least we can say for sure that since they last traveled in Sichuan and Xikang together in 1929, this pair of good friends finally had a chance to collaborate once again and fight against strong local powers. This time, their opponent was someone called Du Tieqiao.

Du Tieqiao, born in Shaer, Jinghua County, was a typical product of the society of his time. Considering the political and social situation in the marginalized Sichuan and Xikang regions at the time, each division of the military had to join forces with local bosses, thus producing all sorts of new local power elites on various levels. These power elites were at the same time leaders of various secret gangs. Du Tie-Qiao was one of them. In 1921, he held the position of “Chief of the Sueijing Group Bureau.” His power was at its peak during the 1930s and 1940s, holding a variety of military titles and positions. Du set his headquarters in Jinghua, where he could on the one hand conveniently manipulate the production of opium, and on the other hand control his own military forces and brutalize the area. In 1940, Du ordered his followers to murder the Jinghua government cadres who were in charge of destroying opium. In 1941, he attempted in vain to assassinate the head of Jinghua County, Mi Zhen, and then killed the township chief and commanded his gangsters to beleaguer the capital of Jinghua County. In the same year, Du founded the “Xisheng Commune” to unite the forces of all gangs in the county. In 1942, he had Yin Jian-Gang, an inspector for the sixteen regions, shot to death. In 1945, Du embezzled the local government’s earnings and blackmailed the people for their money as well. The Sichuan provincial government could do nothing about it.

After Li arrived at Jinghua, Du Tie-Qiao tried to provoke Li and interfered with his reform policies and anti-opium campaigns in every possible way. Therefore, according to the Aba Gazetteer, Li made up his mind to plot the murder of Du Tie-Qiao with the support of Wang Yuen-Hui. On March 2, 1946, Li held a banquet at the prefecture government building, and invited Du. Unaware of Li’s plot, Du attended the banquet without precautions, and was shot to death by one of Li’s staff. That night, more than three hundred armed bandits of the gang beleaguered the county government building, and by the next day, it was lost to the bandits. In a description of the incident in the Aba Gazetteer, “when Li retreated to the half-acre garden in the back courtyard, he was shot in the chest by Du’s friend Li Xing-Wu, followed by a slash in the head by a knife-welding Du Xi-Deng. Li’s head split open and he died on the spot.” In his memoir, Wang Yuen-Hui wrote that “Li personally led self-defense troops and battled with the gang for one day and one night, until he unfortunately got shot to death.” This is referred to as the “Yin River Incident.” Nowhere in his memoir did Wang Yuen-Hui mention his own participation in the plot to murder Du Tie-Qiao.

The Aba Gazetteer also recounts that after Li’s death, no one dared to bury his body until some local Muslims negotiated with the members of the gang. The Nationalist government offered praise by saying that Li “was devoted to his work regardless of the danger, and should be publicly acknowledged and honored for the sacrifice he made for the country.” Wang Yuen-Hui moved to Taipei with the military in 1949 while serving as secretariat for a bureau set up by Hu Zong-Nan to oversee the Sichuan, Shaanxi, and Gansu regions. The night before Wang departed for Taipei, Fu Bing-Xun, the leader of the 104th division, had an all-night talk with him. Wang passed on to Fu all his knowledge on the geography and the people and issues of the Sichuan-Xikang border. Soon after that, Fu Bingxun led troops into the mountains and collaborated with local chieftains against communists. These battles are known in history as the “Jingmao Conflict” and “Battle at Heishui,” and were one of the last battles that the Nationalist government fought on the mainland.3

What should we say about Li and Wang, a pair of good friends who accompanied each other on the survey trip to Sichuan and Xikang in 1929, and united there again from 1943 to 1946 in a fight against evil, which resulted in one person’s misfortune and the other’s death? In the past half-century, Li Guang-Ming was practically forgotten by his former colleagues at the Institute of History and Philology. What was remembered was records in the official documents about the Li who “kept asking for funds but would not write reports,” “behaved inappropriately on more than one occasion,” and “entertained guests in the public reading room of the library,” etc. We have no reason to doubt the accuracy of the descriptions of Li in the official documents, but these negative accounts of Li also reflect a few positive characteristics—cheerful and outgoing, loyal to his friends, and passionate about politics. On another note, since these official documents can be regarded as the product of a certain type of social reality and power structure, we can also detect from these documents the link between nationalism and the pursuit of knowledge, not to mention the distribution of power among the people at the IHP and Academia Sinica.

Li Guang-Ming’s doings can only be seen recorded in a gazetteer that belongs to an autonomous region located in the most remote area of northwestern Sichuan. The Aba Gazetteer, which was compiled in the 1990s, for the most part followed the format of conventional local gazetteers, but contained a few breakthroughs as well. For example, the gazetteer recorded many memories that were easily left out from official histories, such as less significant individuals or incidents, and through describing local events and figures it showed how they relate to China as a whole. From this we may see the fact that Li was included in the Aba Gazetteer as the editor’s way of shaping “China’s boundaries” through Li and the incidents related to Li, and way of emphasizing the today’s local harmony and order in contrast to its chaotic and violent past. Compared to Li, Wang Yuen-Hui played a more important role in the sixteen regions, but he was not accounted for in the Aba Gazetteer, due to the fact that Chinese gazetteers traditionally like to include only the ones who had “died for a noble cause,” and Wang did not. Wang’s memoir and articles reflecting on his past are mostly published by the “Sichuan Document Research Club.” This publishing organization is supported by Sichuan people currently living in Taiwan, which shows that only in the context of local identity can Wang’s memories become a part of social memory.

We can view people like Li Guang-Ming, Wang Yuen-Hui, and Fu Ssu-Nien as products of the same time period. They were created by history, but they also made history. At a time when a nation was being constructed, the Institute’s scholars, including Fu Ssu-Nien, Rui Yi-Fu, and Li Ji, all used their academic achievements to help in doing so.4
早期歷史語言研究所的工作﹐可謂是以「科學方法」與「新學術」來打造國族﹕從歷史﹑語言﹑考古﹑體質與民族學等角度﹐研究中華民族中各民族之分類與構造﹐及導致此構造的歷史起源與變遷。傅斯年之 「夷夏東西說」﹑芮逸夫的「中國民族之構成」(大陸 7.1: 25-33, 1953)﹐以及李濟所著《中國文明的開始》﹐可以說都是「社會科學」與「國族主義」結合下的產物。
However, people like Wang Yuen-+Hui directly offered themselves to the construction of the nation through actual actions. Until his death, Li Guang-Ming had been wavering between the two extremes.5
The reason why he was frequently criticized at the Institute might be because of his outgoing and social personality. His decision to not enroll at the Whampoa Military Academy because he was Muslim played a part in making the rest of his life difficult, but it was also because he was Muslim, that his body was able to be properly buried after his death. There must be much more to Li Guang-Ming than we can ever tell from the surface.
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