The First of All Virtues – Piety

November 10, 2011

Confucius said, “Filial Piety is the root of all virtue and the stem out of which grows all moral teaching.” Source: Susan Tan’s short documentary for a junior class project (Susan Tan is an American-born Chinese)

In addition, at Answers Yahoo.com, Genxi asked, “Why do Americans lack filial piety? At the international level, filial piety is very common… After all, parents definitely would care and protect their children unquestionably—ideal condition—, but why can’t adult Americans have filial piety toward their ageing parents in exchange?” (the few responses to this question are interesting)

However, anyone that believes Confucianism may define China might be surprised to discover that Legalism, Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Christianity, etc have also influenced the foundation and moral structure of China’s culture.  While China has always had a diversity of religious beliefs, filial piety has been common to almost all of them and it worked.

The result, for more than two-thousand years, China was the wealthiest and most powerful, technologically advanced nation on the planet until the 19th century.

As for the United States, back in January 2010, I read a post at Parent Base.com that said any damn fool can be a parent, and although I agree, I thought North America is not a comfortable place to be if you become a geezer.

Our daughter called me a geezer once, which means a man who is (usually) old and/or eccentric, when she was joking around during her early high school years. She was not raised to be a narcissistic self-esteem child but knowing many American children that were raised to have high self-esteem did rub off resulting in that rude comment.

Today, she attends Stanford and the degree of respect she demonstrates for older family members is reassuring. I hope the self-esteem residue wore off.

When I was a child, youngsters were to be seen and not heard, which means we treated our elders with respect, and surprise of surprises, I was born in America and I am a Caucasian of British/Irish ancestry.  I’m not Asian or Chinese so I suspect piety was once widespread in American/Western culture but during the 20th century suffered a steep decline.

One exception would be the Amish community in the United States. The Amish are a stark contrast to the American concept of individualism—not only do the Amish encourage reciprocal family assistance but the entire Amish community is responsible for helping each other, including the elderly. According to Reuters, the US Amish population grew 86% to 231,000 in 2008 from 125,000 in 1992 and is set to double by 2026.

However, the Amish are not the norm. After the spread of television, the birth of Disneyland, fast food, MTV, the Internet and the iPod generation, a cancer called self-esteem spread through much of American culture. That self-esteem youth worshiping virus killed off much of the ‘respect’ for one’s elders among many of America’s youth.

In China, what America seems to have lost survives and is the norm. In addition, in Asian countries such as the Philippians, South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, etc., piety is still strong and is learned in the family—not from a pulpit.

Collins English Dictionary (Harper Collins Publishing) says piety is a devotion and obedience to parents and superiors and says it (piety) is “now rare” (in the West).

In fact, a comment left by an “Aussie in China” on another post verifies that piety is still taught in most Chinese families since piety plays a significant role in the morality of China.

Aussie in China said, “from my experience here, I would argue strongly that there is a commendable level of morality among many of the young Chinese. The issues of morality are well drummed into them at school and at home.”

The decline of the “first of all virtues” in the West first appeared during the 1960s with the spread of the self-esteem movement among American parents.  The history of this movement goes back to the late 19th century and by the 1960s, it permeated American culture in addition to many of its private and public schools.

The America of today is not the America prior to World War II, and the United States owes its greatness to that previous generation, which was not raised to have high self-esteem and spurn piety and family values.

One example of this moral decline in the US happened to me one night during the summer of 2008 when a pack of young boys taunted me as they raced in and out of our steep driveway on bicycles.

“Hey, old man,” one boy shouted, “you can’t stop us.”

I called the police and filed a report, and the next day walked the neighborhood door to door seeking support to stop the harassment that had gone on for two years—mostly during the summers when school was out and these children had nothing better to do but run wild without proper parental/adult supervision.

These boys wanted to race their bikes down our steep driveway for a cheap thrill, and I dared to tell them not to do it so they defied me as often as possible.

The reason why I didn’t want them playing in our driveway is because the United States has become a litigation nation and if one of those boys hurt himself on our property, the parents might take us to court and possibly destroy us financially—even take our home from us.

When I talked to the mother of one of these boys, she asked, “What was your reason for not letting them play on your driveway?”

