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The Long March is Communist China’s founding myth, the heroic tale that every Chinese child learns in school. Seventy years after the historical march took place, Sun Shuyun set out to retrace the Marchers’ steps and unexpectedly discovered the true history behind the legend. The Long March is the stunning narrative of her extraordinary expedition. The facts are these: in The Long March is Communist China’s founding myth, the heroic tale that every Chinese child learns in school. Seventy years after the historical march took place, Sun Shuyun set out to retrace the Marchers’ steps and unexpectedly discovered the true history behind the legend. The Long March is the stunning narrative of her extraordinary expedition. The facts are these: in 1934, in the midst of a brutal civil war, the Communist party and its 200,000 soldiers were forced from their bases by Chiang Kaishek and his Nationalist troops. After that, truth and legend begin to blur: led by Mao Zedong, the Communists set off on a strategic retreat to the distant barren north of China, thousands of miles away. Only one in five Marchers reached their destination, where, the legend goes, they gathered strength and returned to launch the new China in the heat of revolution. As Sun Shuyun journeys to remote villages along the Marchers’ route, she interviews the aged survivors and visits little-known local archives. She uncovers shocking stories of starvation, disease, and desertion, of ruthless purges ordered by party leaders, of the mistreatment of women, and of thousands of futile deaths. Many who survived the March report that their suffering continued long after the “triumph” of the revolution, recounting tales of persecution and ostracism that culminated in the horrific years of the Cultural Revolution. What emerges from Sun’s research, her interviews, and her own memories of growing up in China is a moving portrait of China past and present. Sun finds that the forces at work during the days of the revolution—the barren, unforgiving landscape; the unifying power of outside threats from foreign countries; Mao’s brilliant political instincts and his use of terror, propaganda, and ruthless purges to consolidate power and control the population—are the very forces that made China what it is today. The Long March is a gripping retelling of an amazing historical adventure, an eye-opening account of how Mao manipulated the event for his own purposes, and a beautiful document of a country balanced between legend and the truth.


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The Long March is Communist China’s founding myth, the heroic tale that every Chinese child learns in school. Seventy years after the historical march took place, Sun Shuyun set out to retrace the Marchers’ steps and unexpectedly discovered the true history behind the legend. The Long March is the stunning narrative of her extraordinary expedition. The facts are these: in The Long March is Communist China’s founding myth, the heroic tale that every Chinese child learns in school. Seventy years after the historical march took place, Sun Shuyun set out to retrace the Marchers’ steps and unexpectedly discovered the true history behind the legend. The Long March is the stunning narrative of her extraordinary expedition. The facts are these: in 1934, in the midst of a brutal civil war, the Communist party and its 200,000 soldiers were forced from their bases by Chiang Kaishek and his Nationalist troops. After that, truth and legend begin to blur: led by Mao Zedong, the Communists set off on a strategic retreat to the distant barren north of China, thousands of miles away. Only one in five Marchers reached their destination, where, the legend goes, they gathered strength and returned to launch the new China in the heat of revolution. As Sun Shuyun journeys to remote villages along the Marchers’ route, she interviews the aged survivors and visits little-known local archives. She uncovers shocking stories of starvation, disease, and desertion, of ruthless purges ordered by party leaders, of the mistreatment of women, and of thousands of futile deaths. Many who survived the March report that their suffering continued long after the “triumph” of the revolution, recounting tales of persecution and ostracism that culminated in the horrific years of the Cultural Revolution. What emerges from Sun’s research, her interviews, and her own memories of growing up in China is a moving portrait of China past and present. Sun finds that the forces at work during the days of the revolution—the barren, unforgiving landscape; the unifying power of outside threats from foreign countries; Mao’s brilliant political instincts and his use of terror, propaganda, and ruthless purges to consolidate power and control the population—are the very forces that made China what it is today. The Long March is a gripping retelling of an amazing historical adventure, an eye-opening account of how Mao manipulated the event for his own purposes, and a beautiful document of a country balanced between legend and the truth.

30 review for The Long March: The True History of Communist China's Founding Myth

  1. 5 out of 5

    Domenico Composto-Hart

    The Long March: A True History of Communist China's Founding Myth by Sun Shuyun is an incredibly impressive work of revisionist reporting, which calls into question nearly every aspect of the Chinese Communist Party's "official" account of what really occurred during this epic, horrific journey. The author follows the path taken by those 200,000 plus soldiers who embarked on a grueling journey west and then north from Ruijin in 1934 interviewing the last remaining survivors of the March along the The Long March: A True History of Communist China's Founding Myth by Sun Shuyun is an incredibly impressive work of revisionist reporting, which calls into question nearly every aspect of the Chinese Communist Party's "official" account of what really occurred during this epic, horrific journey. The author follows the path taken by those 200,000 plus soldiers who embarked on a grueling journey west and then north from Ruijin in 1934 interviewing the last remaining survivors of the March along the way. The stories told by these survivors of what really happened during the Long March brings into question not only China's "official" account of what occurred, but also causes one to question any country's "official" historical account of war campaigns waged. What really occurred during the long marches of Alexander the Great and his army; of George Washington's campaigns against the British; of the horrors, trials, and tribulations encountered by those who fought and marched during the Seven Years' War; of the Thirty Years' War; of Napoleon's march into Russia, etc. This book gives the reader a very real, graphic, gruesome understanding of what is involved in the mass movement of tens to hundreds of thousands of soldiers, and their devastating affect on the villages, towns, and areas they pass through. It has been years since I have read a historical work that was so precise yet raw in its reporting. This book is a must read.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Gloria

