A roadside field guide to places and things along the Pyongyang Marathon course. Today we look at the Friendship Monument to the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army of the Korean War.
Pass the Arch of Triumph, once Mao Zedong Square, and now you are running uphill on the former ‘Peking Road’. This road is the traditional route through northwest Korea to Beijing. In ages past, caravans destined for the Chinese capital laden with tribute and trade traveled this road. Armies too - from Korea, China, Japan, Russia, and the United States - have all marched along this road on their way to war.
You are running out of the valley where a Chinese army once made its own fateful ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’ against entrenched Japan and Japanese and Cossack cavalry fought early skirmishes during the Russo-Japanese War.
…the ancient walled city of Ping Yang [sic*], the scene of the slaughter of the Chinese by the Japanese in 1894 and a city whose written history leaps boldly back into the centuries before Christ. Here in the pleasant valley beyond the walls of Ping Yang the Cossacks, twenty in number, ran upon five Japanese cavalry (London, 1904).
Make it to the top of the hill as the road curves and atop the hill to your right is the ‘Friendship Monument’ dedicated to a Chinese army held in much higher regards for its performance in the bloodied hills of Korea. This is the monument to the soldiers of the Chinese People’ Volunteer Army (‘PVA’ or 中国人民志愿军) who fought in the Korean War.
The original monument was built in 1959 and was enlarged in 1989 to make the 30th anniversary. Perhaps more famous in both China and Korea is the ‘Battle Song of the Chinese People’s Volunteers’ (中国人民志愿军战歌).
It is worth listening to the song at least once - there are five renditions in the video below - and watching the footage from at least the first rendition.
The battle song goes:
‘Our heroes, valiant and proud, cross the Yalu River!'
If you were to follow the old Pekin’ road, now the DPRK’s Highway No. 1, to the Sino-Korean border and cross the Yalu River you would you would find yourself in the Chinese city of Dandong, formally Andong. In the autumn of 1950, it was at Dandong and numerous other points along the Yalu and Tumen rivers that PVA crossed into Korea in secret. There is a monument at the location of one of these temporary bridges.
The decision to send Chinese soldiers had been made after UN and South Korean forces crossed the 38th parallel in September 1950 with the goal of ‘opposing America and supporting Korea’ (抗美援朝).
‘Maintain peace, guard the motherland, that’s protecting your home. Good sons and daughters of China, come together in unity.’
Many of these ‘good sons and daughters of China’ were hardened veterans from Second Sino-Japanese War/ World War II (1937-1945) and from both sides of the Chinese Civil War (1946-50). Their immediate objective was to blunt the advance of UN and South Korean forces racing up the peninsula towards the border with China.
‘Oppose America, support Korea, defeat the American Savage-heart Wolves!’
And stop the UN-ROK advance in its tracks they did. After almost a month of preparations and limited engagements - from which UN High Command failed to ascertain the level of Chinese involvement - two coordinated offensives were unleashed almost simultaneously in northwest along the Chongchon River and in northeast Korea near the Changjin (Chosin) Reservoir. These battles, which began 57 years ago this week, would see some of the most brutal fighting of the war and in extremely harsh winter conditions.
A subsequent New Year offensive would push UN forces south of the 38th parallel, capturing Seoul by January 4, 1951. Over the next two and a half years, over three million Chinese personal served in Korea with between 150,000 and 480,000 losing their lives and at least the same amount wounded in action. While exact numbers remain disputed to this day, the PRC-DPRK friendship can nonetheless be described as one 'forged in blood'. Mao Zedong's own son, Mao Anying, died in Korea and is buried in a Chinese cemetery at Hoechang.
After the signing of the armistice agreement, the PVA stayed in Korea until 1958.
The Run Down
· The Friendship Monument in Pyongyang is dedicated to the soldiers of the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army who fought in the Korean War.
· Over three million Chinese personnel served in the Korean War with hundreds of thousands losing their lives.
· Mao Zedong’s son died serving in Korea and is buried in Hoechang at a cemetery to Chinese soldiers. A similar
· The People’s Volunteer Army withdrew from Korea in 1958 and a monument was built to Korean-Chinese friendship in 1959.
Here is a rendition of the North Korea's Moranbong band.
'A Pyongyang Marathon Runner’s Guide’ is a roadside field guide to places and things along the Pyongyang Marathon course brought to you by the Koryo Tours North Korea Travel Guide.
*'Ping Yang' is the likely a deviation of the Chinese 'Ping Rang' or the local Pyong'an dialect 'Pyeng Yang' .