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  Chinese Way>Life

The legend of Zunyi

2013-12-12 18:42:32

(China Today)


Revolutionary Fame

In today’s era, Zunyi gained fame as venue of the Zunyi Conference, an important meeting during the Communist Party’s epoch-making Long March. At the meeting, held in 1935, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China rectified its previous errors in policy making and agreed on a new strategic approach that would eventually win victory for the Red Army. The conference room still stands, and today a plaque featuring hand-written characters by the late Chairman Mao Zedong greets visitors.

According to the official history of the Communist Party of China, the Zunyi Conference was a pivotal moment in the development of the Red Army and for the party itself. During the meeting, the extreme “Leftist thought” of Wang Ming, the previous party leader, was rejected. The move ended up saving both the Red Army and the party from demise.

On the slopes of Xiaolong Mountain lies the Cemetery for Fallen Red Army Soldiers. Covered by lush green vegetation, the cemetery was built to face the Xiangjiang River. In front of the cemetery stands a monument featuring large golden handwritten characters by late state leader Deng Xiaoping, which read, “Red Army Martyrs Are Immortal.” Right behind the monument lies the tomb of Deng Ping, chief of staff of the Third Red Army Corps. Seventy-seven soldiers are buried next to him, the youngest just 20 years old.

Also buried in the cemetery was a young Red Army medic named Long Siquan. In January 1935, a serious epidemic typhoid fever devastated the area just as the Red Army was passing through. Long Siquan left his fellow soldiers to help the villagers by providing them with medical assistance. He never returned to the ranks – he was found by enemy troops and killed. His tomb was erected by the villagers, and generation after generation of locals have cleaned his tomb every spring to cherish the memory of the kind-hearted medic.

Zunyi is a historical place, but the events of the past come alive in the countless moving tales of revolutionary valor that survive to this day. One such tale is, in fact, a love story. When the Red Army arrived at Zunyi in January 1935, a female soldier named Wang Quanyuan and her boyfriend Wang Shoudao, both working with the security department, planned to marry. According to tradition in their home province of Jiangxi, the bride and groom were to exchange gifts on their wedding night. Wang Shoudao’s gift to his bride was a pistol and eight bullets he had just won in battle. Wang Quanyuan, however, failed to live up to tradition, which dictated she must gift her soon-to-be husband with a pair of cloth shoes that she herself had made. She had found neither the time nor the materials necessary to make the shoes during the war. She promised to do so after the war had ended and supplies were at hand. In the end, she kept her word, but Wang Shoudao had to wait half a century for his new shoes.

Site of the Zunyi Conference.

After their wedding, the couple parted and did not meet again till June of that year, and for only one day. They were separated after being assigned to different troops. Wang Quanyuan was eventually promoted to the rank of regimental commander, leading 1,300 female soldiers. She fought bravely in many battles before being wounded and captured. She spent a number of years being tortured for information in prison, before finally escaping and fleeing to safety. She had lost contact with the Red Army and the Communist Party, however, and lived a solitary existence in the countryside for several decades.

Wang Quanyuan was eventually “found” by veterans’ organizations in the summer of 1982, aged 76. She was summoned to Beijing, where the authorities renewed her party membership. Just as she was about to go home, she received startling news: Wang Shoudao, her one-time husband and then vice chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, was coming to visit her. The meeting after half a century by two senior revolutionaries was a sacred moment. The two sat, speechless, holding hands as they wept.

Ten years after the reunion, Wang Quanyuan came to Beijing again, this time to visit Wang Shoudao, who lay sick in hospital. Although she hadn’t brought food or drink, she did come prepared with something better: a pair of cloth shoes. She’d made them herself, just as she promised, though with considerable difficulty considering her poor eyesight and shaky hands.

On receiving the gift, Wang Shoudao said to his one-time sweetheart: “I am so happy you have finally come good on your wedding promise after such a long time.”

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