The Second Sino-Japanese War
Joseph Needham's travels in China took place during the latter half of the conflict known as the Second Sino-Japanese War - the largest war to take place in Asia during the 20th century (map of Asia).
The seeds of the conflict were sown during the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895), at the end of which China ceded Taiwan and Korea to Japan, and the Qing dynasty was substantially weakened (a factor that led to its collapse in 1912 and the rise of the Republic of China). Hostilities continued intermittently in the northern part of China until 1931, when Japan conquered Manchuria setting up a puppet government in what they called Manchukuo.
Battles continued between the two nations, with Japan acting as the aggressor. In China, the Kuomintang (Chinese Nationalist Party), headed by Chiang Kai-shek, was occupied with combating the Chinese Communists led by Mao Zedong, and the Japanese were able to take advantage of this internal ...