The True Chess King --- Xie Xiaxun. Part 7
(7) The Second Trip to South-east Asia and the Chess King nearly lost his life
When Xie reached Nanjing, he heard of news of the government preparing to send five envoys overseas so that the overseas Chinese could donate to their cause. In Xie’s autobiography, it was said that the envoys to Europe and America had already been determined. Only the envoy to South-east Asia had not been decided. The reason was that there were a lot of Chinese in South-east Asia and this presented very special circumstances of its own. It was believed that the chosen envoy would face particular danger. Therefore, no suitable person could be found to be assigned as the representative.
Indeed, the circumstances were extraordinary and the journey fraught with danger. Xie nearly lost his life when he was appointed as the envoy to South-east Asia.
Xie voluntarily offered his services. Even though Xie was prepared to put his life on the line, he still had to get the recognition and that was no minor feat of its own. It took some politics before Xie was finally appointed as envoy to South-east Asia. He had to obtain guarantees from Shao Lizi (邵力子 Hanyu Pinyin shào lì zǐ) who was head of the Department of Propaganda for the Kuomintang’s central. Shao’s secretary Lu Xue (卢雪 Hanyu Pinyin lú xuě) hailed from the same town as Xie and had recommended Xie fervently.
But Shao was still skeptical about Xie’s position. So, he decided to test Xie. He told Xie that the envoy to South-east Asia would probably be put in mortal danger, and would face more hardships than the envoys to Europe or America. Shao then suggested coyly that it might have been better for Xie if he could find other ways of showing off his patriotism.
But Xie bluntly replied: “Our country is facing a calamity, why should I be concerned about my own interests? If it required a man to give up his life for his country, it should be an honor that was bestowed!”
Shao was melted by Xie’s strength of character, and after discussion with Zhang Zhizhong (张治中 Hanyu Pinyin zhāng zhì zhōng), it was finally decided that Xie was to be appointed as the envoy to South-east Asia. The duo would then write letters to vouch for Xie who was eventually granted his wish to serve his country.
Before undertaking his trip, many of Nanjing’s elite and chess players expressed their gratitude to Xie. They wrote calligraphy and gave gifts to Xie. Feng Yuxiang (冯玉祥 Hanyu Pinyin féng yù xiáng), Zhang Zhizhong , Chen Lifu (陈立夫 chén lì fū), Li Zongren (李宗仁 Hanyu Pinyin lǐ zōng rén), and Shao Lizi were amongst the people who bade farewell to Xie. There were still many more to send him at the railway station. There was an air of melancholy as many feared that it was their last meeting with Xie. There was mention of poems and calligraphy in the autobiography.
One of the first few stops that Xie made on his second trip to South-east Asia was the Philippines. When he reached there, Nanjing had fell, and there it was a calamity. Xie changed all of his welcoming events into fund-raising events against the invasion of the Japanese. He gave speeches to crowds, and the overseas Chinese had already heard news of the Nanjing Massacre. All were bitter and angry, and the overseas Chinese were more than willing to help out. Many women donated their jewellery, and each fundraising activity surpassed the former in terms of donations. From the period of January 1938 to December 1941, when the Philippines fell to the Japanese, the country had amassed a total of forty-seven million yuan which was an astronomical figures at that time.
Xie would later go to Indonesia where during a two-month period, he would use Xiangqi as a means to try to get donations. Patriotism was in the air, and the Chinese in Indonesia managed over nine million yuan in donations. Special mention of the head of the overseas Chinese living in Indonesia, Chen Xingchu (陈性初 Hanyu Pinyin chén xìng chū) written in Xie’s biography. Chen was very impressed and took it upon himself to attend to Xie’s needs when he was in Indonesia.
Chen was older than Xie by seventeen years, but when the two met, they felt like they had known each other forever. With Chen by his side, Xie’s fundraising activities were much more fruitful. When Xie returned to China years later, Chen would travel to China to show his respect to those who had stood up to the Japanese. Unfortunately, Chen was getting old, and the travels took a toll on him before he passed away in Kunming. Xie was bereaved when he heard of Chen’s death, and would often shed tears of dismay when he recalled his times in Indonesia.
Another one of Xie’s stops in South-east Asia was Penang. Wang Jingwei’s (汪精卫Hanyu Pinyin wāng jīng wèi) wife Chen Bijun (陈璧君 Hanyu Pinyin ) was from Penang. (Jim: Wang Jingwei was a famous politician at the turn of the century in China who would later be branded as a traitor.) Xie would receive death threats when he was in Penang who threatened to harm him.
Xie’s biography had a lengthy passage on the incident. One of the most colorful descriptions was a gang of thugs attempting to harm him when he first reached Penang. Not only did Xie not run away, he stood his ground and told off his would-be attackers, even berating the fact that Wang had tried to change his tag of being a traitor. His would be attackers were shocked and ran off instead! When other local Chinese heard about the incident, they were furious and showed Xie their support. And Chen Xingchu would send over a team of bodyguards to protect Xie. In the end, it was said that the traitors were not able to harm Xie anymore.
When in Singapore, Xie continued to use Xiangqi for his cause. One of the highlights was using living chess. Young girls and boys were used as chess pieces in the stadium, and it caused an uproar at that time. Thousands gathered to see Xie and it was another highlight in his fund-raising activities.
After finishing his fund-raising trip to South-east Asia, many local Chinese decided to accompany Xie back to China to offer their support against the Japanese invasion.
On his return journey to China, Xie chose to travel by Myanmar and nearly died there from miasma. Poor hygienic conditions also caused Xie to contract dysentery where he almost died of dehydration. Four people died after contracting dysentery.
Xie was ill for over a month before he was fit enough to travel back to China.
To be continued…
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