Sunday, May 20, 2012

Eat the Buddha! Part II: Chinese Sources

 Chinese sources

Lin Wei - (9th corps, 4th Red Army) occupation of the Choktsé palace

Chen Chanfeng - with Mao in Songpan

Li Yaoyu - with Zhu De, under fire near Rongdrak

Heishui county govt. - 1st and 4th armies in Heishui

Tong Xiaopeng - (1st division, 1st Group army) diary of the march from Choktsé to Mugé

Wu Faxian  - (2nd regiment, 2nd division, 1st army) the march to Mugé

Source 1:
Lin, Wei. Yi wei lao hong jun de chang zheng ri ji. Beijing: Zhong Guo Dan Shi Chu Ban She, 2006. (Lin Wei, Long March Diary of an Old Red Army Soldier.  Beijing, Chinese Communist Party History Publishing House, 2006. )

During the Long March, the author was a surveyor on the operational staff of the 9th Corps of the 4th Red Army, commanded by Zhang Guotao. Lin Wei was awarded the rank of Major General (shao jiang) in 1955 and later became  Deputy Commander of PLA’s Communication Division. This is what he wrote in his diary (pp. 215-216)

June 29 (1935), Sunny

...We established our headquarters (command office) in Suo Guanyin’s palace, one of the so-called 7 big Tu si (local lord) in Da Jin Chuan.[1] This monastery-palace stood at the confluence of the Da Jin Chuan (‘big gold river’) (Chu chen) and Somang river, with fast-flowing water in front and high mountains behind. The 7-storey structure was built with large square cut stones and thick bricks, as high as ten zhang (30 meters), and comprised over 400 rooms. It was a huge structure whether seen from near or far. It was the first time we had seen such a strange, magnificent and splendid building, and we felt very curious.

The Central (Party) command,  followed by the 2nd Red Division, were ahead of us, and had been living in this building for a few days. Our (staff) department and the (higher ranking) officers all stayed on the 3rd floor, right across from the Political Department.

…Tonight, we spent the night in this famous palace of the Zhuo Ke Ji (Cog rtse) tu si.

June 30, Cloudy
   Today our troops divided into two and moved out from Zhuo Ke Ji in various directions. Since there are no provisions in Zhou Ke Ji, the 8th Platoon fight their way to Ma Tang, the team directly under the command of the (9th ) corps, together with the 9th platoon march toward Dang Ba (Brag bar) on the east bank of Da Jin Chuan River, and the 7th platoon stayed near Zhou Ke Ji. In the morning we crossed over two big mountains, arriving at Dang Ba at 3 p.m. On arriving, we fought with the reactionary Tibetan forces for half an hour. (They) were scattered by our 9th platoon. At night, those reactionary Tibetan forces fired sporadic shots at us.

   No food here either. A few days ago, reactionary elements moved all the grain and cattle to the west bank of the Da Jin Chuan River. Our only way out is to find the reactionaries’ pastures, to obtain yaks and sheep for food. The 8th  platoon telegraphed, informing (us) that Ma Tang was on the edge of the great grassland, and was a wasteland, without any provisions, where (they) have to survive by hunting wild animals, fishing, and collecting pea seedlings and wild celery.  Now the days of food shortage are starting for the whole army.

July 1, Sunny

(p. 217)…

   1 p.m. (we) returned from Dang Ba to Zhou Ke Ji, crossing the same two big mountains again. Hard to walk on empty stomach,  got back to the huge temple after 8 p.m. After dark, several thousand men came back to the rooms (they) had stayed in before, making tremendous noise in this huge temple, which didn’t quiet down till about 10 p.m. Heard there was nothing to eat tomorrow, and everybody was panicking and frightened.
Situation is unclear, plus exhausted and hungry.  Attacked by reactionary Tibetans.

