Tai Hang shan shang (On the Mountain of Tai Hang) (2005)




Director:    Jian Chen, Dong Shen, Lian Wei.

Starring:    Wang Wufu (Zhu De), Shusheng Li (Zuo Quan), Guangming Xu (Yan Xishan), Shikui Yan (Wei Lihuang), Tony Leung Ka Fai (He Bingyan), De-kai Liu (Hao Mengling), Youbin Li (Zhu Huaibing).

Chinese communist commander Zhu De wins some big battles against the Japanese in northern China.


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

"July 1937 Japan started the Marco Polo Bridge Incident. Beijing and Tianjin fell one after another. Huabei was in danger. The Chinese nationís existence was at stake. For the whole nationís interests, CPC (communists)  joined hands with the KMT (natilonalilsts) once again. The Red Army was recomposed into KMTís 8th Route Army."

"Following the order of CPCís Central Military Commission I crossed the Yellow River and rushed day and night for the frontline against Japan."

The Japanese commander says that between Henan and Hebei is the Yellow River and between Shandong and Shanxi is Mt. Taihang. They must take Taihang.  Then they can capture northern China via Shanxi (which is between Mt. Taihang and the Yellow River).

Taihelingkou, Daixdan, Shanxi Command of KMTís 2nd Theater. Nationalist Commander Yan is looking over the war map. Communist Commander Zhu De has come. They are old friends. Yan has been waiting for Zhu De. The two men discuss an attack on the Japanese.  One idea is to set up an ambush at Pingxingguan. Itís the only route for the Japanese Commanader Itagaki's troops to enter Shanxi. Zhu De has Lin Biaoís 115th and He Longís 120th Divisions already at the frontline. Oiu Bochengís 129th Division is on its way. In addition there is headquarters led by Peng Dehuai. That makes in total 32,000 men.

The men set up their positions at Pingxingguan. Lin Biao says this is the first campaign of the 8th Route Army. There are some doubts if the KMT will fight with them. Lin Biao says the communist troops have to fight even if they have to do so without the KMT.

The KMT generals arrive and one of them asks how can the115th fight well when they are so poorly armed? The response is that the human factor is more important than the weapons. KMT will attack the Japanese from the north to help pin them down.

At night and in the rain Japanese troops trudge along the mountain valley. All of a sudden there is a huge landslide knocking down some of the Chinese troops and horses in the mountain. The Japanese see some Chinese resistance up ahead. The Japanese General only says to get rid of them. The sub-commander comes back saying they smashed a team of the KMT army.

Nanru Village, Wutai, Shanxi Hqs of the 8th Route Army. The report is that the Japanese donít have any scouts out. Zhu De says they are too arrogant.

The next morning the Chinese troops are all in place for the ambush. Lin Biao waits. The vanguard passes through the head of the valley. He gives the order to fire.

The Japanese general finds it hard to believe that the Chinese army is ambushing them. He says they must be guerrillas. Yan Xishan? He was the generalís Imperial Military School classmate. He comments that the man doesnít have the guts. Then the Japanese general says he doesnít need air support for this engagement. His subordinate asks him please reconsider and the General says okay.

The aerial bombing is fierce so the Chinese charge downhill. The Chinese commander sees through his binoculars that the Japanese are taking the Laoyemiao Height. He orders Li Tianyou that he cannot lose the height to the Japanese.. The colonel reinforces Laoyemiao Height.

At the KMT headquarters the news is that Gao Guizi, Commander of the 17th Army, ordered his men to abandon their positions. The subordinate says they must support the flanks of the communist troops. The commander says that Gao Guizi is not under his command. So the subordinate asks if they can send in their 71st division. The answer is no.

News at the Chinese communist headquarters is that Itagaki is getting reinforcement coming from the north. Yanís troops are not doing anything and the 115thís flank is totally exposed. But Lin Biao has prepared for that possibility. He has troops along Yimaling. The order is to ask Lin Biao to finish the fight and get out of there.

The Chinese run out of bullets. So the Chinese go for the bayonet charge and the Japanese respond in kind.  Itís wicked hand-to-hand fighting. Itagaki learns of the bayonet charge by the enemy and wonders who are those guys? And it now dawns on him that it must be the 8th Route Army.

The men at the height have fended off eleven attacks, but Bin Lao says they still cannot retreat. They must hold. in the end the Chinese hold the field. There are dead bodies everywhere.  The Japanese, instead of surrendering, kill themselves or kill others and are killed in turn. One wounded Japanese soldier kills a woman medic bandaging him and is bayoneted repeatedly by a Chinese soldier.

