Embracing New Life

In an old revolutionary base area, the improved living standards of local villagers are the best tribute to revolutionary martyrs

Every Tomb-Sweeping Day, Hua Congqi climbs a hill behind Huawu Village to worship a pine tree, which was planted by his father he never met. Though 87 years old this year, he still climbed the hill to observe the ritual because he wanted to tell his father about the changes in the village.

More than 80 years ago, Hua Congqi’s father and uncle joined the Red Army and died in the Long March. The simple reason they joined the revolution was to help the people live a better life. Today, villagers’ lives are getting better and better, which Hua believes is the best honor for his father and uncle.

A new look for Huawu Village. (ZHU HAIPENG)

17 Pine Trees”

Huawu, a natural village located in Huangsha Village of Yeping Township, Jiangxi Province, is well-known as a “Red Army village.” In the 1930s, some 17 young men from the village joined the Red Army, Hua Congqi’s father Hua Qincai and uncle Hua Qinliang among them.

Before leaving home, those 17 young men went to the hill behind the village to plant a pine tree each and told their family members that “seeing the pine tree is to see me.” After the Red Army’s counter-campaign against the fifth “encirclement and suppression” failed, they retreated with the Red Army and all died during the Long March.

“In those days, about 500 people were living in Huangsha Village, and more than half of them were devoted to the revolution,” said Huang Risheng, Party chief of Huangsha Village. “Some 106 villagers participated in the Long March and 104 of them died on the way. They knew it was a life-or-death choice. The 17 pine trees represent the martyrs’ belief in the success of the revolution.”

In 1934, when Hua Qincai left home for the Long March, his son Hua Congqi had not yet been born. Some 40 days later, the baby arrived. Like the family members of other 16 young men from the village who joined the Red Army, Hua Congqi knew that the pine tree was the only way to commemorate his father. “Why do others have a father, but I don’t,” he remembers asking his mother. “You go to the hill to see the pine tree,” she replied. “Seeing that pine tree is like seeing your dad.”

Next to the memorial pavilion for Red Army martyrs on the hill, the two pine trees representing Hua Congqi’s father and uncle stand side by side. After more than 80 years, these “trees of faith” planted by the martyrs have grown vigorously, stoically witnessing the changes of the old revolutionary base area.

A tourist presents a flower to one of the 17 pine trees in Huawu Village on April 3, 2020. (CAO XIANXUN

New Look

For years, Huawu remained a deeply poverty-stricken village due to wars, inadequate resources, and labor shortage. Before 2012, of the 119 families in Huawu Village, 103 still lived in adobe houses. The village was connected to the outside world only via a muddy road. The farmland irrigation system had been in disrepair for a long time, leaving the villagers to rely heavily on the weather to secure a good harvest. Nearly half of villagers were trapped in poverty. The villagers used earthen stoves, broken iron pots, and rotten bed boards, and some people even used firewood as pillows, straw raincoats as quilts, and showered in the rain.

Hua Congqi’s family was not rich either. He has four sons and two daughters. He and his six kids, his wife, and his mother once lived in three small rooms. After his children went out to work and started their own families, the family expanded to more than 20 members. Because of the lack of space, Hua Congqi’s children had to take turns returning home for Chinese New Year, so they could never have a family reunion. Hua Shuilin, second son of Hua Congqi, remembered worrying about wind and rain when they lived in adobe houses. “When the wind was strong, the tiles would blow off,” he said. “When it rained heavily outside, it leaked indoors.”

In 2012, China’s State Council approved a series of policies to support the revitalization and development of old revolutionary base areas. Seizing the great opportunity, Huawu Village moved quickly to research renovation of dilapidated houses, which was the most urgent need of villagers.

In accordance with the principles of unified planning and design, land leveling, construction, and house allocation, the village built 66 spacious and bright sets of new houses. It also paved 1.8 kilometers of asphalt roads around the village, erected 1.5 kilometers of high-voltage lines, set up a village clinic, established garbage and sewage treatment facilities, and built landscaping belts and public toilets.

The transformation left Huawu with a new look: new orderly arranged houses, crystal clear tap water, bright electric lamps replacing dim kerosene, and flat cement roads instead of winding and muddy country roads. “Huawu has changed so much!” exclaimed Huang Risheng. A village history hall was built to enable more people to understand the changes in the village.

In 2015, Hua Congqi also moved from the original adobe house into a spacious three-story house alongside the other villagers. Both the front and back of the house have flowers, trees, and a spacious layout.

Today, Huawu Village still has seven low adobe houses. Villagers were reluctant to level these structures that once housed the martyrs. After renovation, the houses have become cultural attractions for tourists to visit.

After the villagers resettled in new houses, they also needed solid work. Red tourism has developed in the village, and large-scale vegetable bases were established. The villagers grow oil-tea camellia, bamboo, fruits, and vegetables. In 2020, the per capita net income in Huawu Village reached 15,000 yuan (US$2,318), more than six times that of 2011. Hua Shuilin used to work in other places, but a few years ago, because of industrial poverty alleviation policies, he returned to the village to grow produce in greenhouses, which earns an annual net income of over 60,000 yuan (US$9,273).

In 2018, villager Hua Xiaoying registered the “Hua Momo” trademark for pickles and began pickling farmers’ fruits and vegetables to be sold across the country online. It now generates monthly sales of about 100,000 yuan (US$15,455). Hua has moved the production workshops from the city to the village to help his fellow villagers earn even more wealth.

Huawu villagers also raise bees on the gentle slopes. The honey is named “17 Pine Trees” which was also trademarked. The pine trees have served as a source of strength to escape poverty and become rich. They can testify that today’s happy life was facilitated by the sacrifice of revolutionaries.

“I want to thank the Party,” said Hua Congqi emotionally. “Under the leadership of the Party, the people of Huawu Village have really achieved happy lives.” On the main wall of the village’s memorial temple to the Red Army, the Chinese characters meaning “Always love the Party and follow the Party forever” remain striking as the villagers stand tall for the next era.

By Yuan Yanan

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