(p. 217) July 2, Sunny

   Before daybreak, (we were) attacked by 7 or 8 thousand reactionary Tibetan soldiers coming from Song Gang and Ma Er Keng. As soon as they reached Zhou Ke Ji, they laid a tight siege to this huge Lamaist palace. They were on the high spots shouting battle cries loudly, firing Mauser guns, single shot 79 rifles and shotguns at the same time.  We didn’t understand their language,  had no translator, no idea what they were saying. We were surrounded on all sides, but  all we needed to do was to guard the windows, no shooting back necessary, just watch the gate in case they got close and set it on fire. Telegraphed the 1st corps stationed nearby, asking them to dispatch cavalry to our 8th platoon in Ma Tang, ordering it back to Zhou Ke Ji immediately to our rescue. Around 10 o’clock we fired a few 37 mortars from the building top, which landed among them and exploded. This frightened them. At this time, our 31 Army arrived from the south of Kang Ma Monastery, threatening them from front and rear. From 11 o’clock, they started retreating toward Da Jin Chuan. In this battle we had over 10 casualties,  and Chao Da Ao, head of  Reconnaissance department, was wounded.

(p. 218) July 3, Sunny

   Today we were still resting in Zhou Ke Ji. Very hungry, only have 2 to 3 little steamed buns made of corn flour to eat, plus one or two bowls of pea seedling soup.  There are fish to be hooked, but people say they refused to swallow the bait. Watching teams of fish swimming in the Somang River, we had no real fish hooks, and had to heat needles in the fire and bend them, but the ends were too smooth, and there was no counter hook, so as soon as the fish were lifted out of the water, they would slide back in, very hard to make any catch, really annoying.
   It is quite hot in this narrow basin, and swarming with mosquitoes and flies. Big red-headed flies everywhere, a sickening sight. It is said that Aba (rNga ba), less than 120 km north of here, is a large Tibetan area, and it is quite rich.[2]

Source 2:

Chen, Changfeng.  Gen sui Mao zhu xi chang zheng. Revised ed. Beijing: Zuo jia chu ban she, 1961. (Long March with Chairman Mao)

Chen Changfeng worked as an attendant for Mao Zedong from 1930 to 1936. The book was originally published in 1958. A revised edition came out in 1961.

p. 67 ff:
…We arrived at Mao Er Gai (dMu dge). Here we halted, preparing for the crossing of the grassland...(He had been sick for a while.)

   At this time, comrades were busy going out harvesting barley, bringing it back and grinding it into flour, getting ready to cross the grassland. I had to stay at home (Chairman did not allow me to go out, forcing me to rest), and I was not in a good mood.

   The building we stayed in was a Lamaist temple, and I slept in the main hall, surrounded by some strange-looking gods that kept me company. When I was bored, I would stare at them. One day, I suddenly found that they were made of wood, and solidly built, but each had a small hole in the small of the back. The hole was covered by a piece of wooden board.  Out of curiosity, I climbed up behind a large “god”, and scrutinized the hole. I removed the board without much effort. Something happened right way: Pop! A little red bead fell down, blocking the hole. I took it out, and another bag fell out. Ha! Now I saw what was going on: one out, another one off, I took out several in a row!  I opened the bag and peeked inside:  it contained all kinds of grains, sesame, beans, rice, wheat and so on. This was truly like the saying “After wearing out a pair of iron shoes trying to find it, it comes to you without any effort”!

...In this way I got 20 to 30 jin of grains….Now there was no worry for the Chairman’s provisions crossing the grassland. However, the Chairman had no idea about this, because it was against regulations. Had he known, he wouldn’t have agreed.

Source 3:
Li, Yaoyu, and Dongping Li. Yi ge Zhongguo ge ming qin li zhe de si ren ji lu. BeiJin Shi: Dang dai Zhongguo chu ban she, 2006. (Private Record of a Chinese Revolutionary)

The author was a teenager during the Long March, working as a paramedic.

P. 31:
Medical unit and Red Army HQ left Danba (Rong brag), advancing westward, crossing a ridge, and walking down into a valley with a rapidly flowing river, breaking into snow white waves. Suddenly gunshots were fired from the hillside across the river, the bullets flying over our heads. Everyone in the column, men and women, old and young, hid behind rocks.

Suddenly, a teenager stood up, facing the gunfire, fearlessly walking to the riverside. Everybody was shocked by his action, shouting “Get down!”, “Come back!” Gunshots sounded again, and the youth fell down onto the riverbank.

