Former Red Army Soldier's Granddaughter Shares Family's Story

ByZhang Jiamin October 15, 2021
He Li in front of the Museum of Crossing the Chishui River Four Times 


The one-time residence of He Mulin (1904-1979), a former Red Army soldier, is situated in Tucheng, a town in Zunyi, a city in Southwest China's Guizhou Province. He Li, He Mulin's granddaughter, and her family lives in the old house. They have turned the hall of their house into an exhibition room, in which He Mulin's formerly used items are on display. As a docent at the Museum of Crossing the Chishui River Four Times (a decisive mobile warfare, against the Kuomintang troops, carried out by the Central Red Army from January-March 1935), He Li has shared her grandfather's story with numerous visitors from different regions of the country. She hopes the revolutionaries' stories will be handed down from generation to generation.

Grandfather's Story

If you visit the residence, the photos on one wall in particular will surely catch your eyes. Those photos vividly record He Mulin telling stories about the Red Army to army officers and soldiers, and to primary and middle schools' teachers and students.

He Mulin shares stories about the Red Army with children.


In addition to sharing He Mulin's experiences, during the dozens of years when he was a Red Army man, He Li highlights the tremendous changes in Tucheng during the past several decades. "I fully understand my grandpa's pursuit and beliefs. My biggest wish is to become a Party (Communist Party of China) member as soon as possible," says He Li.

She learned about her grandfather's story from her mother, Lin Chengyin. He Mulin, who was born He Chuifeng, was born in 1904 in Huichang, a county in East China's Jiangxi Province. Despite the objections of his parents, he joined the Red Army in 1927. In 1934, he changed his name to He Mulin, and he joined the Long March, without telling his family. The Long March was a military maneuver, by the Workers' and Peasants' Red Army of the Communist Party of China (CPC), from October 1934 to October 1936. The Red Army soldiers left their bases and marched through raging rivers, frigid mountains and arid grasslands to break the siege of the Kuomintang forces. Some of soldiers marched for 12,500 kilometers.

During a battle against the Kuomintang on Qinggangpo (a hill in Tucheng) in January 1935, He Mulin fainted after a bullet pierced his left leg. Luckily, two kids discovered him, and hid him in a cave. Given the children's meticulous care, He Mulin recovered, but his leg was crippled. As he had lost touch with his army, He Mulin had to stay in Tucheng. Fearing Kuomintang soldiers might discover his identity (as a Red Army man), especially if they heard his Jiangxi accent, He Mulin pretended to be a deaf-mute man, and he worked for a landlord (in Tucheng) during the following 14 years.

It was not until 1949, when the People's Republic of China was founded, that He Mulin resumed speaking freely. He enjoyed singing revolutionary songs loudly. Within a short time, his identity as a Red Army man was confirmed, and he began working in a supply and marketing cooperative (in Tucheng).

Dedication, Sacrifices

"Mom told me Grandma grew fond of Grandpa, as they both worked for the landlord. They got married in 1944," recalls He Li.

She also learned, from her mother, that many of her grandfather's acquaintances said he was "too kind" to others, but was "too hard" on himself. For example, He Mulin did not accept the financial assistance, by the government of Xishui County (in which Tucheng is situated), offered to him as a disabled serviceman. Instead, he hoped the money would be used to build his motherland into a better place.

"Mom told me Grandpa often reminded his children to treasure their happy lives. Influenced by my grandpa, my father, He Shizhou, chose to work as a miner in a mining enterprise in Guiyang, capital of Guizhou Province," says He Li. "Dad had worked for the enterprise for 32 years, during which he seldom returned home. Unfortunately, Dad fell ill … and died too young (before he turned 50). As she worked hard, Mom had to shoulder the heavy responsibility of looking after her aged parents and in-laws and her children."

He Mulin died in 1979. On his deathbed, he exhorted his wife and children to bury his remains on the hillside of Qinggangpo, so he could accompany his former comrades. Before he died, He Mulin had applied, to the supply and marketing cooperative's Party organization, to allow his family to bury his remains on the hillside. That was the only time he submitted a request to the Party organization.

"When I was a little girl, Mom sometimes complained that my grandpa was 'unreasonable,' as he, a former Red Army soldier, never asked Tucheng's government to help his family solve difficulties in their lives. However, influenced by the honest, upright elderly man, Mom gradually understood why Grandpa exhorted us to follow the Party's leadership, and urged us not to trouble our government. Over the years, Grandpa's virtue of always putting others ahead of himself has exerted a gradual, imperceptible influence on his children's behavior and ways of thinking," says He Li.

Generations of Loyalty to Party

He Mulin never returned to his hometown after he joined the Red Army. In 2018, Lin took He Lin, her then-five-year-old granddaughter, to retrace part of the Long March, to pay tribute to the revolutionary martyrs. Despite her young age, He Lin walked more than 70 kilometers with her grandmother. "Like her great-grandfather, my daughter is a strong-willed girl," says He Li. When Lin and He Lin reached Yunmenling (a town in Huichang), He Mulin's hometown, Lin and her granddaughter met the offspring of He Mulin's siblings. Lin thought about how her father-in-law, if still alive, would have been pleased to learn his juniors had returned to his hometown, which, in a way, helped him fulfill his long-cherished dream of reuniting with his family (in Yunmenling).

Lin Chengyin and her granddaughter retrace part of the Long March, to pay tribute to the revolutionary martyrs.


In He Mulin's family, loyalty to the Party has been handed down from generation to generation. During the last 25 years of his life, He Mulin told stories about the Red Army, to more than 10,000 people. During the past several decades, Lin has devoted much effort to promoting Guizhou's "red culture;" Guizhou has a "red gene," as the Red Army established dozens of revolutionary bases in the province during the 1930s. In July 2020, He Li began working for the museum as a docent. "As the granddaughter of a former Red Army soldier, I take delight in sharing my grandpa's story with visitors from different regions of the country," says He Li.

He Li shares her grandfather's experience of fighting against the Kuomintang troops.


Photos Supplied by He Li

(Women of China English Monthly August 2021 issue)


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