rightAccording to Columbia University's Asia for Educators: The crackdown on the Communist Party in 1927 and the assassination of key members “drove Mao Zedong (1893-1976), a Communist Party member, into the remote rural area of Jiangxi Province, where he and his supporters established a based area and created an army to defend themselves. It was in the context of fighting with the numerically superior and better-equipped Kuomintang forces that Mao developed and applied his theories of guerrilla warfare. Mao and the Communists continued to employ guerrilla warfare in the struggle against the Japanese beginning in 1937." [Source: Asia for Educators, Columbia University, Primary Sources with DBQs, afe.easia.columbia.edu]

Dr. Robert Eno of Indiana University wrote: “In 1927, as a result of Stalin's loyal guidance, the CCP was all but exterminated by the Nationalists [Kuomintang] in a surprise coup. Those communist leaders who were not killed outright had to flee their base territories in China's cities, where they had been trying to mobilize factory workers. The safe haven where the Chinese communist leaders fled in 1927 was the mountain fastnesses of the province of Jiangxi.

Chinese Civil War between the Communists and Kuomintang persisted off and on from 1927 to 1950. The Communist Revolution is usually broken down into five periods: the establishment of the Communist Party (1919-21); the first civil war (1924-27), the second civil war (1927-37), the fight against Japan (1937-45) and the third civil war (1945-49).

Armed conflict between the Communist Red army and Kuomintang Party began in 1927 when rebel Kuomintang units led by Zhou Enlai staged revolts in several towns, and Mao Zedong led an army of peasants, rebel Kuomintang soldiers and miners in the "Autumn Harvest Uprisings" in Changsha. Mao led the same force through Hunan to the Jinggang mountains on border between Hunan and Jiangxi to begin a guerilla war against the Kuomintang.

In 1930 the fighting between the Kuomintang and the Red Army escalated to all out war. In the early stages of the conflict, the Nationalist forces held the upper hand. In the early 1930s the Red Army suffered some costly defeats when Communist leaders abandoned the guerilla tactics that served them well and decided to launch major offensives against towns and cities.

Jiangxi Province

JIANGXI PROVINCE is an inland province that few Westerners visit. Porcelain was created here and The Long March began here after the Communists were driven out of one of their early guerilla camps by the Kuomintang. Traditionally part of China's breadbasket, it has been the home of tax revolts and battles with police over corruption. Jiangxi was regarded as one of the poorest and most corrupt provinces in China.

Jiangxi Province covers 166,919 square kilometers (64,448 square miles), is home to about 45 million people and has a population density of 270 people per square kilometer. About 56 percent of the population lives in urban areas. Nanchang is the capital and largest city, with about 3 million people. Ganzhou is the largest subdivision of Jiangxi. About 99.7 percent of the population that is Han Chinese, mostly Gan and Hakka. Ganzhou has a large number of Hakka. Ethnic minorities include She and Zhuang.

The name "Jiangxi" (pinyin: Jiāngxī; Wade–Giles: Chiang-hsi; Postal map spelling: Kiangsi, Gan: Kongsi) derives from the circuit administrated under the Tang Dynasty in 733, Jiangnanxidao (Circuit of Western Jiangnan; Gan: Kongnomsitau). The short name for Jiangxi is (pinyin: Gàn; Gan: Gōm), for the Gan River which runs across from the south to the north and flows into the Yangtze River. Jiangxi is also alternately called "Ganpotaiti" which literally means the "Great Land of Gan and Po".

Jiangxi is the main area of concentration of the Gan varieties of Chinese. The dialects — namely the Nanchang dialect, Yichun dialect and Ji'an dialects — are spoken over most of the northern two-thirds of the province. Examples include. The southern one-third of the province speaks Hakka. Mandarin, Huizhou, and Wu dialects are spoken along the northern border.

Ganju (Jiangxi opera) is the type of Chinese opera performed in Jiangxi. Although little known outside of the province, Jiangxi cuisine is rich and distinctive. Flavors are some of the strongest in China, with heavy use of chili peppers and especially pickled and fermented products. Jingdezhen is widely regarded as the producer of the best porcelain in China. Jiangxi also was a historical center of Chan Buddhism. Prominent examples of Hakka architecture can be found in Jiangxi.

Maps of Jiangxi: chinamaps.org

Geography and Climate of Jianxi

Jiangxi Province is located in the southeastern part of China, south of the Yangtze River on its middle-lower reaches. To its east are Zhejiang and Fujian provinces; to its south is Guangdong Province; to its west if Hunan Province and to its north are the provinces of Hubei and Anhui. The main cities are Nanchang, Jiujiang, Jingdezhen, Shangrao, Yingtan, Fuzhou, Ganzhou, Ji’an, Xinyu, Yi-chun and Pingxiang).

