Feng Yuxiang’s Big Knife Soldiers

Soldaten von Feng Yuxiang in Peking, 1928
Feng’s Chinese Soldiers in Peking, 1928. Source SZ

One of my favorite topics of research is the history of the Da Dao Dui (Big Knife Teams) whose most famous promoter was Feng Yuxiang. Once in a while new photographs come to light as the ones in this short entry. I originally came across them in the Scherl/Süddeutsche Zeitung Photo website a while back but never wrote much about these images. The original German site does not have information about the photographer only that these photos were taken in Peking (Beijing). The second photograph depicts one soldier also armed with a Da Dao, there is a difference in the years these pictures were supposedly taken. The one above is dated 1928 while the one below is 1925. When looking at the uniforms and overall background it appear to us these were taken at the same time, yet is not easy to determine what year in the original captions is the correct one. According to Feng’ biography by J. E. Sheridan, Feng was stationed in Kalgan as was known by westerners at the time (Zhangjiako for the Chinese) located Norwest of Hebei province and bordering Beijing. Feng was in charge of expelling the last emperor Pu Yi from the capital in late 1924 in a coup, after which Feng took control of the city. By 1926 Feng would loose control of Pekin after the Anti Fengtian war that took place between November 1925 and April 1926. Based on this information we could make an educated guess that the pictures in this short entry might have been taken before 1928. These men were crack troops in Feng’s army, besides the Da Dao they were armed with German Mauser pistols and hand grenades. The soldiers in the pictures have what appear to be motorcycle googles, perhaps members of a bodyguard unit. The uniforms, shoes and overall assemble look very poor, a common for the Chinese soldiers before and during the Sino Japanese War when material resources were lacking. Many of this images have little to no information on where, when or who took them yet they are wonderful examples of a proud martial past.

Christian General Feng Yuxiang’ soldier in Peking, 1925. Source: SZ
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