The tribal chief (serving as interpreter for the Red Army) shouted: “They are Red Army, they are on their way north to fight the Japanese!”

The Tibetans on the hillside across the river replied, and the chief translated for General Commander Zhu De: “How many Red Army are there? Last time the Red Army passed our area, they herded all our cows and sheep away, and now you have come to steal our cattle again!”

I happened to lie down next to General Commander Zhu De, and heard him saying to the chief: “We are real Red Army, we don’t take even a needle and thread from the people!”

The chief shouted some words, and gunshots were fired again from the other side of the river, with shouting in Tibetan. The chief translated: “We don’t believe you are Red Army, we don’t want you to take our cattle again.”

Fu Zhong said anxiously: “Send the troops up, fight them off!”

Zhu De said: “Better not to open fire. Tell the men to go around from the side. It would be best if we can scare them away.”

The standoff across the river went on for the whole morning, shouting and shooting alternately. Zhu De asked the chief to shout again: “If you don’t allow us to pass, let us cross the river and negotiate with you. We will make peace with you, no fighting.”

Finally the Tibetans shouted: “If you really are Red Army, we will not shoot.” For a time they stopped shooting. The Red Army tried to move on, and in the sights of Tibetan guns, we walked downstream.

Source 4:
Chen Bojun…[et al],  Hong jun chang zheng ri ji. Beijing: Dang an chu ban she, 1986.
(Diary of the Red Army’s Long March. Beijing: Archival Publishing House, 1986)

This book is a compilation of four people’s diaries. This section is the diary of Tong Xiaopeng. Tong was Secretary of Political Department and Political Security Bureau, First Division, First Group Army, also known as the Central Red Army, one of the three main Red Army forces on the Long March. From June 1977 to April 1982, Tong was Deputy Director of the United Front Work Department of CPC Central Committee.

Selected translation:

June 28
Entering Zhuo Ke Ji.  (15 li )[3]
The masses here are all Tibetans, our vanguard had contact with them, so they all ran away.

p. 134-135:
July  3
Originally planned for Cha Ba, but the bridge was damaged by Tibetans. Half way we met the vanguard division detouring back. We detoured to the mountains as well, spending the night in Cang De (about 30 li).
Tibetans in this place once captured and killed the rear of our vanguard platoon.

p. 135:
July 4
(Because) all the masses ran away, (we) were unable to find the route, so we rest here and look for guides.

July 5
Still resting.
Difficult to find grain in this area, but found and brought back many cows, sheep and pigs. Eating meat every day is more nourishing than the time when we were not short of grain.

July 7
This place isn’t far from Song Pan (Zung chu). The troops started moving, planning to annihilate enemies in Mao Er Gai (dMu dge), also planning to camp outdoors tonight. Everybody brought food rations. We are the rear (last?) segment, resting here.

 p. 136:
July 9
After daybreak, each unit lit fires to warm up, and after that we started moving, and walked 20 li to Zha Wo. [4]  This place had about 100 families, but most houses were burned down by trouble makers. The Tibetans really hated us for this, constantly shooting in (our direction). In the afternoon (we) continued to move and camped at (a place) some 10 li from Mao Er Gai. (30 li)

p. 138
July 30
   Heard the troops ahead are sending us 100 cows (he didn’t specify yaks) and 30 sheep, and we have dispatched people to receive (the animals). Extremely happy.

p. 40
Aug. 4
The troops in front of us are still building the bridge (destroyed by local Tibetans), so we stayed here.  Masses all ran away, taking all the grains with them. Can’t find one grain of wheat.
(Apparently they got stuck for nearly a week)

Aug. 8
Moved to Zha Wo (Tsa bu) (about 30 li). Crossed a river on the way. Failed to build the bridge, the whole army had to cross on foot. Saw a few people carried away by the current and drowned. Really scary! I crossed the river on horseback, luckily I didn’t encounter any danger.

