Edition: English | 中文简体 | 中文繁体 Монгол
Homepage > China Video

Long March footprints in Ganzi

Reporter: Joey Catanzaro 丨 CCTV.com

10-20-2016 12:47 BJT

Full coverage: 80th Anniversary of the Victory of the Red Army's Long March

It's been eight decades since China's Red Army, outgunned and outnumbered, marched out of Jiangxi Province in 1934, the nationalists hot on their heels. Along the way, part of the Red Army's forces trekked into the Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan province. Conditions were harsh, but the welcome they received was anything but. CCTV's Joey Catanzaro takes us there, to reveal its modern-day legacy of the Long March.

It’s easier to get into heaven, than travel into Sichuan, or so the old saying goes in China. But at this monastery, in the rugged west of the province, there are those who still remember a time 80 years ago, when the Red Army came here, on an epic journey, known as The Long March.

Reporter:"Zhaxi dele!"

Living Buddha, Ngawang Denpal Gyltsen, has been abbot and spiritual guide to ethnic Tibetan people here for more than 30 years. But sacred sutras aside, he’s also the custodian of the old stories, about the Red Army coming to this holy place on Dingguo mountain.

The Red Army came here as part of their journey to escape the nationalist army. On the 80th anniversary of the Long March, the living Buddha says beyond survival, what the Red Army found here was friendship and support.

"My previous living buddha said those who struggles for the benefit of all people will succeed. That's a spirit that conforms with the Buddhist teachings, and that still counts today. So I tell my disciples and followers to carry on this spirit," Ngawang Denpal Gyltsen said

Less than 30km from the monastery is Great Bomb Mountain, where the Red Army won a decisive victory against their pursuers. The living Buddha, who walks the old battlefield collecting relics, says the day was won because local people lent the strength of their arms to the cause. Beyond binoculars and bullets, he believes the true legacy of the march, is modern China.

"The old living Buddha believed in the cause of the Red Army. He said that the army was struggling for the benefit of average people, Tibetans and othe ethinics, so we should support them to fend off their difficulties. That the army would bring happiness to all of us. All the followers listened to the living Buddha and offered their help," Ngawang Denpal Gyltsen said

By the time the long marchers’ arrived here in western Sichuan, they’d already endured months of bombs and bullets, hunger, and hardship. But suddenly, the mountains they’d battled to climb coming here became their shelter: The local people, their benefactors. Many, like the living Buddha, fed them something that’s being harvested from fields like this one all across the region: Barley, part of the staple diet here, since time before memory.

The historic harvest the fields of Ganze yielded eight decades ago, was a red army fed and rested, able to continue the march, that helped make modern China. Today, farming across region yields about 37,000 tons of produce annually, some 248 of which is barley.
But some , like local mill owner Zhaga, still do it the old way, choosing to steer away from more current methods of production. Eight years ago, he decided to go against the grain, and open a traditional water powered mill, which uses yak skins to make flour, much like locals did in the time of the long march.

"I learned how to make Zanba from my mother and anut. We wash the barley with boiled water in the first step, coat them for fermentation the whole night. Then, after some deep frying, the barleys will be grinded into powder by the very old-fashioned mill. My factory provides employment opportunities for workers and farmers in my neighbourhood. For me, the whole business is not only making a living, but doing my own bit to preserve this unique cultural heritage," Zhaga said.

The mill is a touchstone for a region that has maintained its culture, even as it continues to modernize. And Ganze remembers the 300,000 soldiers who made the march, only ten percent of which, survived to finish it. Today they follow in the footsteps of a legend, which has come to signify determination, in China.

Walk the mountain trails here, and you begin to appreciate, just how tough it must have bee, for the long marchers’, as they neared the end of their more than 12,000km journey across China. These days, Western Sichuan is still difficult to traverse, but progress is being made. There’s a new airport slated for Ganze and a railway line, with a stop in Kangding, being built between Chengdu and Lhasa. Eighty years ago though, the red army did it the hard way, marching out of Sichuan, and on into the history books. Their journey finished in Shaanxi, but their legacy continues, today.

Follow us on

  • Please scan the QR Code to follow us on Instagram

  • Please scan the QR Code to follow us on Wechat