Li Jianzhen: Female Soldier of the Long March

September 21, 2016
Editor: Joyce Dong
Li Jianzhen: Female Soldier of the Long March

Li Jianzhen meets Chairman Mao Zedong during the 1st Women's Congress in 1949. []


Some 30 female soldiers took part in the Red Army's historical Long March, a military retreat that happened from 1934-1936. One of those original soldiers was called Li Jianzhen.

Early Life

Li was born in Fengshun County in south China's Guangdong Province in 1907. Driven by poverty, her parents sold her to a richer family as a child bride when she was just eight months old.

Li accompanied the adoptive family's son, learning at a private school from the age of 10. She became the family's main laborer at 14.

Later, under the influence of Peng Pai, a pioneer of the Chinese agrarian movement, Li became an activist in the local farmers' association.

At Li's hometown, people were good at singing folk songs. Each time when Li organized publicity work in villages, she would lead a song under a large banyan tree to gather people and hold a meeting.  

Revolutionary Experience

Soon after Li joined the Communist Party in June 1927, she took part in an armed uprising organized by local peasants and fought a guerrilla war alongside them.

When Li's county founded its Revolutionary Committee at a congress with the participation of workers, farm laborers and soldiers by the end of that year, Li, 20, was elected as its vice-chairperson.

In January 1930, Li was transferred to the Women's Committee of Yongding County in the neighboring Fujian Province, doing work for the general population and advancing the agrarian revolution.

Several months later, Li, at 24, was appointed the Party secretary of the province's Changting County, where she led an overthrow of local despots, distributed land, enhanced production, mobilized young people to join the army and organized local armed forces to assist the Red Army's objectives.

One day, when Li went to a hospital in the province's Tingzhou County to report work to her superior, Zhang Dingcheng, she had her first encounter with Mao Zedong, who happened to be recuperating there.

Hearing of Li's performance in her work, Mao said with a smile: "This comrade is not simple!"

In October 1933, Li was elected as minister of the Women's Department under the provincial Party committee. By the end of that year, Li left for east China's Jiangxi Province, where she began training at the Party School of the Central Committee of CPC.

The next year, after Li finished her study at the school, she was assigned head of the Women's Department of the CPC Central Bureau of the Soviet Area.

At her new post, Li united grassroots women and carry out services vigorously. She led them to make shoes for soldiers on the front line and embroider words of uplifting songs on the fabric. Wearing such shoes, soldiers fought more fiercely.

Long March

In October 1934, Li took part in the Red Army's Long March, in which she was responsible for searching for food, acting as a guide, being a porter and other duties.

During the Liping Meeting, the Red Army established a cadres' recuperation brigade, whose main responsibility was to take care of wounded soldiers. Li was appointed its instructor.

Once, when Li and her fellow soldiers fought back against a sudden attack, their commissar Zhong Chibing, who had just lost a leg during an earlier fight, was abandoned by frightened porters. Seeing that, Li and another soldier lifted Zhong's stretcher, running amid a hail of bullets.

This was not a rare case during the Long March. Li led her fellow soldiers to unite together and protect the wounded from danger regardless of personal safety.

In October 1936, Li and her comrades ended their toughest days and welcomed the end of the Long March.


Part of the female soldiers taking part in the Long March pose for a group picture. []


(Source: and edited by Women of China)

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