    I'm a little more than halfway through this book, and I have to say that I vacillate between feeling as if my mind is being blown apart and being smug and saying but of course, that makes sense. While not brought up in China and drilled in the mythology of the Long March, as an American I have been influenced by the epic idea of the event through my knowledge of having relatives who have survived it (and also survived later purges, once the government was established). However, the details were s I'm a little more than halfway through this book, and I have to say that I vacillate between feeling as if my mind is being blown apart and being smug and saying but of course, that makes sense. While not brought up in China and drilled in the mythology of the Long March, as an American I have been influenced by the epic idea of the event through my knowledge of having relatives who have survived it (and also survived later purges, once the government was established). However, the details were something I never bothered to look into, including which army my relative was in, etc. (He was with He-Long, in the 2nd army, I believe, based on some quick internet searches). And I knew (and had met) relatives who had been born by this relative and his wife (also a survivor of the march), who spoke Chinese with Russian accents, blah blah blah. At one point, in the early 1980s, I aspired to have an oral interview with the widow.... This book actually begins to answer some the questions I aspired to answer then, and the book is only possible now, due to the massive amount of change that has occurred-- 70 years after the event, some many years after Mao, with the rising wealth of China (in general), etc. Sun Shuyun very capably takes us on her personal, mind-opening trip. It is, in that sense, not a "typical" history; the narrative mode switches from recreation to personal reactions to actual description of interviews. Also, if you are not familiar with the locations, the players, etc., it would be helpful to create a little "cheat sheet" (similar to what one might do when reading long Russian novels, to keep the character's names, relationships and nicknames all straight). So far, the thing that has struck me the most is the use of opium by the Chinese armies. (Again, this has been another "fact" of history that I may need to revisit: the cultivation of opium in China, blah blah.) Having recently completed Beah's recent memoir _A Long Way Gone_, regarding civil war in Sierra Leone, I am left to wonder what drugs we are using to keep our people fighting now… Okay, now I'm done, and I am both sadden and in awe by the people who survived this historic retreat/advance, conditions that drove them to join up, the determination and commitment that kept some of them going, and the terrible conditions that existed prior to the civil war (as well as during it). The stories in the epilogue also bring to mind the uncovering/restoring of the details that still are missing, are slowing coming through from the Mao years. I also am curious, having just seen a new novel by Ma Jian regarding issues around Tian An Men; another event that will need to be revisited--in 70 years....? Clearly still thinking about the book, as I am still adding to this review. The section on the Western campaign has really struck something deep. I've seen that part of the country about 15 years ago, and it was still desolate. How, why.... truly a death column, a death march.

  3. 4 out of 5

    James

    I think most people knew that most of what Mao said was a lie, but it's nice that a Chinese person can write a book about that today. I wish there'd been more photos of the route, the image of the road out of Zunyi is nice, but most photos are of 90 year old women. Hard to believe, looking at the photos, that they could get a young man to enlist in the Red army by giving him a roll in the hay. Mao was a dirty dog from start to finish, it was China's sorrow that he became its leader. I think most people knew that most of what Mao said was a lie, but it's nice that a Chinese person can write a book about that today. I wish there'd been more photos of the route, the image of the road out of Zunyi is nice, but most photos are of 90 year old women. Hard to believe, looking at the photos, that they could get a young man to enlist in the Red army by giving him a roll in the hay. Mao was a dirty dog from start to finish, it was China's sorrow that he became its leader.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Rhuff

    The author approaches the subject matter and her interviewees with respect. She is not out to do a hatchet job of debunking the Long March per se or the idealism of the marchers. That China would even let her in to talk to these people, and speak so candidly about the buttside of the PRC's founding mythos, perhaps reflects how little meaning the Long March now has for China's current rulers. That the Long March contained examples of tragedy with its triumph, wanton callousness striding beside the The author approaches the subject matter and her interviewees with respect. She is not out to do a hatchet job of debunking the Long March per se or the idealism of the marchers. That China would even let her in to talk to these people, and speak so candidly about the buttside of the PRC's founding mythos, perhaps reflects how little meaning the Long March now has for China's current rulers. That the Long March contained examples of tragedy with its triumph, wanton callousness striding beside the highest ideals, should not come as any great revelation to those who study human history. There are no survivors of other long marches to interview - like the Hebrews Moses led through the wilderness from Egypt - but if there had been a contemporary historian looking up surviving marchers he would have doubtless found such recriminating memories there as well, calling into question the myth and romance of the whole thing, the quality of the "Promised Land" as delivered, and the Prophet's alleged divinity of inspiration. There is always a "man behind the curtain" when one comes before the Great Oz, so our anti-Communist debunkers really have little to gloat about here. A more fascinating project, I think, would have been to focus on what the Long Marchers made of China as it evolved afterward. Did they still identify with the movement after the Great Leap forward and the Cultural Revolution, seeing these as fulfillment or betrayal of their hopes? And what would they make of the era of Chairman Sam, as Walmart merges Mao with Mammon? In such opinions might come some vision for the Chinese people today, as they flounder in a mindless dead-end disguised as "reform" and "development." This book covers old terrain but does a good job taking the reader down overgrown side trails and unearthing those little mounds beyond the historical markers. Perhaps its greatest service is to portray an allegory of life itself: we can't know our final destination in our own Long March, and the best we can do is look to the horizon and hold on along the way.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Martin

