A HISTORY OF MASSACRES IN CHINA
By SEKI Hei,
A HISTORY OF MASSACRES IN CHINA
What Makes the Chinese Such Lovers of Murder?
This book is dedicated to the young comrades of my heart who fell as victims to the bullets of the Army of the Chinese Communist Party 18 years ago.
DOES THE PRESENT CHINESE GOVERNMENT HAVE
A RIGHT TO CONDEMN “NANKING”?
This year (2007) marks the 70th anniversary of the occurrence of the “Nanking Incident.”
Just as I had expected, the Chinese Communist regime has taken advantage of the
opportunity afforded by the occasion and is attempting to carry out a long-awaited
anti-Japanese campaign on a massive scale. The “Massacre Memorial Museum,” which
is currently in the process of being expanded, is scheduled for reopening to great fanfare
on December 13, in line with the commemoration of the fall of Nanking.
A number of movies on the subject of the “Nanking Incident” are now being made
and are to be screened one after another. One such movie, entitled Nanking Nanking, is
intended to serve as a “panoramic reproduction of the cruel history of the massacre and
the atrociousness of the Japanese Army.”
On top of this type of limited-period anti-Japanese campaign, the dissemination of
anti-Japanese education under the rubric of the “Nanking Incident” has long been
commonplace in China. In history lessons at middle and high schools, teaching the
“Nanking Massacre” is a “priority program.” When teachers talk about the brutal acts of
the Japanese Army in Nanking, they are always overcome with emotion and collapse in
tears. Excited students scream, smash their textbooks against the blackboard, turn their
desks upside down and fall into mass hysterics. When the class has calmed down, an
ecstatic sense of unity reportedly fills the classroom with an intense hatred against Japan
that has been generated.
Li Zhaoxing, the former Foreign Minister of China nicknamed the “Red Guard
diplomat,” also used the “Nanking Massacre” as his grounds when he criticized a
Japanese prime minister’s visits to Yasukuni Shrine by lumping the “Class A war
criminals” in the same category as Adolf Hitler.
The “Nanking Massacre” is the “flagship” of anti-Japanese propaganda and
anti-Japanese education led by the Chinese Communist regime and serves as a perfect
weapon with which to bash Japan. That is why high officials of the regime, government
scholars and the media constantly mention “Nanking” as if it were all they knew.
When uttered from the mouths of such people, however, this word never fails to
arouse my disdain. And when I contemplate how they could ever have a right to say
such a thing, I am gripped by a deep revulsion of their odiousness.
The credibility of the claims of an alleged “Nanking Massacre” of 70 years ago is
quite questionable. But only 18 years ago, a real massacre was undoubtedly carried out
in China: a “Beijing massacre” called the “Tiananmen Incident.”
Who executed the indiscriminate slaughter of unarmed students and civilians who
were peacefully appealing for democratization in the early summer of 1989 by
randomly firing machine guns and even going as far as to send tank regiments? No one
else but the Chinese Communist regime. The Communist Party is a genuine murderer.
To cover up its own crime of massacre, however, the Communist Government made a heinous criminal out of Japan and began a major anti-Japanese propaganda effort in the1990s following the Tiananmen Incident. Above all, the “Nanking Massacre” has been brought forth as compelling evidence that proves the “crime” committed by Japan and provides fuel to add to the hatred against the Japanese.
In other words, the Communist Government, a really murderous entity, is trying to
erase the bloodshed in Beijing from history by making loud noises about a “massacre”
in Nanking. The regime is attempting to divert the grudge directed at itself by imbuing
the Chinese public with a strong sense of hatred against Japan.
Remarkably, the massacre at Tiananmen Square in Beijing has now vanished from the memory of the Chinese people. The traces of brilliance and the glorious struggles of my comrades who sacrificed their young lives for the democratization of China are about to be concealed in the darkness of history. For me, who was once committed to the pro-democracy movement together with my comrades of Tiananmen, this is absolutely unacceptable.
In China, there is an age-old phrase, zei han zhuo zei, which means he who cries
“Stop the thief” is the thief himself. The Communist Government’s resort to zei han
zhuo zei in their attempt to whitewash “Tiananmen” by bringing up “Nanking” is
something that truly arouses the spirit of righteous anger in me.
This being the case, why don’t I thoroughly reveal what great massacres this same
Communist Government has carried out during its history, including the bloodshed at
Tiananmen? This is the basic idea behind my resolution to write this book. I would like
to uncover the truths of history for the sake of my comrades who met their glorious fate
as well as for the hundreds of millions of my fellow Chinese who were killed in cruel
Of course, to dig down to uncover the deeper causes of the great many massacres
committed by the Chinese Communist Party, it is also necessary to trace the history and
traditions of China that gave birth to this murderous regime and to clarify how the
notion and logic of “massacre” were originally spawned and how they have been
handed down since.
Accordingly, this book provides a compilation of detailed studies of the “history of
massacres in China” since the time of the First Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi with the
history of massacres by the CCP covered in detail. In compiling it, I have attempted to
cast some light on some dark corners of history that have generally been ignored.
Alternately, the book can be seen as another account of the history of China with the
focus on “massacres.”
Nothing would give me greater pleasure if this writing could be of any help to
readers in coming to an understanding of the essence of the “Nanking issue” and the
characteristics of the Chinese Communist Government.
PREFACE: DOES THE PRESENT CHINESE GOVERNMENT HAVE
A RIGHT TO CONDEMN “NANKING” 2
CHAPTER 1: HOW THE CHINESE COMMUNIST PARTY AROSE
OUT OF MASS KILLING 7
Revolution is “Killing in Conspiracy with Scoundrels” 7
The Horrendous Reality of Yicun Yishao Yisha 11
To Kill the “Enemy,” Start with a Friend 14
The “Great Purge of the Red Army”?The Execution of 10,000 Men by Mao 18
How 70,000 “Revolutionary Comrades” were Slaughtered 22
“Starvation Tactics” that Caused 330,000 Residents of Changchun to Die of Hunger
CHAPTER 2: THE COMMUNIST GOVERNMENT AMUSING
ITSELF BY SLAUGHTERING ITS OWN PEOPLE 26
“Land Reform Activity” That Took the Lives of Two Million People 26
The Zhenfan Massacre Involving the Immediate Execution of 710,000 People 27
The Sad Fate of a University Professor Shot to Death for a Preposterous Reason 32
The Sufan Campaign?Slaughter as “Entertainment” 35
The Great Famine Claiming Tens of Millions of Lives Caused by a “Policy” 38
“Food Exportation amid Starvation”?the Crime of the Century 42
CHAPTER 3: HOW THE CULTURAL REVOLUTION PERIOD
CREATED A “MURDERER’S PARADISE” 47
Mao Zedong’s Last “Dipi Liumang Revolution” 47
Pohai Zhisi?Mass Slaughter on a National Scale 49
Middle School Teachers Beaten to Death 52
Pre-Holiday “Murder Festivals” Became Customary 55
Mass Murder of Incidents for the Sake of Exterminating “Class Enemies” 61
CHAPTER 4: CRUEL TALES OF MASSACRES MAKING THE
PAGES OF THE IMPERIAL HISTORY OF CHINA 66
The Tyranny of the Qin Empire That Carried out “Three Types of Massacres” 66
The Han Empire’s 400-year History Filled with Intrigue and Killings 70
Bloodthirsty Power Holders in Turbulent Times 77
Great Blood Purges Reiterated in the Ming Empire 84
CHAPTER 5: BLOODCURDLING INDISCRIMINATE MASSACRES
IN THE HISTORY OF CHINA 89
The “Great Sichuan Massacre” Began with the Killing of a Million People 89
“Murder Competition” Within Zhang Xianzhong’s Army Brought About the
Annihilation of the Population 93
The Manchus’ War of Conquest Garnished with “Castle Slaughter” 99
The Taiping Rebellion and the Genuine “Nanking Massacre” 105
The Tiananmen Incident: A “Beijing Massacre” of Only 18 Years Ago 108
AFTERWORD: THE LOGIC OF MASSACRE BORN OUT OF THE
CHINESE DYNASTIES 114
HOW THE CHINESE COMMUNIST PARTY AROSE OUT
OF MASS KILLING
Revolution is “Killing in Conspiracy with Scoundrels”
In July 1921, the Chinese Communist Party held the First Congress in Shanghai and was inaugurated as the China branch of the Comintern. This marked the dawn of the longest period of the largest-scale of violence and bloodshed in Chinese history.
According to the Leninist-Stalinist theory of revolution, “evil” capitalist society is a
system in which the tiny capitalist class employs a violent power apparatus to exploit
the working class. To demolish this unreasonable system and liberate the working class,
the working class itself must first become organized. Then the “apparatus of violence”
must be destroyed by means of violence.
In other words, revolution is the “destruction of violence with violence.” Of course
the Communist Party, or the vanguard of the working class, is also an elite unit of this
revolution by force and is afforded the privilege of exercising violence to the fullest extent.
This extreme theory of revolution provided endorsement of the heightened level of
violence of the revolution and of the tyranny of the Communist Party. Lenin’s Russian
Revolution, which cost the lives of tens of millions of people and is known for its
unprecedented atrocities, was the first “experiment in revolution by force” in human
Then, an international organization was established for expanding the Russian
Revolution across the entire world: Comintern. The CCP, which was formed as a tool of
this organization, naturally inherited the DNA of the revolution by force. This
contention has been amply borne out by the history of the Party since the second half of
It may be a twist of fate that the development of the CCP was assisted by the
Kuomintang (Nationalist Party; abbreviation KMT) of Sun Yat-sen, which was aiming
for a moderate nationalist revolution. In 1924, Sun, who had suffered a series of
setbacks in his revolutionary activities and resolved to join hands with the devil in order to accomplish his goal, made an alliance with the Comintern and received its
support. As a quid pro quo condition stated by the Comintern, the KMT incorporated
the newly born CCP, which brought about the KMT-CCP Alliance (First United Front).
For some time after that, the CCP employed a strategy of parasitically feeding on and
infiltrating its Kuomintang host to increase its own strength.
In 1927, after the death of Sun, the KMT Army, led by Chiang Kai-shek, advanced
from its base in Guangdong Province in southern China and moved northwards. This
was the beginning of the Northern Expedition. The KMT Army defeated one local
warlord after another in its efforts to form a national government, in the process of
which the CCP’s plan to take over the new government came to light. While the central
KMT with Chiang at the helm was already proceeding with preparations for the
establishment of a new government based in Nanking, the CCP conspired with leftists within the KMT to separately form its own “revolutionary government” in Wuhan. Completely enraged, Chiang took the decisive measure of performing a thorough search
for Communists who had infiltrated the KMT and the KMT Army to expel them.
This purge within the nationalist forces, known in China as qingdang, carried out
by Chiang, took the away the CCP’s bases, which responded by developing a strategyof mounting insurrections to form an independent power base. Firstly, in August 1927, the central committee of the Party led by Zhou Enlai hijacked part of the KMT Army to instigate an insurrection in Nanchang, Jiangxi Province and declared the establishment of the CCP Army.
Subsequently, towards the end of rice harvesting season of the same year, Mao Zedong, who had been working on the “peasant movement” in the rural areas of Hunan Province, organized an army of peasants to conduct the well-known Autumn Harvest Uprising.
However, both of these insurrections resulted in failure. The stragglers of the peasant army led by Mao made good on their escape at the same time engaging in repeated looting to secure food supplies and abduction to replenish their armed forces.
Eventually, they reached the Jinggangshan Mountains in the outlands of southern
There, Mao and his men won over two bandit chieftains named Wang Zuo and Yuan
Wencai, who had earlier occupied the mountains, and looked to them for assistance in
order to survive in the mountains. Some time later, a number of cadres including Wang
Zuo and Yuan Wencai were killed one after another and more than 600 of their
followers were absorbed into Mao’s army. In this way, Jinggangshan fell neatly into
Mao’s hands and the CCP’s first “stronghold of revolution” was established.
In the following year, April 1928, the Communist army, led by Zhu De, who had rebelled in Nanchang, came to Jinggangshan with a force of 10,000 men and joined Mao’s army. Having gained momentum, the CCP Army (which became known as the Red Army from this time onward) came down from the mountains in the summer to
successively capture towns and villages in the surrounding areas, thereby extending the “stronghold of revolution”.
In addition to Mao’s Red Army, a number of other “Red Armies” of different origins
were formed one after another in neighboring areas and developed their own
By the autumn of 1931, the Red Army, which had fought to the end a succession of civil conflicts against punitive forces dispatched by Chiang, occupied vast rural areas stretching across parts of Jiangxi, Hubei, Hunan and Fujian Provinces, centered on
Mao Zedong’s “Central Red Army” and its stronghold. Now it was ready to establish the
Chinese Soviet Republic Provisional Government.
This was how the remnant of the CCP, which had managed to survive through its
“affiliation” with the bandits of Jinggangshan only three years earlier, came to the
forefront as a major political power.
It was in the process of expanding this “revolutionary power” that recurring mass slaughters and atrocities unfolded. Let us take a closer look at these incidents.
In July 1927, the Central Committee of the CCP produced an official document
entitled “Resolution on Insurrection” on the occasion of the abovementioned Nanchang
Uprising and Autumn Harvest Uprising, which outlined the actions to be taken
following the uprising:
“We must kill every single counterrevolutionary soldier.”
“We must slaughter all reactionary officials.”
“We must annihilate tuhao lieshen.”
Quite literally, this document was an open declaration of their intent to murder.
The “counterrevolutionary soldiers” and “reactionary officials” in these statements
respectively referred to the soldiers of the KMT Army and the officials of the newly
established Nationalist government. The uprisings by the CCP were military revolts
against the KMT Government and so their intention to kill soldiers and officials of the
regime they opposed was not impossible to comprehend. However, a problem existed with respect to the tuhao lieshen, who the CCP single out for “annihilation”.
Tuhao lieshen, a phrase coined by the CCP, literally translates as “local bullies and
evil gentry,” in other words, landowners and long-established households and wealthy
families living in rural communities.
In China, it had long been a fundamental principle not to allow the central government rule of political affect rural communities. The social order of rural areas had generally been maintained by autonomy centered on landowners and wealthy men. Most of these people possessed stable assets, read Confucian literature, steeped themselves in culture and common sense and preserved the stability and peace of their communities as men of good standing.
People of this class were regarded with strong hostility and named as targets for
extermination by the CCP in the Resolution on Insurrection.
There were two essential reasons for this. Based on the theory of communist
revolution by force, one of the objectives of revolution was the eradication of the
capitalist class. In the case of China, however, the objective was slightly different. In
those days, most of the urban areas were under the control of the KMT government
while the CCP was laying low in the rural areas. However, there was no capitalist class,
such as mill owners, in the rural villages. So, as an alternative target, the tuhao lieshen
became easy prey for the forces of revolution.
The other reason was quite simple. The CCP, which fled into rural areas, set forth as
its immediate objective the establishment of strongholds based in rural areas to start its
own regime, but there were few resources available to accomplish this goal. Providing
for the important Red Army required an immense amount of money.
Accordingly, the CCP turned to a scheme that would enable it to easily secure
resources: the systematic pillaging of the tuhao lieshen, who were one of the targets to be overthrown in the revolution. Stripping them of all their assets and cash would be
enough to sustain the CCP for the time being. Seizing their lands for allotments farmed
by ordinary peasants would allow the collection of “annual tributes” at harvest time,
which would provide stable resources. This brilliant idea would therefore “kill two birds
with one stone” for the CCP.