Did I need a reason?

Since the episode with that gang of boys (I’m sure they all had a high sense of self-esteem), that mother who thought I needed a reason to keep them off our driveway, doesn’t talk to me or acknowledge that I am alive if we pass each other on the street.

After all, I ratted out her precious, perfect, wild child and called the police on his pack of young friends. In addition, one of the other boys argued with me the first time I politely asked them to go elsewhere for their thrills.

Of course, as a teacher for thirty years, I’ve heard American parents say, “kids will be kids” to explain this sort of behavior.

However, I do not accept that excuse for defiance, lack of respect, rudeness and unruly behavior. In fact, the way children act is often linked to how parents raise them and children raised by self-esteem obsessed parents are often the worst ones, while children raised to value piety, which means respect and obedience to parents and superiors/adults, are often the best.

In reading a post at Always on the Verge, I discovered a misguided individual that inadvertently advocates a world overrun by noisy children that do what they want whenever they want wherever they want.

The author of the post says, “I have always had issues with this saying (children should be seen and not heard).  However, that Blogger called “Webbhouston” does not consider that being quiet around adults is also a sign of respect for those older people that go to work daily to feed the family and pay for a roof over their heads to avoid becoming homeless and hungry.

That, by itself, should be enough for children to learn to keep quiet around adults. Children are not an alien species. They are humans, but when they are born, they are wild animals that parents and adults, such as teachers, tame and train to fit into society.

A cartoon (used for educational purposes only) that dramatically illustrates the decline of piety and family values in America.

I searched for a Blog that talks about teachers being abused by students and found thousands that did nothing but bash teachers. Then I found Who’s to Blame (a dim light in the wilderness of blame the teacher).

It seems that only a few people in the West care what happens to teachers (Finland may be the only country in the West where teachers are given the respect they deserve and Finland’s education system is one of the best in the world. In Fact, the World’s Happiness Index from Forbes.com places Finland second of 155 countries as the happiest place to live).

Then months after I first wrote this post, which appeared January 2010 as a nine part series, I launched Crazy Normal – the Classroom Expose, another Blog to help fill that lack of support for teachers in the US.

Then there was a second incident I experienced that further demonstrates the loss of piety and family values in American culture.

During the summer of 2007, we had just pulled into a motel parking lot in Southern California after driving several hundred miles. A teen with his girlfriend wanted to rent a room for an hour at the same motel. As we waited to check in, we heard the motel manager say, “No way!”

The boy turned to me, and asked, “Hey, old man, can you give us a ride to the next motel? They will not rent us a room here.”

I’m sure this adolescent was out for quick sex. He probably didn’t even know the girl’s name or care. Nevertheless, the lack of respect was obvious.

Today, it is as if adults are expected to be invisible and silent while youngsters get whatever they want such as a TV, Internet connection and video games in the child’s bedroom.

In most of North America, we have spawned more than one generation of narcissists with no respect for piety or understanding of what family values means and many are now giving birth to the next generation.

More than twenty-four hundred years ago, Confucius dedicated his life to the moral training of his culture. He lived during the Warring States period before China was unified. Living with all of that violence and death, he dreamed of a land where people could live happily and harmoniously together.

To learn more about Confucius and piety, check out this site at the Journal for International Relations. I’m not saying what Confucius taught was perfect but it has served China well for thousands of years and still plays a vital role in that complex culture.

Confucius said, “The reason why the gentleman teaches filial piety is not because it is to be seen in the home and everyday life. He teaches filial piety in order that man may respect all those who are fathers in the world.

“He teaches brotherliness in the younger brother, in order that man may respect all those who are elder brothers in the world. He teaches the duty of the subject, in order that man may respect all who are rulers.

“Those who love their parents dare not show hatred to others.” Confucius taught. “Those who respect their parents dare not show rudeness to others…”

While visiting China, I have never heard, “Hey, old man.”

However, there are always exceptions when it comes to piety. Even in China, there will be the occasional rude individual. The thing is, I haven’t seen or heard one yet, and I have visited China many times since 1999.

I did have a disrespectful, American born Asian student (once) during the thirty years I was a teacher.

