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A Female Aviator in China

© Lennart Andersson

In 1922 Chu Chuck-ming was Head of the Canton air force in Kwangtung, a province in South China. Sun Yat-sen, the leader of the Chinese revolution against the rulers in the North, had his headquarters in Canton, but in May that year, the commander of the Cantonese army, Ch'en Chiung-ming turned against him. A military coup placed Ch'en in power and Sun Yat-sen and his followers were ousted from Canton.

Chu Muphia, Chu Chuck-ming's 23- year old daughter, had learnt to fly at Canton's aerodrome Taishatao and she completed her course in June 1922. Just like the male pilots in the air force she wore uniform and said that she would go to the front and fight. She was reportedly good at aerobatics and looping the loop was said to be her favourite pastime. Her American instructor, Alfred Croft, said when speaking to the press: 'She loops the loop, does the difficult Immelmann turns, the falling leaf and tail spins with the same ease and pleasure as a New York girl foxtrots.'

Chu Muphia made a remarkable escape from Canton during Ch'en Chiung- ming's coup. Her father put up a stiff fight when the Canton arsenal was attacked, but was finally forced to flee and a rescue party headed by Croft went to Chu's home in the middle of the night to rescue his daughter. Upon arrival, Croft learned that she had escaped from her room by climbing down a rope from an upper storey of the house. She had managed to sneak out of the city and had taken a boat to Hong Kong.

In the morning, Croft returned to the aerodrome and found that aircraft had been damaged, and a lot of equipment and gasoline was gone. In August he returned to the United States after his contract with the Kwangtung Aviation Bureau had expired.

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(c) Lennart Andersson