Mao and his cohorts, who had come down from the Jinggangshan Mountains and
were pushing forward with the expansion of the “strongholds of the revolution,” rapidly carried out this great plan. Da tuhao, fen tiandi (Destroy local bullies, share fields
and land)?the slogan of revolution they employed at that time?was an admission of
their policy of robbery.
Needless to say, they had to wipe out all tuhao lieshen in addition to robbing them.
Thus, the revolution began with massacre and robbery.
To slaughter the tuhao lieshen in localities, the CCP, as “strangers” needed local
collaborators. The people who Mao and his cohorts chose as their collaborators or “tools
of the revolution” were the thugs and scoundrels of the local communities, the class
who are referred to as dipi liumang in Chinese. As Mao himself once said in the Hunan
nongmin yundong kaocha baogao (Report on an Investigation of the Peasant Movement
in Hunan): “The dipi liumang, who have up to now been abominated in society, are the
bravest and most dedicated participants of rural revolution.”
In other words, Mao and his cohorts attempted to carry through a “rural revolution”
by joining hands with, or using as tools, scoundrels who had been “abominated” by their
Unlike the wealthy men who possessed education and common sense or the simple,
ordinary peasants of good nature and faith, these scoundrels tended to be nasty villains
lacking in humanity. In addition, they harbored envy and hatred towards affluent
families with established assets and a high level of culture.
Then, along came the CCP Army, which supported the scoundrels and gave them a
rationalization for engaging in massacre and robbery under the slogan of “revolution.”
Not surprisingly, the scoundrels in no time turned into vicious and bloodthirsty criminal groups.
In this way, the ruthless logic of “revolution by force” that the CCP had inherited was combined with evil criminal groups called dipi liumang to raise the curtain on rural revolution” in Mao’s way.
The Horrendous Reality of Yicun Yishao Yisha
In the process of expanding the strongholds of the revolution, the Red Army, led by
Mao Zedong, turned its “action policy” into an expressed provision: Yicun yishao yisha,
waijia quan moshou, which translates as “In one village, kill one local bully, burn down
one house and confiscate all of his possessions.” The Red Army and subordinate
scoundrels were more than happy to faithfully carry out the “action policy”.
Gong Chu, who was once a high-ranking official of the Red Army, has recorded the actual occurrences of massacre and robbery he witnessed. Gong broke away from the Red
Army and fled to Shanghai, where he produced a book entitled The Red Army and I.
The following is the description given by him of the procedure of yicun yishao yisha.
We approach a village before dawn, besiege the entire village and wait for the break of
day. When the morning comes, we use a dipi of the village won over to our side
beforehand to act as a guide and get him to call all dipi of the village to gather. We
acquire detailed information about the landowner of the village from them and tell
them what course of action to take.
We start our action at the timing when the whole family is presumed to sit together for breakfast. First we break into the landowner’s house together with the dipi
and confine all family members in one place, which is immediately followed by a
search of the entire house.
Gold and silver nuggets, land title deeds and cash are the first things to be withheld.
When they are not found, the head of the family is taken to a separate room and
interrogated as to their locations. Needless to say, he will be severely tortured if he does
not disclose the information. If he still keeps silent, we threaten him by saying, “Your
family will be killed unless you let tell us.” That is usually enough to give us all we are after. Gold and silver nuggets and cash will come into our possession, the
Red Army. As practice, other household belongings will be given to the dipi who
have offered their cooperation.
The house of the landowner is the only thing that the Red Army cannot take away. It
cannot be split up for distribution, either, and so it will be burned down.
What remains to be done is the disposal of the land. We gather all the villagers in the
village common and burn all the land title deeds taken out from the landowner’s house.
Then we tell the villagers that they can have all the land for free and they must pay us,
the Red Army, the land tax (annual tribute) without fail. Blessed with pennies from
heaven, the villagers shout for joy and crow with delight?a very familiar sight. At
that time, if we need any replenishment of troops, we may levy healthy young men
from the villagers in exchange for land allocation.
Last of all, a spectacular fete is arranged. We drag the landowner, who has been kept
under confinement, out to the common and have the villagers hold a trial. Then, just as
has been prearranged, some of the dipi come forward and denounce in tears and with
resentment one crime after another that has been routinely committed by the
landowner. Most of them are probably fabricated cock-and-bull stories but we the Red
Army as the organizer naturally do not bother to inquire as to whether they are true or
false. What we need are that the crimes and the charges are in place.
Then, there comes “the moment.”
Our facilitator asks the villagers in a loud voice,
“What shall we do with such a sinful tuhao lieshen?” The dipi raise their fists all at
once and shout with all their might,
“Kill him! Kill him! Kill him!”
The facilitator yells the question a second time,
“Now, I will ask all of you again. Should this man be killed?”
After a moment of silence, we, soldiers of the Red Army, the dipi and all the villagers present
this time around raise our fists simultaneously and scream,
“Kill him! Kill him!”
That determines the fate of the landowner. At the command of the leader of the
troops, a soldier steps forward and immediately conducts the execution. He does not
fire from a distance because a precious bullet will be wasted if he misses the target.
The procedure of execution always consists of bringing the landowner to his knees on
the ground and pointing the rifle obliquely downward to his head and finishing him with
one shot. A bang is heard, half of the landowner’s head is blown off in front of our
eyes and a mixture of white brain and red blood scatters all over the common; case
closed. The day’s mission is accomplished. Needless to say, the village subsequently
becomes part of our Red Area and the dipi automatically become village leaders.
The yicun yishao yisha action policy of rural revolution was carried out in successive stages and the “stronghold of revolution” of the CCP Red Army steadily expanded.
It is recorded that by 1933, the strongholds developed by the CCP Red Army, or the
area under the rule of the Chinese Soviet Republic Provisional Government, had spread
to cover a vast region with a population of 36 million; an “achievement” accomplished
in just five years from 1928.
The total number of landowners and wealthy men killed in accordance with the yicun yishao yisha policy allegedly amounted to 100,000, based on research conducted after the Red Army was defeated by the KMT Government Army and forced to abandon all strongholds and flee.
The number of people in the area ruled by the CCP Red Army in its prime was 36
million, which means that about one out of every 360 residents were killed under the
policy. In those days the average population of a village in rural China was about 300
and “100,000″ as the number of executed people is in line with what would be expected
under yicun yishao yisha. So this figure appears to be a good approximation of the truth.
In short, the most extreme robbery and massacre of the kind recounted by the
aforementioned former official of the Red Army was repeated 100,000 times over the
course of five years. A hundred thousand bloody, ferocious murders as described by the
phrase “a bang is heard, half of the landowner’s head is blown off in front of our eyes”
were performed by the CCP and the Red Army. Revolution consists of such atrocious acts.
Incidentally, “kill one local bully in one village” was strictly an “action policy”
implemented in rural areas. Things were different when urban areas were occupied.
For example, the Red Army took control of the city of Ji’an in Jiangxi Province in
September 1930 and occupied it for 45 days. According to records, they slaughtered
over 10,000 civilians during that period. Announcements of executions were reportedly
posted many times each day on the wall of a building in the center of the city and filled
with the names of those to be executed.
The progress of the CCP’s revolution by force was nothing but a history of mass
murder from the initial stage.
To Kill the “Enemy,” Start with a Friend
The targets of mass murder by Mao Zedong and his cohorts were not limited to the
tuhao lieshen. On occasion attacks were aimed at many of their own “comrades” within the CCP and the Red Army.
The Great Purge orchestrated by Stalin in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union is historically well known and the CCP, which was established in emulation of its Soviet progenitor, inherited perfectly the idea of the “purge,” a specialty of the Communist Party, as a weapon to be used in a power struggle within the organization.
In 1930, the first internal purge in the CCP’s history was carried out, led by Mao as
the mastermind. This was the AB League Purge, in which 70,000 “revolutionary
comrades” of the Red Army were mercilessly murdered on absolutely false charges.
Let me first explain the background of this incident. As was described earlier, in
addition to the Red Army led by Mao and his stronghold, there were a number of
different Red Army forces that had their own strongholds in the surrounding areas at
that time. One of these forces based in an area of the southwestern part of Jiangxi
Province was the Jiangxi Red Army led by Li Wenlin.
The AB League Purge was an incident that grew out of the power struggle between
Mao and the Jiangxi Red Army commanded by Li Wenlin.
To facilitate understanding of what was involved in this power struggle, the
following explanation of the organizational structure of the entire CCP in those days
may be useful.
In 1930, Mao was one of the top-ranking officials and central figures of the Red
Army but he had not yet established himself as its supreme leader. At that time, the
central leading body of the CCP was not located in any of the strongholds developed by
the Red Army but was far away in the foreign concession in Shanghai. The CCP was
just one branch of the Comintern and the headquarters needed to be located in Shanghai,
a cosmopolitan city, so that directions from the Comintern could be delivered. In
addition, the extraterritoriality of the foreign concession ensured safety by providing
protection from Chiang Kai-shek’s KMT government.
In other words, the power structure was unusual in that the head of the CCP in
the “Safety Zone” in Shanghai received directions from the Comintern and remotely
supervised the Red Army and Party organizations which were based in remote rural
areas in the provinces. Incidentally, one of the top officials of the central body of the
Party in Shanghai was Zhou Enlai.
In this scheme, Mao and his Red Army and Li and his Jiangxi Red Army were forces of exactly equal rank. They were related, so to speak, as two different branch offices of the Shanghai Headquarters of the Communist Party. Under normal circumstances, the two should have been working in alliance with each other as comrades of revolution and in cooperation striving to accomplish their common “revolutionary ideal.” Mao, however, had different ideas.
He had been dissatisfied with the remote supervision by the Party’s central body in
Shanghai and he felt that he himself, as the one who had developed from scratch the first stronghold of revolution, deserved to be the supreme leader of the CCP and the Red
Army. Indeed, motivated as he was by political ambition, Mao had been steadily
proceeding with preparations to gain control of the Party and the Red Army.
Mao saw as his first goal the integration of the strongholds with himself as the boss. His intention was to lay his hands on all of the different Red Armies and their strongholds
and maintain them under his own control. Then he would be the sole power of the CCP
and the Army, such that the central body in Shanghai, which had neither bases nor military forces, would have no choice but to go along with whatever he said.
The first target Mao had his eyes on was Li Wenlin’s Jiangxi Red Army and
stronghold. Seizing Li’s stronghold to incorporate into his own stronghold would create
a large and invincible force.
Accordingly, Mao approached Li’s Jiangxi Red Army in the autumn of 1929.
At first, this took the form of attempts to persuade Li into integration based on “solid unity for the sake of achieving the common revolutionary ideal” accompanied by empty promises along the lines of “You and the officials of the Jiangxi Red Army would surely be treated well if you agreed to join hands with us.” However, Li and the officials under him flatly refused the invitation. Among people in the Party and the Red Army, the perfidious mind of Mao was already well known, and noone among them was foolish enough to walk into this particular trap.
At the same time, Mao sent several letters to the central body of the CCP in Shanghai to stress the importance of integrating the strongholds in order to counter the KMT Army as one. However, the central CCP paid no attention to him either,
because it was operationally easier for the central CCP to control the different Red Armies and strongholds as discrete entities.
With his various schemes ending in failure, in the spring of 1930, Mao finally
resolved to carry out a pivotal conspiracy. He decided to take extreme action, which went beyond the bounds of anybody’s imagination, to accomplish his aim.
The action in question was a great purge of Li and the officials of the Jiangxi Red
Army under him, who had opposed integration. On one occasion, Mao personally killed two bandit chieftains Wang Zuo and Yuan Wencai, who were occupying Jinggangshan, and commandeered their soldiers and base. Mao intended to apply this crudest of methods in dealing with the officials of the Jiangxi Red Army, who were supposed to be his own “revolutionary comrades.” “Stop at nothing to accomplish the ends” was a consistent principle underlying Mao’s behavior.
However, Li Wenlin and the Jiangxi Red Army were far from mere bandits like Wang Zuo. On the contrary, they were genuine officials of the CCP and the Red Army and peerless revolutionaries. Accordingly, a plausible reason and a pretext of some kind were necessary to purge them.
Having devised a strategy, Mao suddenly came up with the dubious “AB League”.
The AB League was originally a voluntary organization formed by a group of KMT
officials in 1926. As described earlier, the CCP at that time was penetrating and
encroaching on the KMT. Some KMT volunteers, who were on alert against this covert
activity, organized the AB League to keep CCP infiltration in check. In 1927, however,
Chiang threw the Communists out of the KMT organization en masse by qingdang, so
the raison d’?tre of the League disappeared and the League itself was dissolved by the
summer of the same year.
Basically, the AB League was a defunct anticommunist organization that had
disappeared three years earlier. Incidentally, the “AB” in the organization name stood
for “Anti-Bolshevik,” or “anticommunist.”
In 1930, this anticommunist group did not exist; it was in every sense a thing of the
Nevertheless, Mao took full advantage of this reliquiae for the purpose of purging Li
and the Jiangxi Red Army. He claimed that the “AB League” still existed, and that it had infiltrated into the Red Army and its strongholds in an effort to penetrate the Party and Red Army structures.
On the grounds of dubious “confessions” and “testimonies” he himself had fabricated, Mao compiled a shocking “investigation report” stating that the AB League had already permeated throughout the Jiangxi Red Army led by Li and held a majority of the high positions of the Army. In fact, this was a total falsehood that contained not a single grain of truth and it is clear that the assertion was a deceptive ploy made on Mao’s behalf.
He attached a private letter to this fabricated investigative report and sent both off to
the central body of the Party in Shanghai. He offered his opinion that all of the AB
League members who had infiltrated the Jiangxi Red Army must be identified and
purged in order to rescue the Party and the Red Army from crisis. He presumed that
if the central CCP agreed to the suggested purge, the distant central body would end
up delegating the “mission” to him, which was precisely his aim.
However, the central body of the Party was not so easily hoodwinked. Mao’s tale, which seemed highly implausible, set everybody wondering. As a result of its deliberation, the central body sent Mao a reply purporting that he should present more
evidence of his claim that the AB League had infiltrated the Army. In addition, the
central body confronted Mao with a sharp question: if the AB League had been so thoroughly infiltrated the Jiangxi Army, has the Army led by you not been infiltrated as well?
Mao now found himself in a tight spot. If he proved unable to show solid evidence of the existence of the AB League in the Red Army, his own position as the creator of a
suspicious claim would be placed in jeopardy, rendering the purge of Li Wenlin and his
fellow officers a fantasy. How could he get himself out of this bind?
What Mao did next could even be described as impressive. He implemented
turnabout measures to revive his fortunes. If the central CCP told him to “show more
evidence,” he could produce as much evidence as need. Amazingly, he did just that
in his own Red Army. If he actually smoked out and presented “AB League members who had infiltrated” the Red Army under his control, the central body would no longer be able to cast doubt on his claims.
The “infiltration of the AB League into the Red Army” was Mao’s own invention and, naturally, there was no such organization in his own Red Army. In full knowledge of that fact, Mao was determined to “expose” nonexistent AB League members
secretly within the Red Army organization he himself led.
His intention was to lay false charges against some of the subordinates and soldiers
who had been following him early on, a plan that demonstrated the evil-hearted “revolutionary leader” he was.
Mao carried out this plan without scruple. In May 1930, he established a dedicated
“investigation team” and initiated an “AB League exposure” campaign in the First Front
Army he himself commanded.
The technique of the investigation was very simple. First, a Red Army official entrusted with his confidence would be instigated to make a false accusation that “so-and-so is in fact a member of the AB League,” based on which “so-and-so” would be arrested. So-and-so would then be severely tortured and forced into disclosing all of his “AB League associates.” He would be tortured until death unless he gave out the information and, in most cases, he would give in to the agony and make a “confession.”