I also had a small number of hard-working, respectful students from all ethnic groups—even those that were American born, but those types seem to be a dying breed.

My best students were usually immigrants that came to the United States after living in their birth country for several years where the word “self-esteem” was never heard and parents taught the value of piety instead.

In addition, I had one American born student enter high school as a freshman after being home taught by his Caucasian, conservative Christian parents. He was a great person—polite and he worked hard to further his education.

It was obvious that piety and/or family values had been instilled in this one individual by his parents, a daunting task in a country obsessed with stuffing a high sense of self-esteem in its youth.

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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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Note: This edited and revised post first appeared as a nine-part series January 30, 2010 in The First of All Virtues – Part 1 of 9


Births and Deaths – Part 2/2

August 13, 2011

The answer to China’s future may be found in Henry Kissinger’s “On China“, when this elder statesman and advisor of many American presidents on foreign policy, wrote, “China does not claim that its contemporary institutions are relevant outside China.”

In fact, history shows the Chinese are willing to do business and trade goods with other countries, but has never demonstrated a desire to rule the world. Most of China’s wars (not rebellions) were fought to secure its borders and/or defend against invaders.

More evidence that points toward China’s future might be when China ruled the oceans during the Ming Dynasty at a time when China was the most technologically advanced nation on the planet and the emperor called its giant fleet home and decided not to colonize, conquer and/or exploit the rest of the earth through conquest as all of the other empires have done that are mentioned in this post, which could have included the Spanish Empire of the 16th to 19th centuries and  World War II’s Imperial Japan and Hitler’s Nazi Germany. (Discover China’s Ancient Armada)

Another sign of the decline of America and an opportunity for China to become the next global empire is the end of the U.S. Shuttle (space) program. Fox news says, China Aiming High in Space as U.S. Shuttle Program Winds Down.

This year, China plans to send a train car-sized module into orbit, which will be the first building block for a Chinese space station with a goal to put men on the moon sometimes after 2010 — the same year the International Space Station is scheduled to close.

The Fox piece says, “China is still far behind the U.S. in space technology and experience, but what it doesn’t lack is a plan or financial resources … One of the biggest advantages of their system is that they have five-year plans so they can develop well ahead,” said Peter Bond, consultant editor for Jane’s Space Systems and Industry. “They are taking a step-by-step approach, taking their time and gradually improving their capabilities. They are putting all the pieces together for a very capable, advanced space industry.”

The Chinese have a history of long term planning.  If you doubt that claim, look at China’s Great Wall and the Grand Canal — both took centuries to build and there is no other project built by man that compares.

Return to or start with Births and Deaths – Part 1

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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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Mao’s Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution (Viewed as Single Page)

August 6, 2011

Before reading this post, I suggest first reading China, The Roots of Madness to understand what led to Mao’s era in China (1949 – 1976). This link will take you to that post. When you finish, return.

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Mao’s era started October 1949 with victory celebrations in Beijing, as the country with the largest population saw a Communist government come to power.

Mao says, “The People’s Republic of China is founded today. China will be free of inequality, poverty and foreign domination.”

Before 1950, most Chinese lived as they had for centuries as part of a feudal system. Even after the collapse of the Qing Dynasty, warlords ruled much of China, and then China was torn by Civil War and an invasion by Japan during World War II.

For most Chinese, feudalism describes the “old society” that existed before “liberation” in 1949.

The following video shows what this life was like before Mao’s era.  It is estimated that about half the people in rural China lived in severe poverty and were in debt to landowners.


(When the advertisement appears, advance the video scroll bar to 2:00 minutes to avoid it.)

In the video, Hu Benxu, a peasant farmer from Sichuan says that in the past, there was justice for the rich but nothing for the poor.

Chiang Kai-shek believed that improvements would spread through the country (sort of like President Reagan’s trickledown theory, also known as voodoo economics or Reaganomics, which did not work in the US) as foreign investments poured into China.

However, the opposite happened. As the country industrialized, the gap between the rich and the poor widened because the rich held on to money and wanted more and protests about working condition in the factories were met with death from Chiang Kai-shek’s troops.

Meanwhile, at the same time, Mao promised land reforms, and his troops treated the peasants with respect.

