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June 21, 2011

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Red tourists inspired by history

TOURISTS to Jinggang Mountains see the stone where Mao Zedong sat, the mountain battlefield of a spectacular guerrilla victory and the first Red Army Hospital. Chen Ye takes a tirp.

Some 70 years ago the Jinggang Mountains region in Jiangxi Province was in revolution - there were battles, uprisings, rebellions in the spectacular rugged area. Beacons flashed, fires burned, gun smoke and bullets filled the air.

"Red" - the color of revolution and passion - was the color in everyone's heart in the land that was and still is very green. More than 95 percent of the mountains are covered in green.

Today, a trip to the Jinggang Mountains includes both the red spots (historic and revolutionary) and the green sights (of breathtaking natural scenery).

Jinggang Mountains is a very special place in the 90-year history of the Communist Party of China and Chinese tourists and pilgrims often visit.

In 1927 Mao Zedong, Zhu De and their battered remaining soldiers took refuge here from the Kuomintang (KMT) troops that had been relentlessly assaulting them during the Communists' failed Autumn Uprising.

This is where Mao developed his political and military theories. This is where the Chinese Red Army (forerunner of the People's Liberation Army) was established.

This is where the first rural-based soviet (regional council) in China was established. And that Chinese model of revolution beginning with peasants was repeated around China in Communist-held areas.

The area includes three former residences of Mao. The first is in Maoping Town in the foothills, which was occupied by bandit Yuan Wencai and a few hundred outlaws. Relentlessly pursued by the KMT army, Mao first arrived at Yuan's region and stayed in the Ba Jiao Lou (Eight-Horn Building) for three days.

This is where Mao wrote the famous words, "A little spark can light a prairie fire," which lifted the spirits of the Communists at the time who were faced by many difficulties and enemies.

The second residence is at Dajing (Big Well) Village at the mountain top, occupied by Yuan's bandit ally Wang Zuo. Mao moved there after convincing Yuan to let his troops into the mountains for rest. He stayed for a few weeks and helped Wang drills his own men.

After he convinced both bandits, Yuan and Wang with his charisma and guns, Mao moved to Ciping Town. In the area between the zones the two outlaws and stayed until he left the area in 1930.

All the three residences were damaged at the time during frequent battles. In the 1950s, after the Communists had defeated the KMT, all three were rebuilt and furnishings were reproduced so the places looked exactly like the originals.

It is only here that one can find actual items related to Mao, but only three - a stone where he sat, a tree said to be linked to China's destiny and a wall riddled with bullet holes.

The large meter-high stone, outside the area where troops were drilled, is where Mao sat every morning to read books. He diligently studied revolutionary texts and books on war to explore the reasons behind unsuccessful uprisings and how to succeed in the future.

The wall, now embedded in a new wall and encased in glass, stands where the clinic used to be. It's pock-marked and cratered with huge bullet holes. Since Western doctors and medicine were virtually unavailable, the people relied on traditional Chinese medicine using herbs that they picked in the mountains.

The tree in the backyard of the residence is surrounded by legend and it is said to reflect the destiny and well-being of China. It's said that the tree was flourished when Mao stayed there, it declined during the "cultural revolution" (1966-1976), and almost died when Mao passed away. Now it is at its greenest once again.

The mountain had five major routes from the foothills to the summit; to enter the mountain area one had to take one of the five. Each was guarded by a sentry post.

Huang Yang Jie is the most strategic. It is in the most rugged and inaccessible terrain and it was the site of the Battle to Defend Huang Yang Jie against KMT troops.

The Communist victory in August 1928 inspired one of Mao's most famous poems that heartened the troops. It goes like this: "Bullets rain on Huang Yang Jie and frighten enemies away."

There were not enough Communist troops to defend all five sentry posts adequately at the same time, so at times there was a minimal troop presence.

In August 1928 the KMT learned through spies that Huang Yang Jie was not heavily defended and that Zhu's and Mao's troops would be elsewhere for a while. There were only around 100 defenders and the KMT outnumbered them 20:1. It would be a David-vs-Goliath battle.

The defenders fought so ferociously in the one-day battle, using guerrilla tactics and improvised weapons and traps, that the KMT retreated to plan and regroup for another assault. They believed they must have received the wrong information about troop presence because they thought they had encountered a vast number of soldiers.

Other major "red spot" attractions include the Jinggang Mountains Revolution Museum, the first Red Army hospital and a public cemetery and memorial hall.

Almost every tourist takes the same picture - one of them holding an enlarged 100-yuan note with Wu Zhi Feng (Five Finger Peak) in background. The fourth-edition note issued in 1987 depicts Wu Zhi Feng on the back.

Tourists believe that the peak has been blessed with fortune and luck, which will come to them with the picture. The picture is taken from a viewing platform on Bijia Mountain (Bi Jia Shan); it has a transparent floor.

Bijia Mountain area is famous for protected virgin forest and its luxuriant azalea flowers that form a vast pink, red and white cloud when they bloom in spring. The mountain is home to many wild and endangered animals, including macaques, deer and giant mountain rats.

The other famous "green" attraction is Dragon Pond (Long Tan), a must-visit site that has five waterfalls and ponds of various sizes and shapes. The lowest fall, 40 meters, empties into Fairy Pond, so called because a fairy appears to be emerging from a bath. It's a famous place for picture-taking.

How to get there:

? One daily direct flight leaves Shanghai Hongqiao Airport at 7:50am for Jinggang Mountains. It takes around one and a half hours.

? The train from Shanghai Railway Station takes around 14 hours.


? 156 yuan per person for 20 attractions includes Mao's residence, Huang Yang Jie, Long Tan, Bijia Mountian. 70 yuan for shuttle bus ticket, good for seven working days.

What to eat:

Red rice and red pumpkin soup fed the people and the army. Today red rice and pumpkin soup is the symbolic food of Jinggang Mountains. Chicken, fish and fungus are specialties.

What to buy:

Of course there are Mao souvenirs. Tea, woodcarving, bamboo engraving and snacks made with azalea flowers are popular.


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