Of course, the “AB League associates” did not exist in the first place and so the
confessor would wind up randomly mentioning the names of people he detested or of
people he simply thought of off the top of his head. Once the names of five or six
people had been prized out of the confessor, the investigation team would waste no time
in arresting those people and drawing “confessions” out of them in a similar fashion. In
this way, a series of false accusations would lead to successive “exposures” of AB
League members that did not literally exist.
As a result of the “thorough” exposure that went on for one month, out of the more than 40,000 officials and soldiers of the Fist Front Army under Mao, more than 400 “AB League members” were “successfully” identified. Of those, more than 30 “AB League officials” were immediately executed. Those people included many Red Army officials who had been disaffected by Mao’s methodology despite their subordination to his rule.
The “Great Purge of the Red Army”?The Execution of 10,000 Men by Mao
With this brilliant “achievement” under his belt, Mao sent his trusted assistant to central CCP headquarters in Shanghai bearing a set of documents “on the actual state of the penetration of the AB League,” including a list of the “exposed” AB League members and of those executed and a report prepared based on the confessions of numerous “confessors.”
This time around, the central body had to mount a serious response. It was the last
thing any of the top officials of the CCP could imagine that Mao had fabricated the
accusations that drove many of his own men to death. And so, faced with the list and the
report “on the actual state” submitted by Mao, the leaders of the CCP had no other
choice but to accept that the “penetration by the AB League into the Red Army” was a
real phenomenon. After all, Mao Zedong had performed an extraordinary service for the
revolution by leading the development of the strongholds and he was also the most
powerful man in the Red Army.
The central body listened to Mao’s assertions and then made a grave decision:
activities to purge members of the AB League must be promptly implemented
throughout the CCP and the Red Army. “The AB League has already widely penetrated Party and Red Army structures,” they stated in confirmation of Mao’s claims. “In particular, the condition of the Jiangxi Red Army is critical.”
The breakthrough for the implementation of the “purging activities” was naturally directed to the Jiangxi Red Army led by Li Wenlin. The central CCP resolved to bestow
absolute authority on Mao to undertake the purge of the Jiangxi Red Army and
communicated their decision to both Mao and Li.
Things worked out just as Mao had planned. He immediately formed the Sufan
weiyuanhui (the Committee for Eliminating Counterrevolutionaries) with his right-hand
man Li Shaojiu in the position of chairman and dispatched it to the Jiangxi Red Army.
The mission of the Committee was to conduct the thorough “purging of the AB League,” within the Jiangxi Red Army based on the resolution of the central CCP.
Incidentally, one of the Committee members was a young man called Zeng Shan,
who would later become the head of the espionage organization of the CCP; Zeng
Qinghong, the Vice-President of the People’s Republic of China from 2003, is his son.
In December 1930, the Sufan weiyuanhui led a fully armed “special maneuver” unit and reached Futian, the stronghold of the Jiangxi Red Army. The Committee promptly convened the top officials of the Jiangxi Red Army to hold a meeting, removed Li from
his post and declared the transfer of full authority over the Jiangxi Red Army to the
Sufan weiyuanhui. This step was undertaken based on the resolution of the central body of the Party and Li and the officials under him had no other choice but to accept it without complaint. Defying the order would have turned Li and the Jiangxi Red Army into “insurgents” within the Red Army.
The “search for the AB League” with the objective of purging its members began.
The technique for obtaining names was exactly the same as the one Mao applied to his
own First Front Army: successive exposures through false accusations and forced
confessions. Furthermore, the targets of exposure this time were the officials of a totally
different Red Army, and therefore “utter strangers,” and so the Committee implemented
a relentless and beastly methodology.
First, they arrested eight top officials of the Jiangxi Red Army including Li Wenlin
and tortured them night and day. Immediately after lashing their bloodstained bodies, salt was sprinkled. Sharp bamboo spikes were driven under the fingernails. Incense sticks were lit for the purpose of slowly roasting the face. The Committee members tormented their charges with the zeal of as if they thoroughly enjoyed inflicting pain. The scenes of the torture could best be described as the purest of hell.
If unable to obtain the confessions it wanted even by these barbaric methods, the
Committee arrested the wives of the prisoners and inflicted still more horrifying tortures on them right in front of their husbands. Committee members used lit incense sticks to scorch their nipples and private parts and knives to shave their breasts, little by little, in the same manner as in peeling an apple. The cries and screams of the women subjected to this kind of torture of severity beyond all imagination are said to have echoed throughout the town all through the night.
Just one night of this degree of torture was enough to eventually reduce the Red Army officials, all full-grown men, to wailing children. They would be forced to ask for their torturers for “forgiveness” and “confess” everything just as they were led to say.
The confessions of the the top eight officials of the Jiangxi Red Army were a treasure trove for the Committee. Starting the next day, “AB League assault arrests” were promptly conducted by the elite unit of the secret police under the command of the Committee. More than two hundred officials of different levels were arrested in one day. The torture of the “newcomers” began on the evening of that same day.
As a result of a series of operations that went on for five days, more than 1,200
people from the Jiangxi Red Army were arrested, including most of the officials
affiliated with Li Wenlin. According to the investigation carried out by the Sufan
weiyuanhui, the 1,200 “AB League members” had planned a “counterrevolutionary riot,” to be led by Li and the members of the headquarters, and the organization of the corps and even the new battle flag for the riot that was to be fomented had been determined. Needless to say, this entire scenario was totally fabricated.
Following the arrests came execution by firing squad. This had been precisely Mao’s
ultimate aim from the start. Soon after it reached Futian, the Committee had proclaimed
an “Urgent Notice concerning the Purge of the AB League,” a document originally
drafted by Mao himself and contained the official sanction for murder: “Officials of any
rank found to be members of the AB League must be executed immediately. As for
general members, those deemed especially dangerous may be executed as required.” In
keeping with these orders, the Committee and the “special maneuver” unit did not hesitate. Of the 1,200 arrested, they immediately executed about 400 people presumed to be officials or those individuals they particularly wanted dead?by blowing away half of their head off with a bullet.
They kept Li and a few high officials alive for some time. They waited until their
boss Mao arrived at the site as the victor so that they could convene a grand kangaroo
court to kill them.
However, the sheer scale of the Committee’s atrocity finally compelled some
members of the victimized Jiangxi Red Army to rise up.
In the 20th Red Army (20th Division of the Red Army), there was a popular leader
named Liu Di. He himself was not a target of the purge but many of his supervisors,
colleagues and subordinates had been arrested and killed. With the support of many
infuriated subordinates, Liu resolved to mount a coup d’etat against the Sufan
weiyuanhui. He secretly entered Futian with a mass of troops and enveloped the
members of the Committee and their special maneuver unit in order to arrest them all at once.
Liu Di released all of the arrestees who had survived execution and declared their
innocence. Meanwhile, he kept the members of the Committee and the special
maneuver unit alive and drove them back to Mao’s stronghold in order to avoid a frontal
clash with Mao’s powerful forces.
Fortunately, the supreme commander Li Wenlin was still alive and the Jiangxi Red
Army gathered together under his command and recovered its strength. They then
pleaded their innocence to the central body of the Party in Shanghai and sought
arbitration by the central body.
Li and his men were over-optimistic. Under the circumstances of the situation, there
was no possibility that the central body would listen to what Li had to say. After all, it
was the central body of the Party that had put its seal of approval on Mao’s claim of
“AB League infiltration” and granted him the authority to carry out the purge.
Recognizing that this had been a mistake would have been suicidal for the central body.
In addition, the central body was in the position of never tolerating the action of a force
that had launched a coup d’etat
The central body and Mao Zedong were already in cahoots. In response to the sudden change in the position of the Jiangxi Red Army, an emergency conference was held between the central body and Mao, at which they agreed to take concerted action.
First, the central body dispatched a delegation to the “border region,” the stronghold
of the Jiangxi Red Army. Then they summoned Li, Liu and other officials under the
pretext of holding a conference for arbitration. Li and his cohorts, who still had
confidence in the central body, entered the “conference room,” in which all were
immediately arrested. In this manner, these officials of the Red Army, faithful fighters of the Party, were caught in a trap set by the central body of the Party. They were unable to bend any ears with their explanations, and were instead dragged out into the yard and shot to death on the spot. This was the pitiful end for Li Wenlin as the leader of a major force of the Red Army.
At the same time, Mao took action with lightning speed. The insurgent 20th Red
Army had followed the order given by the central body and was standing by near Futian, where a battalion sent by Mao suddenly appeared to envelop them and proceeded to
disarm all of the officers and soldiers on the pretence of a new order given by the central body.
What followed was the largest ever massacre in the history of the Red Army, which
began in Futian. Mao’s unit identified anyone holding the rank of corporal or higher, in other words, any officer, and subjected them to execution. Whether or not they had
participated in the coup or they were deemed members of the AB League no longer
mattered. Any individual that Mao’s forces desired to kill was identified and shot dead with a single bullet.
According to a recollection by an individual involved who was on the scene, sounds
of gunfire resembling those made by firecrackers were heard emanating from the
thickets, mountain forests and hilltops in the area surrounding Futian, unceasingly all
through that night. The dead bodies were all buried on the spot and no visible traces of
the massacre were left. The usual calm next morning was said to have returned the as if
nothing had happened.
The number of military personnel of the Jiangxi Red Army killed that night is on
record as being over 6,000.
Even that was not enough to stop Mao from ordering further slaughter. Next, he focused his attack on purging the organizations of the Party and administration in the
stronghold developed by the Jiangxi Red Army. Thus, the “hunt for the AB League”
started in earnest again, resulting in the execution by Mao’s forces of a further four
thousand and several hundred more people.
In this way, a total of more than 10,000 people, including officials of the Jiangxi Red Army, the Party, administration officials and ordinary Party members in the stronghold, were executed on absolutely false charges. Mao’s personal ambition to take possession of the Jiangxi Red Army and its stronghold cost the lives of over 10,000 people.
How 70,000 “Revolutionary Comrades” were Slaughtered
However, this was only the beginning of a series of even larger-scale tragedies. After committing such a major massacre in Futian, the central body of the CCP and Mao Zedong were obliged to insist even more on the justification of the “measures” they undertook to the entire Party and Red Army. Accordingly, the central body praised Mao’s action as a heroic undertaking that saved the Party and the Red Army from “counterrevolutionary subversion by the AB League” and called on the whole Party and the whole Red Army to “take Mao as a model.” Then it issued a command, as a resolution of the central body, to immediately begin a campaign to purge the AB
League from all of the Party and Red Army organizations and strongholds of revolution.
In this way, starting at the end of 1930, a wave of “AB League purging” swept
through the entire Party and Red Army organizational structure and through every stronghold of revolution under the control of the CCP. The technique devised by Mao of purging by means of false charges, torture and execution by shooting, spread rapidly to all strongholds and Mao-style mass massacres were carried out successively by the Sufan weiyuanhui of every region.
This was convenient for the central body of the Party as well as for Mao. Once the
slaughter started in all strongholds, the great massacre that had already been conducted in Futian would no longer matter. “Safety in numbers” applies to murder too.
As a result of this policy, by the end of the campaign in the spring of 1931 a total of
more than 70,000 people had been executed from within the ranks of the entire Party
and Red Army, including those killed in Futian and the relatives of some Party and Army officials.
The completion of this, the largest-scale massacre in the history of the Red Army,
marked the total accomplishment of the original purpose envisaged by Mao, the
inventor of the technique. He successfully acquired the stronghold of the Jiangxi Red
Army and incorporated the surviving soldiers of the 20th Red Army into his own unit.
The largest force in the Red Army was now in his possession.
In the autumn of 1931, one year after the Futian massacre, Mao integrated all the
strongholds of the Red Army in the nearby town of Ruijin and established the Chinese
Soviet Republic Provisional Government. Mao himself assumed the presidency of this
entity. He had devised a scheme of unparalleled insidiousness and made free use of
extreme measures of unmatched cruelty to gain the position he desired. The status of
“revolutionary leader” that he achieved was built upon the corpses of as many as 70,000 of his “revolutionary comrades.”
From that time on, “the greater the murderer, the more successful” became an
invariable principle in the history of the CCP.
“Starvation Tactics” that Caused 330,000 Residents of Changchun to Die of
In 1946, eighteen years after the “AB League purge” massacre, the CCP Army, which had been secretly developing its strength during the years of the Second Sino-Japanese War, finally plunged into a crucial battle against the Nationalist Government Army led by Chiang Kai-shek. Up until the moment when the CCP Army gained final victory in 1949, civil war on a national scale had raged for about three years and a number of fierce operations involving murder on an incredibly massive scale were performed.
One example was the “starvation tactics” executed by the CCP Army in 1948 when it captured the city of Changchun in the region formerly know as Manchuria, the scale of which would have shamed even Japan’s Toyotomi Hideyoshi.
For five months, from May to October, the CCP Army totally surrounded and
besieged Changchun, where the Nationalist Government Army had entrenched itself,
with several encirclements around the city and imposed an absolute ban on the delivery of any food or goods into Changchun. Nothing edible, whether vegetables, fruit or dried fish, let alone grain, was allowed into the city. The blockade was so thorough that any
“smuggler” caught was immediately shot to death.
The CCP Army employed complete “starvation tactics” against Changchun.
Because the encirclement was in place since May, food supplies in the city of Changchun were due to run out by July. Accordingly, the occupying Nationalist Army issued a notice to the residents that they should leave the city to seek food because there were no supplies left in the city. Then, as the residents left the city in groups, the CCP Army outside of the encirclement showered them with bullets.
The CCP Army assumed that the Nationalist Army under siege was maintaining a
considerable supply of food and they attempted to push their enemy into an even more
difficult situation by confining the hungry residents to the city. To this end, the CCP
Army deliberately drove the residents who were trying to get out back into the city.
Their intention was to throw the entire city into chaos by making both the people and the Nationalist Army scramble for the food that was running low.
That was when starvation in the city of Changchun began. In order to withstand a longer siege, the Nationalist Army refused to release the provisions they held. At first, many of the city residents barely managed to survive by exchanging a gold nugget for a bag of flour or selling a girl for five kilos of rice. After a while, when the situation no longer permitted obtaining of even a grain of rice in exchange for one’s entire fortune, people began to die of starvation, one after another. Dogs, cats or even mice were eaten and any available grass, leaves or bark also disappeared down people’s throats, after which most of them had no choice but to await death.
Towards the end, numerous, horrific incidents occurred in which starving people exchanged their children with others in the same plight in order to kill and eat them. The city of Changchun was turned literally into a “hell of starvation.”
In October, with secured provisions exhausted, the Nationalist Government Army was compelled to surrender and abandon the city to the CCP Army.
The first thing that the CCP Army saw as it entered the city were piles of corpses of
people who had died of starvation. At street corners and in front of houses, heaps of
bodies, emaciated like dried fish, were reportedly observed. Those who were still alive
had no energy to spare for burying the bodies of their dead relatives.
The population of the city of Changchun before the siege was 500,000 and the
number of survivors was only 170,000.
This means that as many as 330,000 residents of Changchun lost their lives because
of the murderous “starvation tactics” conducted by the CCP Army and the irresponsible
occupation by the Nationalist Army. The total disregard of the “common people” by
those involved in fighting for supreme power has been the norm throughout Chinese history.
At the end of the fierce civil war, the CCP Army emerged victorious and took over
the reins of power. According to the announcement made by the Communist regime
after the end of the war, they had “annihilated” eight million of Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist Army troops during the conflict. The number of war dead on both sides
attributable to this three-year civil war has been estimated at at least ten million.