    You feel the passion of this author as she describes the events of the Long March from research and most powerfully from veterans that she'd tracked down. It leaves you with the feeling that people's personal stories shaped the opinions of the author. It wasn't that the author had an agenda to defend or attack the Long March. In fact, she admires many of the people for what they survived through. It also helps the reader understand why Chinese people can be so blinkered about their history. In sec You feel the passion of this author as she describes the events of the Long March from research and most powerfully from veterans that she'd tracked down. It leaves you with the feeling that people's personal stories shaped the opinions of the author. It wasn't that the author had an agenda to defend or attack the Long March. In fact, she admires many of the people for what they survived through. It also helps the reader understand why Chinese people can be so blinkered about their history. In secondary school they're not taught to look at sources or see how what we know about history is fashioned by the authors. She often reflects on the constant teaching she received as a child about how glorious the whole event was. It helps the non-Chinese reader appreciate the power of stories like the Long March on young Chinese minds - and the lifelong impression they're left with thereafter. You can't help but be moved by the stories. It was an extreme time - extreme events unfolded. She looks at peoples lives and she get's to know them. She helps the reader understand the situations people were living in and the choices they made. Who knows what choices we would make in similar situations. It's a terrifying question. This book will encourage understanding. It will be food for thought for Chinese who see the Long March through rose coloured glasses and it'll silence non-Chinese in their blanket criticism. When are the stories of people's actions during a war ever black and white? If you want to sit back and listen to the voices of people who went through the Long March, and if you want to understand why so many Chinese people see an event like this so differently to how non-Chinese people see it then read this book.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    The author retraces the route of the Red Army’s Long March in the 1930’s, visiting the towns, museums or memorials, and interviewing any of the survivors of the Long March that she can find (Her trip took place on the 70th anniversary of the Long March). She has done a lot of research on the Long March and on this period of history and quotes or provides relevant information from contemporary sources, new scholarship, and basic sources such as Edgar Snow or Harrison Salisbury. She discusses the The author retraces the route of the Red Army’s Long March in the 1930’s, visiting the towns, museums or memorials, and interviewing any of the survivors of the Long March that she can find (Her trip took place on the 70th anniversary of the Long March). She has done a lot of research on the Long March and on this period of history and quotes or provides relevant information from contemporary sources, new scholarship, and basic sources such as Edgar Snow or Harrison Salisbury. She discusses the changing political climate that is beginning to allow a critical look at the Long March. Although I have read a good bit about China, I have never really read much about the Long March – it tends to come up in nearly every book, but in an iconic or mythical way. Shuyun’s book was very interesting and even exciting. She interviewed a number of women who had been on the Long March and the role of women in the Red Army is a major theme of the book. One favorite piece was the discussion of the better survival of the woman on the Long March. An old woman told her that this may have been because women knew that they needed to have the “4 Essentials” or “4 Treasures”: a wash basin, a stick, animal skins, and a needle. I loved this list because I am frequently chided for not having the “10 essentials for hiking.” I wish I had read this rather than listened to the CD. The many Chinese names were confusing to hear and I think I would have done better visually. Also, I needed a map and am giving the author credit for having one in the book. I would also like to see if the book has a list of references.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    Unless you go into this thinking The East is Red is a documentary, it doesn't really reveal anything new. Yeah, people romanticise their history, the people on the Long March were just ordinary people with flaws who were pushed to heroic feats by the circumstances they found themselves in. This shouldn't be news to anybody. Not even good as anti-communist propaganda since you still come away thinking "Wow, those people were pretty amazing. Mao clearly made the best of a really bad situation." Unless you go into this thinking The East is Red is a documentary, it doesn't really reveal anything new. Yeah, people romanticise their history, the people on the Long March were just ordinary people with flaws who were pushed to heroic feats by the circumstances they found themselves in. This shouldn't be news to anybody. Not even good as anti-communist propaganda since you still come away thinking "Wow, those people were pretty amazing. Mao clearly made the best of a really bad situation."