When Mao won China, he said, “We Chinese should work hard. The country is poor. Our people are uneducated. We must make China a modern industrialized state.”

However, there would be many mistakes and much suffering during the next 27 years. After two thousand years of an Imperial system of government, China was embarking on a journey of reinventing a country and a culture without foreign influence.

Mao held more power than anyone since the emperors, and he wanted China to be a purer, fairer more progressive state than the Soviet Union, so the peasants were the first to benefit.

As Mao promised during China’s Civil War (1926-1949 – with a break during part of World War II), there were land reforms.

Luo Shifa, a party official in Sichuan, tells his story about what happened in 1950. Rural property owners were judged enemies of the people (by the people) and hundreds of thousands were executed.

Changes in urban areas were not as violent. The owners and managers of factories were needed to keep things running but all property was signed over to the state. Factory and business owners who resisted were executed.

Women were given new rights at work and in marriage and foot binding was abolished. Literacy was also important. Before 1949, illiteracy in Mainland China was 80% and life expectancy was 35. When Mao died, the average life expectancy had increased to 55 and today it is 76 (while literacy is now more than 90% and China has done more to reduce poverty than any country on earth).

To deal with disease, the Communists launched programs to improve health care that had never existed before. Millions were inoculated against the most common diseases.

The nation went on a cleaning spree. Posters said everyone had to help exterminate pests. Songs were sung, “Pest free areas are glorious. Let’s wipe out the flies, bugs, mosquitoes and rats.”

Sparrows were considered pests since they were accused of eating crops. Whoever killed the most sparrows in each village was rewarded.

However, exterminating sparrows led to insect populations exploding, which endangered crop yields.

Then the people were told to watch for capitalistic or counter revolutionary behavior and to denounce suspicious people.

In 1958, Mao’s boldest program was launched. He wanted to out-produce industrialized nations in manufacturing and crop yields. The land given to the peasants in 1949 was confiscated and people communes of 100 thousand or more were created.

Mao believed that more people working together meant larger projects. By the end of 1958, 700 million people had been placed into 26,578 communes.

Ironically, one of the key factors in food production in China was the weather and 1958 had particularly good weather for growing food.

Then in 1959, things started to go wrong.

The excellent growing weather of 1958 was followed by a very poor growing year in 1959. Some parts of China were hit by floods. In other growing areas, drought was a major problem. The harvest for 1959 was 170 million tons of grain – well below what China needed at the most basic level.

Soon, in parts of China, starvation occurred and millions died.

In addition, political decisions/beliefs took precedence over commonsense and communes faced the task of doing things which they were incapable of achieving.

Mao said, “Revolutionary enthusiasm will triumph over all obstacles.”

To achieve Mao’s goals, the Communist Party encouraged competition between communes. Instead, overproduction caused crops to rot in the fields and the communes hid the truth by faking records.

Huge construction projects began without proper planning leading to accidents and deaths, which were hidden by the project managers. No one wanted Mao to discover the lack of proper revolutionary enthusiasm.Some critics claim that Mao was aware of what was going on but others argue he had no idea of the extent of the problems until late 1959.

During this time, steel production was to double in one year. Instead of producing steel from industry, Mao wanted the peasants to build small furnaces.

Again, there was competition between teams of peasants, and forests were cut down to fuel the crude furnaces the mostly illiterate peasants built.

All over China, people were neglecting the fields and crops to produce steel because the people were told they had to listen to Mao. All metal was melted — including cooking woks, but the steel produced using these methods was useless.

While the peasants were producing this useless steel, the crops rotted in the fields. Then in 1960, there was a drought and food production fell more than 25% and millions died from the resulting famine (no one knows the exact number — estimates run from 10 million to 45 million or more).

Having failed, Mao publicly admitted he had been wrong and stepped aside to let someone else run the country.

The large communes were abandoned in 1960, and the peasants returned to their villages and were given land again.  At the time, Mao was still popular with the people but he still resigned as the Head of State.

However, fearing a return of capitalism and exploitation of the people, Mao’s supporters printed a book with his quotations and slogans.

The goal was to break the thinking and attitudes of old China. Using film, a propaganda campaign was launched so Mao could regain power. Then in 1966, the Cultural Revolution started.

