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Red Hot Tourism

By staff reporter ZHANG XUEYING

Former residence of Mao Zedong. 


WHEN the Communist Party of China (CPC) was established in 1921, it was an obscure organization of 50-odd members. By the time the People’s Republic was founded in 1949, the CPC had built an army of four million and expanded its membership to approximately 4.5 million.

The CPC’s struggle from grassroots to state power is marked by periods and events that set the course of China’s modern history. Over the past couple of decades Chinese people have begun to take “Red” tours to revolutionary sites to commemorate their founding fathers or to find connection with their relatively recent history. The following are some of the most visited places.

Shaoshan, Hometown of Mao Zedong

Shaoshan is the birthplace of the late Chairman Mao Zedong. Now it has grown into a mountain-dominated city 100 kilometers southwest of Changsha, capital of Hunan Province. Mao more than any other modern leader is remembered as changing the fate of China. He was widely compared to the sun itself in his time, so Shaoshan was referred to as the “place where the sun rises.” Visitors stream in every year to tour the former residence of the great Chinese leader.

Mao’s home sits in a clearing in the mountains. A modest earth-and-wood structure facing two ponds, it consists of front and rear yards with main rooms and wing rooms. Mao Zedong lived here from 1893, when he was born, to 1910, when he left the town for further study. In 1929 the house was confiscated and then demolished by the Kuomintang government. It was restored in 1949, and furnished with some of the family’s belongings and old photos. At the centennial anniversary of Mao’s birth in 1993 the local authority erected bronze statues in his image, and likenesses of six members of his family who were killed in the revolution.

Four kilometers from Mao’s home is a densely embowered retreat built in the 1960s, the mountain-locked site of his Dishuidong cottage. One of the four gray brick buildings is now open to the public, with other rooms maintained as they were when originally occupied by Mao.

Jinggangshan, “Cradle of the Chinese Revolution”

In 1927 Mao Zedong founded the first stronghold of the Communist-led revolution in Jinggangshan, Jiangxi Province. The area has since become known as the “cradle of the Chinese revolution.”

Tourists flock to the city year round, looking for every trace left behind by the Red Army. They tread the path along which its Commander-in-Chief Zhu De and his soldiers commuted between the fields and the barracks in their drive to achieve self-sufficiency with the local grain supply. Eating home-made meals based on local yields and experiencing the dim cave dwellings are vital components of the tour, giving urbanites long spoiled by modern comforts a taste of the sacrifice and fortitude of the early Communists. There are entriguing stories about every corner of the place, involving both well-known figures and some young rank-and-filers.

The Jinggangshan Revolution Museum sits in Ciping, a scenic small town thriving on “red” tourism. Almost everything served in its inns and displayed in the store shelves are relevant to the Red Army, ranging from home-brewed liquor to pastries made of locally grown red rice and pumpkin.

A side order of nature tourism is provided in the nearby valley by the famous Wulongtan (Five Dragon Pool) Waterfall, an array of five gushing chutes softening the mountain with mists.

Zunyi, a Turning Point in Chinese Revolution

Zunyi in northern Guizhou Province is carved into Chinese history for the January 1935 meeting of the CPC Polibureau.

After a series of military defeats in 1934, the Red Army was forced to abandon its Jiangxi base and retreat westward. With Kuomintang forces both nipping at their heels and blocking the way ahead, the CPC convened a special Polibureau meeting in Zunyi. Mao Zedong was elected a member of the bureau’s standing committee, and his military strategies were approved. This meeting established Mao’s status as leader of the Party and the Red Army and became a turning point in the Chinese revolution. Under Mao’s leadership, the Red Army won the final victory of the Long March.

This formerly desolate town has evolved into a city of more than 7.2 million residents. The Red Army headquarters now serves as the Zunyi Meeting Museum. With its tourist attractions and a number of locally made liquor brands that have achieved national prestige, Zun-yi boasts one of the strongest economies in the province, which is, on the whole, less well developed.

Yan’an, the Red Capital

Yan’an, a desolate county on the Loess Plateau in Shaanxi Province, was the seat of the CPC Central Committee and the government of the Shaanxi-Gansu-Ningxia Border Area from 1937 to 1947. During this period the CPC led the eight-year war against Japanese invaders. It also conducted the Rectification Movement and achieved self-reliance by developing agriculture, industry and commerce. This was the decade the CPC put forward the slogan “establishing a new China,” which it later made a reality.

American journalist Edgar Snow arrived in Yan’an in 1936 and interviewed top CPC leaders including Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai. This experience was written up in his book Red Star Over China, the first authentic account by a Westerner of the Red regime and its people.

Decades of economic development have dramatically altered the cityscape of Yan’an. High-rises crown the new skyline, and luxury autos like BMW and Mercedes flash by on the road. In the surge of industrialization and commercialization at the close of the 20th century, 140 or so historical sites nevertheless managed to stay well preserved. Among them are the landmark Yan’an Pagoda, Wangjiaping, headquarters of the CPC Central Military Commission and the Eighth Route Army, Phoenix Mountain, site of the office of the CPC Central Committee, Zaoyuan, office of the CPC Central Secretariat,and Yangjialing, living quarters of top CPC leaders.

Yan’an is a showcase of the Loess culture and tradition. One of the best known indigenous arts is the Ansai drum dance. To perform it, a phalanx of men, with their heads bundled in the white towel headwear prevalent in that locality, hold batons adorned with bright red ribbons and swirl and skip on bare ground. All the while, each dancer pounds a drum tied to his waist. Soon waves of dust rise under their feet, and gradually envelope the whole group, blurring their actions but putting the fluttering red ribbons in vivid relief to their cloudy background.

VOL.59 NO.12 December 2010 Advertise on Site Contact Us