  8. 5 out of 5

    Pete Sikora

    The author journeys throughout China retracing the long march route. She interviews surviving veterans and their relatives and friends, acting surprised - over and over again - that the official Chinese government history of the Long March differs from reality. The bit gets quite irritating. Otherwise, it's an ok history of the long march. The surprised tone probably works a lot better for a Chinese audience. I'd recommend to somebody interested in how history is written - or re-written. The author journeys throughout China retracing the long march route. She interviews surviving veterans and their relatives and friends, acting surprised - over and over again - that the official Chinese government history of the Long March differs from reality. The bit gets quite irritating. Otherwise, it's an ok history of the long march. The surprised tone probably works a lot better for a Chinese audience. I'd recommend to somebody interested in how history is written - or re-written.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Hermes

    Exodus In 1934 some 200,000 communists were driven out of their bases in Jiangxi in the south of China by Chiang Kai-shek. Mao steered them like a Chinese Moses on a course from victory to victory. After two years of incredible endurance, courage, and hope against impossible odds – and a march of 8,000 miles – the Red Armies reached the barren Yellow Plateau of northwestern China. From there on they would need another decade to launch the new China. Enshrined for the nation in musical extravaganz Exodus In 1934 some 200,000 communists were driven out of their bases in Jiangxi in the south of China by Chiang Kai-shek. Mao steered them like a Chinese Moses on a course from victory to victory. After two years of incredible endurance, courage, and hope against impossible odds – and a march of 8,000 miles – the Red Armies reached the barren Yellow Plateau of northwestern China. From there on they would need another decade to launch the new China. Enshrined for the nation in musical extravaganzas like The East Is Red and feature films of battles, the Long March and its idealism, optimism, and heroism remain the enduring emblem of China and the regime today. In her book Sun Shuyun shows that this emblem does not really match reality. In 2004 she followed the traces of the Long March from the former Soviet of Ruijun all the way to Shaanxi and Gansu where the Fourth Army found its Waterloo against the superior Ma. In all areas she managed to find one or more of the remaining 500 survivors of the march, as well as local historians of the Long March. Both the survivors and the historians candidly deny the spin. E.g. the conquest of the Luding Bridge over the Dadu River was a much simpler affair than the famous propaganda movie suggested. It was not defended by a regiment, but only by a few men with guns that could only shoot a few yards. The local warlord was on bad terms with Chiang’s nationalists and did not mind the Red Army to move northward. This does not mean that Ms. Sun is not very much impressed by the incredible suffering that the Red Army had to endure. The Long March she describes was a baffling Darwinian selection process of physical hardship, starvation, battles, and purges. Still, or consequently, many of the remaining soldiers were purged in the Cultural Revolution. Those alive in 2005 often received only a percentage of the promised pensions. Between 1930 and 1934, Chiang's nationalists lost over 100,000 men fighting the communists in Jiangxi between Fujian and Guangdong. Force had to be used to convince the locals to join the fighting. Given the Chinese belief that a good man is not destined for the army, just like good iron is not for nails, most of the communist soldiers were young farmers. Able men were first recruited, but then they took the old, sick, opium addicts and the young. Disabled men became popular as husbands, because they would not be sent to the front. Personal happiness and physical desire did not count for the true believers: such feelings were submerged in the excitement for the revolution. This did not apply to everybody. Women would often not see their husbands for years and start sleeping around. The communists had freed women and allowed divorce. This often led to the unintended consequence of multiple marriages and divorces, just like unbound feet were often bound again later. A lack of training accounted for 50% of the Red Army's casualties. Arms and ammunition were equally bad. Soldiers received five bullets for a battle. The Red Army had to supply itself with what it could conquer from the Nationalists. Up to nearly 50% of the soldiers deserted. Although the base in Ruijun was created by Mao, he was not really appreciated by the Party, and Stalin’s Comintern sent the German Otto Braun to lead the force. In Ruijin, Mao was already conducting purges that included the torture and the execution of thousands of men. Some 20,000 got killed even before this became a habit in Stalin's Soviet Union. Land hardly enough to feed a family of five could make you a landlord: Purges seemed to have entered the Communists' bloodstream as an expression of their cardinal principle - class struggle. The communists wanted to keep the people on their toes by constant campaigns: ”People lived in fear and that was what they wanted” Braun’s strategy did not work, but warlords in the neighbouring provinces that were equally hostile to Chiang helped the Red Army escape. Mao had to leave his second child behind and would never see it again. The army moved at the pace of "an emperor's sedan chair". Its central column consisted of over 4,000 staff. Overall, 86,000 were on the move, usually at night to avoid enemy planes. Defections remained a constant problem during the Long March. The Xiang River Battle celebrated by Chinese propaganda as the March’s major battle has some 30,000 people unaccounted for; expectedly most of them deserted. Rich people were taken hostage for ransom, and killed in front of the troops if no ransom materialised. Wounded soldiers were left behind with a few silver dollars in the villages along the way. Medicine was lacking: enough cloth, simple injections like quinine or even salt to disinfect wounds could have saved many lives. Opium was the only thing always available. Theatre was used to impress poor peasants that rarely saw any entertainment besides the Lunar New Year fortnight. In Zunyi in Guizhou, Mao managed to get to get into the Politburo again. The pleasure must have been greatly reduced by the need to leave his third new-born child behind in the care of an opium addicted woman when the army finally dashed into Sichuan. In Sichuan Braun was demoted. The Fourth Army based in the west of Sichuan travelled towards Mao's columns, but Mao split again soon. His troops travelled on through the Tibetan grasslands, the worst part of the march. The Tibetan "barbarians" had all fled and there was no food, the weather was terrible, and the swamps dangerous. Women stopped menstruating, in quite a few cases for good. When they tried to sack monasteries the monks would shoot back. When they reached the Soviet in Shaanxi, they were only 4,000 people left. Here Ms. Sun meets a TV-crew shooting a documentary about the Long March, which knowingly omits many facts that go against the old propaganda. It was in Shaanxi that Mao rallied his troops with a speech where the Long March was named. The escape from the south was turned into a preparation to fight the Japanese. As a master of propaganda Mao invited Edgar Snow for a visit full of privileges that led to his famous Red Star over China, the book that altered the world's view of the communists. Zhang Xueliang, a regional warlord keener on a united fight against the Japanese, supported the communists with Nationalist supplies. He also managed to capture Chiang Kai-shek against the wishes of Stalin, and negotiated an anti-Japanese coalition with the nationalist leader. The Long March was over for the core troops, but Ms. Sun dedicates another chapter to the plight of the Fourth Army. It was rechristened into the Western Army and sent to Gansu to fight the Muslim Ma, causing the death of another 20,000 men and women.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kemp

