Dragon from Sichuan
Stories of Liu abound. For Wang at the summer time in 1935, the most
intriguing was how in April, Liu led the advanced detachment to get hold of
boats from a local Kuomintang county magistrate, occupied the Jinsha River pier
and enabled the 20,000-strong Central Red Army to sail across the river into
In fact, late Chairman Mao Zedong had predicted that Liu, as the "Dragon from
Sichuan," would "carry" the Red Army across the river. By crossing the Jinsha
River, the Red Army successfully shook off some 100,000 Kuomintang troops which
had been pursuing and trying to drive the Central Red Army into the turbulent
Jinsha River in Yunnan. Instead, the Kuomintang army could only watch the ships
burn and picked up some straw shoes left by the Red Army.
This file photo shows
the Red Army soldiers trekking on the snow mountains during the Long
In May, the Red Army were blocked on their way in the Liangshan mountains
through the villages of the Yi people, who were embroiled in their own tribal
fights. It was Liu who cleared the way by winning over Xiao Yedan, a Yi
In a traditional Yi ceremony, Liu and Xiao Yedan drank from a bowl of water
with fresh blood from a rooster, thus forging an alliance between the Red Army
and the Yi people.
In June the two main forces of the Red Army shook hands. A few days later, a
delegation of the Central Red Army came to meet the commanders of the Fourth
Standing in the rank and file welcoming the entourage, Wang asked a colleague
of hers who was the officer wearing a pair of glasses. She was told that officer
was the famous chief of staff of the Red Army, Liu Bocheng.
"I was surprised that Liu appeared so common," Wang later recalled, "but
underneath his commonness was the power of an army man and steadfastness and
resourcefulness of a military strategist."
While reflecting her initial finding about Liu in person, Wang, at that time,
did not realize that she herself stood out as a pretty, witty and honest young
woman, who was tall and strong.
Ren Bishi, a senior leader of the CPC, and his wife, tried match-making Liu
and Wang. In August, Wang was transferred to work in the headquarters of the
chief of staff, but she was hesitant after hearing about Ren's proposal. "I told
him I was young and simple, and I didn't think I could bring him joy and
happiness," Wang recalled.
Ren didn't push it, allowing the two the time to get to know each other.
The days dragged on as the soldiers were haunted by hunger, illnesses,
capricious weather, erroneous commands within the Fourth Front Army and above
all, constant skirmishes as the Kuomintang army and local warlords were out to
wipe out the Red Army.
They had to tramp across the marshes of the grassland
the second time in late autumn, when most of them had only late summer clothing.
"I saw with my own eyes a horse sinking fast into a mire," she said. In a few
days, they had eaten all barley flour and a handful of salt that they'd brought
with them. They dug out grasses and also found some cattle skins. "A lot of us
succumbed to hunger," she said.