By 1966, Mao’s Red Book of quotations was being used as a textbook in the schools.

Shao Ailing, a head teacher in Shanghai says, “The pupils began to realize that all the changes taking place in their families, in school, in Shanghai and China were because of Chairman Mao.”

Mao encouraged students to attack authority and the leadership of the Communist Party that did not agree with his beliefs.

This advice was coming from a man considered to be the “George Washington” of China, the man who had delivered on his promises to the peasants in 1950 and brought them medicine and land reforms—something the emperors of Imperial China and Chiang Kai-shek had never done, and Mao was still popular with the vast majority of the Chinese people.

Zhang Baoqing, an early Red Guard member in Beijing, says, “Chairman Mao started the Cultural Revolution (1966 – 1976) to keep up the momentum for change. We thought if we followed Mao, we could not go wrong.”

Mao motivated millions of students from speeches in Tiananmen Square. This time it wasn’t the rural peasants that suffered the most during the Great Leap Forward (1958 – 1960). This time he looked for support from China’s urban youth that did not remember or were not aware of Mao’s earlier mistakes.

Urban student anger focused on Mao’s rivals, President Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping. Even small children were taught to denounce Liu. Then anyone in power was denounced. The structure of the Communist Party collapsed. Schoolteachers were attacked and tortured by their students. More than a million were killed or driven to suicide.

The anarchy caused by Mao’s Cultural Revolution spread. Schools and hospitals closed. Offices and factories were in chaos. Qi Youyi, who was a factory worker in Beijing, describes how bad it was. Production stopped. No one knew when he or she might be denounced and arrested. Many workers committed suicide.

After two years (by 1968), the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) was called in to restore order and reestablish the Communist Party. Then to bring peace to the streets, millions of members of the teenage Red Guard were sent to the countryside to learn from the peasants.

However, the Cultural Revolution did not officially end until 1976 when Mao died.

After his death, Mao’s closest supporters, the Gang of Four, were arrested and Maoist revolutionary activities were abandoned. In an attempt to hold the country together, the Communist Party used propaganda and the PLA to maintain control.

Deng Xiaoping replaced ideological fervor with economic activity so the people would be motivated not by dreams of equality but by money. In the 1980s, the new message was “to get rich is glorious”.

This post first appeared as a six part series starting June 21, 2010 as China’s Great Leap Forward – Part 1.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. 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.

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves.

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China’s Holistic Historical Timeline

 


The Long March (Viewed as Single Page)

August 5, 2011

Mao’s Long March is considered one of the most significant military campaigns of the 20th Century and one of the most amazing physical feats ever attempted.

Surrounded by hostile armies, 87,000 Communist troops escaped and started walking. It was a retreat that covered nearly 6,000 miles in one year.

It was a desperate retreat for Mao’s Communist Chinese Army (PLA) from the Nationalist forces (the KMT) of General Chiang Kai-shek . The KMT had a huge advantage with a much larger military force big enough to surround their enemy.

Many say The Long March was a brilliant military maneuver. Others claim it was a series of strategic blunders. However, most historians agree that what was accomplished was astounding. In this documentary, the survivors reveal what happened.

In the 1920s, eighty percent of the 450 million Chinese people were poor peasants who lived in the countryside. Over half owned no land and often worked for little more than food for an absentee landlord.

The difference between the Communists and Nationalists was vast. The Communists wanted to give the land to the peasants while the Nationalists wanted to maintain the old social order.

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 the PLA the old fashioned way, army to army.

However, 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 learned the PLA had retreated. At the time, Mao came down with a severe case of malaria and had to be carried most of the time.

During the retreat, the PLA brought along the machinery for their government—printing presses, typewriters, etc. The Party’s leaders argued about what to do. Mao wanted to break through the Nationalist lines and attack from the rear but 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 PLA columns.

As much as one-third of the Communist forces were killed by air attacks. To avoid this, the PLA started to move at night and hide during the day.

A new obstacle, a rugged river, stood in the PLA’s path, and a brutal battle was fought to cross the river. After a small force reached the far side, the survivors were ferried across on bamboo rafts. It took eight days for the 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 saying they didn’t have to win every battle.

