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The Long March: The True History of Communist China's Founding Myth

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  290 Ratings  ·  44 Reviews

The Long March is Communist China’s founding myth, the heroic tale that every Chinese child learns in school. Seventy years after the historical march took place, Sun Shuyun set out to retrace the Marchers’ steps and unexpectedly discovered the true history behind the legend. The Long March is the stunning narrative of her extraordinary expedition.

The facts are these: in

Hardcover, 270 pages
Published June 12th 2007 by Doubleday (first published January 1st 2006)
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Domenico Composto-Hart
Sep 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The Long March: A True History of Communist China's Founding Myth by Sun Shuyun is an incredibly impressive work of revisionist reporting, which calls into question nearly every aspect of the Chinese Communist Party's "official" account of what really occurred during this epic, horrific journey.

The author follows the path taken by those 200,000 plus soldiers who embarked on a grueling journey west and then north from Ruijin in 1934 interviewing the last remaining survivors of the March along the
May 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I think most people knew that most of what Mao said was a lie,
but it's nice that a Chinese person can write a book about that today.

I wish there'd been more photos of the route,
the image of the road out of Zunyi is nice,
but most photos are of 90 year old women.

Hard to believe, looking at the photos,
that they could get a young man to enlist in the Red army
by giving him a roll in the hay.

Mao was a dirty dog from start to finish,
it was China's sorrow that he became its leader.
Jun 24, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Gloria by: Lynn O'Hare
I'm a little more than halfway through this book, and I have to say that I vacillate between feeling as if my mind is being blown apart and being smug and saying but of course, that makes sense.

While not brought up in China and drilled in the mythology of the Long March, as an American I have been influenced by the epic idea of the event through my knowledge of having relatives who have survived it (and also survived later purges, once the government was established). However, the details were s
May 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
The author retraces the route of the Red Army’s Long March in the 1930’s, visiting the towns, museums or memorials, and interviewing any of the survivors of the Long March that she can find (Her trip took place on the 70th anniversary of the Long March). She has done a lot of research on the Long March and on this period of history and quotes or provides relevant information from contemporary sources, new scholarship, and basic sources such as Edgar Snow or Harrison Salisbury. She discusses the ...more
Pete Sikora
Nov 11, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: somebody interested in historiography
The author journeys throughout China retracing the long march route. She interviews surviving veterans and their relatives and friends, acting surprised - over and over again - that the official Chinese government history of the Long March differs from reality. The bit gets quite irritating. Otherwise, it's an ok history of the long march. The surprised tone probably works a lot better for a Chinese audience. I'd recommend to somebody interested in how history is written - or re-written.
Apr 07, 2010 rated it really liked it

In 1934 some 200,000 communists were driven out of their bases in Jiangxi in the south of China by Chiang Kai-shek. Mao steered them like a Chinese Moses on a course from victory to victory. After two years of incredible endurance, courage, and hope against impossible odds – and a march of 8,000 miles – the Red Armies reached the barren Yellow Plateau of northwestern China. From there on they would need another decade to launch the new China. Enshrined for the nation in musical extravaganz
Joe Tingle
Jul 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
A very insightful and easy to follow account of an event that many Western readers will have little/no familiarity with. Although some general knowledge of the Communist Revolution and Mao's Long March will benefit readers, this book will also inspire those who do not know much to learn more about this fascinating topic.
Francis Kessy
Mar 22, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I recommend this Book to anyone who want to learn about the Long March and ways Mao used to always succeed in being on top at the Red Army; his acumen and military experience. It is a Book about untold stories that even many Chinese are not aware of.

