Mao Zedong, the Poet

July 27, 2010

Many outside China think of Mao Zedong (1893 – 1976) as a brutal dictator. Yet, he was fifty-six when he became the ruler of China and seventy-two at the beginning of The Cultural Revolution.

In fact, while commanding the Red Army during The Long March (1934-1935), we see a man who respected China’s peasants proving he was more of a nationalist than a Communist. Then there was the move away from Communist Russia after Nixon’s visit to China in 1972, when Mao said, “Our common old friend, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, doesn’t approve of this.”

In 1935, Mao’s poem, “The Long March”, reveals an awareness of the sacrifice and the willingness to suffer to accomplish great things.

The Red Army fears not the trials of the March,
Holding light ten thousand crags and torrents.
The Five Ridges wind like gentle ripples
And the majestic Wumeng roll by, globules of clay.
Warm the steep cliffs lapped by the waters of Golden Sand,
Cold the iron chains spanning the Tatu River.
Minshan’s thousand li of snow joyously crossed,
The three Armies march on, each face glowing.

Mao was a complex man, and it wasn’t until after the failure of the The Great Leap Forward (1958 – 1961) that the fatal attraction and power of leadership corrupted him leading to the horrors of The Cultural Revolution (1966 – 1976), which Mao’s critics in the West use to define him.

Anyone who follows all of Mao’s life instead of relying on his last decade would understand that he cared deeply about the common people while punishing the landowners and wealthy, who abused them.  On the other hand, his foe, Chiang Kai-shek, supported the landowners and wealthy while crushing the peasants and workers.

There is a post on About China.info that says, “Mao’s poetry exhibits a spirit of boldness and power, weaving together history, reality and commitment… Bold transformation of myth and literary quotations are a distinct feature of Mao’s poetry.”

At Mao Zedong Poems, Two Birds” A Dialogue (1965), reveals what Mao may have been thinking about as President Johnson increased America’s involvement in Vietnam. Was Mao also warning us of what he was about to do in 1966, when he launched The Cultural Revolution?

Two Birds: A Dialogue (1965)

The roc wings fanwise,
Soaring ninety thousand li
And rousing a raging cyclone.
The blue sky on his back, he looks down
To survey Man’s world with its towns and cities.
Gunfire licks the heavens,
Shells pit the earth.
A sparrow in his bush is scared stiff..
“This is one hell of a mess!
O I want to flit and fly away.”
“Where, may I ask?”
The sparrow replies,
“To a jewelled palace in elfland’s hills.
Don’t you know a triple pact was signed
Under the bright autumn moon two years ago?
There’ll be plenty to eat,
Potatoes piping hot,
Beef-filled goulash.”
“Stop your windy nonsense!
Look, the world is being turned upside down.”

Through Mao’s poetry, we learn more about the man—not the modern emperor.

Discover China’s Privately Passionate Poetry

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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The Long March – Part 1 (5/6)

July 27, 2010

Mao’s army began to win more battles. One of Mao’s battalions marched 85 miles in one day and night to seize a Nationalist fort without firing a shot. The fort commanded an important river crossing. When Chiang Kai-shek discovered what Mao’s forces had done, he was furious. Meanwhile, Mao was gaining new recruits and support from the peasants.

Chiang’s KMT army did not have the support of most peasants since his army supported wealthy landowners. The KMT also had a reputation for dishonesty, corruption, and heavy taxation—all the wrongs that had collapsed the Qing Dynasty.

Most peasants trusted the Communists, who treated them with respect and refused to take any food while the Nationalists confiscated all the food and supplies they wanted without paying.

One challenge stood in Mao’s way—the Yi minority, who had stayed free of Chinese rule for decades due to their fierceness. Mao sent an envoy to negotiate and an agreement was reached. In fact, many Yi warriors joined Mao’s army.

However, there was another river to cross and Chiang’s army was moving to trap the Communists. A bridge built in 1701 was the key. The race toward this bridge would lead to the most important battle of the Long March.

Return to The Long March, Part 1/4 or go on to The Long March – Part 1/6

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. 

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The Long March – Part 1 (4/6)

July 26, 2010

Mao argued that the most important rule for a military commander was to preserve and strengthen his forces. He had never been to Russia but had read the Chinese military and literary classics.

Since most of the other leaders had been to Moscow to be indoctrinated in Communist ideology, they considered Mao’s thinking dangerous.  However, he came out of the conference co-commander of an army that had lost two-thirds of its troops. Meanwhile, The Japanese were expanding their territory in northeast China, but Chiang Kai-shek was still determined to destroy the Communists.

Mao changed plans and decided to move west toward the fourth Communist army.  He decided to take a route so rugged that no one had ever tried it before.  He also broke the army into smaller units and scattered them over the countryside so they would be harder to spot from the air. For a time, this fooled the Nationalists.

While moving across the rugged terrain, it was difficult to stay in touch with all the scattered units so Mao used teenagers as couriers. He also had spies keeping track of the Nationalist army’s movements.  

Mao’s first significant battle was for control of an important mountain pass and his troops defeated two Nationalist divisions. It was Mao’s first victory as a commander, which helped him gain the trust of the troops.

Return to The Long March, Part 1/3 or go on to The Long March – Part 1/5

________________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. 

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The Long March – Part 1 (3/6)

July 25, 2010

During the retreat, the Communists brought along the machinery for their government—printing presses, typewriters, etc.  The Communist’s leaders argued about what to do.  Mao wanted to break through the Nationalist lines and attack from the rear.  He was voted down.

Instead, the decision was for a full-scale retreat and to link up with another Red Army in its stronghold deeper in China. The Nationalists used hundreds of aircraft to bomb and strafe the Communist columns. As much as one-third of the Communist forces were killed by air attacks.  To avoid this, the Communists started to move at night and hide during the day.

A new obstacle, a rugged river, stood in their way. A brutal battle was fought to cross the river. A small force made it and the survivors were ferried across on bamboo rafts.  It took eight days for the entire army to cross.

The biggest problem was the heavy supply column with the machinery of government, so the Communists left the printing presses and coin minting machines behind along with the government’s records. After suffering horrible losses and not knowing what to do, Mao argued for a change of tactics. He said they didn’t have to win every battle.

Return to The Long March, Part 1/2 or go on to The Long March – Part 1/4

________________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. 

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The Long March – Part 1 (2/6)

July 25, 2010

The US and Great Britain supplied bombers, fighters and reconnaissance aircraft to Chiang Kai-shek’s troops and wanted Chiang to attack the Japanese.  Instead, he went after the Communists and signed a truce recognizing a Japanese government in Northeast China.

Chiang wanted to fight army to army the old fashioned way. Mao had his forces avoid a direct assault and fought using hit and run tactics. Advisors from Soviet Russia pressured Mao to be bolder but he refused, while Chiang was getting advice from a Nazi General from Hitler’s Germany.

When the Red Army finally stood their ground as the Soviets urged, the Communists lost sixty-thousand troops. They could not hold the lightly fortified positions they had built, because Chiang’s KMT were better armed.

In October 1934, Mao’s forces streamed out of their territory after suffering horrible losses. The Long March had begun. Nearly 87,000 troops moved in two main columns to the West and to the South.

It would be several weeks before Chiang’s knew the Communists had fled. At this time, Mao came down with a severe case of malaria and had to be carried most of the time.

Start with or return to The Long March, Part 1/1 or go on to The Long March – Part 1/3

________________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. 

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