The Long March: The True History of Communist China's Founding Myth
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The Long March is Communist China’s founding myth, the heroic tale that every Chinese child learns in school. Seventy years after the historical march took place, Sun Shuyun set out to retrace the Marchers’ steps and unexpectedly discovered the true history behind the legend. The Long March is the stunning narrative of her extraordinary expedition.
The facts are these: in 1934, in the midst of a brutal civil war, the Communist party and its 200,000 soldiers were forced from their bases by Chiang Kaishek and his Nationalist troops. After that, truth and legend begin to blur: led by Mao Zedong, the Communists set off on a strategic retreat to the distant barren north of China, thousands of miles away. Only one in five Marchers reached their destination, where, the legend goes, they gathered strength and returned to launch the new China in the heat of revolution.
As Sun Shuyun journeys to remote villages along the Marchers’ route, she interviews the aged survivors and visits little-known local archives. She uncovers shocking stories of starvation, disease, and desertion, of ruthless purges ordered by party leaders, of the mistreatment of women, and of thousands of futile deaths. Many who survived the March report that their suffering continued long after the “triumph” of the revolution, recounting tales of persecution and ostracism that culminated in the horrific years of the Cultural Revolution.
What emerges from Sun’s research, her interviews, and her own memories of growing up in China is a moving portrait of China past and present. Sun finds that the forces at work during the days of the revolution—the barren, unforgiving landscape; the unifying power of outside threats from foreign countries; Mao’s brilliant political instincts and his use of terror, propaganda, and ruthless purges to consolidate power and control the population—are the very forces that made China what it is today.
The Long March is a gripping retelling of an amazing historical adventure, an eye-opening account of how Mao manipulated the event for his own purposes, and a beautiful document of a country balanced between legend and the truth.
women of the Red Army.” Wang was taken away first, given to a brigadier. Most of the rest followed her example. Li was supposed to go with a married official forty years her senior, but when he came to take her she screamed and kicked, and bit him. He was horrified and said he would have nothing to do with her. “After that, no one wanted me. They thought I would knife them in bed on the first night, so they threw me out into the street.” A peddler took pity on her, and found a Han Chinese man
weapons and fled in total chaos and anarchy. Chiang wanted a peaceful victory, to turn Jiangxi into “a crucible for the New China.” But sweetness and light did not prevail. Ferocious revenge was taken, not only by the Nationalist army, but more by the landlords who had been forced to flee. Men were beheaded, cut in half at the waist, or had their living organs taken out and eaten. Bodies lined the riverbanks. Many women were raped and then sold to the brothels of Canton, or taken by KMT officers
faces were covered with dust, black except for their teeth. Their hands were black too, but cracked into raw flesh, and their hair was long and straggly. With their beards unshaved, they looked frightening.” A couple of days later when they were all cleaned up, the 1st Army and the 4th Army had a big gala night in the Catholic church in Maogong. “We all sang a song specially written for the reunion, there was a play about Chiang’s men finding only a worn sandal to take home after a fruitless
pointed in one direction: taking on this new challenge. But her heart pointed the other way. She had only spent two nights with her husband. She was young, only 23, she just craved time with him, to have his company, to be in his arms. But the Party came first, and at once she set about motivating her soldiers. She, like everyone in the 4th Army, realized the battle would be tough. They had been marching and fighting ceaselessly for a year, without adequate food and supplies. Now they had hardly
He shook off the debris, wiped the blood from his face, and ran to the command post. A big smile appeared on the worried face of his commander. In no time the Red Army soldiers were cheering throughout the town, much to the surprise of the besieging Muslim troops. What was there to celebrate when they were about to be defeated? Then the Red Army loudspeakers started blaring out: “Hold your fire! Your Generalissimo Chiang Kaishek has been captured.” “We were jubilant. For two months we had been