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June 21, 2011

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Tracing footsteps of the Red Army

CHINA'S countryside is filled with historic sites where Mao Zedong grew up, the Red Army was formed and the Long March ended. Yao Minji opens a map.

The Chinese Red Army (forerunner of People's Liberation Army) pursued a rural-based revolution and left footprints of heroism and epic events all over the country.

Many significant sites have been rebuilt and recreated, attracting millions of visitors every year.

One of the most popular red tourism route includes three not-too-far-away destinations - Shaoshan City in Hunan Province, the Jinggang Mountains in Jiangxi Province and Yan'an City in Shaanxi Province.

Shaoshan city, once only a small town, receives around 2 million visitors every year because it is the hometown of Mao Zedong. People are curious about how Chairman Mao was brought up, what kind of landscapes he saw and how he developed his political theories.

The major attractions include the former residence of Mao, where he spent his childhood and teen years before studying in the provincial capital Changsha. The residence is a simple house with 13 rooms. It was looted and burned by the Kuomintang (KMT) in 1929 and was rebuilt in 1949.

Mao is not only famous for his political and military ideas, but also for his poetry that reflects his ideals. Near the former residence, 50 poems are carved on 100 marble stones, creating another popular tourist attraction.

Jinggang Mountains, in adjacent Jiangxi Province, is the birthplace of Chinese Red Army and the first peasant revolutionary base, a model that was replicated around the country.

After leading an unsuccessful uprising in Hunan Province, Mao led his ragged troops, numbering less than 1,000 soldiers, into these mountains to rest. There Mao formulated key military and political ideas.

The city of Yan'an in Shaanxi Province is near the end of the famously cruel Long March (1934-1936) of the Chinese Red Army to move away from attacking KMT troops. In two years, the army crossed deserts, climbed snowy mountains and suffered cold, starvation and disease. They were harried along the way by the KMT.

They left their footprints in 14 provinces.

The Long March veterans soon built a revolutionary center when they finally reached Yan'an in northwest China. The area remained the Communist capital until 1949, when the People's Republic of China was founded.

Yan'an is filled with revolutionary sites, all with interesting stories behind them. The Yan'an Revolutionary Memorial Museum displays around 2,000 photos and artifacts from the time. Some important meetings are recreated with advanced audio-and-visual technologies.

The Wangjiaping revolutionary site was army headquarters where all the famous Communist generals discussed strategies during the eight years of the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1937-1945).

Like this route, most recommended red destinations, often sites of important battles or party meetings, are in the remove countryside.

Shanghai, the financial center, and its nearby provinces, were more involved with underground spy wars. This area contains many former residences of revolutionary heroes. Two weekend red tourism routes are recommended starting from Shanghai, easily accessible via railway and long-distance buses.

The first route includes Shanghai and three spots in adjacent Jiangsu Province - the cities of Changshu, Nanjing and Jurong Town in Zhenjiang City.

The Shajiabang scenic area in Changshu is where Communist soldiers fought against the Japanese. The battle was made into a famous "model" modern Peking Opera play of the same name.

Modern opera was a unique dramatic form in China that was created during the "cultural revolution" (1966-1976) when traditional operas were banned. During those years, only eight modern operas, all telling stories of revolutionary heroes, were performed and "Shajiabang" was one of the most popular.

It tells the true story of a group of wounded soldiers who escaped by hiding in the tall reeds in the fictional Shajiabang (near Changshu and Suzhou) during the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression.

Tall reeds are common in the area. The setting of the story was developed in a scenic area, which is popular today. It includes an outdoor cinema and stage for films and dramas about the war.

The Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall is a free museum first opened in 1985 and enlarged and renovated in 1995. It is an one to two tour through facts, recreations, documents and artistic recreations of the massacre of an estimated 300,000 victims by the Japanese army in 1937.

The New Fourth Army Museum in Jurong Town of Zhenjiang city recounts the stories and activities of the New Fourth Army, one of the most famous troops during the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression.

During the eight years of the war, the army built a soviet at Jurong Town and fought more than 5,000 battles against Japanese troops; more than 7,000 soldiers perished.

Another route includes Shanghai and Jiaxing in the north of adjacent Zhejiang Province. The Nanhu District contains a replica of the boat where the first meeting of the Communist Party of China took place. The meeting was originally held in Shanghai, but was forced to break after police arrived.

Participants were then transferred to a ship in Jiaxing to continue the meeting, where they passed the first important regulations of the Party. The original vessel has been long lost, but a replica was built in 1959.


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