|Chinese President Xi Jinping (front) and other senior leaders visit an exhibition marking the 80th anniversary of the end of the Long March in Beijing, September 23, 2016. [Photo/Xinhua]|
An exhibition commemorating the 80th anniversary of the end of the Red Army's Long March opened at the National Museum of China on Sept. 22. Over 300 artifacts are on display, including weapons, posters, maps, cooking utensils, manuscripts and paintings. The exhibition will run until Oct. 31.
"We research, commemorate, and publicize the Long March to remember our predecessors and stay true to our mission," Bai Yuntao, the museum's deputy director in charge of the exhibition, told Xinhua.
From October 1934 to October 1936, the Red Army, the forerunner of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), carried out a daring military maneuver that laid the foundation for the eventual victory of the Communist Party of China (CPC).
The Red Army marched through raging rivers, snowy mountains and arid grasslands to break the Kuomintang regime's grip on the country and to continue their fight against Japanese invaders. Some of them marched as far as 12,500 kilometers, enduring hunger, thirst and cold.
An 80-Year Commitment
"I can feel the past when I see the original objects from the Long March," said Ji Yongxiao, a retired engineer.
The CPC's commitment to China's development, which dates back 80 years, is evident here, said Ji, who waited three hours to see the exhibition on its opening day.
"I am the same age as New China," said Zhang Pu, a retired government worker born in 1949. This year, Zhang has made three trips to retrace the route of the Long March through Guizhou, Sichuan and Gansu provinces.
"The Long March is an epic event that inspires and guides Chinese people," Zhang said, adding that it has by no means been easy for the Chinese people to improve their lives over the last 80 years. "The hard-working spirit we see in the exhibition has never faded. The Long March spirit is with us today, and its aim is to make Chinese dreams come true."
Ji Xianbin, a retired coal miner from east China's Shandong Province, served in the PLA in 1965. He was touched when he passed by the snowy mountains over which the Red Army had climbed three decades before.
"I thought the mountains sacred, and that I was lucky to have lived a better life than the Red Army," Ji said, recalling his feelings half a century ago. "Our lives at present have improved even more, but we cannot forget the sacrifices that led to our current joys," Ji told Xinhua.
Renewing the Long March
"As a member of China's younger generation, I was touched by the Long March spirit of perseverance and the Red Army's fearlessness in the face of hardship," said Zhai Genyang, a high school student from Beijing. Zhai's schoolmate, Hao Ruili, agreed that China's youth should remember their predecessors' spirit, as they bear the responsibility of fulfilling the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation.
Yu Jin, a doctoral student at Northeast Normal University, said that the Long March spirit of unity, perseverance and high ideals reflects the conventional essence of Chinese culture. "We, China's youth, should be the best representatives of these red values and should pass the baton from generation to generation," Yu said. She believes that young people's mission is a continuation of Chinese history: "We are embarking on a new Long March to realize the Chinese dream."
"If our processors could do this, then what can't we?" Ma Wen, a college student from south China's Guangdong Province, told Xinhua after seeing the exhibition.
"Honestly, the words 'Long March' don't come up often in my daily life," Ma said, "but I see remembrance and perseverance as basic Chinese characteristics, and believe the spirit of the Long March has been passed down through my family, exercising an invisible but powerful influence on me."
Foreigners Absorb the Spirit of the March
Stella Dervicani, a student at the Institute Vespucci-Colombo in Italy, was on a two-week trip in Beijing to study Chinese language. She and her classmates were the first foreign visitors to the exhibition. "I had heard about the Long March, but I never felt close to it until I saw this exhibition. I know it made today's China possible," she said.
Upon her return, Dervicani will be taking a modern Chinese history class at Vespucci, which will cover the Long March. "I can't wait, having now seen this exhibition," she said.
A bundle of grass on display caught attention of Aurora Caselli, Dervicani's classmate. The grass was used as food during the Long March. "This made me understand the struggle that the Red Army faced," said Caselli. "I could feel the hardships they suffered, like lack of food, cold, and many people dying. The exhibition is very impressive, and it brings history to life."
"The Long March is unique, and is worthy of our attention and focus," Susanna Ceccarelli, a history teacher from Vespucci, told Xinhua.
Two American college students were amazed to find that there were more historical ties between the Long March and their home country than they had imagined.
Caitlin Brown of Chicago, Illinois and Alyssa Flanders of Madison, Wisconsin are studying Chinese at Beijing University for the fall semester. Edgar Snow, who taught journalism at Yenching University, the heart of what is today Beijing University campus, left for northwestern Shaanxi in 1936, where he interviewed Mao Zedong and other senior CPC leaders.
Snow published "Red Star Over China" the following year, which gained worldwide attention. He also took the iconic photograph of Mao Zedong in a red army hat. The hat, which was given to Snow and treasured by him for decades, was returned to China by the Snow family after his death. The original hat, together with the wooden box Snow kept it in, is on display at the exhibition.
"I had heard about the Long March before, but I did not know they had to deal with such a wide variety of difficulties," said Flanders after she saw an oil painting of the Red Army crossing snowy mountains, and a leather belt that had been partly eaten by Ren Bishi, a senior CPC leader and one of his men. "The Long March is inspirational and demonstrates the power of human will," Flanders added.
Also on display are an oil lamp that a peasant in southwest China's Guizhou Province used to lead the way for the troops and a receipt given to lamas in Sichuan Province who supported the Red Army with 15,000 kg of highland barley and 2,000 kg of peas.
"The Long March was an amazing accomplishment. I can see the strong ties between the Army and the people," Brown, who has a copy of "Red Star Over China" on her desk, told Xinhua. She added that the fact that "senior Red Army leaders struggled side-by-side with low-ranking military men" greatly impressed her.