BEIJING, Sept. 29 (Xinhua) -- Beijing changed the name of a middle school to that of a WWII general on Monday, one day before China's first Martyrs' Day.
When Li Peizhi, headmaster of what was once Nanding Middle School in south Beijing, heard that his school was to be renamed Tong Linge Middle School, he spent a month learning about the life of the general who died just a few hundred meters away from the school.
Tong Linge was deputy army commander when the Japanese attacked Chinese troops on the outskirts of Beijing 77 years ago. The incident was known as the "July 7 Incident", which marked start of the full-scale War of Resistance. Tong resisted for 20 days before he was killed by shell.
"I have been living near this place for decades, but I knew so little about him," said Li, 58.
Li is not alone. The filed of Tong's last battle has become a cement plant, overrun with migrant workers. Tong was forgotten by local people, until 2005, when Beijing Municipal Archives, helped by an old resident whose parents were once owners of what once were fields, locate the scene of Tong's last battle.
China last month approved a national day to commemorate martyrs.Martyrs' Day will be marked with events across the country on Sept. 30 every year to publicize the martyr spirit and cultivate patriotism, collectivism, and socialist morals.
The middle school was founded in 1981. It now provides education for more than 300 students. The change of name was announced earlier this month to commemorate the general, the first high-ranking officer to die in the eight-year War of Resistance.
Lun Chang, a ninth-grader, admitted that she searched Tong online just because of the new school name. "I was surprised to find out that the place where he died was so close to our school, and our life is to be connected with such a big name," she said. "It makes me proud."
While Li Jiangang, Party chief of the local community, said: "The battle here was a fierce one. We cannot just turn a blind eye to history, and let those who sacrificed their lives for us be forgotten."
Li, the headmaster, hopes that the move will encourage teachers and students, and give them "some spiritual power".
A bronze bust of the general has been erected and the school has set up display panels telling people Tong's story.
On Monday afternoon, Tong's 92-year-old daughter Tong Yifei and 89-year-old son Tong Bing visited the school and took a photo with the statue.
"This is where he died. I visited this place several years ago," said the emotional Yifei, gazing at the statue. "Love your country, I think this is what he wanted to tell the young people here."
Li is to retire in two years. He wants to build an exhibition room in the school for Tong before his retirement, but Liu Su, former head of the research office in the Beijing Municipal Archives, believes more work should be done.
"Changing the name of a school only affects the students, and maybe their parents at best, but we need to reach more people," he said. "So we need something else, a landmark that local people can talk about for generation upon generation, so that history will be remembered forever."