Aug. 10
Rest. Called to thresh wheat. Beating wheat on the threshing ground all day long. Everybody was working hard to meet the quota of 30 jin of flour per person.

p. 141:
August 20
(They reached Mao Er Gai the previous day)

Rest here.
Army is going to take action soon, advancing toward Gan Nan (today’s ‘Southern Gansu’ Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture), completing our task to communize Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu.[5] However, we have to cross grassland on the way, so we need to carry enough grain. Today the troops are adding more grain. Since the old wheat (last year’s wheat) has all been eaten up, (we) had to cut wheat in the fields with our own hands. The whole day everybody was cutting and threshing wheat, very tiring!

(They entered the grasslands on Aug. 24th, and reached Ban You (Ban yul) on Aug. 28, without any incident. According to his description, Banyul had about 200 low, flat-roof  “cow barns”.)

Source 5:

Sichuan Sheng Aba Zangzu Qiangzu Zizhizhou Heishui Xian di fang zhi bian zuan wei yuan hui. Heishui Xian zhi. [Chendu Shi]: Min zu chu ban she, 1993.

(Hei Shui Country Gazetteer. Compiled by Local History Compilation Committee, Hei Shui County, Ngaba Prefecture, Sichuan. Chengdu: Nationalities Publishing House, 1993)

P. 2:

From June 1935 to August 1936, the First and Fourth Group Armies of the Red Army entered Hei Shui (Khro chu) three times, spending altogether over one year and two months there. The Central Committee (of the Party) held two important meetings in Luhua (rDo kha) (near the present county seat). Mao Zedong, Zhu De, Zhou Enlai, Xu Xiangqian, Liu Bocheng and other important leaders attended the meetings. …In Hei Shui, the Red Army raised about 710,000 jin of grains, extracted about 5000 jin of salt, borrowed over 30,000 cattle of all kinds, (weighing) over 1 million jin, borrowed over 10,000 jin of animal fat as food and a large quantity of cattle fur, yak wool, sheep wool, linen and wild animal skins to protect against the cold.[1]

[1] 1 Chinese jin = 0.5 kg, so the Red Army raised 355,000 kg grains, 2500 kg salt, etc. 30,000 cattle, meaning domestic animals, including yak, sheep, goat, etc. From the context, it seems to say that those animals weighed over one million jin = 500,000 kg. Judging by the weight, it must have been mostly yaks that they “borrowed”.

Source 6:
Wu, Faxian. Sui yue jian nan: Wu Faxian hui yi lu. Xianggang: Bei xing chu ban she, 2006.
(Hard Times: Memoirs of Wu Faxian. Hong Kong: North Star Publishing Co., 2006)

Wu Faxian was a high level military figure. He was Political Commissar, 2nd Regiment of 2nd Division in First Army during the Long March. He was Lieutenant General in 1955. In 1967 he was appointed Chief of Staff and Commander in Chief of the Air Force. He was believed to be one of the accomplices in Lin Biao’s ill-fated 1971 coup. After Lin Biao’s death, he was arrested and sentenced to 7 years in jail.

Chapter Three

Section 17 - Entering the Tibetan Area

pp. 77-80

   After crossing the snow mountain, (the army) entered the Tibetan area.  Gradually problems were getting more and more serious, mostly due to provision shortage, hunger and hostility from the minority people.

   Troops continued to advance after crossing the snow mountain, marching northward along the Big Gold River. The river was deep and flowing rapidly, and the water icy cold as it came down from snow mountains. Before long, the troops arrived at Zhuo Ke Ji and Two River Mouth via Mao Gong (Tib: bTsan lha - now Xiao Jin county). This and the surrounding areas were entirely inhabited by Tibetans, with not a single Han person to be seen. Tibetans usually built their houses on hilltops, at least one km from the foot of the mountain. There were no villages on the valley floor.  After a day’s march, we would have to walk an additional 1 to 2.5 km uphill to reach a village campsite.  The next morning we would walk downhill and continue marching in the valley. We walked up and down like this all the way to Shua Jin Si (lHa rgyal gling, now in Hong Yuan County). Our regimental HQ was stationed in a village on the hillside. Lhagyal Ling was a big temple, I hadn’t seen such a big Lamaist temple thus far on the Long March. It was truly magnificent.