Mountains surround Jiangxi on three sides, with the Mufu Mountains, Jiuling Mountains, and Luoxiao Mountains on the west; Huaiyu Mountains and Wuyi Mountains on the east; and the Jiulian Mountains and Dayu Mountains in the south. The southern half of the province is hilly with ranges and valleys interspersed; while the northern half is flatter and lower in altitude. The highest point in Jiangxi is 2,157-meter (7,077-foot) -high Mount Huanggang in the Wuyi Mountains, on the border with Fujian.

The Gan River dominates the province, flowing through the entire length of the province from south to north. It enters Lake Poyang in the north, the largest freshwater lake of China; that lake in turn empties into the Yangtze River, which forms part of the northern border of Jiangxi. Important reservoirs include the Xiushui Tuolin Reservoir in the northwest of the province on the Xiushui River, and the Wan'an Reservoir (zh) in the upper section of the Gan.

Jiangxi has a humid subtropical climate, with short, cool, damp winters, and very hot, humid summers. Average temperatures are about 3 to 9 °C (37 to 48 °F) in January and 27 to 30 °C (81 to 86 °F) in July. Annual precipitation is 1,200 to 1,900 millimeters (47 to 75 inches), much of it falling in the heavy rains occurring in late spring and summer.

Mao Zedong in Jiangxi

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Long March route
Dr. Robert Eno of Indiana University wrote: “One member of the leadership was already based in Jiangxi,” in 1927 “having convinced the Party to allow him to go there to test out a new theory about how communism should be adapted to the Chinese case. That leader was Mao Zedong, and the theory he was testing eventually became the most basic distinctive feature of Chinese communism: the theory of the Revolutionary Peasantry. [Source: Robert Eno, Indiana University indiana.edu /+/ ]

“Mao Zedong, who had been among the founders of the CCP, was one of the few Party members willing to address a central fact about China's prospects for revolution: in a land of a half-billion people, the proletarian class probably numbered no more than a million and was concentrated in only one or two eastern cities. There was no realistic prospect that such a class could gain control over China — Leninism was simply inadequate for China. Mao proposed an alternative model of a distinctively Chinese form of communist revolution. Mao's idea was that the peasant class in China had for so many centuries endured the oppression of a parasitic landlord class, and possessed such a rich store of hatred and anger towards the wealthy landowners of China, that it was a potentially revolutionary class. (Mao was himself from a wealthy peasant family.) Mao's analysis of China's class structure did not conform to Marx's model of history, which was based on European precedents. For Mao, the two contending classes whose conflict would give birth to the next stage of history were not the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, they were the peasant and landlord classes. Mao believed the Party should be serving as the vanguard of a revolutionary peasantry, and should be instilling revolutionary consciousness not in the minds of city factory workers, but in the minds of rural peasants. /+/

“Prior to 1927, the CCP had viewed Mao as an eccentric among its founders. Marx and Lenin had said that the peasants, who worked individually rather than collectively in factories, were invariably a reactionary class which could never be politically mobilized prior to a revolution. Mao's arguments that the Chinese peasant was a uniquely “blank slate” upon which the outline of revolutionary consciousness could be inscribed with relative ease seemed idealistic and naive to the other founders of the Party. However, Mao had been allowed to experiment with his theories and was dispatched by the Party to the remote hinterlands of Jiangxi to see whether he could mobilize the peasantry.

“Once in Jiangxi, Mao's method for this was to recruit village peasants into the Party and its military corps until he had sufficient manpower to coerce local landlords — generally wealthy families who owned vast tracts of land that they leased to peasants for generations on cruel terms — into giving up ownership of their lands to the peasants who actually farmed the fields. This process of seizing the lands of the idle landlords and giving it to the peasants was called land reform. It was through his program of land reform — from which peasants benefited directly — that Mao wished to recruit peasant support and build a revolutionary peasant army that would ultimately overthrow the oppressive national “landlord” governments of the Nationalists and the local warlords. /+/

“Mao's efforts in Jiangxi had not been particularly successful. It was not until later that he mastered the art of conducting land reform campaigns that would yield solid peasant support for the Party. But when the other leaders of the CCP were forced to flee to Mao's base territory in 1927, Mao's tactics and his charismatic personality were far more forcefully impressed upon the Party membership than had been the case before. /+/

After a series of uprisings and internal political struggles, the CCP announced the establishment in 1931 of the Chinese Soviet Republic under the chairmanship of Mao in Jiangxi Province in south-central China. After a series of deadly annihilation campaigns by Chiang's armies, the Red Army and the CCP apparatus broke out of Jiangxi and embarked on their epic 12,500-kilometer Long March of 1934-35 to a new stronghold in Shaanxi Province in the north. During the march, Mao consolidated his hold over the CCP when in 1935 he became chairman, a position he held until his death in 1976.