    Should be called the long, long, long march as the book goes on in excruciating detail. More than anyone besides a Communist Party official or historian needs to know. Sun Shuyen did an extensive amount of research, retracing the sites and interviewing locals who witnessed or helped the march. That much is clear. What’s also clear is that the author wanted to make sure us readers heard it all. Every bit. I went to this book after reading “Eat the Buddha: Life and Death of a Tibetan Town” by Barba Should be called the long, long, long march as the book goes on in excruciating detail. More than anyone besides a Communist Party official or historian needs to know. Sun Shuyen did an extensive amount of research, retracing the sites and interviewing locals who witnessed or helped the march. That much is clear. What’s also clear is that the author wanted to make sure us readers heard it all. Every bit. I went to this book after reading “Eat the Buddha: Life and Death of a Tibetan Town” by Barbara Demick. She writes about the town Ngaba and the Buddhist struggles under communism. Turns out the Red Army went through Ngaba twice during their Long March. I thought it be interesting to know more about that march. Got 20% of the way into the book last January. It’s sat on my shelf since but I now know I won’t open it again. An abridged version would be better. Wikipedia might be sufficient for most of us. 

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kiara

    As someone who didn't know much about the Long March going into this book other than what it was and where it happened, this book was incredibly educational. The true stories of Long March survivors were absolutely harrowing, and I liked how the author mixed these "interview" chapters with bird's eye historical account of the March, putting these personal sagas into their proper context. At times, I thought the book was confusingly organized, and it did drag on in parts. But this is still an imp As someone who didn't know much about the Long March going into this book other than what it was and where it happened, this book was incredibly educational. The true stories of Long March survivors were absolutely harrowing, and I liked how the author mixed these "interview" chapters with bird's eye historical account of the March, putting these personal sagas into their proper context. At times, I thought the book was confusingly organized, and it did drag on in parts. But this is still an important book, especially in its discussion of China's relationship with its Muslim minority population, which sets the scene for the human rights abuses we see happening today.

  12. 4 out of 5

    alexander

    Paints a vivid picture of the March’s necessity, retracing the itinerary, their logistics to survive it - very interesting to get a sense of the roles in the different Armys, how they supplied themselves by cajoling, singing or expropriating and the power struggle to come out on top both of China against the Japanese, Chang Kai Shek, and the warlords, but also in the Party, though I found myself wanting more details on this last point. As it was this was quick tour around the provinces, “far from Paints a vivid picture of the March’s necessity, retracing the itinerary, their logistics to survive it - very interesting to get a sense of the roles in the different Armys, how they supplied themselves by cajoling, singing or expropriating and the power struggle to come out on top both of China against the Japanese, Chang Kai Shek, and the warlords, but also in the Party, though I found myself wanting more details on this last point. As it was this was quick tour around the provinces, “far from the Emperor”, that gives the chance to hear from locals who live largely forgotten for their huge sacrifices.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Joe Tingle

    A very insightful and easy to follow account of an event that many Western readers will have little/no familiarity with. Although some general knowledge of the Communist Revolution and Mao's Long March will benefit readers, this book will also inspire those who do not know much to learn more about this fascinating topic. A very insightful and easy to follow account of an event that many Western readers will have little/no familiarity with. Although some general knowledge of the Communist Revolution and Mao's Long March will benefit readers, this book will also inspire those who do not know much to learn more about this fascinating topic.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Francis Kessy

    I recommend this Book to anyone who want to learn about the Long March and ways Mao used to always succeed in being on top at the Red Army; his acumen and military experience. It is a Book about untold stories that even many Chinese are not aware of. Quoted below is my favorite paragraph: ''All my life, along with most Chinese, i thought of Zhang Guatao as an evil man, nailed as we may say, on the pillar of history's shame. The power struggle ended with Mao the winner, Zhang the loser. As the Chi I recommend this Book to anyone who want to learn about the Long March and ways Mao used to always succeed in being on top at the Red Army; his acumen and military experience. It is a Book about untold stories that even many Chinese are not aware of. Quoted below is my favorite paragraph: ''All my life, along with most Chinese, i thought of Zhang Guatao as an evil man, nailed as we may say, on the pillar of history's shame. The power struggle ended with Mao the winner, Zhang the loser. As the Chinese say, there can not be two suns in the sky. Compared to Mao, the sophicated and ruthless politician, Zhang seems almost naive. He was bound to fail- as did anyone who dared to challenge Mao''