Since the Tibetans did not know us, all the villagers nearby ran away. However, they did not take their property with them. They left not only grain, but also pigs, chickens, cows and sheep. In the beginning, we strictly followed the “three disciplines and eight notices”, and didn’t touch anything inside the temple or the peoples’ homes. But after a few days’ marching, we encountered difficulties. We ran out of provisions. What could be done? People all ran away, not a single Tibetan around. All the food brought with us from Tian Quan and Lu Shan (both in present Ya’an county, Sichuan Province) was consumed, and the whole troop was on the edge of starvation. At that time, everyone had contradictory feelings. On the one side, rules had to be followed, on the other side, troops were truly out of food. Red Army soldiers were humans too; they had to eat as well. Without food they could not survive, let alone march and fight.

   It all began with word that eating pea seedlings in the field was allowed. But these alone were not sufficient to ease hunger, so it was extended to eating the grain in people’s homes. Some claimed that they left money; some claimed that they left an IOU (written acknowledgement of a debt) when they took grain from Tibetans’ homes. However, as far as I know, in the majority of cases it was not like this, for even if payment was intended, we did not have much money at that time. Some did leave IOUs, saying they would pay back in the future, but everybody understood that this was like “tiger borrowing pig, only take, no return”. “In future” - when would that be! Later on, some (units) did not even bother to leave IOUs. Paying back was impossible. All the army units were the same, eating whatever they laid their eyes on, taking whatever they found, eating all the food in Tibetan homes, leaving neither money nor IOUs.

   As the army advanced, things got even harder. The Tibetans probably knew of our previous behaviour; they moved all the provisions from their homes, hiding and burying them in the mountains, and even hid their utensils. Without provisions, what could we do? In order to survive, we had to break the rules openly. We took whatever was available; if nothing was available we searched around; if searches yielded nothing, we dug the ground. Sometimes when we dug, wow!, stores of barley could be found! Whenever such a “big one” was unearthed, one unit could not take all the contents, and urgent notice would be sent to another unit to share it. Occasionally oil and salt were unearthed too. In that case, neither money nor IOUs were left - once the stuff was found, it would just be shared out among us.

   Tibetans were always hostile to the Han, and with the Guomindang’s instigation, it was only natural that they feared and hated the Red Army. On the way through the Tibetan region, the First Group Army saw nothing but empty mountain dwellings and villages. Along the route almost all homes were abandoned. We came to such a sparsely populated place, no houses to sleep in, no one to be found who could give us directions. Not a single soul could be seen, nothing to eat. Once in a while we did find something, but it was only a little barley, and our cooks did not even know how to prepare it. In order to survive, the troops had to go all over to round up cattle, and used all their wits to dig up the grain the (inhabitants) had buried. Tibetans felt that the Red Army were out to take away their property, so they were even more hostile.

One day, our troop, the 3rd regiment, came to a place near Zhuo Ke Ji. We had to cross a cold river, planning to spend the night in the mountain village on the other side. The water was bitingly cold. After crossing the river, we stationed ourselves in a hillside village, about 1 km climb above the valley. That day we happened to run out of food. Neither the regimental HQ nor ourselves, the Political Department, had anything to eat. Therefore I took a couple of  comrades from the Political Department and walked up into the mountains looking for food. Below, there was cultivated land with growing crops, and above, dense forest. We brought weapons with us, and found a large basket of salted meat. This was great, I thought, now we had something to eat. Further up we found a yak. Now everybody was really excited. At that time it was 4 or 5 o’clock in the afternoon. A couple of staff members suggested to me that we gather some twigs to build a fire and roast some salted meat for dinner, as we hadn’t eaten anything since a little breakfast in the morning. “Fine,” I agreed, “let’s fill up our stomachs first before getting the stuff back.”

 I did not dare to spend too much time in the mountains, for fear that Tibetans might be hiding there to attack us. So I asked everyone to bring the meat and yak down, and roast the meat at a spot approximately 200 meters from our camp. Little did I know, but just at that moment, all of a sudden, a large group of Tibetans showed up! Some of them held guns, some had swords, others had sticks. We were frightened and ran away with only a few pieces of salted meat. The yak was lost.