As has been the case with many dynasties in Chinese history, the assumption of rule
by the CCP government cost the lives of countless people.
THE COMMUNIST GOVERNMENT AMUSING ITSELF
BY SLAUGHTERING ITS OWN PEOPLE
“Land Reform Activity” That Took the Lives of Two Million People
In 1949, the Chinese Communist Party Army led by Mao Zedong won the civil war
fought against Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist Government Army and finally conquered
the whole country. In October of that year, the present People’s Republic of China was
founded by the peerless murderer Mao Zedong.
In the process leading up to the founding of the country, an endless series of mass
murders was committed by the CCP. I have already mentioned how they scrupulously
carried out yicun yishao yisha every time they developed a new stronghold of revolution.
The CCP Army’s methods were also extremely brutal in the civil war against the KMT Government Army.
Throughout the long history of China, civil wars fought to establish or maintain rule
over the land have never been without cruel mass killings and so it would be wrong to
sweepingly condemn the CCP alone as being guilty of outrageous cruelty. Past
dynasties were perfectly willing to commit massacres during wartime in order to dominate the Chinese mainland. However, they customarily shifted to a “calming and comforting” policy once they had conquered the whole country and established their rule.
Where the CCP differed from preceding dynasties is that even after they had
unified the country and attained national power, they continued to impose mass murder upon their own people without restraint.
As early as the beginning of 1950, the year after the formation of the government, the CCP government started to carry out nationwide “land reform”. In practice, this meant expanding the yicun yishao yisha policy, targeting landowners and wealthy families, which had previously been conducted in the “strongholds of revolution,” onto a national scale. To do this, they mobilized the peasants of villages all over the country in order to subject the local landowners to kangaroo courts and strip them of all their assets, including land.
The assets other than the land confiscated from the landowners went into the pockets of the regime, which provided important resources to support the national finances of the newly formed People’s Republic of China. The land was allotted to the peasants but for their part the peasants throughout the whole of China were obliged to pay an annual tribute called gongliang (public grain) to the CCP government.
This time, however, the buildings of the landowners were not burned down. Instead,
all such buildings became the “official residences” of rural officials of the CCP or
“offices” of the CCP branches of the individual villages.
To the credit of the CCP government, I can add that while the landowners themselves were stripped of everything, the yicun yisha policy was not carried out very strictly. In those days, whether or not to kill individual landowners was left up to the discretion of the “head of the land reform committee” of each village. Those committee officials who possessed a sense of decency avoided meaningless slaughter while seizing what they could, and there were still a few Communists with some decency remaining.
Nevertheless, of the over six million landowners nationwide who were brought before kangaroo courts, about two million were undoubtedly shot to death. Many of the dipi liumang, who had been cooperating with the CCP Army since the days of the development of the “strongholds of revolution,” had succeeded in their careers to the point of becoming “rural officials”. Large numbers of them had been sent to regions that had recently come under CCP government rule as “professionals of revolution” and in this capacity they were heading up land reform.
In the regions where those people were the leaders, the yicun yisha policy was
implemented just as in the past and a storm of massacres raged again. The net result was
the killing of about two million landowners nationwide.
This was the first mass murder carried out by the CCP government against their own
people after they had come into power.
The Zhenfan Massacre Involving the Immediate Execution of 710,000 People
In the next year of 1951, another massacre on a national scale was launched in
response to Mao Zedong’s imperative orders to kill. This was zhenfan, or the Campaign
to Suppress Counterrevolutionaries. In the course of this campaign, over a one-year
period, the CCP government subjected 710,000 people, branded as “counterrevolutionaries,” to kangaroo courts and shot them to death.
On January 30, 1951, dictator Mao, with all of the power of the Party, Army and
nation concentrated in his person, issued an explicit order to the entire Party and
entire Army to engage in mass murder: “Proudly kill the counterrevolutionaries.” In
response, the central CCP passed a resolution on February 10 to expand the Campaign
to Suppress Counterrevolutionaries to cover the entire country. People designated as
“counterrevolutionaries to be suppressed” were those labeled as “bandits, rogues, spies,
officials of reactionary factions and leaders of organizations of reactionary sects.”
Mao also assigned “murder quotas” according to the size of the population: “While the number of counterrevolutionaries to be killed in rural areas nationwide should be about one out of a population of 1,000,” “the rate in urban areas must exceed one out of a population of 1,000.”
In other words, more than one person out of every thousand had to be killed in urban
The basis on which Mao used to calculate this rate is unknown. In any case, he did not order “not to kill more than a certain number” but, on the contrary, he assigned unprecedented murder quotas in order to impose an obligation to “kill more than a certain number” on the Party and security organizations nationwide.
When confronted with the quotas issued by the supreme leader in the dictatorial
Communist regime, the Party, Army and security organizations across the country
immediately transformed themselves into machines of murder operating in high gear. Just a single command from Mao caused a storm of massacres to rage throughout the
To describe the technique they used, the Communist organizations in different parts
of the country began by holding mobilization assemblies to appeal to the public for help
in bringing counterrevolutionaries to trial. Then, based officially on the information
given by the public, the counterrevolutionaries the Communist Party had previously
been keeping an eye on were arrested en masse, brought quickly before kangaroo courts
and then immediately executed by shooting.
The book entitled Zhenfan yundong shilu (The Authentic Records of the Campaign to Suppress Counterrevolutionaries), published in mainland China in 1998 by the publisher Jincheng Chubanshe, offers a glimpse of the violence of the counterrevolutionary suppression campaign.
The book says that in the capital city of Beijing alone, as many as 626 mobilization assemblies were held and the number of participants amounted to more than 3.3 million.
On March 24 , the City of Beijing held a people’s joint trial assembly, in which
more than 15,000 people took part, evidence of subversive activities by counterrevolutionaries
was produced and accusations of blood and tears were made by victims. The progress of the assembly was broadcast live throughout the nation on radio. On the next day, the public security authorities arrested all of the 399 accused counterrevolutionary leaders and took them to their respective districts in which they had committed their crimes. People’s courts in the individual districts promptly announced the nature of the crimes committed by the accused, pronounced sentence on the spot and immediately executed them.
Just a casual browsing of this description is sufficient to ascertain that these “trials”
were a farce. The trials included, in some fashion, the “production of evidence of subversive activities by
counterrevolutionaries” and “accusations of blood and tears made by victims”. In the “people’s joint trial assembly” on March 24, “evidence was produced”
and “accusations were made” against 399 “counterrevolutionaries” in one day,
according to the book. Even if this assembly had gone on all through the day, however,
the time that could have been spent on trying just one “counterrevolutionary” would be no more than about two minutes. What evidence could have been produced and what
accusations could have been established in two minutes? This was nothing but a farce.
In short, the “production of evidence of subversive activities” and “accusations of
blood and tears” were mere rituals intended for maintaining the appearance of a trial. The numbers of people to be tried and who were to be killed were arranged in advance in accordance with which the rituals were held “solemnly.” After all, Chairman Mao had assigned a quota in advance. The specified number of people had to be killed.
On May 22, only two months after the executions in March, in the same city of
Beijing, and in a similar manner, a further 421 counterrevolutionaries were shot dead
and 584 others were sentenced to jail terms, including life imprisonment.
On September 6, a third mass execution took place in Beijing, in which 318
counterrevolutionaries lost their lives.
Let us take a look at some examples of what happened in the outlying regions.
First, in Shanghai, an international metropolis, 585 counterrevolutionaries were shot
dead in one day, April 30, 1951. On May 31, just one month later, 405 people were
executed. Still dissatisfied, the Communist Government in Shanghai fired “shots of the
people’s wrath” into another 380 heads two weeks later on June 15. Thus, 1,370 people were killed in the space of one and a half months, starting on April 30, in
the city of Shanghai alone.
The People’s Government of Shanghai Municipality went on to arrest and jail as
many as 29,000 counterrevolutionaries by August 1951, based on 33,000 letters of
accusation sent by members of the public, according to the book.
In Tianjin, a port city near Beijing, the lives of well over 800 counterrevolutionaries were taken by two people’s courts called gongshen dahui, held on April 1 and July 1, 1951.
In Gansu Province, in the interior of the country, the book describes the following
action. “From the night of January 26 to 27, 1951, the People’s Liberation Army,
regional task forces and security organizations in charge of the entire province took
concerted action to arrest 9,000 leaders of bandits and rogues, most of whom were later
executed. In the city of Lanzhou alone, almost 1,000 people were shot to death.”
The situation in Guangdong Province, a coastal area now in the limelight as the
forefront of the “reform and opening up” policy, was a fair match for the other provinces, as shown by the following record.
On the afternoon of January 23, 1951, under the command of Ye Jianying,
Commander of the Guangdong Military Region and First Secretary of the Huanan
Office of the CCP, the Second, 44th and 45th Armies of the People’s Liberation Army
conducted a large-scale campaign of arrest throughout Guangdong Province with the
cooperation of the regional public security authorities. According to reports received
by the Military Region from the individual areas, 11,000 people including bandit leaders, rogues and spies were arrested in one day. The same night, 1,700 people were
taken to Guangzhou and other provincial cities and shot to death right away in the first
round of executions.
Over the next three days, nearly 5,000 were shot to death in two rounds of executions
in Guangdong Province alone.
As can be seen from the example of Guangdong, suddenly arresting over 10,000
people followed by the immediate execution of 5,000 of their number within three
days was a typical technique employed in the Campaign to Suppress Counterrevolutionaries.
The above is a brief overview of the suppression campaign as described in a book
published in China ruled by the CCP. Now, how many people actually lost their lives in
these storms of mass murder? Actually, this figure is also provided in a document
published in China. Zhongguo gongchandang zhizheng sishinian (1949-1989) (The
Chinese Communist Party: Forty Years in Power 1949-1989) published by Zhonggong
dangshi ziliao chubanshe (The Publishing House of CCP Historical Materials) shows
figures officially announced by the Chinese Government, according to which the
number of people who were shot to death in the Campaign to Suppress Counterrevolutionaries amounted to 710,000.
The Chinese Government itself proudly boasts of the brilliant “achievement” of the
“suppression of counterrevolutionaries.” By all accounts, however, this would seem
rather to rank as one of the most disgraceful massacres of the 20th century.
According to the official position of the Communist regime, those executed in this
suppression campaign were genuine “counterrevolutionaries” who were “bandits, rogues, spies, officials of reactionary factions or leaders of organizations of reactionary sects,”
which is a complete lie.
For example, the Chinese word used here for a “bandit” refers to a “person who is
armed and secretly based deep in the mountains or dense forest and engages in
However, the great majority of those who were labeled as “bandits” were easily
arrested overnight on the word of informants. In Beijing, a “trial assembly” where
“bandits” were accused was broadcast on the radio and the arrests took place on the very
next day. “Bandits” calmly sitting at home, waiting to be arrested is indeed a ridiculous premise.
The same thing can be said with regard to “spies.” A spy is one who is engaged in
secret investigation under the cover of an ordinary person. Spies cannot be easily
identified or discovered, which is precisely what is necessary for them to work as spies.
In the suppression campaign, however, many “spies” were promptly unmasked based on the information supplied by ordinary people and were then immediately executed.
Is information from members of the public by itself enough to establish who is a spy? Are spies who are easily unmasked by the common people real spies? The US agencies, the CIA and FBI, which are considered among the most powerful intelligence and investigative agencies in the world, require considerable amounts of energy and time to investigate just one spy. What kind of a spy can be readily “exposed” by a single
mobilization assembly and a single piece of information supplied by a member of the
Accusations against individuals asserting that they are “officials of reactionary
factions” or “leaders of organizations of reactionary sects” seem equally dubious.
Immediately before the foundation of the CCP government in 1949, the defeated
Chiang Kai-shek led high officials of the Nationalist government and the remnant of his
troops and fled to Taiwan. In fact, at that time, the “officials of reactionary factions and
leaders of organizations of reactionary sects” and the real “counterrevolutionaries,” who
were deadly foes of the Communist Party, mostly followed Chiang and ran away to
Those who failed to go to Taiwan generally fled to Hong Kong or Southeast Asia.
With the “fame” of the murder-loving Communist Party, renowned for their bravery
resounding nationwide, “counterrevolutionaries” who stayed in the country to wait for
the establishment of the Communist regime were extremely rare. After all, the idea of
“counterrevolutionaries” in their tens of thousands quietly sitting at home, waiting to be
arrested and executed by the Communist regime is a totally absurd and absolutely
In short, a vast majority of the 710,000 people who were assumed to have been
“counterrevolutionaries” and lost their lives on that account were innocent. Most of
them were never criminals. They never dreamed that they would be arrested by the
Communist regime and, even after being arrested, they would never have imagined that
they would be shot dead. That is why most of them did not attempt to run away but
simply “stood by at home,” not taking a step, almost as if they had assisted in their own
In reality, these people, who were totally innocent, were suddenly arrested and shot to death before they were aware of what was happening. What can this be called, if not a great massacre? The slaughter by the CCP government of 710,000 of their own people
in peacetime shortly after the establishment of the government is a historical fact with
no room for objection.
The Sad Fate of a University Professor Shot to Death for a Preposterous Reason
In fact, what kind of people were those 710,000 who were murdered as “counterrevolutionaries”?
The CCP government has announced the number of “counterrevolutionaries
suppressed” but has disclosed nothing about their age distribution, social positions,
professions, etc., probably because the disclosure of such information would
inconvenience the CCP to a great degree. In China, which is still under the control of
the CCP government, conducting a full-scale investigation is impossible.
The only clues currently available are the stories left by some of the witnesses and
people concerned in the events. Here, I would like to present an individual case I have
studied based on a story I heard.
Sichuan University, where I once worked as a lecturer, had a famous professor named Luo Guangying until 1951. He had studied in Japan sometime before and, after coming back to China, he found himself a position at Sichuan University where he devoted himself entirely to his studies. His specialty was agriculture and a textbook he edited entitled Cultivation of Silkworms had been used until the 1980s at the University’s Department of Agriculture.
Such an expert in agriculture, who had devoted his whole working life to scholarship, was by all accounts a resident of a world totally unrelated to politics. Beyond that, there was no valid reason for considering him to be a “counterrevolutionary.”
Nevertheless, in the Campaign to Suppress Counterrevolutionaries in 1951, he was
arrested as a “counterrevolutionary” and executed.
The origin of this incident lay in Professor Luo’s native district of Baolai District (zhen) in Ziyang County, Sichuan Province. His family had long been a distinguished one in this zhen . Five or six years before the country was brought under the rule of the CCP government, his father died and the family’s fortunes declined. The ancestral house was sold off, his mother was scheduled to live with Professor Luo, who was residing in Chengdu, where Sichuan University is located, and the Professor himself scarcely had any remaining connection to the place where he was born and raised.
However, this small zhen, which was his hometown, became the place of his death.
When the Campaign to Suppress Counterrevolutionaries began, the Communist
Government in Baolai Zhen was driven into a situation where they had to identify a
certain ratio of the people as counterrevolutionaries and put them down. The “zhenfan
task team” formed through the alliance between the Party and the government-led
public security authorities, braced their energies and managed to recognize three
counterrevolutionaries. However, since the total population of Baolai Zhen stood at
about 6,300, this number fell short of the quota specified by Chairman Mao by at least
The zhenfan task team immediately held a community assembly and contrived to
arrest two more counterrevolutionaries based on information given by members of the
public. Still, they were one name short. In a small town, in which residents had long been good-natured, that had been far distant from the world of politics, finding
“counterrevolutionaries” was proving a painful task.
