Columns Soul of China

Two generations of heroes in mother and son

When the second Sino-Japanese war broke out in 1937, Ma Ben Zhai (馬本齋), a Muslim, responded to the call to fight the Japanese invaders. He led his younger brother, organized the Muslim army volunteers, and joined in the struggle against the Japanese. Ma’s volunteers struck against the Japanese troops several times. They made the enemy mad.
In the autumn of 1941, the enemy encircled Ma’s hometown in Dong Xin (東辛) village, Xian (献) county of Hebei province. They assembled the Muslim masses of the village and forced them to identify Ma’s mother. But no one was willing to tell. So the enemy tortured and beat up the villagers.
Ma’s mother could not bear to see the masses suffering. She stood up and shouted, “You Japanese bandits, I am the mother of Ma Ben Zhai! You bandits are so cowardly, you only dare to look for a weak old granny like me. Why not dare to look for Ma Ben Zhai himself?”
The enemy arrested Ma’s mother and used both hard and soft tactics on her. They asked Chinese traitors to induce her to write a letter to Ma asking him to surrender. The mother scolded the traitors, saying, “My son fights against Japan, I am honored even if I die. Unlike you, shameless lackeys, you betrayed your country and surrendered!”
She remained staunch and unyielding, refused to eat and drink. She told her captors: “I am a Chinese, I do not eat Japanese food.” After seven days of fasting, she died a heroic death.
Upon learning the grievous news of his mother’s sacrifice, Ma told his comrades: “My mother fulfilled her loyalty to our motherland, it is an honor. I know how to avenge her. I will fight the Japanese to the end.”
Thereafter, his anti-Japanese forces achieved a series of brilliant military victories. Unfortunately, Ma broke down because of constant overwork and died on Feb. 7, 1944.
In honor of Ma Ben Zai’s bravery, the commander-in-chief of the Eighth Route Anti-Japanese Army, Zhu De (朱德),
wrote an elegant couplet for him: “Steadfast hero, model of Hui (回, Muslim) and Han (漢) nationalities: undying moral integrity, two generations of heroes in mother and son (壯志難移,回漢各族模範;大節不死,母子兩代英雄。).” (Source: Tulay Fortnightly, Chinese-Filipino Digest 28, no. 17 (February 2-15, 2016): 5.)