This was the first time I experienced the minority people chasing and fighting against us. They could not be blamed though. We ate their food, took their belongings, making their life harder,  how could they not fight us? Seeing that there were only three or four of us, why would they hesitate (to fight)? They led the yak back and stopped chasing us.

After passing Zhou Ke Ji, we marched on along the river. This river was called Black Water River. A tributary of the Min Jiang, it was very long. One day, while  on the march, we saw some people belonging to the 2nd division ahead of us turning back. We asked them why they had turned back, was it that there was no way ahead? They said that was not the case. Then they told us that they belonged to the 4th and 5th regiments of the 2nd division, and Liu Yalou, the political commissar, had ordered them to deliver pork, beef, mutton and grain to the 6th regiment.

We felt strange that a special delivery should be sent to the 6th regiment. They explained that Zhu Rui, director of Political Department of the First Group Army, together with Chen Guang, commander of the 2nd division, marched up north on the left wing; the 4th and 5th regiments and the division HQ marched up on the right wing. The commander of the 6th regiment was Zhu Shuiqiu, the commissar was Wang Jicheng. When the 6th Regiment closed in on Aba (rNga ba), it was badly beaten by Tibetan horsemen. Fighting with both guns and swords, those minority horsemen were quite powerful, and our troops could not fight them off. They were not able to push forward, but could not find provisions if they retreated. They had nothing but herbs to eat. They starved like this for seven days, eating anything they could find. Even Zhu Rui, Chen Guang, Zhu Shuiqiu and Wang Jicheng were starved out of shape, unable to walk. This regiment used to have 1300 soldiers, but only 500 or 600 made it back; more than half died, either killed by Tibetans or of starvation. They lost quite a lot of guns as well. For this reason Liu Yalou wanted the 4th and 5th Regiments to send them food, in order to rescue Zhu Rui, Chen Guang and their surviving soldiers. It was really hard at that time!

pp. 81-
Section 18 - Arrival at Mao Er Gai

  Around mid July 1935, we reached Mao Er Gai (dMu dge), on the edge of the grassland. The village was comparatively big, with 300 to 400 families and many Lamaist temples. The area was rich in barley cultivation, but when we arrived there, the barley was not ripe yet.
   … There were no villages in the camping area assigned to our three regiments, we had to camp in the pasture where Tibetans keep their cattle. It was surrounded by mountains on all four sides, and in the middle was a small basin with a stream, and a stone grinder standing on the bank. We stationed ourselves in the shed the Tibetans used to keep their animals. The walls of this type of building were made of wicker plastered with yak dung, and the floor was just damp ground. This was the kind of place the troops lived in, and lived for two weeks. Those two weeks were really tough. The masses had all run away to the mountains, not a single one of them could be spotted the whole day long. There wasn’t much grain to begin with, and the number of soldiers was so big that before long, provisions ran out. Not much could be done. Every day, teams of soldiers were dispatched to dig up buried stores, trying every possible method. The barley unearthed was boiled with water without even grinding it into flour. We ate it just like that, nothing to go with it. Sometimes we had to eat herbs. …

   Due to the large number of people stationed there, before long even the herbs were eaten up. …

   …Five days later, we received orders. The headquarters of the 1st Corps, 2nd division and 1st division were to shift to Bo Luo Che (a place close to Songpan), where we had to find provisions to feed ourselves.

   It took about two days to walk to Bo Luo Che. This time the 2nd division was also marching ahead as vanguard, followed up by Group Army HQ. Along the way we saw some bodies of Red Army soldiers in the woods by the trail. They were unable to keep up with the troops and were killed by Tibetans. It was hot here, some of the bodies had decomposed, and had maggots wriggling on them. We felt so sad to see this. Of course, we couldn’t blame those Tibetans. In order to survive, we ate their food, occupied their homes, and they had nowhere to go but fleeing into the mountains, and suffering from the elements. They hated us for it. When the troops were marching, our soldiers stayed close to one another, and they did not dare to come down. Whenever they saw a gap in the line, or spotted soldiers falling behind, they would dash down, capture a couple of them and hack them to death before running back to the mountains. On the way, I saw with my own eyes about 100 Red Army soldiers killed by Tibetans. So many people sacrificed their lives just for the sake of finding provisions. How miserable!

