Auctions | February 15, 2013

The Xi’an Incident: The Papers of Hyland “Bud” Lyon, at Bonhams

NEW YORK—Bonhams will offer a collection of rare and important letters and documents signed by Mao Zedong (1893-1976) and other high-ranking Chinese Communist Party officials in the upcoming auction, The Xi’an Incident: The Papers of Hyland “Bud” Lyon, to be held at Bonhams New York on March 20. This is the first time the material will be publicly exhibited. 

Many of the sale highlights relate to the 1936 Xi’an Incident, a pivotal moment in modern Chinese history when Nationalist Chinese General, Zhang Xueliang (1901-2001), placed Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek (1887-1975) under house arrest, forcing him to negotiate with Mao Zedong and the Chinese Communist forces. By ceasing hostilities, the two sides were able to successfully join forces and resist the invading Japanese army.

Hyland "Bud" Lyon (1908-1973) of Burbank, Calif. arrived in Shanghai in 1934 and landed a job as an airplane mechanic. Less than a year after his arrival, Lyon became the mechanic and co-pilot for Zhang Xueliang [Chang Hsueh-liang] known as the "Young Marshal," and one of Chiang Kai-shek's most trusted generals. In the immediate aftermath of the Xi'an Incident, Zhang asked Lyon to act as bodyguard to his wife, Edith Chao, and young son, Bobby. Lyon remained with the family for the next five years. He left China in 1941, returning to Los Angeles with six steamer trunks of memorabilia, in addition to a small lockbox of documents.

Highlights from the collection on offer at Bonhams include the following:

A three-page letter to Zhang Xueliang, signed by Mao Zedong and Peng Dehuai, from April 1936, suggesting that the Communist and Nationalist forces should work together to resist the invading Japanese, estimated at $200,000-300,000.

A six-page letter to Zhang, sent on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), giving a more detailed plan to pressure Chiang Kai-shek to cooperate with the Chinese, estimated at $150,000-200,000.

Two copies of a peace accord, both signed by Mao Zedong and prepared for Zhang Xueliang's signature, but presented by Zhang to Chiang for his signature during the Xi'an Incident, estimated at $300,000-500,000.

An archive of letters, documents and more than 10,000 images taken by Hyland "Bud" Lyon in China, 1935-1941, including a great deal of material relating to his work for Zhang Xueliang and the China National Aviation Corporation (CNAC), estimated at $50,000-80,000.

The Xi'an Incident: The Papers of Hyland “Bud” Lyon auction will take place on March 20 at Bonhams New York. The sale will preview at Bonhams San Francisco March 8-10 and Bonhams New York March 15-19. 

To view the full auction, and to purchase a catalogue,