  15. 5 out of 5

    Mitchell Colgan

    Amazing and haunting. A must read for anyone interested in China.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Frank Ashe

    An antidote to the usual mythology of the Long March. Well written for the general reader who has read the propaganda.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Vicki Klemm

    Very good book about the long march. The author interviewed people who had been on the march. A more “factual” accounting, although people’s memories can be variable about the same incident.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ignacio Andres

    Recommended

  19. 5 out of 5

    Himanshu Godara

    Heart touching stories! It is more about how hard it is to uncover the truth.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Tina Wilson

    Excellent! Interviews many survivors. Very well told!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Shryll

    In The Long March, Sun retraces the steps of the Long March, interviewing approximately 40 survivors and visiting local archives, shrines, and memorials dedicated to the March. In doing so, she discovers a large discrepancy between the stories told by the survivors and the official, dominant narrative of the Long March she learned as a young student. The gist of the official narrative on the Long March is that it is the founding story of the Communist Party and, thus, contemporary China – though In The Long March, Sun retraces the steps of the Long March, interviewing approximately 40 survivors and visiting local archives, shrines, and memorials dedicated to the March. In doing so, she discovers a large discrepancy between the stories told by the survivors and the official, dominant narrative of the Long March she learned as a young student. The gist of the official narrative on the Long March is that it is the founding story of the Communist Party and, thus, contemporary China – though full of trials, the tale ends in triumph, with willing and eager heroes being born and forging the nation. It has been portrayed as a costly, but planned and strategic retreat that gave the Communists the time and isolation needed in order to gather strength and ultimately defeat the incompetent Nationalists. However, in contrast to the dominant narrative, Sun found that many of the people she interviewed did not share stories about the glory of the Long March and the eagerness of its participants. Instead, survivors told stories of defeat and misery, forced recruitment into the Red Army, mass desertions and mass purges. One of the obvious strengths of The Long March is that Sun managed to track down as many as 40 survivors and gather their personal accounts in order to compare their narratives of the March to the official narrative. As this book was written in 2006, most survivors from the Long March are likely in their 80s, if not older – therefore, the window to interview them and get their side of the story is quickly closing. Another asset of this book is that, in pursuit of the “real” or “true” story behind the Long March, Sun seeks out individuals, sites, and archives that the Party members and researchers either actively discourage or seem to try to forget about. Though Sun’s work does well in outlining the party’s narrative of the Long March and how it was brilliantly used in propaganda for nation-building purposes, as well as providing sources who contradict this narrative, I wish she took the extra step to analyze how the difference in the two narratives has impacted China. Would Chinese national identity have developed differently if the narrative on the Long March hadn’t been so romanticized? Was this construction of this romantic narrative necessary given the immediate turmoil following the Nationalist abdication to Taiwan? Does the truth even matter, now that it has been decades since Taiwan and the Nationalists have been internationally recognized by the majority of nations to be the legitimate political representative of China? Unfortunately, this book was never meant to be a deep analysis of a pivotal event in modern Chinese history, but instead only meant to cast the Chinese leadership’s attempts at historical revisionism and romanticism in an unfavorable light. Overall, nothing was revealed in The Long March that I personally perceived to be innovative or ground-breaking. There have been previous accounts on how the Long March has been romanticized by the Party – it is not particularly surprising, given the CCP’s attention to and tradition in propaganda. This is not even behavior that is unique to the CCP; the dominant narratives of most nations’ histories have likely been revised in some way – to either play up the glory or the victimhood – for political purposes. However, it was interesting to read from the perspective of a Chinese writer who experienced the Cultural Revolution as a child and had a standard Chinese education – the stories told by the survivors she interviewed challenged what she thought she had always known about this major event. It was also especially interesting to read, personally, due to my own interest in nationalism and how historical legacies are reconstructed for nation- or identity-building purposes. While I would not recommend The Long March for academic or scholarly purposes, I would give it a positive overall review – it was a fluid and engaging read.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Christina

