Marching the Long March

By Ong Hwe Hwe, The Straits Times, 30 October 2000

MOVE aside Silk Route. The Long March is taking over as the more challenging expedition for history buffs and adventurous tourists in search of China's rugged past.

Under a new tourism initiative, travellers keen on off-beat trips can now retrace the route of the Long March—an arduous one-year journey which 86,000 communists undertook under the leadership of the late Chinese leader Mao Zedong.

Chairman Mao and his men went on the march in 1934 to escape the encircling Kuomintang (KMT) army.

China recently threw open this dusty route featuring some famous historical sites in the province of Guizhou, where major developments in the course of the Long March took place.

Tourists can now visit famous sites along the march's route with the launch of the Mysterious Tour of Chishui River festival organised by the State Tourism Administration, in conjunction with the Guizhou Tourism Board and Zunyi government.

The Long March—a journey many hailed as the most important event in the history of the Communist Party of China—was a circuitous route the 86,000 communists took to escape the pursuing KMT in Mao-controlled areas in Jiangxi to establish a new power base in Yanan.

The entire journey, which covered 9,600 km, required the communist forces to first go through Guizhou to Yunnan in the far south-west before moving north through the treacherous and remote mountains and marshes of Sichuan and Gansu to reach Yanan.

It was in Guizhou that the communists managed to break out of the KMT trap and achieve a major victory.

It was also in this province that Chairman Mao wrested control from the Soviet-backed communist party leadership.

Significant sites along the journey which the late chairman declared as our worst period, blocked in front and pursued from behind (by the KMT army) include places such as the Chishui River, Loushan Pass and Zunyi Conference site.

Mr Wang Shouzhi, general manager of Singa China Travel Service in Singapore, told The Straits Times that although the outfit currently does not offer special tour packages for tourists to visit the Long March route, it has plans to introduce such packages in the future.

Packages to scenic places in China are still more popular among Singapore tourists.

So we are more likely to incorporate famous historical sites in the itinerary of our tour packages rather than offer specially catered trips to such sites, he added.