Jinggang Mountain

Last updated by drwi at 2014/5/4

Jinggangshan, or Jinggang Mountain, situated in the southwestern corner of Jiangxi Province near the border to Hunan Province - and located some 350 kilometers southwest of the province's capital, Nanchang - is known mainly for its role in the Chinese Communist movement, but it is also a place of rare natural beauty, a fact that is sometimes overlooked in the eagerness to profile the mountain as "the Cradle of the Chinese Revolution", "the Cornerstone of the People's Republic of China", "the First Mountain in China", etc. Besides its well-known revolutionary-historical sites, Jinggang Mountain boasts of sites of natural wonder that can be divided into the following categories: mountains & peaks, rocks & stones, waterfalls, meteorological phenomena, karst caves, hot springs, rare animal- & plant species, and alpine rural scenery, though in the presentation below, we concentrate mainly on the mountain's peaks and waterfalls as well as its revolutionary-historical sites.

But Jinggang Mountain is first and foremost the crucible in which was formed the formula for the revolutionary success of the Chinese Communist Party under the eventual leadership of a young Mao Zedong. The revolutionary movement was principally a rural phenomenon, initially. The people in the countryside especially had suffered much under imperial rule, and their plight did not improve markedly during the period of the Republic of China. A Harvest Uprising had been staged in the autumn of 1927, but it failed. It was at this point that Mao Zedong and his forces sought refuge in the Jinggang Mountain area, where they set up the first revolutionary base of the farmers' uprising. Mao Zedong and his forces would be joined hardly six months later, in April of 1928, by a similar army led by Zhu De and Chen Yi.

These two forces linked up to form what came to be known as the Fourth Corps of the Red Army, under the leadership of Mao Zedong. Then six months later, in December of 1928, the peasant army led by Peng Dehuai in the Pingjiang area, which had also staged a brief uprising (the Pingjiang Uprising), and which had learned of the events surrounding the formation of the Fourth Corps of the Red Army, also sought refuge on Jinggang Mountain, where the forces under the leadership of Peng Dehuai formed the Fifth Corps of the Red Army.

The strategy of the Red Army thereafter was simple: to woo the farmers of rural China to their side, then to lay seige to the surrounding municipalities, which would eventually succumb to the forces of the Red Army. This pattern would be successfully repeated again and again across China until the Japanese invasion in the mid-1930s, when the forces under General Chiang Kai-shek's Kuomintang declared an uneasy truce with the Red Army forces under the leadership of Mao Zedong in order to do battle with the common enemy, the Japanese invaders.

The truce would last until the Japanese were driven out of China in 1949, after which time it broke down, as it was perhaps destined to do eventually, since the two leaders and their two forms of rule were mutually incompatible. Believing that he could oust the Chinese Communists, Chiang Kai-shek launched an all-out campaign against Mao Zedong and his Red Army, but in the end, this proved to be a bigger mouthful than Chiang Kai-shek could chew, and the Kuomintang eventually retreated to the island of Taiwan. It must also be said that the American military leaders who had aided and liaised with the Chinese forces during WWII had their share of problems with General Chiang Kai-shek, whom they considered to be something of an obtuse personality and thus a direct hindrance to greater cooperation, not only between the Kuomintang and the Red Army, but also between the American effort and the combined Chinese effort.

The total area around Jinggang Mountain controlled by the Red Army during the 1927-1931 period measured some 275 square kilometers, and consisted of Ninggang County, Yongxin County, and Lianhua County, as well as parts of Ji'an, Anfu, Suixian and Lingxian Counties. The Red Army settled at the tiny village of Ciping, making it the administrative center of this revolutionary base. Five small villages surround the settlement of Ciping, each of which village lies in a natural depression, or "well", on the mountain ridge, which has prompted the respective names of the villages, which are: Big Well, Little Well, Lower Well, Middle Well and Upper Well. In fact, the name Jinggang (or Jing Gang) itself literally means "Well Ridge". The five villages became an integral part of the Red Army base at Ciping. Furthermore, taking advantage of the special terrain in the larger area surrounding Ciping, the Red Army set up a series of strategic sentry posts corresponding to the natural barriers of Bamianshan, Huangyangjie, Shuangmashi, Tongmuling and Zhushachong.

Today, the village of Ciping, together with its five "well" villages and the village of Maoping - the latter of which served for a time as the base for the Chinese Communist Party itself - and the five aforementioned sentry posts make up the core of the revolutionary-historical sites on Jinggang Mountain. But the mountain also boasts a number of other important revolutionary-historical sites such as the Red Army Hospital, the factory which produced the Red Army military uniforms, and Jianjun ("Founding of the Army") Square as well as Huishi ("Joining Forces") Square. Jianjun Square commemorates the founding of the Fourth Corps of the Red Army, the first of the Red Army corps to be formed on Jinggang Mountain, and the army corps which was under the command of a young Mao Zedong.

