A retired naval navigator was surprised when an antique collector showed up at his home with a brass marine chronometer and a silver tobacco case that belonged to Chungking, once the biggest military ship in China about 60 years ago.
"I'm sure they belong to the cruiser Chungking," said Ruan Xingren, 79, who worked on board the ship in the chart house in 1948-1949.
"I never expected to see them again in my life."
Chungking is a military ship with a colorful story that mirrored the period of time that it served. In 1948 when the Chinese civil war was coming to an end, the Chungking was the pride of the navy of the Kuomintang administration. However, the officers and crew of the cruiser mutinied, renouncing their allegiance to the Kuomintang government and declaring loyalty to the Communist Party of China.
The Kuomintang army bombed Chungking in March 1949 and sank it off the coast of Huludao in northeastern China. The attack was part of a three-day battle that left six dead and more than 10 men wounded on the ship.
Ruan said he was involved in planning the revolt, but was transferred to Nanjing (Jiangsu Province) before the cruiser was bombed.
Marine antique collector Cao Shaobo, who lives in Qingdao, Shandong Province, discovered the two items in 1989. After a long search, Cao in March finally tracked down Ruan, the last surviving member of Chungking's crew.
Cao said the chronometer is worth about 500,000 yuan (US$62,500) but he would give it to the Military Museum of the Chinese People's Revolution in Beijing. The square tobacco case was given as a gift from British shipmates.