Long March

The famed Long March began in Jiangxi. In 1934, after suffering a string of defeats and a series of deadly annihilation campaigns by Chiang's armies, the fledgling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and three Red Armies found themselves pinned down in the mountains of Jiangxi Province in southern China. After the Nationalist launched a powerful offensive, Mao made a decision for the Communists and Red Armies to break out of Jiangxi and flee their southern bases and retreat and meet up with Communist forces in Shaanxi, Gansu and Ningxia in northern China. This retreat became known as the Long March even though is was not one march, but several marches made up of different contingents of Communist armies on their way to the north. During the event Mao consolidated his hold over the CCP. In 1935 he became chairman, a position he held until his death in 1976.

The Long March is said to have lasted 368 days and covered 9,650 kilometers (about 6,000 miles). It began in Jiangxi on October 16, 1934 and crossed 24 rivers, 18 mountain ranges (5 covered with snow) and 11 provinces before it ended at the caves of Yenan (Yennan, Yanan) on the edge of the Gobi desert in northern China. During the march, 235 days were occupied by day marches and 18 by night marches. The army averaged a skirmish a day and spent 15 days in major battles.

Of the nearly 80,000 marchers who started the journey only 6,000 made it to Yenan. Of the 200,000 participated in the march — with many joining the march after it began — 40,000 reached Yenan. Among the survivors were nearly all the high ranking Communist officials in Chinese government for the next 40 years — Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, Lin Biao and Deng Xiaoping. On their way north, the Communist redistributed land to the peasants, organized guerilla groups and armed the peasants with captured Kuomintang weapons.

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Deng Xiaoping and the Leaders of the 8 Route Army

Beginning of the Long March

The Long March began in October 1934, when the First Red Army set out from Yudu in Jiangxi province. They would eventually traverse some 12,500 kilometers over 370 days and arrive in Wuqi, Shaanxi province on Oct 19, 1935. Pursued by the numerically superior Kuomintang army, the Long Marchers often had to cross difficult terrains, snowy mountains and swamps. Fatigue, hunger and sickness claimed many lives, and only one-tenth of the force that left Jiangxi completed the Long March.

The origins of the march go back to 1927, when the Kuomintang and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) split and the CCP began to engage in armed struggle against the Chiang regime. The Red Army was established in 1927, and after a series of uprisings and internal political struggles, the CCP announced the establishment in 1931 of the Chinese Soviet Republic under the chairmanship of Mao in Jiangxi Province in south-central China.

Arthur Waldron, a professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania wrote, “In the 1930s, the two sides came to blows, as Chiang launched a series of encirclement campaigns against the rural base areas where the Communists were steadily building a state-within-a-state. The last of these campaigns, in 1934, proved so successful that the Communists had to break through the Nationalist lines and flee to the Northwest." [Source:Arthur Waldron, a professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania, China Brief (Jamestown Foundation), October 22, 2009]

The march began with a simple order to retreat from a bloody battle in Fujian and move on as quicky as possible. Burdened by heavy equipment Mao's forces moved slowly and were quickly caught by the Kuomintang. One survivor remembered the leaders telling the wounded, “If you can walk, then go. If you cannot, you will be left behind." Medics remember leaving wounded behind because there were simply too many of them to carry.

Jinggang Mountain: Where the Chinese Communists Set Up Camp in the 1920s

Jinggangshan (300 kilometers south-southwest of Nanchang) is the cradle of the Chinese Communist revolution. It is where Mao Zedong and other leading members of the Communist Party of China established the first rural base for the revolution. In October 1927, Mao Zedong (1893-1976) and Zhu De (1886-1976), as well as other revolutionaries, led the Workers’ and Peasants’ Revolutionary Army to the Jinggang Mountain, founding the first rural revolutionary base in China.

The Jinggang Mountains is known as the birthplace of the Chinese Red Army, predecessor of the People's Liberation Army). After the Kuomintang (KMT) turned against the Communist Party during the April 12 Incident, the Communists either went underground or fled to the countryside. Following the unsuccessful Autumn Harvest Uprising in Changsha, Mao Zedong led his 1,000 remaining men here, setting up his first peasant soviet.

