As tensions between China and Japan in the China Sea make headlines, it’s easy to believe all the fuss is from a couple little islands atop a big pile of petroleum reserves.Maybe it is, and maybe it isn’t. The Japanese invaded China twice over the last 81 years and half the 20 million people killed by the Japanese during World War II were Chinese.
China says 35 million of its citizens were killed or wounded during the 14 year Japanese occupation and numbers like this don’t just slip to the past.
Starting in 1931, China fiercely fought the invasion and carved a series of tunnels through living rock across much of the eastern part of the country. Today these tunnels look out over modern and prosperous Chinese cities filled with millions of Chinese who gaze back into a past they’re not likely to forget anytime soon.
This portion of bunkers overlooks Qingdao, a place many consider China’s most beautiful city. But like the rest of China, Qindao overlooks its past as it looks to the future and offers some context about the disputes happening in the region today.
Some things are just a bit more than they seem.
The climb up Fu Shan Mountain towards Dragonback Ridge takes around an hour, and allows for breathtaking views out over the city of Qingdao and the ocean beyond.
We were still a little way off the rumoured entrance to the tunnels, when we spotted the first gun turret - looming out of the mist above us.
On closer inspection the turret was sealed, with a passage leading into the back of it from deep within the mountain.
Making our way along treacherous mountain paths, we finally found an entrance to the tunnels on the in-land side of the peak.
The walls inside shone with silver minerals, and in places we could still make out the graffiti left by former occupants.
These tunnels had been excavated slowly through the heart of the mountain, with metal bulkheads guarding the entrances to store rooms and ammo dumps.
We finally found our way to the pillbox we had spied on the mountainside - with a series of heavy blast doors to protect the rest of the tunnels from enemy rockets or grenades aimed at the look-out point.
The shaft leading to the elevated look-out point featured more Chinese graffiti, and rusted rungs hanging from the concrete walls.
Another heavy bulkhead door opened up from the entrance passage, leading down to lower levels of the complex.
One hundred hand-carved stone steps led deep down into the belly of the mountain, the end disappearing into darkness.
Many of the store rooms had been lined with metal, which gave off an eerie glow under the torchlight.
Finally crawling back out into daylight, we emerged from an inconspicuous structure on the north side of the peak.
The second tunnel network was easier to find, with a pillbox built beside the entrance to offer defensive fire.
This time the passage led to three different view points - between them offering panoramic views out over the city and the bay.
Heavily fortified concrete lintels back each one of the sentry posts, reinforcing the chamber against enemy fire.
For the most part the tunnels were devoid of any light source, and we depended heavily upon our torches.
Reaching another gun turret, we found the concrete blast door closed… and it took all of my strength to swing the heavy door open, its rusted hinges screaming from disuse.
n places the concrete and metal fortifications disappeared altogether, giving the illusion of natural caverns beneath the mountain.
The third network of tunnels featured a plain, square concrete lintel, set in a plateau on the side of the mountain.
At first this third tunnel appeared to lead nowhere - until we found a small door set halfway along a darkened passageway, partially blocked by the fallen rubble.
Metal blast doors guarded the entrances to store rooms, and a larger chamber which had the appearance of a mess hall.
Having entered through a small side tunnel, we finally found our way out through the main entrance on the other side of the mountain - and once again, it was heavily fortified against intruders.
The entrance itself was partially blocked by fallen branches and trailing overgrowth, but after an hour inside this third network of tunnels, the daylight came as no small relief.
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