Mao argued that the most important rule for a military commander was to preserve and strengthen his forces. He had never been to Russia for military training 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, while Chiang Kai-shek was still determined to destroy the Communists.

Mao changed plans and decided to move west toward the fourth Communist army. He took 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.

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 achieved, he was furious. Meanwhile, Mao was gaining new recruits and support from the peasants.

Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist army had a proven reputation for dishonesty, corruption and heavy taxation — the same policies that contributed to the collapsed of the Qing Dynasty in 1911, and the KMT was the faction the United States supported.

Most peasants trusted the Communists, who treated them with respect and refused to take any food while Nationalist troops confiscated 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.

In the race to the bridge, advanced elements of the PLA arrived first.

The bridge was about 100 yards long and nine feet wide. Thirteen chains held up the side supports along with the bridge’s flooring. The troops for a local warlord guarded the bridge, and they had removed the flooring. Only the chains were left since the local people refused to cut them.

The battle for the bridge began. Volunteers from the Red Army started to crawl along the chains while covering fire was focused on the warlord’s troops on the other side.

The warlord’s troops used mortars and machine guns shooting at the Red Army volunteers as they crawled toward them. After fierce fighting, Mao’s troops took the bridge and the Red Army crossed.

The Nationalists had made a mistake by not cutting the bridge’s chains.

However, The Long March was not over. The Red Army was heavily outnumbered, and they had some of the highest mountains in the world to cross before reaching the Fourth Red Army and safety deep in Western China.

In June 1935, eight months and over three-thousand miles into the Long March, Mao’s Red Army moved into Western Sichuan Province. For a time, Mao’s troops were safe from Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists.

Meanwhile, the Japanese launched an attack on another northern Chinese province. The Japanese now occupied most of Northern China and the Chinese living there knew little about the struggle between Mao and Chiang Kai-shek.

Feeling abandoned, they were alienated from the Nationalist government.

Meanwhile, the PLA had to cross the Snowy Mountains with peaks as high as 15,000 feet. Because these mountains were so rugged and dangerous, the Nationalist Army stopped the pursuit and waited for the mountains to kill Mao.

Some historians believed crossing these mountains was a blunder, but Mao had no choice. Only defeat waited behind him, and there was no turning back.

The thin air and the steep, snow-covered mountains exhausted the troops. A shortage of food, lack of firewood, and snow blindness all contributed to the challenge. While crossing the mountains and linking up with the Fourth Red Army, thousands were lost.

Once joined, the combined PLA armies numbered 100,000 troops.

The next challenge was the deadliest obstacle of all—a high-desert grassland. There was no choice. All the easy routes were controlled by Chiang Kai-shek’s troops.

Then heavy rains came, which turned the grassland into a swamp.

There was no drainage in the grasslands. As it rained, the water saturates the soil and turned it into a swamp. Beneath the flowers and grass were hidden bogs that swallowed men and animals whole.

With temperatures were slightly above freezing, food became scarce and was rationed.

When there was no food, the troops boiled the grass and added a touch of salt. Everyone was weak. Those who collapsed were left to die, because the survivors did not have the strength to help.

The Red Army lost more troops in the grassland than from the Snowy Mountains. A Nationalist army followed the Communists into the grasslands but turned back because of the difficulty and risks.

One reason the Nationalists turned back was that Chiang Kai-shek suffered from a lack of loyalty among his troops and generals. He even feared that one of his generals might kill him.

On the other hand, the loyalty of Mao’s troops was unquestioned.

However, the general of the Fourth Red Army argued with Mao and the two armies split.

Mao’s army was weak and still had hundreds of miles to go to reach safety. One obstacle remained—the dangerous Lazikou pass, which had been fortified by Nationalist troops.

To survive, Mao’s troops would have to take the pass or return through the grassland.

Not wanting to return through the grassland, Mao issued orders to take the pass. The fighting was fierce and the PLA took heavy losses without success.

Then Mao stopped the direct assaults and sent skilled climbers up one of the canyon’s walls. From the high ground, they shot down at the Nationalist fortifications blocking access to the pass.

One volunteer wrapped his body in explosives, leaped from the cliff into the middle of the Nationalist fortifications and blew himself up opening the pass.