p. 83
   The director of our Supply Department was Xu Lin, a rather capable man from Jiangxi. One day, at one digging, he unearthed a whole pot of butter, plus some sausages (pork intestines filled with fat). He distributed these to the whole regiment, and the commander,  political commissar, chief of staff and  general branch secretary each got a long sausage. It was really precious, even though it tasted awful. For the next few days, we lived almost entirely on this sausage. First we cooked some herbs, adding a small piece of sausage, then managed to get some barley to stir fry or boil. Days were passed like this.

   No serious battles were fought during this time, but attrition was high, mostly due to the problem in resupply.  When we reached a place, the first thing the commanders and political commissars had to do was search for food in villages that other troops had not already visited. I remember in one case, the political commissar of the 5th regiment, 2nd division brought the regiment’s direct team (a troop under the regiment’s direct command, not belonging to any division) to look for provisions, only to be fought back by Tibetans with tremendous loss. About 80 people were killed, including the commissar, and about 20 were captured by the Tibetan villagers as well. Later, Chen Guang, commander of the 2nd division, sent apologies to the Tibetans and offered to pay a ransom for the captured men. The Tibetans replied that they didn’t want money, but if we promised not to take their grain again, they would release our people. This was a true story. We were not the only ones hunting for provisions in this way. The Central Column (the troop commanded by Mao Zedong and Zhu De during the Long March) did the same. They also dispatched a working group to search for food as soon as they arrived at a place. Comrade Liu Shaoqi once led a troop to hunt for food for the Central Column.

There were many Lamaist temples in Mao Er Gai area. The temples were quite big, with many Buddha (statues), both big and small. The big statues were surely made of clay, and painted with gold. The small ones were gray, covered with thick dust. The big ones were about one foot in height, the small ones just a couple of inches. They were all nicely made, with arms and legs.
One of our quartermasters visited a Lamaist temple. He walked around, and somehow he  touched those tiny statues, then licked one. To his surprise he found it tasted sweet. He licked again, and it was indeed sweet. It turned out that all those dust-covered little Buddha (statues), big or small, were sweet. It was wonderful, like Columbus discovering the New World! He brought some of the small Buddha (statues) back, washed them clean, then added water to boil. They were all made of flour, and tasted really good.

Later on, we learned that Tibetans made flour Buddhas with butter and honey as offerings to temples on happy occasions, such as the birth of a child. Day by day, year by year, the accumulation of flour Buddhas amounted to large quantities. Some of them weighed as much as 3 to 5 jin (1.5 to 2.5 kg), some 1 or 2 jin, some a few ounces. Offerings from local lords (Tu si), tribal chiefs and rich people were bigger, those from poor people were smaller. Tibetans were highly respectful of those offered statues, nobody dared to remove them. We shouldn’t have removed them either. But as we were out of provisions and facing starvation, we had no other choice.  The quartermaster collected two large basketsful of flour Buddhas, brought them back and boiled them up.  Everybody was happily munching, saying “Look what kind of food they have here!”

From then on, whenever we arrived at a place, the quartermaster went everywhere searching for Lamaist temples, and brought back flour Buddhas to eat. When the flour Buddhas ran out, someone found that the yak hide was edible too. So we ate all the drums. The drums in some Lamaist temple were quite big. When we couldn’t find anything to eat, we just went to temples and tore down the hide used for the drum skins, soaked and boiled it, then just ate it like that. When we ran out of anything edible, we had to eat mutton if it could be found. Mutton was greasy, and as we had no salt, it tasted awful. It was in Mao Er Gai that I learned to eat mutton.