Modern Jinggangshan is a county-level city in the southwest of Jiangxi province bordering Hunan province to the west. It is located in the Luoxiao Mountains which cover some 670 square kilometers (260 square miles). The range lies at the intersection of four counties — Ninggang, Yongxing, Suichuan and Lingxian — and mountains have an average elevation of 381.5 meters (1,252 feet), with the highest point being is 2,120 meter (6,960 feet) above sea level. The range's massif consists of a number of thickly forested parallel ridges. On the heights there is not much farmland with most settlements at the base of the mountains. The main settlement is at Ciping, which is surrounded by five villages: Big Well, Little Well, Middle Well, Lower Well, and Upper Well. The nearby mountain range is called "Well Ridge.”

The Jinggang Mountain Scenic Area, under the jurisdiction of Ji’an City, covers 213 square kilometers and contains ridges, peaks, caves, waterfalls and streams with pools. The mountains are usually enveloped in clouds and mist. Five-Finger Peak, is one the biggest The Five-Finger Peak, which is 1,438 meters, is among the area’s biggest natural attraction.

Red Army Base in the Jinggang Mountains

Mao reorganised his forces at the mountain village of Sanwan, consolidating them into a single regiment - the "1st Regiment, 1st Division, of the First Workers' and Peasants' Revolutionary Army". Mao then made an alliance with the local bandit chieftains Wang Zuo and Yuan Wencai, who had previously had little association with the Communists. For the first year he set up military headquarters at Maoping, a small market town encircled by low hills guarding the main western route into the mountains. In November, the army occupied Chaling, some 80 kilometers (50 miles) to the west, though this was quickly overrun by KMT troops. [Source: Wikipedia]

When pressure from KMT troops became too great, Mao abandoned Maoping and withdrew up the mountain to Wang Zuo's stronghold at Dajing (Big Well), from which they could control the mountain passes. That winter the Communists drilled with the local bandits and the next year incorporated them into their regular army. In February a battalion from the KMT's Jiangxi Army occupied Xincheng, a town north of Maoping. During the night of February 17, Mao surrounded them with three battalions of his own and routed them the next day.

Zhu De and his 1000 remaining troops, who had participated in the abortive Nanchang Uprising, joined Mao Zedong toward the end of April 1928. Together the two joined forces and proclaimed the formation of the Fourth Army. Other veterans who joined the new base included Lin Biao, Zhou Enlai and Chen Yi. The partnership between Mao Zedong and Zhu De marked the heyday of the Jinggang Mountains base area, which rapidly expanded to include, at its peak in the summer of 1928, parts of seven counties with a population of more than 500,000. Together with Yuan Wencai and Wang Zuo's forces, their soldiers numbered more than 8000. A popular story from that period recounts the hardworking Zhu De carrying grain for the troops up the mountain since agriculture was nigh impossible in the mountain range itself. It was also around this period that Mao Zedong formulated his theories of rural-based revolution and guerrilla warfare.

In July 1928, Zhu De's 28th and 29th regiments crossed into Hunan with plans to take the important communication hub of Hengyang. Mao Zedong's 31st and 32nd regiments were supposed to hold Maoping and Ninggang until Zhu returned. They were, however, unable to hold back the advance of the Kuomintang's Jiangxi units and lost Ninggang and two neighbouring counties. On August 30, the young officer He Tingying managed to hold the narrow pass of Huangyangjie with a single under-strength battalion against three regiments of the Hunanese Eight Army and one regiment of Jiangxi troops, thus saving Maoping from being overrun.

As the size of the Communist forces grew and pressure grew from the Kuomintang, the Fourth Army was forced to move out. From January 14, 1929, the organisation moved to Ruijin, further south in Jiangxi province, where the Jiangxi Soviet was eventually set up. At the same time, the Kuomintang were executing another encirclement campaign, involving 25,000 men from fourteen regiments. Peng Dehuai was left in command of an 800-man-strong force, formerly the Fifth Army. By February, his remaining troops broke up under heavy attack from Wu Shang's Hunan troops.

After the Jiangxi Soviet had established itself in southern Jiangxi, the Jinggang Mountains became the northwestern frontier of Communist operations. Peng Dehuai returned with a much stronger Fifth Army in early 1930, basing himself just north of the mountains. In late February 1930, the bandits Yuan Wencai and Wang Zuo were assassinated by Communist guerillas, probably on orders from officials in the Jiangxi Soviet. Their men made Wang Yunlong, Wang Zuo's younger brother, their new leader. Most Communist forces left the area in 1934, when the Long March began. By the time they returned in 1949, Wang Yunlong had been succeeded by his son. He was charged with banditry and executed.