Quoted below is my favorite paragraph:

''All my life, along with most Chinese, i thought of Zhang Guatao as an evil man, nailed as we may say, on the pillar of history's shame. The power struggle ended with Mao the winner, Zhang the loser. As the Chi
Mitchell Colgan
Jun 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Amazing and haunting. A must read for anyone interested in China.
In The Long March, Sun retraces the steps of the Long March, interviewing approximately 40 survivors and visiting local archives, shrines, and memorials dedicated to the March. In doing so, she discovers a large discrepancy between the stories told by the survivors and the official, dominant narrative of the Long March she learned as a young student. The gist of the official narrative on the Long March is that it is the founding story of the Communist Party and, thus, contemporary China – though ...more
Part memoir, part examination of history, The Long March: The True History of Communist China’s Founding Myth follows Sun Shuyun as she retraces the steps of the Long March and explores the real truth behind the founding of Communist China with the Long March. Shuyun interviews survivors from all walks of life — men and women, those who entered as children and as adults, conscripted and enlisted — and is shocked to learn that the heroic tale that every Chinese child learns in school ignores impo ...more
Alanood Burhaima
Jun 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: chinese, favorites
The long march is one of the most glorified and vital events of modern history, yet so few of us know that it ever happened. It all started in 1934 when Chiang Kai shek (Leader of the KMT) meant business this time in annihilating the red army and as Peng Dehai said, "He was draining the pond to catch the fish", an old chinese saying which basically means trying to encircle the enemy until there is no more place to escape. This led the red army to start marching from Jiangxi province and head to ...more
Nov 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You feel the passion of this author as she describes the events of the Long March from research and most powerfully from veterans that she'd tracked down.

It leaves you with the feeling that people's personal stories shaped the opinions of the author. It wasn't that the author had an agenda to defend or attack the Long March. In fact, she admires many of the people for what they survived through.

It also helps the reader understand why Chinese people can be so blinkered about their history. In sec
Mar 14, 2009 rated it really liked it
Sun Shuyun looks behind the official history of the Chinese Communist Party's central and founding mythology, The Long March. The book is both a recount of the history of the March and an account of her travels around the PRC to different sites of significance to the March.

Sun Shuyun is able to show that those CCP members who completed the March did actually create a signal achievement. She recounts exactly how difficult conditions were on the March and all the different types of difficulties th
Apr 12, 2010 rated it really liked it
Sun Shuyun is a Chinese author who splits her time between England and China. She attempts to follow the course of the long march and compare the official history she learned in school with new documentation and interviews with participants.

With issues like the Long March and Chinese Communism, the idea of objectiveness always comes up. I think she navigates this problem well, allowing the participants, most of whom, despite varied experience since the communists 1948 victory, think life was be
John Walters
Feb 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The writer is a women educated and steeped in the Chinese propaganda of the Long March and the heroic struggle of Mao Zedong. She decides to travel the route of the Long March and write of her experience. Her pilgrimage is a journey into disillusionment. Most of the true story had been hidden in the propaganda war of Chinese Communism and its internal feuds. Most of the those poor souls killed were the victims of incompetence, purges, and starvation. A disproportionate few were killed by the ene ...more
May 07, 2007 rated it liked it
As a schnool girl in China, Sun Shuyun grew up hearing heroic tales of Mao's Long March. Now, as an adult, she set out to find survivors of that epic event. This book is the tale of those survivors.Sun Shuyun was astonished to learn that perhaps the true history of the Long March was not as it had been portrayed.

This made for a quick, interesting read. I don't know that it held many surprises for me, but then, I can be quite cynical and jaded when it comes to history or politics. Not to mention
Mar 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Epic. Extraordinary. But I'm left wondering, what was the point? What was the point of all that suffering? I do not in any way mean this to say that the marchers were not heroic. They seem heroic in the same way victims liberated from camps are heroic except that the Marchers were true believers in the cause their suffering was meant to be for. Leaders can speak of liberty and equality and ending oppression but when conscription and purges are the means liberty is not the true end. The outcome w ...more
Jul 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
Sun Shuyun, who roughly retraced the route of the Long March has written an excellent alternative history of the Long March. It really cuts through the myths of the Long March and tells a human story of the survivors who made the heroic journey. The book also tells a bit of the story of the 2nd, 6th, and 4th armies rather than focusing exclusively on the 1st and the third army like most accounts usually do. The book also sheds light on what became of Zhang Guotao's 4th Army after they went west ...more
Talmadge Walker
Nov 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Very interesting combination of travelogue and interview collection. Seventy years after the event, the author spent several months following the route of Mao's "Long March" through southern, western and northern China. By itself that would make the book interesting to tourists, but what really makes the book are the interviews with aging veterans of the March, the youngest of whom are now in their 80s. You get a glimpse of their youthful idealism, the suffering they went through, and their late ...more
Dec 01, 2016 rated it did not like it
Unless you go into this thinking The East is Red is a documentary, it doesn't really reveal anything new. Yeah, people romanticise their history, the people on the Long March were just ordinary people with flaws who were pushed to heroic feats by the circumstances they found themselves in. This shouldn't be news to anybody.