    Part memoir, part examination of history, The Long March: The True History of Communist China’s Founding Myth follows Sun Shuyun as she retraces the steps of the Long March and explores the real truth behind the founding of Communist China with the Long March. Shuyun interviews survivors from all walks of life — men and women, those who entered as children and as adults, conscripted and enlisted — and is shocked to learn that the heroic tale that every Chinese child learns in school ignores impo Part memoir, part examination of history, The Long March: The True History of Communist China’s Founding Myth follows Sun Shuyun as she retraces the steps of the Long March and explores the real truth behind the founding of Communist China with the Long March. Shuyun interviews survivors from all walks of life — men and women, those who entered as children and as adults, conscripted and enlisted — and is shocked to learn that the heroic tale that every Chinese child learns in school ignores important facts, disregards the reality of violent purges within and at the hand of the Red Army, exaggerates the volatility of river crossings and death tolls, and turns a military retreat into courageous stand against the rich and the Nationalists. “Mao’s foresight was quite extraordinary. To think of turning the Long March, which was essentially a retreat, into a glorious victory, was itself a stroke of genius. To be able to make it the founding legend of Communist China showed a political acumen, a gift for propaganda, and an optimism and self-assurance that few possess” (pg. 192). The realities of the Long March did not really surprise me; I expected things such as conscription to be the realities of this war as they are the realities of almost all wars. The difficult conditions Shuyun recounts — resistance from KMT and warlord troops to the environmental conditions as they crossed mountains and plains — was interesting because I really got an understanding of the vastness and differences in climate in China. What I found to be most interesting, though, was Shuyun’s reactions to the truth. Growing up in Communist China where textbooks are propaganda tools, Shuyun was surprised to find something so heroic to be a re-writing of history and, as you read, the more and more it becomes obvious how jaded Shuyun becomes with the Communist Party in China. The book does become a little confusing towards the end as Shuyun alternates between first-person and third-person, and there are moments when I was not sure who “I” referred to. (Maybe became quotation marks were missing from the beginning of chapters.) Overall, this is an interesting account of an achievement in both the history of China and Shuyun’s personal history.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Sun Shuyun looks behind the official history of the Chinese Communist Party's central and founding mythology, The Long March. The book is both a recount of the history of the March and an account of her travels around the PRC to different sites of significance to the March. Sun Shuyun is able to show that those CCP members who completed the March did actually create a signal achievement. She recounts exactly how difficult conditions were on the March and all the different types of difficulties th Sun Shuyun looks behind the official history of the Chinese Communist Party's central and founding mythology, The Long March. The book is both a recount of the history of the March and an account of her travels around the PRC to different sites of significance to the March. Sun Shuyun is able to show that those CCP members who completed the March did actually create a signal achievement. She recounts exactly how difficult conditions were on the March and all the different types of difficulties the participants met, whether it was resistance from KMT and warlord troops or just fighting the enviromental conditions as they crossed mountains and plains. Her account of the experiences of ordinary soldiers and others on the March does go to praise their achievements. At the same time, she looks behind the myth itself to point out inconsistencies in the actual history and the official history created by the CCP. She points out that the Party had to resort to forced conscription and forced confiscations of food and supplies to make the March. She points to episodes where the party dealt harshly with its own members when they failed in their tasks, even when those tasks were impossible to achieve. She looks at the personalities of the leaders, including Mao Tse-tung, and shows how the events of the March led to Mao's primacy in the party when, at the start of the March, he had been a marginalized player. Even certain events of the March were manipulated by him and other leaders to eliminate opposition to their power. This book is a good, brief reappraisal of the Long March and a look at the actual history.

  24. 5 out of 5

    James

    Sun Shuyun is a Chinese author who splits her time between England and China. She attempts to follow the course of the long march and compare the official history she learned in school with new documentation and interviews with participants. With issues like the Long March and Chinese Communism, the idea of objectiveness always comes up. I think she navigates this problem well, allowing the participants, most of whom, despite varied experience since the communists 1948 victory, think life was be Sun Shuyun is a Chinese author who splits her time between England and China. She attempts to follow the course of the long march and compare the official history she learned in school with new documentation and interviews with participants. With issues like the Long March and Chinese Communism, the idea of objectiveness always comes up. I think she navigates this problem well, allowing the participants, most of whom, despite varied experience since the communists 1948 victory, think life was better than before the revolution, to say what they think about it all. However, she does not shy away from the purges, mistakes, and looting that all went on during this period of national conflict and anarchy. She presents these facts in a context of mass poverty, war, and conflict. She often attempts to examine the political motivations of the leaders, but stops short of judgment most of the time. To me, this book was an excellent introduction to the Chinese Revolution and the Long March. Anyone with a "position" on the issue will probably not be wholly please with this book but I found it fascinating, well written, and full of further avenues to explore. Also, her interviews with survivors of the march are simply amazing. They were some real tough nuts.

  25. 5 out of 5

    John

    The writer is a women educated and steeped in the Chinese propaganda of the Long March and the heroic struggle of Mao Zedong. She decides to travel the route of the Long March and write of her experience. Her pilgrimage is a journey into disillusionment. Most of the true story had been hidden in the propaganda war of Chinese Communism and its internal feuds. Most of the those poor souls killed were the victims of incompetence, purges, and starvation. A disproportionate few were killed by the ene The writer is a women educated and steeped in the Chinese propaganda of the Long March and the heroic struggle of Mao Zedong. She decides to travel the route of the Long March and write of her experience. Her pilgrimage is a journey into disillusionment. Most of the true story had been hidden in the propaganda war of Chinese Communism and its internal feuds. Most of the those poor souls killed were the victims of incompetence, purges, and starvation. A disproportionate few were killed by the enemy. Nevertheless Sun Shuyun persists and interviews those veterans that are still alive and discovers that they are the real heroes. The love of their country and their aspirations to live in peace, while cruelly extinguished for millions of their comrades shines brightly in this book. The politics of war, Mao Zedong's utter incompetence as a General, and stories of his genocidal approach to his brand of Communism could be depressing reading, but Sun Shuyun lifts the curtain and allows the light from the surviving veterans to win through. It truly was epic, but on an individual level.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ann