Just then, one official of the district government came into the office of director of the public security bureau with suitcase in hand, saying that he had discovered
important “evidentiary materials” left behind by a “counterrevolutionary.”
To give an explanation about the materials, a person called Luo Guangwen, who was from the same district and who was once a division commander of the Nationalist
Government Army, fled to Taiwan with his family after its defeat by the CCP Army in
the civil war. His family house in the district was seized by the district Communist Government and used as an apartment building for government officials. Just when the
Campaign to Suppress Counterrevolutionaries was developing, an official living there
discovered said suitcase beneath the floor of the house. He opened the suitcase and
confirmed that it had been left by the former division commander of the Nationalist
Government, Luo Guangwen. It contained many letters from his relatives and acquaintances and this smart official wasted no time in submitting it to the public security bureau.
The bureau immediately examined the content and, surprisingly, found many letters
from Luo Guangying, professor at Sichuan University. In fact, Professor Luo and Luo
Guangwen were cousins from the same district and had studied in Japan together many
years earlier. They recognized each other as good friends despite their different
professions. Since this was before the use of telephones became popular, the
communication between the two friends chiefly depended on the exchange of letters and
Professor Luo had written quite a lot of letters to his cousin Luo Guangwen. Only too
faithfully, Luo Guangwen had carefully kept them and had left them behind in his
hometown when he fled to Taiwan.
This cost Professor Luo Guangying his life.
The public security bureau scrutinized the letters one by one. There was no mention
of politics-related subjects in the text but there were many words of encouragement
from Professor Luo for Luo Guangwen, his cousin and good friend. The letters
contained strings of phrases along the lines of “stick to your ideal to the end,” “pursue
what you believe in single-mindedly,” “I trust you” and “hang in there.”
The bureau promptly marked them with red lines and submitted Professor Luo’s
letters to the zhenfan task team. At the sight of them, members of the team shouted with
joy in a mixture of excitement and relief. At last the sixth “counterrevolutionary” that
they had been taking great pains to find had appeared. Seen by the eyes of these
Communist top officials, those words written by Professor Luo to his good friend were
nothing other than “counterrevolutionary speech” with a strong political flavor.
For the Communist Party, sending letters of encouragement to Luo Guangwen, an
enemy of the revolution, was already a definite counterrevolutionary act in itself.
Furthermore, inspiring Luo Guangwen by telling him to “stick to your ideal” and
“pursue what you believe in” was tantamount to proof given by Professor Luo
Guangying himself that he shared the counterrevolutionary ideas of Luo Guangwen.
The zhenfan task team recognized Professor Luo Guangying of Sichuan University as a genuine “counterrevolutionary.” They immediately dressed up a few policemen of the district public safety bureau in ordinary clothes and sent them to Chengdu, where Professor Luo lived, with the intention of arresting the professor and bringing him to Baolai Zhen.
Originally, the district public safety bureau did not have the authority to directly arrest Professor Luo, who was living in Chengdu. Normally, they were first supposed to give notice of the “criminal charge” against Professor Luo to the public safety bureau of Chengdu or the “zhenfan committee” of the city and request that an arrest be made. However, the “zhenfan task team” of Baolai Zhen had an overriding concern: following the formal procedure might end up in offering the counterrevolutionary Professor Luo to the “zhenfan committee” of Chengdu City as a target of suppression who would not be counted as a counterrevolutionary punished by Baolai Zhen itself. In that case, the quota for suppressing counterrevolutionaries assigned to the district would not have been officially fulfilled.
Accordingly, the district public security bureau resorted to extreme measures.
It secretly sent a team of policemen to Chengdu, who went straight to Professor Luo’s
address, which they had obtained from a relative, and took him into custody. The
professor was brought back to Baolai Zhen by car. The bureau promptly held a “trial
assembly” on the same day and, after reading out some of the aforementioned letters as “evidence” of the professor’s counterrevolutionary act, immediately sentenced him
to death and carried out the sentence. The process from the arrest of Professor Luo to his execution took place at lightning speed?spanning as little as 20 hours total.
The quota imposed on Baolai Zhen was thus successfully fulfilled but Professor Luo Guangying, who had devoted himself to his studies, was deprived of his precious life and a potentially bright future as a scholar. As a lecturer who later taught at the same university, I cannot help but feel distressed when I think of how mortified he must have felt at his fate.
The great massacre called “the suppression of counterrevolutionaries” brought about
by the Communist Party was a diabolical deed.
History must properly record this event. In 1951, the CCP government, which
remains the government of the People’s Republic of China today, murdered 710,000
totally innocent, ordinary people such as Professor Luo Guangying for no justifiable
reason and on no legitimate legal grounds. Moreover, this serious crime against human
rights and human life has never been atoned for. The resentment over the murder of Professor Luo and the many hundreds of thousands of cases remain uncleared even now.
The Sufan Campaign?Slaughter as “Entertainment”
The Campaign to Suppress Counterrevolutionaries did not end with the massacre of
710,000 people. Another 1.29 million people were arrested as “semi-counterrevolutionaries” and put into prison, confined for life. In addition, about 1.23 million people who were charged with “less serious counterrevolutionary crimes” were placed under the “control” of the regional governments or the local community, although they were not imprisoned.
In total, more than 2.5 million survivors of the massacre would live in misery for a
long time after confinement or “control” and stripped of all civic rights.
However, even driving this many “counterrevolutionaries” to death failed to satisfy
Mao Zedong’s CCP government. While this is beyond the comprehension of anyone in
their right mind, in 1955, only three years after the horrendous massacre of 1951, the
CCP government once again started a campaign to expose the “counterrevolutionaries.”
This time it was named the “sufan campaign,” meaning literally, the “campaign to
eliminate counterrevolutionaries,” and Mao and the central CCP issued a grand order to
conduct yet another thorough search for and purge of counterrevolutionaries hiding
among the people.
On this occasion, they mobilized people and conducted the sufan campaign for a year. As a result of this effort, about 1.3 million people were accused and arrested as
counterrevolutionaries, and about 80,000 of these people were sent to the scaffold.
At this level, Mao and the Communist Party appear to have been nothing but
bloodthirsty, homicidal maniacs. Only three years previously, they had murdered
710,000 “counterrevolutionaries” and put 2.5 million people in confinement. After
such a storm of massacre and persecution, it is amazing that they could they find any
“counterrevolutionaries” still at large.
The slaughter of 80,000 people in 1955 may have been just “entertainment” following the great massacre of 710,000. For Mao and the Communist Party, the lives of my fellow Chinese must have been equivalent to that of weeds or cockroaches.
In 1957, two years after this sufan campaign, Mao’s Communist Party embarked on
yet another criminal act: the execution of members of the Anti-Rightist Movement.
The detailed story is as follows. In April 1956, Mao Zedong called upon intellectuals throughout the country to give the Communist regime constructive recommendations and criticisms after first guaranteeing that, “those who voiced opinions would not be reproached for them.” In response, many intellectuals gave candid advice on some of the flawed policies and bureaucratic political stances of the Party at the forums and public hearings held by the Party itself.
In May of the following year, 1957, Mao and others displayed their reaction to this.
They acknowledged these recommendations and criticisms as an “insane attack” against
socialism and the Communist regime and decided to launch a countermovement.
Appallingly, Mao attempted to solicit critical arguments even more strongly after he
had decided on the counterattack. According to Mao, this was a tactic to “lure the snakes out of their holes,”. In other words, Mao’s real intention was to encourage as
many intellectuals as possible to express opinions that would then be used as evidence
on which to base their arrest in one swoop. Mao Zedong was indeed a mean villain to
In June, the CCP broke its promise that “those who voice opinions would not be reproached for them” and launched a nationwide class struggle at what was named the Anti-Rightist Movement.
The 550,000 intellectuals who had offered advice and opinions in response to the
appeal by Mao and the Communist Party were certified as “rightist elements” and
became the targets of persecution. Although there was no mass execution this time, all
of these intellectuals were purged from public services, deprived of all civil rights and
sent to work camps located in distant farm villages or other remote places.
Needless to say, what awaited them in the work camps was a miserable fate in a
living hell. I have in my possession a true record of the contemporary history of China
written by a Chinese scholar living in Japan: Gendai Chugoku o Miru Me (An Eye on
Present-day China) by Jiang Keshi, published by Maruzen Library. Let me introduce
one episode from the book, which exemplifies the ghastly tragedy that befell “rightist
elements” and their families.
The following is a confession of an actress.
When she was an eleven-year-old dancer in the making, her father, who was a
principal member of literary circles, was declared a rightist. She was told by her
teacher to stay away from him. “I felt sad but nodded my head and parted with him
immediately. Just like a cold-blooded animal. After that, I never saw him alive again.”
This choice was a natural reaction developed in the course of class education and “it
was never because of the fear of getting involved… One day, I even had a dream in
which he, dressed in the enemy’s uniform, closed in on me from behind and fired a
gun at me. This was the true feeling I had towards my father at that time.” After he
was sent to a work camp, she sent him one letter but did not call him “Father.” She felt
ashamed of having a rightist father. She disparaged him with heartless words as if she
were handing down a harsh sentence. ‘You are now an enemy of the people. You must
reform yourself prudently. I will not recognize you as my father until you have
returned to a ranks of the people.’
The father, who was falsely charged and deprived of his daughter’s love in
consequence, starved to death in a work reform camp in “Beidahuang” (a fringe area
in Heilongjiang Province) during the great famine four years later. He was only 45
years old. From under his pillow, an old magazine containing a still photo of his
daughter was found…
This was the tragedy suffered by one “rightist element.” I happen to be 45 years old
this year myself. I can only extend my sympathy to this person who died such a tragic
He was far from being the only “rightist element” who lost his life in such a hell-on-earth. In the 1980s, Deng Xiaoping, who developed the Chinese economic “reform and opening up” program “rehabilitated” the “rightist elements.” However, the number who were still alive to hear this good news was only about half of the original 550,000 “rightist elements.” The other half had met similar destinies to that of the actress’s father, who died of hunger.
Although this time it did not entail of being shot to death with a rifle, more than
200,000 “rightist elements” were stripped of their right to life and driven to an early
death. This can be counted among the historic crimes committed by Mao Zedong and
the Communist regime.
The Great Famine Claiming Tens of Millions of Lives Caused by a “Policy”
During the three years from 1959?two years after the Anti-Rightist Movement?
until 1961, China experienced a massive famine in which tens of millions of people
perished. This is a now-widely-known historical fact.
During the long history of China, great famines, each of which took the lives of
between several million and ten million people have frequently occurred, caused by
large-scale civil wars or natural disasters such as heavy floods and droughts.
The cause of the Great Famine that began in 1959 and resulted in more deaths from
starvation than any other famine in history was neither civil war nor a natural disaster. For a long time, the CCP government has referred to this period as the “Three Years of
Natural Disasters,” which obviously means that they attribute the famine to natural
That interpretation, however, is an outright lie.
As I write this, I have at my side a book entitled Iwanami Gendai Chugoku Jiten (The Iwanami Encyclopedia of Contemporary China), which was published in May 1999 by Iwanami Shoten. The editors of the encyclopedia include Amako Satoshi, a professor of Waseda University Graduate School, and Zhu Jianrong, a Chinese scholar living in Japan. The publisher and the members of the editorial team are an indication that this book is by no means an “anti-Chinese publication” intended to criticize contemporary China.
This encyclopedia certainly has an entry for the Three Years of Natural Disasters. The entry, however, begins with the following description:
The failure of the Great Leap Forward policy that started in 1958 caused an
unprecedentedly large number of 20 to 40 million deaths by starvation between 1959
and 1961. While they are called “natural disasters” in China, they were significantly
influenced by political factors and they can be said to have been a “man-made
disaster” rather than “natural disasters.”
The author of this entry goes on to present the following analysis:
Regarding this catastrophe, the Chinese authorities have admitted that there was a
“period of economic difficulties” but argued that it was caused by “natural disasters
and by the USSR’s violation of an agreement on economic aid to China.” But later
studies have shown that no serious natural disasters occurred during this period and
that ‘the USSR’s violation of an agreement’ had almost nothing to do with food
production. That is, it has been revealed that this mass starvation incident was a
“man-made disaster” due to unnatural causes.
Even an encyclopedia compiled by scholars who are not at all in a position critical of the present-day CCP government clearly states that the great famine called the “Three Years of Natural Disasters” was a “man-made disaster” caused by man-made factors.
If scholars believed to be “friends” of China point this out so unequivocally, then not even the CCP government, which has proven to be adept at lying, can expect to continue to get away with placing blame of the famine down to “natural disasters.” The “man-made factors” that resulted in the “unprecedented catastrophe” of tens of millions of deaths by starvation
lay with the CCP government at that time and ,above all else, leader Mao Zedong.
Iwanami Gendai Chugoku Jiten mentions the failure of the “Great Leap Forward
policy that started in 1958″ as a cause of the great famine from the outset, and the
biggest promoter of the “Great Leap Forward policy” was none other than Mao Zedong
The encyclopedia describes the development of the Great Leap Forward as follows:
The Great Leap Forward is often described by a slogan stating that China would
“catch up with and overtake Britain in the production of steel and other products.”
This originated in Mao’s proposal of a slogan to “overtake Britain in major industrial
output including production of steel in 15 years” against a slogan proposed by Nikita
Khrushchev, the First Secretary of the Communist Party of the USSR, stating that
“Soviet Union would overtake the United States in 15 years” at the top-level
conference between the Communist Parties of the two countries held when Mao and
others visited Moscow in November 1957. A major driving force behind the Great
Leap Forward was the fierce competition between Khrushchev and Mao for the
leadership of the international communist movement.
As can be seen from this description, one reason for Mao’s launch of the Great Leap
Forward was the struggle for the leadership of the “international communist movement”
against Secretary Khrushchev of the Communist Party of the USSR. In opposition to his
competitor’s stated intention to “overtake the US in 15 years,” Mao went so far as to
brag, “We will overtake Britain in 15 years.” It was like a scene in which two imps
vying to be the “king of the castle” were pitted against each other in a swaggering
And Mao’s irresponsible swagger, stemming from his personal vanity and ambition,
proved to be the first factor in causing millions of deaths from starvation.
While the annual production of steel of China in those days was about ten million
tons, the CCP government set a numerical target of “270 million tons annually” out of
nowhere in 1958. Increasing the annual national production of steel by 27 times in just
one year was an insanely ridiculous idea, but Mao himself was deadly serious.
To this end, he devised a “mass steel production campaign.” Because there was no
time to build iron mills from scratch, he attempted to give an order to the entire nation
and initiate a “production campaign” with the involvement of the entire people.
Before diverting the peasants, who accounted for 90 percent of the total population at that time, from agriculture in order to focus on “mass steel production,” a significant
increase in food production would need to be achieved first. With a food supply
prepared in advance that was sufficient to feed the whole nation without the need for peasants to grow grain for one year, the entire people would be able to concentrate all their energies on the production of steel.
Under the leadership of Mao and in the grip of such an absurd vision, the Communist regime decided to double food production. At a stroke, they attempted to raise the normal annual production from 250 million tons to 500 million tons.
In this way, the Great Leap Forward from the outset encompassed two infeasible numerical targets and drove the entire nation to embark on a “mass production campaign.” The method of driving people was simple. To attain the required increase in food production, with all the peasants in the country belonging to organizations called
“people’s communes,” Mao urged and strictly ordered the officials of all people’s
communes and regional officials of the Party nationwide to double the production of
food. Mao Zedong, by now a dictator with absolute power, was convinced that by simply giving the order he could make anything come true.
