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First Yangtze River crossing competition starts in 1934

  September 16, 1934 issue of Wuhan Pictorial Photo by Li Yonggang

  By Wan Jianhui

  The tradition of swimming across the Yangtze River became popular when Mao Zedong did it in Wuhan in 1956 and then released his famous poem "Prelude to Water Melody, Swimming" (Shui-diao-ge-tou Youyong). Yet, few people know that Wuhan started to organize the mass crossing-the-Yangtze-River competition in 1934.

  The Museum of Crossing the Yangtze River, situated at the riverside in Hankou, will open soon. Zhou Qizhuang, a 65-year-old Wuhan resident, recently donated a September 16, 1934 issue of Wuhan Pictorial to the museum. Its headline photo news was about the spectacular swimming event with a caption printed in traditional Chinese that reads

  "130 thousand in audience witnessed the contest of swimming across the Yangtze River held by the organizing committee of Wuhan Garrison Command." Black dots in the photo were swimmers' heads above the water. Accompanied by guards in dozens of boats, the swimmers were heading across the Yangtze River toward Hankou Bund.

  Zhou Qizhuang reveals that he bought the newspaper for RMB 1,000 at a cultural relics market on Chongren Road 10 years ago.

  Reports say that the race in 1934 was organized by Zhang Xueliang, a famous Chinese general and politician in the 20th century. The entire race covered 5,000 meters, and it attracted 44 participants, with 40 reaching the finish line. At the awards ceremony, General Zhang Xueliang personally awarded the champion, Ju Huaqiang, a silver shield engraved with the words

  "Turning the Tide." The event attracted thousands of spectators and was hailed as "a grand feat of river crossing" by the press of the time.