    As a schnool girl in China, Sun Shuyun grew up hearing heroic tales of Mao's Long March. Now, as an adult, she set out to find survivors of that epic event. This book is the tale of those survivors.Sun Shuyun was astonished to learn that perhaps the true history of the Long March was not as it had been portrayed. This made for a quick, interesting read. I don't know that it held many surprises for me, but then, I can be quite cynical and jaded when it comes to history or politics. Not to mention As a schnool girl in China, Sun Shuyun grew up hearing heroic tales of Mao's Long March. Now, as an adult, she set out to find survivors of that epic event. This book is the tale of those survivors.Sun Shuyun was astonished to learn that perhaps the true history of the Long March was not as it had been portrayed. This made for a quick, interesting read. I don't know that it held many surprises for me, but then, I can be quite cynical and jaded when it comes to history or politics. Not to mention that I had not grown up in Mao's China, and so had no illusions (as far as this aspect of Chinese history) to be dispelled. The way the book is written feels intimate, as if the author were chatting with friends and adding her own thoughts. I'd recommend this for anyone interested in Chinese or Asian history.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    Epic. Extraordinary. But I'm left wondering, what was the point? What was the point of all that suffering? I do not in any way mean this to say that the marchers were not heroic. They seem heroic in the same way victims liberated from camps are heroic except that the Marchers were true believers in the cause their suffering was meant to be for. Leaders can speak of liberty and equality and ending oppression but when conscription and purges are the means liberty is not the true end. The outcome w Epic. Extraordinary. But I'm left wondering, what was the point? What was the point of all that suffering? I do not in any way mean this to say that the marchers were not heroic. They seem heroic in the same way victims liberated from camps are heroic except that the Marchers were true believers in the cause their suffering was meant to be for. Leaders can speak of liberty and equality and ending oppression but when conscription and purges are the means liberty is not the true end. The outcome was not liberation but a substitution of one set of masters for another, traditional aristocracy for a party aristocracy. My mind is reeling with thoughts of ends and means. It's like saying the wife loyal to the abusive husband had a successful marriage. Is it heroic to accomplish a Sisyphean task under the threat of death at every step?

  28. 5 out of 5

    Suresh

    Sun Shuyun, who roughly retraced the route of the Long March has written an excellent alternative history of the Long March. It really cuts through the myths of the Long March and tells a human story of the survivors who made the heroic journey. The book also tells a bit of the story of the 2nd, 6th, and 4th armies rather than focusing exclusively on the 1st and the third army like most accounts usually do. The book also sheds light on what became of Zhang Guotao's 4th Army after they went west Sun Shuyun, who roughly retraced the route of the Long March has written an excellent alternative history of the Long March. It really cuts through the myths of the Long March and tells a human story of the survivors who made the heroic journey. The book also tells a bit of the story of the 2nd, 6th, and 4th armies rather than focusing exclusively on the 1st and the third army like most accounts usually do. The book also sheds light on what became of Zhang Guotao's 4th Army after they went west to receive a cache of Soviet aid and were torn to pieces by the Xi Bei San Ma. For anyone who's read the official history of the Long March, this is a valuable counterpoint that dispels some of the too-good-to-be-true official account.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Talmadge Walker

    Very interesting combination of travelogue and interview collection. Seventy years after the event, the author spent several months following the route of Mao's "Long March" through southern, western and northern China. By itself that would make the book interesting to tourists, but what really makes the book are the interviews with aging veterans of the March, the youngest of whom are now in their 80s. You get a glimpse of their youthful idealism, the suffering they went through, and their late Very interesting combination of travelogue and interview collection. Seventy years after the event, the author spent several months following the route of Mao's "Long March" through southern, western and northern China. By itself that would make the book interesting to tourists, but what really makes the book are the interviews with aging veterans of the March, the youngest of whom are now in their 80s. You get a glimpse of their youthful idealism, the suffering they went through, and their later disillusionment as they watched the internal and external struggles of the Chinese Communist Party under Mao.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Krista Danis

    I really enjoy reading about Chinese history and politics, and Sun Shuyun's book is no exception. However, I was not exposed to these developmental myths as a youngster, so I should've read a mainstream version of the events first. Regardless, the stories she reveals are eye-opening for me, let alone what I imagine the reaction was in China. Her analysis is fluid and mostly qualitative, with marchers' personal experiences offered as the backbone of her reasearch with supplemental statistical sup I really enjoy reading about Chinese history and politics, and Sun Shuyun's book is no exception. However, I was not exposed to these developmental myths as a youngster, so I should've read a mainstream version of the events first. Regardless, the stories she reveals are eye-opening for me, let alone what I imagine the reaction was in China. Her analysis is fluid and mostly qualitative, with marchers' personal experiences offered as the backbone of her reasearch with supplemental statistical support.

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