Not even good as anti-communist propaganda since you still come away thinking "Wow, those people were pretty amazing. Mao clearly made the best of a really bad situation."
Krista Danis
I really enjoy reading about Chinese history and politics, and Sun Shuyun's book is no exception. However, I was not exposed to these developmental myths as a youngster, so I should've read a mainstream version of the events first. Regardless, the stories she reveals are eye-opening for me, let alone what I imagine the reaction was in China. Her analysis is fluid and mostly qualitative, with marchers' personal experiences offered as the backbone of her reasearch with supplemental statistical sup ...more
Having studied a brief history of Communist China for an O-Level back in the late 1970's I have always been fascinated by the Long March and tthe eventual outcome of the Civil War for China.

Sun Shuyun details the epic march and attempts to seperate folklore and myth from fact. Tracing the route of the march and speaking with veterans of both sides allows us a unique insight into the least well-known superpower.
Oct 31, 2008 rated it it was ok
This book sounded a lot better from the blurb than it was. Perhaps I'm not invested enough in the history of the Communist revolution in China, but the facts presented here didn't really grab my attention. The author, who I assume is Chinese herself, talks about being amazed, as she researches the true history of "the long march," how much the truth differed from what she was taught in school. Those discrepancies were interesting, but they're not enough to carry the entire book for me.
Jul 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Part history and part travelogue, Sun set out to retrace the steps of the Long March, talking to survivors and veterans on the way, to get a sense of what really happened. She shied away from the higher-ranking officials that everyone talked to and sought out the foot soldiers who made up the bulk of the marchers. The result is an amazing account of the Long March and a story that hasn't been told before.

See my full review here:
Sep 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing
A fantastic and valuable read. It is hard to get a balanced view on such extraordinary event, but through a series of interviews from the people who marched, this book succeeds. The author is careful to get interviews with both men and woman of all backgrounds, a true feat considering the ages of those involved. I am very glad that this book was written so that such an important part of our shared history was not left to propaganda alone.
Feb 04, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks, history
Well that was not my favorite.
Unlike most audiobooks where I rewind if I missed a detail, I let this one keep rolling, rarely stopping to catch the details. After all, the book can be summed up like this: the Long March was hard, but not because of the ways China's traditional lore says it was hard. I finished it, but it isn't a book I'd recommend.
Mar 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jim by: My son Dan
Author Sun retraced the entire path of the Long March. She found and interviewed many surviving participants. Their accounts of the events are far different than the official Chinese version. They were really interesting and i concluded they were objective and probably fairly represented what actually happened. The marchers endured terrible suffering but it was not all heroic by any means.
Jan 11, 2015 rated it it was ok
I couldn't finish this book. The author's narrative style was REALLY ANNOYING. Each story was I was told X, I beleived X then I went to this place and found out X was incorrect! WOW! then I went to Y, and I was told Y was true! But I believed Y! then I found out Y was incorrect! WOW! Repreat this like 100 times before your half way through the book, and YUCK.
Feb 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
One of the best histories of the Long March I have read so far. It is compelling, sympathetic, and tells the history of the Long March with a human touch without compromising its objectivity. It is evident that the book is a product of in-depth research and primary interviews. Truly a refreshing read! It doesn't bore with details, but enlightens with human perspectives.
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Sun Shuyun was born in 1963. She graduated from Beijing University and won a scholarship to Oxford. A filmmaker and television producer, she has made documentaries for the BBC, Channel 4, PBS, and the Discovery Channel.
More about Sun Shuyun...