However, there was no way that an order alone given by Mao would prove sufficient to immediately double the grain crop yield. Rice and wheat, which are grown by the blessings of the sun and the bounty of earth, did not develop in accordance with Mao’s orders. This put the officials of people’s communes and regional officials of the Party in a difficult position. They knew very well the kind of punishment that would result from their failure to satisfy their quotas. In the end, they attempted to protect themselves by acting in unison to issue reports containing padded figures for grain production of the communes and regions for which they were responsible.
In the autumn of 1958, the officials of all communes reported in chorus to their
supervisors that they had “successfully doubled production.” Mao and the central CCP
were delighted with this news and officials of various levels escaped punishment. This,
however, was the beginning of a terrible tragedy for peasants of the communes.
In those days, people’s communes nationwide were allocated quotas of food for free
delivery to the government according to their annual production of grain, a scheme
referred to as gongliang gongchu (public grain delivery). Accordingly, the government
suddenly ordered all communes that reported “doubled” food production to deliver a
doubled amount of public grain.
Of course, the officials who had falsified their reports had to comply with this order.
In reality, though, grain production had not been doubled. As a result, commune
peasants were forcibly plundered of the grain that needed to be kept as their own food,
but which officials commandeered for use as “public grain.”
For the following year until the next harvest, chronic lack of food for the peasants
became inevitable. During this critical situation, Mao’s next command roared out.
Mao Zedong, triumphant following reports proclaiming the “achievement of doubled food production” from around the country, decided that for the next year of 1959, nationwide agricultural output did not need to be so high and the focus should be placed on “steel production,” which was his fondest wish. In fact, he gave an order in the spring to the people’s communes all over the country that they should mobilize the entire peasantry to devote all their energies to “mass steel production.”
As with in Japan, the spring, of all times of the year, is the most important season for agricultural work including rice planting. Forcing large numbers of peasants off the land and into “mass steel production” during this crucial period was bound to inflict a severe blow on agricultural production during the upcoming year. With this, the slide towards a great famine became definite.
“Food Exportation amid Starvation”?the Crime of the Century
The famine actually started in the summer of 1959. Because of the severe plundering of the previous year’s food stocks, the peasants’ food supply began to run out at around that time. When autumn came, as a result of the mobilization of the bulk of the rural labor force for “massive steel production” since spring, the harvest of grain crops was a total shambles and the total amount harvested was significantly below that of a normal year.
Consequently, the great famine spread rapidly to rural villages all over the country.
Concerning the nationwide spread of the great famine, Iwanami Gendai Chugoku
Jiten says that between five and 20 percent of the population starved to death in the
Xinyang Region of Henan Province and three to five million people died of hunger in
Anhui Province. The encyclopedia also refers to miserable conditions including “the
total destruction of whole families and whole villages, incidents of cannibalism and the
bloody suppression of food riots.” It is no exaggeration to describe the situation in
Chinese rural villages in those days as resembling a hell-on- earth.
Concerning the Xinyang Region of Henan Province mentioned above, memoirs have been preserved. Zhang Shufan, who was a teacher at a primary school in a village in Xinyang, describes the conditions at that time:
Since around the summer of 1959, the food shortage among the peasants gradually
became serious. At first, they survived by switching from rice to rice porridge. But the
porridge grew thinner little by little until eventually it was reduced to just a pot of
boiled water containing 20 to 30 grains of rice. Another month went by, and by this
time any and all food was totally exhausted and kitchen smoke disappeared from the
People went about frantically looking for food, and ate anything that could be put into
the mouth. Rice bran, chaff, straws and cornstalks all went down into the stomach as
food. They even ate the dried pods of soybeans, which caused stomachache.
In the end, the villagers went into woodlands en masse and dug out the roots of all
kinds of trees and grasses to eat. Some were poisoned to death and some others could
not digest or defecate what they had eaten and died. Before long, people from families
here and there began to die of starvation. At first, family members would dig a hole in
the cemetery at the back of the village and bury the bodies. But when the living had
lost their energy, bodies were simply thrown away as they were in the bushes around
Then, horrific tragedies in which people ate people occurred. Initially, the targets were
the bodies of people who had starved to death. When a body was thrown away in the
bushes, parts with some flesh remaining such as the thighs and buttocks were
immediately cut off by someone.
Finally, the turn came for village children to be killed and eaten. None of the parents were
willing to eat their own children so the villagers conferred with each other and decided
to exchange the children to eat. Within the same village, the exchanges usually took
place between families located apart from each other. Unspoken rules developed that
the dead body of a child should be exchanged with the dead body of another child of a
similar size and a live child with another live child about the same age.
Before dawn, fathers of families carried the dead bodies of their own children or live
children in a coma due to malnutrition to visit other families and brought back
equivalent “exchanges.” Then the butchering of other people’s children was carried out
in the kitchens of houses. The brain tissue was first taken out of the head. The chest
and stomach were cut open and all internal organs were saved. Because those children
themselves had not been eating for a long time, the internal organs such as the
stomach and intestines were said to have been quite “clean.” Lastly, whatever flesh
and fat was left on any part of the body was thoroughly removed.
After the completion of the dissection, first of all, the soup made from the child’s brain
became breakfast. Then the remaining parts from the internal organs and the flesh
were eaten sparingly as boiled or fried dishes. An entire family could manage to
survive for one week on one child and families with more children apparently
experienced fewer members starving to death…
The teacher’s account goes on further but I cannot even begin to quote it anymore. I do not happen to have such strong nerves. But in short, in the three years from 1959, tens of millions of Chinese people lost their lives in a literal “hell of hungry ghosts.”
Now, I must make clear the responsibility for creating this “hell of hungry ghosts.”
Who was the biggest culprit who should bear the historical responsibility for the great
As we all know very well, Mao Zedong, the leader of the Communist regime, was the principal cause of this most horrendous disaster, which was unprecedented in history. He was obsessed with winning his contest for leadership against Khrushchev of the
USSR and as a result he set outrageous numerical targets for increases in the production
of food and steel in order to make the Great Leap Forward. While regional officials
were driven to report “padded production,” peasants were plundered of food and forced
into meaningless “mass steel production,” with the result that a nationwide famine
occurred. The millions of people who died of starvation in the famine are true victims of
Mao’s personal political ambition and freewheeling “economic policy.”
However, the present CCP regime is still frantically trying to make excuses for Mao
and the Party itself, although it does now partially admit that the great famine occurred.
They nevertheless insist that causing so many deaths by starvation was never Mao’s or
the Party’s real intention but an unforeseen consequence due to a mere “policy mistake.”
In short, the logic behind this defense is that what Mao and the Communist Government
of the time committed was not a “crime” but simply a “mistake.”
It is true that, in the phase before the great famine occurred, Mao and the Communist regime did not intentionally “plan” to cause these millions of deaths by starvation. In that sense, it can be said that the outbreak of the famine was an “unforeseen” consequence brought about by a “policy mistake.” But the handling of the situation by Mao and the Communist Government after the famine occurred is a totally different story.
First, let us see how Mao responded to the crisis. When the nationwide famine began due to the failure of the Great Leap Forward promoted by Mao in the summer of 1959, Peng Dehuai, a member of the Politburo and the Defense Minister who became aware of the actual conditions, sent a letter to Mao. He carefully chose his words to present simple questions about the economic policy and asked Mao to reconsider. However, Mao’s reaction was a totally unexpected one.
To the dictator Mao, the fact that a member of the Politburo, his subordinate, had
expressed doubts about his policy, regardless of whether the policy itself was right or
wrong, was an unforgivable sin. Peng’s position as Defense Minister also caused
concern. In Mao’s eyes, this was a sign of possibly disturbing behavior in the military.
Mao, who was more sensitive to power struggles than anybody else, moved quickly.
Peng and the few other officials who sided with him were condemned in no time as “the
Peng Dehuai anti-Party group” and politically ousted.
What happened up to that point was an instance of political strife that was inherent to the Communist regime and to that extent it was unimportant. The problem was what
Since Mao had politically overthrown Peng, who had questioned the Great Leap
Forward that Mao himself had promoted, he could not admit the failure of his policy.
On the contrary, to justify the ousting of Peng, Mao made efforts to further trumpet the
“justness” of the policy and ordered all regions to “accomplish” the policy.
At that time, the great famine had already spread all over the country and Mao had
received reports of actual conditions by Liu Shaoqi and other officials, which he
totally ignored in order to protect his position amid political strife. Accordingly,
Mao severely reprimanded Liu and the others and pushed forward in the direction
towards further intensification of the famine.
Against this background, the great famine did not end in 1959 but continued to rage
through 1960 and 1961. The number of people who died of starvation constantly increased and eventually amounted to tens of millions.
Therefore, with regard to the response taken during and after the summer of 1959, at the very least, Mao Zedong, the supreme leader of China, committed the real and genuine crime of aggravating the famine for his “own personal reasons.” This can also be counted as a further “crime of massacre” committed against the Chinese people by Mao Zedong, who must surely rank as the biggest mass murderer in history.
The crimes committed by Mao’s Communist Party at the time of the famine went
even further than this. Incredibly, the Chinese Communist regime exported large
amounts of grain overseas for three years in succession from 1959, even as the great
famine was raging on a national scale. The main destinations were Hong Kong, which
was still a British colony, and the communist bloc, including the USSR and the nations
of Eastern Europe.
This is disclosed in the China Statistical Yearbook published in China in 1983. The
data on pages 422 and 438 show that grain exports from China totaled 2.66 million
tons in 1958, 4.19 million tons in 1959 and 2.65 million tons in 1960.
Upon seeing these data, even I, who had long since “gotten used to” the inhumanity of the CCP, could not help but be surprised and enraged. Nineteen fifty-nine was the year in which the nationwide famine started in the summer. Nevertheless, the Chinese
Communist Government, which calls itself “the people’s government,” exported 4.19 million tons of its precious grain, or almost 1.6 times as much as the previous year, to foreign countries. In the following year, 1960, when famine was spreading all over the
country and tens of millions of people were actually dying of hunger, the Chinese
Government sent a further 2.65 million tons of grain abroad. The Communist
Government simply left millions of starving people across the country to die. Even in
the long history of China, such a heartless criminal government is totally
The bare minimum amount of food necessary to sustain a person’s life would be
equivalent to about 100 kg of grain per year. Based on that rough figure, if the 2.65
million tons of grain exported from China in 1960 had been used for starvation relief
inside the country, at least 26 million people could have been saved from death by
However, the CCP government did not do this. Instead, although they already
thoroughly grasped actual conditions of famine within the country by 1960, they
continued to export massive amounts of grain.
Seen from this perspective, this was nothing but a non-natural massacre. Because of
the “policy mistake” stemming from Mao’s personal political ambition and the criminal
policy of continuing to export in the midst of starvation carried out by the Communist
regime, tens of millions of people were cruelly murdered by means of starvation.
HOW THE CULTURAL REVOLUTION PERIOD
CREATED A “MURDERER’S PARADISE”
Mao Zedong’s Last “Dipi Liumang Revolution”
In May 1966, five years after the great famine, which was for all practical purposes actually a massacre, finally ended, Mao Zedong led a new political movement called the Cultural Revolution. And just as on previous occasions, he drove the entire Chinese nation into hell in the form of a reign of terror and massacre that lasted for a decade.
The implementation of the Cultural Revolution was actually linked to the great
famine that began in 1959.
Creating a great famine that caused tens of millions of deaths, the Great Leap
Forward promoted by Mao ended up at total failure. Mao, who had lost authority as a
result, gradually withdrew from the front lines of party business and political affairs and political power was passed into the hands of working-level people in the Party such as
Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping. The organizations of the central CCP, the Party and the
Government were filled with working-level officials with Liu at the center and Mao
himself relegate to the status of a “court noble,” kept at a respectful distance by the
It was for the purpose of overthrowing the political situation and restoring his
political authority that Mao embarked on the implementation of the Cultural Revolution. The political technique he employed was to take advantage of the common people’s
dissatisfaction with the Party and class of Government officials, destroy the Party’s
organization with a grass-roots movement in the form of “a rebellion from the bottom
up,” and purge the working-level people from the Party.
Mao used an ambitious military man, General Lin Biao, as a tool to gain control of the armed forces and at the same time selected the Gang of Four, a civilian version of dipi liumang as the mainstay of the Party to secure himself. Then, he incited na?ve and
ignorant students to become organized Red Guards and made scoundrels from the lower
social stratum into his “rebels.” He used them as shock troops and in a single powerful surge, built up a rebel movement.
Once it had been launched, the influence of the rebel movement was no longer
confined within a certain area, targeting only at Party organizations or working-level
officials. Before anybody knew what was happening, the fierce rebel movement was
targeting a broad range of people, from university professors to primary school teachers,
from writers and artists to entertainers in different fields, from people of old-established
or wealthy families to descendents of landowners and capitalists, and from doctors and
engineers to ordinary craftsmen, or in short, almost everybody in Chinese society with
any authority, property, fame, knowledge or skill, any one of which rendered them good
targets for political persecution.
Why did this happen? The reason is simple.
This “great revolution” was a “revolution of dipi liumang” with the ignorant Red
Guards used as the main-force units. Accordingly, those who were in diametrically
opposite social positions from the dipi liumang in the ordinary course of events, or those
who were potential targets of envy and hatred from the viewpoint of the dipi liumang,
who were from the lower social stratum, were naturally left with no choice but to be
overthrown and persecuted in the “great revolution.” From the Red Guards’ perspective,
people with any authority who could be conveniently shunned?schoolteachers, for
example?were great targets of the rebel movement.
As an old Chinese saying goes, when the “small-minded” bring about radical change, the “wise” must suffer.
After all, as with the yicun yishao yisha carried out during his Red Army period,
Mao Zedong’s revolution was carried out by low-class rebels of the dipi liumang.
Moreover, this rebel movement was without precedence in history, and it was executed
mainly by ignorant Red Guards and dipi liumang, who were lacking in humanity and
who could not have been more brutal in terms of the specific measures they took.
“Wenhua da geming” jianshi (A Brief History of the “Cultural Revolution”),
published in 1996 by Chinese Communist Party History Publishing House, describes
how things were at the time in the following words.
During the Cultural Revolution period, private trials were conducted, and the use of
torture to force confessions, arbitrary arrest, and illegal detention and investigation
became completely normal phenomena. The beating to death of those who became
targets of rebels and the suicide of those who could not endure the persecution
occurred frequently, and people’s lives and property ceased being secure. Even
according to the incomplete statistics of the time, the number of people throughout the
country who were labeled as “enemies of the people,” deprived of civil rights or
divested of their office and driven away from the cities to rural villages had reached
397,400 by October 14, 1966. During the period of a little more than 40 days between
the last third of August and the end of September 1966, in Beijing alone, 85,198
people were forced back to their original places of domicile, 10,772 people were killed,
and 33,695 households were searched.
Then, how many people suffered persecution or lost their lives before the Cultural
Revolution was brought to an end in 1976 by the death of Mao Zedong himself?
A history book Cong geming dao gaige (From Revolution to Reform) (Wang
Haiguang, Law Press China) describes: “The number of false charges made during the
Cultural Revolution period reached nine million and the number of people who lost
their lives in different ways totaled in the millions. The number of people who were
directly or indirectly harmed by the time the Cultural Revolution ended amounted to
100 million nationwide, which was equal to ten percent of the entire population.”
Mori Kazuko, a professor at Waseda University and a researcher on China, says in
her book Gendai Chugoku Seiji (Modern Chinese Politics) (Nagoya University Press):
“The number of people who fell victim (to the Cultural Revolution) is said to have
reached 100 million.” This figure of “100 million victims,” which Japanese and Chinese
researchers mention unanimously, must be true.
