Singing 'Red Ballads' to Carry Forward Revolutionary Spirit

ByLi Wenjie and Zhang Jiamin September 26, 2022

On January 29, 2020, Yu Ziyang, a student of Jinggangshan Middle School, visited the Cemetery of Red Army Martyrs, in Xiaojing (a village in Jinggangshan, a city in East China's Jiangxi Province). Xie Guibiao, Yu's great-grandfather, and Xie's comrades-in-arms "rested" in the cemetery. Yu read her speech loudly to mourn the martyrs. The girl vowed to follow in the martyrs' footsteps, and to make greater efforts to promote the Party's traditions of revolution. 

Yu has had a close bond with the cemetery since she was a little girl. It has been the "red classroom," in which her parents have told her stories about the martyrs, since she was 3 years old. The cemetery has also been the "lecture base," in which she and her mother, Chen Pingmei, have outlined the Chinese revolutionary history, and have shared the martyrs' heroic deeds with visitors (to Xiaojing).

Singing 'Red Ballads' to Carry Forward Revolutionary Spirit


Singing, Composing 'Red Ballads' 

Many Chinese walk along the meandering, uneven mountain paths in Jinggang Mountains, as they visit the tourist attraction. Many Red Army soldiers, led by then-Commander Zhu De (1886-1976), from 1927-1930 carried grain (on shoulder poles), along a path, to the Jinggangshan Revolutionary Base. Whenever Chen walks along the paths, she mourns the martyrs, who sacrificed their lives during battles. 

Chen is the grandniece of Xie Guibiao, Xie Jifeng and Xie Jihuang, who were martyrs who shed their blood and sacrificed their lives for the cause of national liberation. When she was a little girl, Chen learned many stories about the revolutionaries, and about the "red ballads (revolutionary ballads)," from Xiao Fengzhuang, Xie Guibiao's wife. 

During the past three decades, Chen has put tremendous effort into collecting revolutionaries' stories and "red ballads" in Jinggangshan. In December 2017, Jiangxi People's Publishing House published her works, Blood-Like Setting Sun — My Grandpa Xie Guibiao's Experiences in Jinggangshan and A Collection of Jinggangshan "Red Ballads." The latter contains many revolutionary ballads created by Red Army soldiers, workers and peasants from 1927-1930. Chen believes the ballads, which embody the composers' revolutionary optimism and romanticism, will touch many readers' hearts. 

Singing 'Red Ballads' to Carry Forward Revolutionary Spirit


Since 2007, Chen has volunteered at Jinggangshan Revolution Museum. She has sung "red ballads" to Chinese and foreign visitors to the museum, and she has explained the ballads' meanings to the visitors.

During the past decade, Chen has exerted every effort to help visitors better understand Jinggangshan's revolutionary history and folk customs. For example, she has sung Hakka folk songs, which she has composed, and which highlight Jinggangshan's revolutionary cultural relics, landscapes, delicacies and snacks. She has also written introductions to many popular tourist destinations in Jinggangshan. 

"I cannot remember how many visitors I have received. However, it is a fresh experience for most of the visitors to hear my introductions and/or singing. So, I devote myself to my work, every time I serve the visitors," says Chen. 

Singing 'Red Ballads' to Carry Forward Revolutionary Spirit


Sowing Seed of Love for Revolutionary Cause 

About 10 years ago, Chen took then-3-year-old Yu to Jinggangshan Revolution Museum during weekends, so Chen could take care of her daughter, as she worked as a docent at the museum. One day, Chen was pleasantly surprised when she noticed her little girl repeating her commentary. Chen was taking a break then. Many visitors (to the museum) showered praise on Yu's "passionate speech." 

"I can tell you many stories (about the Red Army soldiers), which I learned from my mom. I can also sing many revolutionary songs," Yu told the visitors. Then, the little girl sang loudly in front of the visitors. 

Since then, Chen has often taken Yu to the museum, martyrs' cemeteries and other revolutionary sites during weekends and holidays, to tell visitors stories of revolutionary martyrs. So far, Chen and Yu have told stories about the Red Army to more than 20,000 visitors. 

When she was a primary school student, Yu took delight in sharing stories about the army with visitors, from both home and abroad. She was interviewed by TV news teams from Germany, Britain and other countries.

During the past several years, Yu has sought advice from many experienced workers with Jinggangshan University and Jinggangshan Revolution Museum on how to improve her narration skills.

"My husband has always been our strongest supporter, and he has helped us record and proofread our speeches. He has also helped us analyze the advantages and disadvantages of our speeches," says Chen. 

Singing 'Red Ballads' to Carry Forward Revolutionary Spirit


Promoting Revolutionary Spirit

During the past three decades, Chen has dedicated herself to promoting the revolutionary spirit. She has visited all of the villages and revolutionary museums in Jinggangshan, to collect the "red materials." 

Chen was deeply impressed by a brave, kindhearted elderly woman, whom she interviewed several years ago. "As she suffered from rheumatism, her hands curled like an eagle's claws. You can hardly imagine such a tiny woman could carry a wounded Red Army soldier, who weighed more than twice her weight, about 7.5 kilometers from the battlefield (in Huangyangjie, an area in Jinggangshan) to her home village, Xiaojing, for treatment. Then, the woman took the man home to look after him," recalls Chen. 

She and Yu often visit women who live in a home for the elderly in Huangyangjie. During the war to defend Huangyangjie (in August 1928), the women supported the soldiers by providing them with meals and/or taking care of their wounds. 

Chen and Yu in 2021 interviewed some outstanding Party members, who were awarded memorial medals for 50-year Party membership by the CPC Central Committee last year. 

Singing 'Red Ballads' to Carry Forward Revolutionary Spirit


Chen also wrote an article to compliment Zhang Guitang, a 70-year-old Party member (in Xincheng, a village in Jinggangshan) for her selfless dedication to the Party's cause during the past five decades. 

Also in 2021, Yu wrote a story about Xie Yuanzhen, former secretary of the Party committee of Xincheng Village. During the pas t five decades, Xie has devoted her life to promoting the development of the villagers' welfare.

During the past several years, Chen has compiled teaching materials for middle school students, to promote the revolutionary spirit among the children. She has also created more than 30 plays, to promote the revolutionary spirit among the children.

"We try our best to help children, who live comfortable lives, understand the peace and prosperity we enjoy today are the result of the revolutionary martyrs, who sacrificed their blood and lives for the nation. We hope children will always remember the martyrs, learn the Party's history and have gratitude for the Party, so they will establish correct values, and become a new generation of young people capable of shouldering the mission of national rejuvenation," says Chen.


Photos Supplied by Guangzhou Women's Federation, Interviewees and VCG

(Women of China English Monthly August 2022 issue)


Please understand that,a non-profit, information-communication website, cannot reach every writer before using articles and images. For copyright issues, please contact us by emailing: The articles published and opinions expressed on this website represent the opinions of writers and are not necessarily shared by