Mao’s First Red Army finally reached desolate and rugged Shaanxi Province. The Long March was over, and Mao’s troops linked up with other Red Army elements that already had a base there.

Of the original 87,000 that started the Long March, fewer than 6,000 survived. These survivors would recruit and train a new army.

The Long March turned Mao into a leader with a following from the common people of China.

Eventually, the Fourth Red army arrived, but two-thirds had been killed in battles.

Chiang Kai-shek planned a new campaign to defeat Mao, but Chiang’s supporters and generals forced him to cooperate with the Communists to defeat the Japanese.

After World War II, the Chinese Civil War resumed, and in 1949, Mao won China and Chiang Kai-shek, distrusted by most rural Chinese and still supported by America, fled to Taiwan with the remnants of his army.

Meanwhile, Mao’s six thousand survivors from the First Red Army ruled a country of a half-billion people. Most of the Communist government’s highest-ranking officials from the 1950s through the 70s were the survivors of The Long March.

In one year and one day, the First Red Army covered six-thousand miles, the distance between New York and San Francisco and back again. They averaged about 24 miles a day, climbed 18 major mountain ranges and crossed 24 rivers.

The First Red Army wasn’t the only Communist army to make this march. Two other Red Armies followed and overcame the same obstacles to join Mao’s forces in Shaanxi Province.

Map of the Long March
Click on this link to see an active map of the Long March

Many outside China see Mao as a ruthless dictator, without realizing that his sworn enemy, Chaing Kai-shek, was a brutal dictator too.

However, few can deny what Mao achieved as the commander of the First Red Army during the Long March.

Mao could not have succeeded without the loyalty of the common people and his troops, and loyalty must be earned and maintained, which is something that Chiang Kai-shek never accomplish.

In fact, to rule Taiwan after losing the mainland to Mao, Chiang Kai-shek imposed a brutal and harsh military imposed martial law on the island’s people.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the unique love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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China’s Holistic Historical Timeline


Keeping Mao Alive in the West – Part 4/4

July 2, 2011

As for Bo Xilai, the so-called darling of the Maoists according to The Economist, the weekly rag failed to mention that last year when this Chinese “Maoist” splinter of the Communist Party thought they had a leader in Bo Xilai, he had thirty Maoist hard core leaders arrested and locked up. Source: Serve the People

Bo Xilai may be a leader among Chinese conservatives but those conservatives are not Maoist revolutionaries dreaming of a return to the upside down world of The Cultural Revolution, which would turn China into a train wreck, and most Chinese have worked too hard building a modern, capitalist China to throw all that away.

Maoists have followers as well as critics in modern China. While these supporters of Mao claim that it was during his era that China witnessed mass development in terms of economy, industry, healthcare, education, and Infrastructure, his critics (that have ruled China since 1976 leading to a middle class of about 400 million) hold a different view.

According to them, the history of Maoist China was marked with uncountable deaths, and an extreme economic crisis that damaged China’s cultural heritage.

What is the difference between the Maoists in China that are a minority in the Communist Party and the American Nazi Party in the US? Do we read pieces in the Western media criticizing the US for having an American Nazi party after what the Nazis did during World War II?

In fact, in 2006, NPR.org reported, “New schoolbooks were about to be introduced in Shanghai that were moving a bit further away from the traditional communist ideology. And in them Mao was actually only mentioned once, and very fleetingly, as part of a lesson on the custom of lowering flags to half mast at state funerals.”

In that interview at NPR, Louisa Lim said, “The official verdict on Mao that the Party came to in 1981 was that he was 70% good and 30% bad. And their mythology about Mao was really that he was a great national hero who unified the country. He sort of threw off the yoke of Japanese imperialism and freed people from poverty, and that any later mistakes were made when he was older and should be weighed up against his great contributions to China.”

If Bo Xilai sounds as if he wants to bring the Maoism of The Cultural Revolution back, he is probably doing what all “good” politicians do (even in the US), and that is telling people what they want to hear to gain support. After all, in 2012, China’s leaders are changing and Bo wants to get as close to the top as possible. That is not a secret.

Start with Keeping Mao Alive in the West – Part 1 or return to Part 3

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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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