However, how many people lost their lives still has not been made completely clear.
Some mention “millions” as described above and many others presume figures ten times
higher in the “tens of millions.” To make a comprehensive judgment based on the
different study results and disclosed data, the number of people who died from various
forms of political persecution can be assumed to be at least on the order of ten million.
After all, the Cultural Revolution was an “unrestrained” rebel movement launched by Mao Zedong himself, who had a “track record” of perpetrating numerous massacres,
and carried out by simultaneously mobilizing scoundrels all over the country. It can be
safely asserted that a countless number of people actually lost their lives.
The decade of the Cultural Revolution can be summed up as the largest-scale
massacre of Chinese people committed by Mao Zedong, a fiendish murderer
unparalleled in history, in the last decade of his evil life.
Pohai Zhisi?Mass Slaughter on a National Scale
In the course of the Cultural Revolution, the Gang of Four, the Red Guards under
their command, and the rebels developed a typical murder technique: depriving the
people who were their targets of persecution of all civil rights in order to completely cut
off their means of living while also repeatedly inflicting brutal physical torture and
mental pressure, thereby rigidly pushing their victims to the edge and giving them no
other choice but to commit suicide. A countless number of intellectuals and other
citizens were subjected to this cruel treatment and compelled to kill themselves in
despair and mortification.
Moreover, the targets could never rehabilitate themselves or gain liberation from
hardship even at the sacrifice of their lives. After they killed themselves, the act of
suicide itself would also be condemned as the crime of making “a last act of resistance
against the revolution.” Then the bereaved relatives would continue to be the targets of
persecution. This was nothing but a hell that permitted neither living nor dying.
Among those who were in frail health or suffered from chronic health problems, there were many cases of victims weakening to death in the course of persecution or of
especially severe torture leading to death from beating.
This type of mass murder including suicide and homicide, which would later be
called pohai zhisi (persecution to death), became a kind of “fashion” during the decade
of the Cultural Revolution.
I have a list of some of the teachers at the prestigious university Fudan
University in Shanghai who were persecuted and killed themselves or were beaten to
death during the Cultural Revolution period, which includes simple records of the
circumstances of how they were driven to death and what they were like during the last
moments of their lives. Let me present it here as material to illustrate the reality of
On a certain day of a certain month in 1966, Mao Qingxian, a teacher at the School of
Physics [Department of Physics], committed suicide. He was labeled a “capitalist class
intellectual,” became a target of persecution, and killed himself by jumping from a
building on the premises after enduring days of torture.
On a certain day of a certain month in 1966, Professor Zhao Danruo of the School of
Chemistry [(Department of Chemistry] was dragged out to a condemnation assembly by
Red Guards. His face was smeared with mud and, in the course of a torture session that
went on for more than three hours, he lost his senses, fell to the ground and eventually
On a certain day of a certain month in 1966, Professor Wang Mingru of the School of
History [Department of History] committed suicide. He was denounced for writing a
paper with “‘dark’ content using history to attack the Party” and immediately taken into
custody by Red Guards. He was smeared with black ink all over his body to symbolize
this “dark content” and then tortured for more than a week, in consequence of which he
On a certain day of a certain month in 1966, Professor Tan Jiazhen of the School of
Literature [Department of Chinese Language], committed suicide. He was charged with
“writing many ‘reactionary pieces of prose and poetry’ criticizing Chairman Mao and
the Party both implicitly and explicitly” and subjected to detention and torture. He
hanged himself in a public toilet.
On a certain day of a certain month, 1966, Liu Dezhong, a teacher of the School of
Foreign Languages [Department of Foreign Languages] committed suicide together
with his wife. His father had been a diplomat of the Nationalist Party and he was born
in Germany, where his father was assigned a post, which is why he was persecuted. Liu
Dezhong, who could not bear the psychological oppression he was subjected to, hanged
himself, face-to-face with his wife.
On a certain day of a certain month in 1967, Professor Wu Bixi, the Vice-Director of
the School of Media [Department of Journalism], committed suicide. He could not
endure the detention and torture that continued for over half a year and so he jumped
from the fourth floor of Building No. 3 of the University lodging facilities. His body
was left exposed on the asphalt ground for a whole day.
On a certain day of a certain month in 1967, Professor Qi Xiangyun of the School of
Chemistry [Department of Chemistry] committed suicide. The reason why he was
persecuted is still unknown. The only official record on him made during the Cultural
Revolution period is that he “attempted a last act of resistance against the Party and the
people” and that he jumped from Building No. 5 of the students’ lodging facilities of
Fudan University where he had been detained.
On a certain day of a certain month in 1968, Professor Yan Zhixian of the School of
Chemistry [Department of Chemistry] was beaten to death in the course of torture. On
the day in question, the responsible Red Guards carted the professor, who had been
seriously injured by the torture, to his house. On arriving at the front door of the house,
they are said to have put him down on the ground as if he were a piece of luggage and
went away. His family came out and carried him into the house, immediately after
which he breathed his last breath.
On a certain day of a certain month in 1968, Professor Fan Ying of the School of
Foreign Language [Department of Foreign Language] committed suicide. Neither the
circumstances under which he fell victim nor the situation in which he killed himself is
On a certain day of a certain month in 1968, Professor Zhang Qiyuan of the School of
Biology [Department of Biology] killed himself by taking poison. Because his uncle
lived in the United States, he was charged with being “a spy of American imperialism”
and persecuted. He killed himself by taking poison he had obtained from the biology
The above is a list of very simple records on the pohai zhisi of some of the teachers at Fudan University. Needless to say, the total number of people who were driven to death by such acts of persecution throughout the university during the Cultural Revolution decade is far greater than the number on this list. To this day, the authorities of Fudan University have still not released the total number. Indeed, they may not have
ascertained the total, but teachers who survived the Cultural Revolution made their own
count. As a result, the number of people who died as a result of persecution at this
university alone during the Cultural Revolution Decade amounted to at least 140.
This was the horrible reality of pohai zhisi that occurred at a single university in
Shanghai. In the capital city of Beijing, on Mao’s own turf, the terror of the murderous
political persecution was even more severe.
Middle School Teachers Beaten to Death
As an example, let me present what happened at Beijing Third Girls’ Middle School
in the Xicheng District of Beijing City. In China, a “middle school” is something like a
combined junior high school and high school, and may be seen as a precursor of the
integrated junior and senior high schools that are currently becoming popular in Japan.
This Beijing Third Girls’ Middle School is now a coeducational school called Beijing
159th Middle School.
In August 1966, soon after the Cultural Revolution began, the rebels and Red Guards of Beijing Third Girls’ Middle School promptly founded a Cultural Revolution
Committee, which became an executive organ of their “despotism” against “reactionary
teachers.” It goes without saying that the Red Guards of this school were all girls.
The Cultural Revolution Committee identified 14 people including school officials
and teachers as “reactionary elements,” gathered them and confined them in one room
of a warehouse on the school premises. But that was only the beginning of the Red
Guards’ cruel persecution against those women, who they called niugui sheshen, or
“monsters and demons.”
Every morning at six o’clock, the “monsters and demons” were roused from their
slumber. First, they were lined up in the schoolyard and made to stand for over two
hours prostrated with their backs bent at right angles. Anybody who was unable to
maintain the position during the “time of introspection” immediately become subject to
a beating. Of course, the Red Guards did not employ such a lenient method as to beat
people with their fists. They used wooden swords designed for military training or
After the “period of introspection” came the period of heavy labor called laogai, or
“thought reform through labor.” The “monsters and demons” were forced to engage in
heavy labor for over ten hours a day. Originally, there was not much heavy labor
required at the school. However, the Red Guards deliberately created “work” for the
“monsters and demons” to do. For example, they gave an order to the women to dig a
large hole in the ground in a corner of the schoolyard and then to fill it in again.
Needless to say, taking a break during the heavy labor was forbidden. Lifting the head
while walking was not permitted, either. Running with short steps was required when
carrying heavy objects. This was how the “monsters and demons” were to spend each
In the evening, came the period of “fun” for the Red Guards. They prepared one room in the school called the “examination room,” brought the “monsters and demons” into it one by one, and conducted interrogation and torture sessions that would go on and on all through the night.
Interrogation in this case did not mean that they seriously tried to extract any
information. It merely provided a “preliminary stage” for the beating that accompanied
it. For example, one question that the Red Guards often asked was, “Do you resent
To that question, the “monsters and demons” would naturally answer at first, “No, I
don’t resent him.” At this, the Red Guards would immediately explode with rage and
shout, “You liar!” They would go on, “There’s no way a reactionary element like you
doesn’t resent Chairman Mao. Come clean.” Then they would join in and start beating
their charge. If the person under interrogation became unable to endure the violence and
said, “Yes, I resent him, I’m sorry,” even harder blows would follow. It was the Red
Guards’ job to thoroughly punish any “scum that resents the Dear Chairman.”
The way they conducted the beatings was far from tepid. They soaked a leather
belt in water once and used it to hit the victim all over the body, employed the sole of a
leather shoe to hit the victim in the face, and flung up a wooden sword to strike both
legs. Blood drained from the victim’s nose and mouth and their entire face swelled up
like a bun in colors of blood, black and blue. Screams of pain echoed all night long.
In such a situation, the female principal of the Third Girls’ Middle School, a woman
named Sha Ping, went through an “examination” for three consecutive nights and was
eventually beaten to death on August 22, 1966. The place where she died was a school
toilet. Her body covered in scars and bruises, was half-naked, her hair was mostly pulled out and her mouth was filled with feces.
Her body was taken to the crematorium and reduced to ashes the next day but the
family of the deceased was not informed. Only when the Red Guards asked for a
“cremation charge” of 28 yuan a few days later, did the family of Principal Sha Ping
learn of her death.
At about the same time, a mathematics teacher named Zhang Yanmei, who was
declared one of the “monsters and demons,” hanged himself. One month
later, Wang Mei, a music teacher, was beaten to death. During two months, beginning in
August 1966, three female teachers were persecuted and lost their lives at the Third
Girls’ Middle School.
Of course, the Third Girls’ Middle School was by no means an exception. The data I
myself have collected, which may not be exhaustive, identifies teachers persecuted to
death in other schools in the City of Beijing in August 1966.
August 5: Bian Zhonggeng, Vice-Principal of Beijing Normal University Girls’ Middle
School, was beaten to death.
August 17: Chen Baokun, a fine arts teacher at Beijing 101st Middle School was beaten
August 19: Zhang Furen, a Chinese teacher at Beijing Foreign Language College was
beaten to death.
Before dawn August 20: Wang Qingping, Principal of Liangjiayuan Primary School in
Xuanwu District, Beijing, committed suicide by jumping.
August 22: Hua Jinye, a teacher at Beijing Eighth Middle School, was beaten to death.
August 25: Jiang Peiliang, a Chinese teacher at Beijing Normal University Second
Middle School, was beaten to death.
August 26: Liang Guangkui, Principal of Beijing 15th Middle School, was beaten to
death. Liu Shuhua, a physics teacher at the High School attached to Tsinghua University,
committed suicide by jumping off a chimney. Gao Wanchun, Principal of Beijing 26th
Middle School, committed suicide by hanging.
August 27: Principal Guo Wenyu and Dean Lu Zhenxian of Beijing Kuanjie Primary
School were beaten to death on the same day.
The above data introduce but a few cases of pohai zhisi at some middle and primary
schools in Beijing.
How many teachers suffered the persecution of pohai zhisi in the whole of Beijing or the whole of Shanghai during the decade of the Cultural Revolution? How many
teachers lost their lives due to loathsome and brutal persecution throughout China?
According to some unpublished data I saw in the past, among those who are called
“intellectuals,” including teachers at universities, middle schools and primary schools
and researchers working for research institutes, at least 600,000 people fell victim to
pohai zhisi. Although the accuracy of this figure is unverified, this may provide a rough
In any case, it is a historical fact that the number of people who lost their lives in the
pure hell of physical torture and ruthless and inhumane mental suppression during the
Cultural Revolution period in the same way as Professor Wang Mingru, who killed
himself after being smeared with black ink all over his body and then tortured for more
than a week, and Principal Sha Ping, who was beaten to death, her mouth filled
with feces, can be counted in the hundreds of thousands.
Pre-Holiday “Murder Festivals” Became Customary
The fact that a new way of murdering called pohai zhisi was developed doesn’t mean that murder by “immediate execution,” the Communist Government’s forte, became obsolete. During the Cultural Revolution period, people’s gatherings for public
execution, called “public trial assemblies,” were invariably held in large and small cities
nationwide on the eves of “holidays” such as the Anniversary of the Foundation of the
Communist Party, National Day and Chinese New Year’s Day. It became
customary for each city, depending on its scale, to hold a kangaroo court where between
a dozen and three dozen “counterrevolutionaries” would be sentenced to death and
immediately shot in one assembly.
I began living in Chengdu City, Sichuan Province during my middle school days and I remember clearly that a little before a “holiday,” “notices” of death sentences were
posted in corners of the city. A big poster listed the names of dozens of convicts and
their charges. What was especially striking was that each name was plainly marked with
cross symbols in red, which stood for “death penalty.” Sometimes, all the students of the
middle school were mobilized to attend a “public trial assembly.” I saw from a distance
those who were soon to be executed, as one of the crowd that filled the large square.
This is one of the memories of my boyhood.
Such executions served as “murder festivals” that took place a few times a year in
China in those days.
As this became customary, however, the Revolutionary Committees of each
individual city apparently had an increasingly difficult time maintaining the number of
“counterrevolutionaries” to execute. Ever since the establishment of the Communist
Government, a succession of suppression campaigns and elimination campaigns had
been carried out, which had resulted in the eradication of any and all “counterrevolutionaries.” Added to this was the pohai zhisi persecution that had begun with the onset of the Cultural Revolution, and which appeared to have already killed every single suitable target that could be killed. Nevertheless, a certain number of “counterrevolutionaries” had to be executed in each city every time a major “holiday” came around. And securing this number created a headache for those on the killing side.
The only solution that regional Revolutionary Committees could think of was an
arbitrary expansion of the range of crimes covered by the charge of being a
For example, egong zui, or the “crime of malicious attack,” which was in fashion in
those days, was developed by stretching the interpretation of the “crime of vicious
attack against Chairman Mao.” Criticizing Mao Zedong or the Communist Party using
clear expressions naturally constituted a proper egong zui but, as the interpretation was
steadily broadened, posing even the slightest question about or signaling even the
slightest distrust in Mao’s policies or style of politics came to be identified as egong zui.
For example, because Mao was commonly praised as the “Sun of the People,” anybody
who had used an expression that spoke badly of the celestial sun either in conversation
or in a piece of poetry or prose was charged with egong zui.
Inadvertently soiling or damaging Mao’s portrait or Little Red Book and using a
newspaper with a photo of Mao’s face printed on it to wrap vegetables or light a kitchen
stove likewise constituted egong zui.
The crime of egong zui was the “prime” crime of all “counterrevolutionary crimes”
and good enough to earn the offender a death sentence. In this way, the development of
so-called egong zui relieved the regional Revolutionary Committees of their concern
over the securing the requisite number of people for “pre-holiday execution.”
I have a copy of a written “judgment of death sentence” obtained in China. The
document is dated June 28, 1970 and signed by the Revolutionary Committee of Datong
City, Shanxi Province. In this single “judgment,” 13 people were “sentenced to death
and immediate execution” at the same time.
