Zhang Zhongru, the first president of People's Liberation Army University of International Relations and a veteran of the fighting that preceded the birth of the People's Republic of China, died in Beijing on Thursday at the age of 100.
Born into a poor farmer's family in Yuanping, Shanxi province, Zhang joined the PLA and the Communist Party of China in 1937 and participated in more than 100 battles during the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1931-1945).
Zhang was the fourth major general who experienced that war to die this year.
There are now 11 major generals left who fought in the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression, with an average age of over 100.
From 1955 to 1965, China conferred the rank of general on more than 1,600 distinguished military personnel, including 10 senior generals, 57 generals, 177 lieutenant generals and 1,360 major generals.
All the generals ranked higher than major general have died.
Known for his indomitable spirit and brushes with death, Zhang told Xinhua News Agency in 2015 that China's victory against Japanese aggressors was earned through unity, blood and sacrifice, and scenes of fierce battles lived on in his mind.
In January 1938, at a battle near Taiyuan, Shanxi province, Zhang's squad was encircled by Japanese troops. The fight to break out was brutal and his team leader, Liu Sentang, was killed in action.
"I can never forget Liu's face and his dying pose," Zhang said.
"The Japanese soldiers can defeat one of us, but they can never defeat the united spirit of the Chinese people."
In 1943, Zhang was ambushing a group of Japanese troops when a bullet penetrated the left side of his chest. Blood gushed uncontrollably from the wound, and Zhang was rushed to a makeshift hospital tent where a doctor removed his shattered ribs and flesh without any anesthetic.
Zhang then returned to the battle while exhaling pus and blood from his mouth.
He survived the ordeal after seven more surgeries.
In 1951, Zhang was tasked with creating a school to train young volunteer soldiers for scouting missions during the Korean War (1950-1953).
The school became the predecessor of the PLA University of International Relations in Nanjing, Jiangsu province.
Zhang emphasized loyalty, sacrifice, rigorousness and practicality in his curriculum, which later became the teaching philosophy at the university.
The university was founded in June, 1951.