Red Tourism in the Jinggang Mountain Area

The Jinggang Mountains— along with Mao Zedong's hometown, Shaoshan — is one of the most important sites of the Communist Revolution and a center of Red Tourism. The place is celebrated with posters, songs and operas. During the Cultural Revolution it was pilgrimage site for young Red Guards, who took advantage of a nationwide "networking movement" to get there and often made the journey on foot to relive the days of the Long March. At one point more than 30,000 Red Guards arrived a day, producing food and housing shortages and sanitation problems. These conditions lasted for around three months when the government began to take moves to discourage so many young people from coming.

In 1981, a 16.6 square kilometers (6.4 square mile) area was designated a Natural Protection Area. The next year the mountains was listed as a National Priority Scenic Area. In recent years the Jinggang Mountains has become a Red Tourism attraction for Chinese tourists. According to Xinhua, tens of thousands of domestic tourists visit the mountain every year. The main sites are the mint of the Red Army, the Revolution Museum, and the Martyrs Cemetery. In May 2004 a domestic airport was opened to attract tourists.

Ruijin, was the home of Headquarters of the Communist Party in the early 1930s. According to the Chinese government: “Ruijin, a city at county level under the jurisdiction of Ganzhou City, is a world-famous red capital and a sacred place of the Chinese revolution. As the place where the Red Army started its Long March covering 12,500 kilometers, Ruijin deserves the title of cradle of the People’s Republic of China and serves to be the best venue for education in China’s traditional revolution. It abounds with revolutionary historical and cultural resources, including the Site of the Chinese Soviet Government and the Site of the national Soviet Congress.” Address www.ruijintour.com

Jinggang Mountain Revolution Museum (on Hongjun South Road in Ciping) was first built in 1958 for commemorating the first rural revolutionary base founded by the CPC. In addition to large numbers of revolutionary cultural relics, there are also many pictures and phots and encouragement words by Mao Zedong and Zhu De, as well as other revolutionaries. The museum has six exhibition halls, with a total floor area of 20,030 square meters.

Mao's Former Home , according to CRI, “is a khaki-colored ranch house with several rooms built in a medium-sized yard. Special construction techniques and building materials made the rooms cool in summer and warm in winter. Mao's main room had simple furniture and once served as both his bedroom and office. Outside the house was a small pool. Vines bearing burgeoning pumpkins wound around a trellis. Not far away was a poultry fold.”

Visiting the Red Tourism Area in the Jinggang Mountains

One traveler wrote for CRI: “Before I came to Jinggangshan Mountain, I only knew that it was the cradle of China's revolution which changed the country's destiny and led the people upto a road of development. But after arriving here, I found the place was different from what I had imagined. Roaming around Ciping, a small town at the foot of Jinggangshan Mountain where Mao Zedong established China's first revolutionary base in 1927, I could hardly find any remnants pertaining to that historical period except the old house that Mao lived in and some monuments dedicated to the revolution. [Source: CRI August 26, 2009]

Thousands of visitors from different regions of the country come here every day to learn more about the early days of Mao Zedong, the founder New China who is still worshiped by many nationals. On a hillside north of the city stands a cemetery commemorating the martyrs who died during the fighting at Jinggangshan Mountain. Their names have been inscribed on steles put up on the wall of a commemorative rotunda. There, you can feel nothing but sheer respect for them.

“But when you leave Mao's house and the revolutionary sites, the city appears to be another world. Stylish youngsters, luxurious hotels, roaring tour buses, a tranquil lake and beautiful parks with romantic atmospheres are all around. It is interesting to see the merger of the traditional and the modern. A commercial complex built in the center of the township offers people conveniences for either shopping or relaxing. Merchants selling portraits of Mao make lots of sales. You can usually see people wearing contemporary fashions crowding around counters to select Mao-related souvenirs.

“My favorite keepsake was a plastic sculpture of a flicking red flag with the golden emblem of the Communist Party of China (CPC) engraved on it. On the triangular, bronze base was an inscription by the late Chinese marshal Zhu De: "Tian Xia Di Yi Shan", which means "The No. 1 Mountain in the World." But because it cost about 1,380 yuan (US$200), it was too expensive for me to afford. It was really a pity!”“

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: CNTO (China National Tourist Organization), China.org, UNESCO, reports submitted to UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, China Daily, Xinhua, Global Times, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Updated in July 2020

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