   We were stationed there for over a month, and went through many villages, but hardly saw any Tibetans. Wherever we went, everybody, men and women, young and old, had run away. In Bo Luo Chi, I did see one young Tibetan woman with all her hair down, walking on the road. We didn’t speak a word with her. We didn’t know what to say to her. Due to the language barrier, she wouldn’t understand us, and we wouldn’t understand her either.


pp. 88-
Section 19 - Crossing the Grassland

In order to cross the grassland without incident, our superiors wanted everybody to prepare 10 to 15 days’ food. Each one of us had to get around 15 jin of food. We had to turn over a certain amount to the Central Column and Military Committee Column as well. Many high officials belonged to these two columns, and they were too busy to prepare so many provisions. I remember our troop, the 3rd Regiment, handed over 400 or 500 jin of grains.

Where could we find so much grain?  We had delayed our advance nearly two months moving around the Mao Er Gai area, we had almost finished all the grain we could lay our hands on already, and there were no local people around. Where could we find grain!

In order to get provisions, the entire division turned back to a place near Mao Er Gai, spending three days there just for this purpose. Before this, we had already eaten up practically everything the Tibetans had hidden in the mountains, buried underground or offered to the temples, and even the nearly-ripe barley in the fields was almost all gone.  The only grain left was some unripened  barley. We hand-picked the barley heads one by one, then hand-rubbed the seed off. The barley heads were spiky, and made your hands bloody.  In this way we worked for three days, collecting about one 2 to 3 jin each day at most. I collected about 8 jin (altogether). Some soldiers were stronger, and could get more, but on average it was far less than the required 15 jin each. Of course there were quite a few people who managed to collect more than 15 jin. But all the barley in the area had now gone, and there was no way to get more.

We brought the barley seeds from the field, used washing basins to roast them on the fire, then stored the roasted barley in our food bags. This was the provision we counted on for crossing the grassland. Each person was responsible for his own food, whatever he could collect.

p. 95
(They were about to walk out onto the grassland) About 4 or 5 o’clock in the afternoon, we reached a village. As soon as we arrived, the first thing was to search for food. Little did they know that the local lords and tribal chiefs had told the people to bring all their food up to the mountains. Except for crops in the fields, everything was hidden away. The only things left were a couple of chickens, one pig or two that were too slow to be led away, and dogs. …Good thing that the fields were not empty; there were peas, turnips, potatoes and garlic. Most important was potatoes, we dug up piles of them. Without that we would be starving. Some troops ate sheep or cows when they found them.

p. 97
   (The third day of crossing the grassland) Shortly after daybreak, a soldier from the 1st Company stumbled into our room. He had been hacked in the head, and was soaked with blood. He could not speak, just shouted “ah, ah” towards me. What had happened? I immediately sent some people to find out. It turned out that before our main force came back, the Tibetans took their opportunity. Over 100 Tibetans armed with swords came down from the mountain, and killed the entire company posted there as sentries, about 50 to 60 people, including the commander and the political commissar. They took all the guns and ammunition, including two light machine guns.[6]

[1] The 7th Cog rtse rgyal po bSod nams tshe ring / Zhuo Ke Ji Tu si Suo Guanyin 桑郎泽让 was fluent in spoken and written Chinese. Choktsé was one of the 18 kingdoms or principalities of Gyalrong.

[2] Lin Wei didn’t write about his own experience in Ngaba, but we can see what state the Red Army were in by the time they reached there (JL).

[3] One Chinese li = 500 metres. The diary records the number of li walked each day.

[4] Today’s Zawo Xiang (Tib: Tsa bu), Hei Shui County (Tib: Khro chu), an agricultural area  known as the “granary of Hei Shui”, where the Red Army seized a large amount of grain. (JL)

[5] The term is Chi Hua, “to make the area red”, meaning to spread Communism in those areas.

[6] Another source published last year (General Huang Yongsheng: A Biography. Hong Kong: New Century Press, 2010 ) also mentions this incident, but with a different ending: when they did a body check they didn’t find the commander. It turned out that he had escaped from the scene. They searched and found him hiding in a cave. He was arrested and confessed that he didn’t order resistance because he was afraid of “breaking the nationality regulation”. In the end he was executed. They buried all the bodies in a mass grave. They seem to have had better luck when they advanced into the Muslim area, mostly because the Muslims were ethnically Chinese and spoke the same language. 

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