Zhu De tells his men that today, September 25, 1937, is a day that astonished the world.. It will go down in Chinese history as a great victory. He says that Itagaki was one of the plotters behind the September 18th incident. He also made the last Qing emperor Puyi emperor of the puppet state of Manchukuo. In addition, itís the Japaneseís greatest defeat since the Russo-Japanese War.

There is a big parade in the town. The Kuomintang get the news of the communist great victory and are a bit jealous. And now the 8th Route Army firmly controls Shanxi.

A Japanese military map has been found. In the battle about 1,000 soldiers were killed on both sides. There are absolutely no Japanese POWs.

An English woman named Miss Smedley, who is writing the biography of Zhu De, wants to talk with him, but a soldier named Ren says he is too busy.

The overall commander of the Chinese forces suggests they make three route armies: an east route army headed by Zhu De; the middle route by Lihuang; and he will lead the west route army. Zhu De says that his army can begin guerilla warfare against the Japanese.

Xinkou Battlefield. Airplanes bomb the Chinese Troops. Zhu De gives the order to find the Japanese airfield and blow it up.

Yangmingbu Airbase. The guards are killed. Explosive satchels are thrown into the open Japanese airplane canopies. They explode. Zhu De is very happy to hear that Chen Xilian blew up the entire Japanese airbase.

120th Division led by He Long had a successful ambush at Yanmenguan. They cut off the enemyís supply. This means that Wei Lilhuang will have an easier time guarding Xinkou.

News from Chairman Mao. He believes the recovery victory is only temporary. Taiyun will be lost soon. Zhu De says Chiang is hardly fighting at all, but they must helpYan. They will attack the Japanese rear.

The biographer is given a look-around the area. The women are making shoes for the Red Army soldiers. A lot of them have lost fathers, brothers, husbands and/or sons.

Because of the Chinese victories, Japan sends more armed forces to China. They decided to attack the strategic northern Chinese town of Taiyuan. At Yanmenguan and Niangziguan the two sides fight each other.

Yanmenguan. There is more hand to hand fighting with the Japanese. A new Chinese brigadier has come to replace the one who was killed in battle. They must get height 1300 back. The brigadier tells the staff that he will fight alongside them until victory or death. Itís not too long before the brigadier goes down with the men around him.

The order finally arrives for the Chinese to retreat. The Colonel is told they have to retreat. Niangziguan was lost. The Colonel is angry at the news and screams: "Why?"

The latest news is that the Japanese have moved incredibly fast, even before Yanís second defense line could form. The Japs have broken through. Zhu De says they have to move their HQs farther south.

Taiyuan City. Doiharaís division is rushing from the east to try to save Taiyuan. And Tojo Hideki is heading down from the north. But Taiyuan is about to fall any minute.

Anze, Shanxi, HQs of the 8th Route Army. The frontal war against the Japanese by the KMT is over. The communists will rely on guerilla warfare. Taiyuan has been lost. A young man named Bo Yibo wants to lead a suicide team. Zhu De tells him to evacuate from the Wutai mountains. Bo Yibo then is told to take his team to southern Shanxi.

The North Bureau of CPC Command of 2nd Theater and Office of 8th Route Army needs at least three to four days to evacuate from Linfen. 386th Brigade will stay with Hqs.

Biaolishan River, Shanxi. The Japanese are on the move. The General says that the Chinese are retreating to southern Shanxli and they should be able to wipe them out at Linfen. The overall commander says that since the KMT has been thoroughly defeated, they should focus on eliminating the 8th Route Army. One officer says he will catch Zhu De alive.

Liuyuan Village , Anze, Shanxi, Hqs of 8th Route Army.   Field Hospital of Hqs. of 8th Route Army. They will be evacuating now. Miss Smedley will be sent to Yanían, but she wants to stay with the army. Zhu De says he hopes she will obey the orders. Smedley stays with Zhu De a littler longer and as she leaves she says she loves the 8th Route Army.

Zhu De learns that their rearguard is fighting 1,000 Japanese soldiers. The commander says that's great, because that will give Hqs more times to get away.

Guzhen, Anze, Shanxi, Hqs of 8th Route Army. Zhu De says his men will be guerillas warriors on Tai Hang Mountain. The news is that the Japanese have bombarded Guzheln in Qinshui. The Japanese bombed the wrong Guzhen, the one were Zhu De is not. Japanese on horseback are coming right at the communist troops. But they donít even notice the Chinese in hiding.

Japanese 104th Brigade got into the heart of 8th Route Armyís base. The Japanese pick up radio signals from the Chinese. They figure Zhu De must not be far away. The Japanese move out and then head into a small village. And, of course, the Japanese atrocities begin. They push all the locals into a barn and then lock the door. Any of the villagers who can tell them where the radio transmission is coming from can get out. Poisonous gas is thrown into the barn. A Chinese unit under Ye Chenghuan arrives and starts attacking the Japanese. Commander Ye is killed in the attack. The villagers in the barn are rescued. The Japanese retreat with the Chinese coming after them.

