Zhangla and the Long March Monument - Anne Barton Wittke

We descend the eastern side of the Plateau into the upper reaches of Min Jiang. Nestled in the deep valley is the prosperous town of Zhangla. On the hill beside it stands a momunment to the Long March (right). The Long March is China's Valley Forge: an incredible test of fortitude and perseverance in which the Communist army marched 9600 km (6,000 miles). In 1934, the Communist forces led by Mao Zedong were driven out of southeastern China by Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist army. Although the Nationalists had superior arms and the advantage of interior lines, they could not destroy the Red Army. Constantly pressed by overwhelming Nationalist forces, the Red Army marched around the central provinces of China held by their enemies.

Nationalist attacks forced the Communists to flee up the valleys of the Longmen Shan and onto the high Grasslands. The army crossed several high snow-bound passes, and traversed the grasslands, where thay were targets for Tibetan weaponry. Fierce Khampa warriors tormented the hapless Chinese from horseback. The Reds were out of their element: unlike earlier in the march, they were not greeted by a joyous peasantry eager to feed the troops and enlist. Food on the grasslands was in short supply and the troops from eastern China, who were accustomed to rice, did not know how to properly prepare the wheat and barley captured from the Tibetans. The awful experience of his starving troops in the grasslands of Kham may in part explain Mao's pathological hatred of Tibet.

The Long March ended in Communist-held Shaanxi Province to the northeast; only half of the original 90,000 troops finished the one-year trek. Today, those who took part in the Long March are revered as national heroes.

Free Tibet!