The Moutai Liquor Distillery in the 1930s. [Xinhua]
One of the many unraveled rumors about the Red Army soldiers along the epic Long March (1934-1936) is whether they washed their feet with Moutai, the country's national liquor, now officially served at state banquets .
Harrison E. Salisbury, an American writer and reporter, wrote in his book The Long March; The Untold Story: "Legend has it that young Red Army soldiers, country boys still in their teens, did not know what Maotai (Moutai) was, that they poured into their grog shops along the single street, sloshing Maotai on their tired and blistered feet until alcohol ran in rivers out of the shops and into the gutters".
Harrison didn't join the Long March but traveled 7,400 miles along the Long March routes about half a century later (in 1984). The description above could be only hearsay.
In 2002, the first volume of Literature of Chinese Communist Party, an academic journal by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, published an article to refute the rumor by citing a letter written between General Zhang Aiping, a participant in the Long March, and Yang Zhiguo, director of Sichuan Honglongmeng Distillery Co. Ltd.
The article explained that there was no liquor in the brewing pool, and the jar neck was too narrow in which to put a foot. Moreover, the locals at that time liked to "wash feet with strong spirits" for the humid weather and superfluous productivity of liquor.
But doubts still remain. First of all, did the soldiers use the liquor to wash their feet or just scrub their blistered wounded feet? Secondly, if they really did the former, under what circumstances, or did they know it was Moutai beforehand?
Consulting historical documents could be insightful: Long March general Geng Biao (1909-2000) wrote in his memoir: "Some soldiers bought Moutai to refresh themselves, some rubbed their feet to relax the muscles and stimulate blood circulation."
Soldiers also used the spirits to disinfect wounds on their feet, which might have been festered due to moist weather, late Lieutenant General Luo Yuanfa (1910-2010) recalled.
On March 16, 1935, a notice issued by Wang Jiaxiang, director of the General Political Department of the Red Army, read: "It's one of our obligations to protect the development of national industries. Moutai, which won the international awards, has made our Chinese people proud. Soldiers could buy the liquors at distillery with a fair price, but bear in mind to protect and not to break any facilities of Moutai distillery, such as wine stoves, cellars, jars and bottles."
Therefore, we can see the Red Army was a people's army with strict discipline and a high-degree of political consciousness. It's also part of the reason why they have achieved the victory of the revolution and won the hearts and minds of the people.
(Source: China Daily)