When the Red Army withdrew from Jinggang Mountain in 1931, the military buildings of the Red Army were burned down, but were restored to their original state after the Communists took power in 1949. In commemoration of those who sacrificed their lives for the cause on Jinggang Mountain, a cenotaph was erected at the same time at Ciping. In addition, a Memorial Pavilion, a Tomb for the Martyrs and the Revolutionary Museum of Jinggang were built on the site at Ciping.

The mountain's natural charm lies mainly in its unspoiled beauty, and this is perhaps owing to the fact that the mountain's role in the country's revolutionary history has prevented undue commercial development on the mountain. The result is a forest so dense, especially on the mountain's highest peak, Wuzhi ("Five Fingers") Peak, that it is home to a number of special animal species which would otherwise not be present, since they are very sensitive to human encroachment. These include the bobtail monkey, the sambar (a large deer, Cervus unicolor, native to southern Asia), and the yellow-bellied Asian pheasant (genus Tragopan). Five-Fingers Peak has been designated as a provincial nature reserve, enjoying the full official protection which accompanies this status.

For example, there are no roads or paths on Five-Fingers Peak; instead, a viewing tower has been constructed on the mountain's other main peak, which faces Five-Fingers Peak across a valley (as indicated elsewhere on this website, the best view of a given mountain peak is often afforded by a neighboring mountain peak, so far from feeling cheated, the viewer should instead recognize that s/he is privvy to the absolute best view of the mountain peak in question). On the sloping valley floor between the two peaks can be seen the Jinggangshan River as it twists and turns in its race down the side of the mountain. There is also a large waterfall on the mountainside, which is visible from a great distance, its waters majestically falling like a thin silk veil, suspended in mid-air. A collection of natural lakes at the foot of Five-Fingers Peak reflect the mountain peak towering above it and the clouds that typically surround the peak.

There are a number of other waterfalls on the mountain belonging to the Longtan ("Dragon-Pond") Waterfalls group (also collectively referred to as Five-Dragon Pond), whose roar can be heard from a great distance. The first, or uppermost, Longtan Waterfall is the Jade Waterfall which drops down to Jade Pond below. The second Longtan Waterfall is the Loch-Dragon Waterfall, which is spewn out of the side of a yellowish cliff, with force, landing in Golden-Loch Pond below. Next come Pearl Waterfall and its Pearl Pond below it. Pearl Waterfall drops about 30 meters, where it hits a large boulder that breaks the water stream into a spray of thousands of droplets which glisten in the sunlight like so many pearls, hence the waterfall's name. Then comes Flying-Phoenix Waterfall with its Flying-Phoenix Pond below it, followed by Maiden Waterfall with its Maiden Pond below.

Jinggang Mountain can be enjoyed year around, though the mountain is more accessible during the spring-through-autumn period. One can see the first plum blossoms in the valley below while there is still snow on the peaks above. Birds make their presence felt everywhere, and seemingly all at once. It is not uncommon during early spring to experience dense fog in the valley, though on sunny days it often rises and burns off. When spring becomes summer, the mountain is ablaze in wild flowers in a sea of reds, yellows, and pinks, yet the mountain peaks are considerably cooler than the valley below during the most intense period of summer heat. Because this is mountainous terrain, rain showers can form quickly, spreading a scent of freshness to the air. It is rare to experience a long-lasting downpour on Jinggang Mountain. The sun generally pops out again after a shower, quickly evaporating any excess moisture.

The lushness of Jinggang Mountain and its cool temperature make it a much sought-after refuge in summer, both for Chinese as well as for foreign tourists. The thick forests on the slopes of the mountain help to preserve the coolness of the area. Patients who suffer from certain medical conditions that require a cool, non-arid climate often come here to convalesce. In winter, Jinggang Mountain is cloaked in white. The mountain offers snowy vistas as different from it's summer attire as is the nighttime view of a major metropolis when compared to the daytime view of the same city. There are as many who praise the mountain's winter attire as praise its summer attire - if not more. Jinggang Mountain is in general a peaceful site that engenders quiet contemplation and the sublime enjoyment of nature. For those who are interested in the history of China's recent past, it offers a glimpse into the famous places where the founding fathers of China's Communist movement lived, fought and died, though some lived on to devise a grand strategy for conquering the rest of the country which, as we now know, eventually succeeded.

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There are buses to Ciping which depart from a number of major regional cities, such as Nanchang, Ji'an and Sichuan. From Ciping, one can choose local buses to any and every official scenic site on the mountain.

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