There is another meeting of the KMT and the communists. The KMT congratulate Zhu De on his continued success.

Huangya Cave Armory. Zhu De tours the underground armory where a great many people work on repairing and manufacturing weapons. Zhu De gives a little speech thanking the workers.

Zhangjiakou. Senior General Hisaichi is honored at a geisha house by other officers. Mountain fighting expert Hidenori Abe of the Japanese army in Mongolia has been transferred to Hebei. He is about to attack Nie Rongzhenís troops.

Wangjayu Village, Wuxiang, Xhanxi Hqs of 8th Route Army. Zhu De say the emphasis will stay on guerilla warfare.

Yansuya, Hebei. Abe and his troops pay their respects to a cemetery of 500 Japanese soldiers. The commander says cremate the bodies and take the ashes back to Japan. Back at Hqs. a Chinese POW is beheaded.

Zhu Huaibing is attacking the Chinese base in northern Hebei. Sun Chu is attacking their Suicide Team in southern Shanxi. And Chiang of the KMT is attacking their bases in Yanían. Zhu De comments that they are being attacked from both sides: the Japs and the KMT.

KMT Zhu Huaibing arrives to see Zhu De. He says he wants to get Jinzhou back, the communist's headquarters. He tells Zhu De he only has two options: to leave or to fight. Zhu De says they will never leave their resistance base. Zhu Huaibing says he will see Zhu De on the battlefield.

Huangtuling, Lahyas, ? Unreadable subtitle! Abe has lured Nie Rongzhenís men to Huangtulilng. He orders the death of one of his own soldiers because of his cowardice. The fellow cries: "The 8th Route Army spared me, but the Imperial Army wonít." He yells that the war makes no sense; itís absolutely wrong.  He then jumps into the huge fire and dies. 

Chiang orders 8th Route Army to retreat to the east of Bai-Jin. Major KMT forces are moving towards them. Zhou Dee says that counterattacking Zhu Huaibing is a political fight and Commissar Deng will be in charge of it.

Shexian, Hebei Command of KMTís 97th Army. Zhu Huaibing yells that itís a go!

Frontline Command of the 8th Route Army. The order to counterattack is given. The artillery shells start falling on Zhu Huaibingís army command. The 8th Route Army arrives to escort Zhu Huaibing out of 8th Route Army headquarters area.

Qiulin, Yichuan, Shanxi Command of 2nd Theater. The Japanese failed to eliminate the suicide team. Wei Lihuan did not help at all. The commander there gets a letter from Chariman Mao. The commander concludes that it seems that the communists sincerely want to fight the Japanese, rather than use the fight against the Japanese as a excuse to grab more territory.

Jincheng, Shanxi Command of Wei Lihuang. Zhu De says the communist boundary will be along Linfen, Tunliu, Changzhi, Pingshun and Cixian. All troops south of it will be drawn north. This is a very generous offer to the nationalists.  The negotiation with the KMT are, therefore, promptly over.

Abe suddenly finds his Chinese communist enemies across a little valley from him. The Chinese send a mortar his way and kills one of the three Japanese in the group. Then mortars start dropping in all over the Japanese positions. Abeís German shepherd dog is blown to pieces and he himself is wounded and goes down. He tries to get up but a number of mortars fall around him taking him out completely.

May, 1940. Zhu De went back to Yanían as ordered. He tells his staff since they crossed the Yellow River, they have annihilated 130,000 Japanese soldiers, while the Chinese army has grown in strength. The result is a stalemate in northern China.


A Little Geography:

The Yellow Rivers flows to the coast of China. It goes through the towns of Lanzhou, northeast to Wuhai, northen and then east to Baotou, southeast and then south to northwest of the city of Xiían, east to Kaifeng, northeast to Jinan and then goes into the Bo Hai. The Taihang Mountains are a Chinese mountain range running down the eastern edge of the Loess Plateau in Henan, Shanxi and Hebei provinces.


                                Inner Mongolia

                                Great Wall

Shaanxi                    Yellow River                     Shanxi             Tai Hang Mtns.                        Hebei

                                                                        Henan                                                                                     Shandong


Good movie.  It helps if you know some Chinese history.  There is a lot of military unit references.  So it would also help some to know more in depth about the battles, but it is not absolutely necessary.  I enjoyed the film because, relying just on the American and English films, I was under the impression that the Chinese were pretty much overwhelmed by the Japanese and didn't do that much damage to the Japanese imperialists.  But I'm glad to learn that I was misled by the western films.  I'm glad I saw the movie.  And I learned a little about northern Chinese geography.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 


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