In other words, this document shows a judgment for the holding of a customary
“murder festival” in the city of Datong on the eve of the Anniversary of the Foundation
of the Communist Party (July 1). Now, let me say something about what kind of people
were executed on what charges.
The document starts with this sentence: “Following the order given by the Great
Chairman Mao that ‘counterrevolutionaries should be resolutely suppressed,’ we the
Revolutionary Committee of the City of Datong hereby render a judgment on the
punishment of the counterrevolutionaries listed below of death for the sake of
thoroughly frustrating the counterrevolutionary activities of some counterrevolutionaries and defending the revolutionary regime of the proletariat.”
In short, they declare that killing is mandated in compliance with Mao’s order. The
phrase that they are rendering a death sentence by “following the order” of leader rather
than “under law” is indicative of the nature of the mass murder carried out during the
period in question.
Then, the document lists the people to be executed one by one together with their
charges and renders a judgment.
Counterrevolutionary offender in flagrante Xu Guanzeng, male, age 32, of a wealthy
Offender in flagrante Xu Guanzeng has long maintained a reactionary ideology and
consistently taken a position of hostility toward the people. In April 1968, he established
a reactionary organization called the Society for the Study of True Socialism, has
conducted counterrevolutionary propaganda and been involved in counterrevolutionary
conspiracy under the name of “study,” and has repeatedly made malicious attacks on the
Great Leader Chairman Mao and the Communist Party.
On account of these crimes, offender in flagrante Xu Guanzeng is hereby sentenced to
death and the sentence is to be carried out immediately.
Counterrevolutionary offender in flagrante Wang Ruqiang, male, age 35, of a capitalist’s
Offender in flagrante Wang Ruqiang has long maintained a reactionary ideology and
consistently taken a position of hostility toward the people. Since June 1968, he has
associated himself with counterrevolutionary offender in flagrante Xu Guanzeng and
participated in a reactionary organization called the Society for the Study of True
Socialism. He has conducted counterrevolutionary propaganda and been involved in
counterrevolutionary conspiracy as a secretary, and has repeatedly made malicious
attacks on the Great Leader Chairman Mao and the Communist Party.
On account of these crimes, offender in flagrante Wang Ruqiang is hereby sentenced to
death and the sentence is to be carried out immediately.
Counterrevolutionary offender in flagrante Ren Daxiong, male, age 38, of a former
Offender in flagrante Ren Daxiong has long maintained a reactionary ideology and
consistently taken a position of hostility toward the people. Since October 1968, he has
associated himself with counterrevolutionary offender in flagrante Xu Guanzeng,
participated in a reactionary organization called the Society for the Study of True
Socialism and presented at the Society three reactionary essays containing malicious
attacks on the Great Leader Chairman Mao and the Communist Party.
On account of these crimes, offender in flagrante Ren Daxiong is hereby sentenced to
death and the sentence is to be carried out immediately.
Counterrevolutionary offender in flagrante Liu Shiguang, male, age 36, of unknown
Offender in flagrante Liu Shiguang has long maintained reactionary ideology and
consistently taken a position of hostility toward the people. Since October 1968, he has
associated himself with counterrevolutionary offender in flagrante Xu Guanzeng,
participated in a reactionary organization called the Society for the Study of True
Socialism and wrote one reactionary composition entitled “Our True Communist
Manifesto” and four reactionary poems that repeatedly make malicious attacks on the
Great Leader Chairman Mao and the Communist Party.
On account of these crimes, offender in flagrante Liu Shiguang is hereby sentenced to
death and the sentence is to be carried out immediately.
These are the “judgments” rendered on the first four of the 13 people condemned to
death in the “written judgment.” The contents of the “judgments” show that the four
were members of the Society for the Study of True Socialism. The establishment of or
participation in the “Society” was their primary “crime.” Probably, the phrase “true
socialism” in the name of the society indicates that they were dissatisfied with the
socialism implemented in China at that time. Anyway, in China in those days,
organizing any “society” to study any ideology without permission constituted a capital
crime in itself.
The individual “judgments” rendered on these defendants provide only very limited
descriptions concerning the facts, except for the set phrases such as “maintained a
reactionary ideology,” “a position of hostility to the people” and “malicious attacks.”
The establishment of the “Society,” taking the post of its “secretary,” presenting
“reactionary essays” and composing “reactionary poems” are all mentioned as crimes. In
short, committing any one of these acts was considered sufficient grounds for
depriving a person of their life in those days. After all, death sentences during the
Cultural Revolution were carried out for “crimes” no more serious than that.
Incidentally, as well as their name and age, the judgments include the “descent” for
the offenders in flagrante, which means the social position of their fathers. For example,
“of a landowner’s descent” does not mean that the person himself was a landowner but
his father used to be a landowner. In China in those days, being “of a landowner’s
descent” was in itself sufficient grounds to invite discrimination and suspicion. “A
former official” refers to an official in the Nationalist Government, which was the
The written “judgment” continues.
Counterrevolutionary offender in flagrante Bao Ming, male, age 28, of a former public
Offender in flagrante Bao Ming has long maintained a reactionary ideology and consistently
taken a position of hostility toward the people. Since May 1969, he has sent 13 reactionary
letters to a “friend,” in which he repeatedly makes malicious attacks on the Great Leader
Chairman Mao and the Communist Party.
On account of these crimes, offender in flagrante Bao Ming is hereby sentenced to death
and the sentence is to be carried out immediately.
Counterrevolutionary offender in flagrante Li Zongzheng, male, age 32, of a former
Offender in flagrante Li Zongzheng has long maintained reactionary ideology and
consistently taken a position of hostility toward the people. Since November 1968, he has
written 135 days’ worth of a reactionary diary in which he has repeatedly made malicious
attacks on the Great Leader Chairman Mao and the Communist Party in a closed room.
On account of these crimes, offender in flagrante Li Zongzheng is hereby sentenced to
death and the sentence is to be carried out immediately.
Counterrevolutionary offender in flagrante Chen Xiaozhen, female, age 34, of unknown
Offender in flagrante Chen Xiaozhen has long maintained reactionary ideology and
consistently taken a position of hostility toward the people. On April 2, 1970, she
intentionally damaged and destroyed a portrait of the Great Chairman Mao in an attempt
to make a malicious attack on the Great Leader Chairman Mao and the Communist
On account of these crimes, offender in flagrante Chen Xiaozhen is hereby sentenced to
death and the sentence is to be carried out immediately.
Let me finish quoting the written judgment here. These three “counterrevolutionary
offenders in flagrante” received their respective death sentences for “sending
reactionary letters.” “writing a reactionary diary” and “damaging a portrait of Chairman
Mao.” However, absolutely no specific explanation is given about what the “reactionary
letters” and “reactionary diary” actually contained. Also the judgment contains no
mention of how the personal diary and letters were ultimately “exposed” by the
authorities. In any event, anything that could be characterized as a “malicious attack on
the Great Leader Chairman Mao and the Communist Party” was considered reason
enough to take away a person’s life.
In the case of Chen Xiaozhen, the female “offender in flagrante,” her only crime was
that she “intentionally damaged and destroyed a portrait of Chairman Mao.” But in
those days, nobody in their right mind would have “intentionally” damaged a portrait of
Mao. Probably she tore the portrait as the result of some accident, which was, however,
enough to get her executed.
Not all of the 13 people who were sentenced to death in this single judgment were
“counterrevolutionary offenders in flagrante”: two homicides were included as criminal
offenders. What this shows is that during the Mao period in China, writing a diary and
damaging the leader’s portrait were punished as serious crimes on the same level as
How many people were killed at these “pre-holiday murder festivals” during the
decade of the Cultural Revolution? That is yet another figure that can never be
definitively known, but a simple estimation can provide us with a rough idea.
At present, there are 669 large and small cities in China. Because the number of cities
was somewhat smaller at the time of the Cultural Revolution, let’s say for argument’s
sake that there were 600 cities. The number of people killed at one “pre-holiday
execution” in one city ranged from a few dozen individuals in a large city to a few
individuals in a small city, so we can make a rough guess that the average number was
about 10 individuals. To take into account only three major holidays, namely the
Anniversary of the Foundation of the Communist Party, National Day and Chinese New Year’s Day, the estimated number of people executed in each city in one
year was 30. Based on the assumption that the number of people executed in one year in
one city was 30 on the average, then the annual total for the whole country, which can be obtained by multiplying 30 by 600 (the number of cities) would be 18,000 people.
From that number, the number of those who were sentenced to death for ordinary
criminal offences should be excluded (whether or not those offenders really deserved
capital punishment is another matter). If we assume one-third of the total were offenders
found guilty of criminal acts as a rough guide, then the remaining 12,000 would be the
estimated number of innocent “counterrevolutionaries” killed at the “pre-holiday murder
festivals” held in large and small cities all over the country each year. If we multiply this by the number of years in the Cultural Revolution period, the total figure would be well over 100,000.
In other words, even the most conservative estimate indicates that there were more
than 100,000 people who were identified as offenders of egong zui and executed for
“crimes” such as “organizing a reactionary society,” “sending reactionary letters,”
“keeping a reactionary diary,” or simply “damaging” a portrait of Chairman Mao during
the decade of the Cultural Revolution in China to “celebrate” the anniversary of the
foundation of a political party called the Communist Party and the foundation of a
country called the People’s Republic of China.
This represents yet another unprecedented massacre of innocent members of the
general public committed by the CCP and PRC.
Mass Murder of Incidents for the Sake of Exterminating “Class Enemies”
During the Cultural Revolution, the “rebels” composed of the Red Guards and dipi
liumang working as Mao’s instruments occasionally committed mass slaughter against
“class enemies,” or “enemies of the people.”
Song Yongyi, a Shanghai-born researcher of the history of the Cultural Revolution
now working at California State University in the US wrote a book entitled Massacres
during the Cultural Revolution based on a close field study on the series of “mass
murder incidents” that took place during the Cultural Revolution and had it published in
July 2002 by Kaifang Magazine Press of Hong Kong. This work, a Japanese translation
of which was later published by the publisher Hara Shobo under the title of Mo Takuto
no Bunkaku Dai Gyakusatu, can be considered the most reliable piece of research
literature concerning the reality of the massacres. Author Song Yongyi had the
experience of being arrested by the Chinese authorities in August 1999 while he was
collecting documents related for this study.
The “mass murder incidents” described in this book include the following.
Daxing County (Beijing) massacre
This massacre took place over six days, from August 27 to September 1, 1966, at 13
communes in Daxing County near Beijing, and was committed by Red Guards with the
cooperation of the local public safety bureau against the so-called “five categories” of
people (landowners, rich farmers, counterrevolutionaries, bad elements, and rightists).
Three hundred and twenty-five people, including those in the “four categories” (the first
four of the “five categories” listed above), and their families were killed. The number of
annihilated families is said to have reached 25. The oldest of the victims was 80 years
old and the youngest 38 days old.
Dao County (Hunan Province) rural village massacre
This massacre went on for 66 days, from August 13 to October 17, 1967. Four
thousand, one hundred and ninety-three people who belonged to the so-called “five
categories” were brutally killed during annihilation operations against “class enemies” at 36 communes in Dao County, Hunan Province.
According to the description in Massacres during the Cultural Revolution, there were as many as ten different methods of murder employed in this incident. In addition
to the traditional ways of shooting to death or killing with swords, methods such as
“sinking,” “bombing,” “burying alive,” “clubbing” and “burning” were often used. For
killing of children, “throwing” is said to have been the most popular method.
Binyang (Guangxi) massacre
On July 3, 1968, the Central Committee of the CCP, the State Council of China and
the Central Military Committee of the CCP published the “July 3 Bulletin,” signed jointly in their names and gave the command to massacre to Party organizations, Government organizations
and People’s Liberation Army units all over the country, which ordered “even more severe suppression of class enemies.” In response, the Revolutionary Committee of Binyang County in the Guangxi Autonomous Region promptly carried out systematic massacres across the county, resulting in the well-known “Binyang massacre.”
An internal document entitled Binyang xian “wenhua da geming” dashiji
(Chronology of the “Cultural Revolution” in Binyang County), which was produced in
the 1980s, gives the entire picture of this incident as follows:
In the whole of the county, 3,681 people were killed or persecuted to death, of which
government officials accounted for 51, laborers 27, organization officials 75, teachers
87 and peasants/residents 3,441. Up to 34 people were killed at one time. The methods
of killing employed included shooting, stabbing, strangling with rope, piercing with
a two-pronged weapon, clubbing, drowning, stoning, etc., in addition to individually
burying alive, and were extremely brutal. At one time, all of the men of
three households individually headed by three brothers were killed, totaling ten
Of the many mass murders, the one most often mentioned is the “Neirendang
massacre,” which occurred in Inner Mongolia. This incident, also known as the
“Neirendang false accusation and massacre incident,” was the most conspicuous of the
systematic mass slaughters that took place during the Cultural Revolution period.
Neirendang, which translates as “the Inner Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party,” was a faction involved in activities for the achievement of the racial independence and communist revolution of Mongolia in the 1920s. By the time the CCP government was founded in 1949 and Inner Mongolia became one of the autonomous regions of China, this faction had died out during the natural course of time and was no longer in existence. Nevertheless, from 1967 to 1968, during the Cultural Revolution, the Revolutionary Committee of Inner Mongolia conducted a large-scale “Neirendang exposure campaign” under the command of the central CCP on the pretext that the Neirendang was still going strong in Inner Mongolia and engaged in secret counterrevolutionary activities. As many as 340,000 people, mostly Mongolians, were arrested and imprisoned and at least 50,000, which only includes those who have been identified, were murdered.
According to the description of a witness quoted in Massacres during the Cultural
Revolution, people were killed in ways such as follows:
Comrade Jin Xueyun of the Inner Mongolia Goods and Materials Bureau was a
member of the Communist Party but had her teeth pulled out one by one with a pair of
pincers, her ears and nose wrung off, … and eventually had her back broken and died.
Comrade Xiaobai Xiuzhen (Mongolian) of the Yikezhao League was beaten to the
point of death, gang-raped by the rioters perpetrating every conceivable form of
villainy and had a poker thrust into her vagina to pull out the intestines, which was the
atrocious manner in which she died.
With Aoribu Zhamusu, a Mongolian who was a secretary of Siziwang Banner
Baiyingao Commune, his family was killed in an even more brutal way:
… ripped his body with a knife and rubbed salt into the wound, onto which a hot iron
was pressed. After Aoribu Zhamusu was murdered this way, his wife Daoerjisu was
caught, repeatedly raped, had a poker thrust into her vagina and was skewered to death.
In this family, with both parents dead, a baby less than five months old was left behind,
who starved to death.
These are but a sampling of the series of massacres that took place during the Cultural Revolution and some cases mentioned in Song Yongyi’s laborious work Massacres during the Cultural Revolution. According to a separate document I have obtained, in Hunan Province, for example, a succession of massacre incidents occurred, as described below, which followed the Dao County massacre mentioned earlier.
In Jianghua Yao Autonomous County, mass murders began on August 29, 1967, two weeks after the Dao County massacre. During the course of 58 days, until October 25, 898 people were killed.
The massacre in Ningyuan County began on August 18. At Maidi People’s Commune in the county, Wang Caifu, Chairman of the Pinnong Xiehui (Poor Peasants Association), led militiamen to arrest 38 landowners and rich farmers and their families, tied them up in a row with rope, put them into a cellar used for storing potatoes, set it on fire and locked the lid to burn everybody to death.
At Xiaomutang People’s Commune, Li Chunsheng, Party Secretary of the Commune, led armed militiamen himself and besieged Wanzili Village, where many of the “five
categories” of people lived. Then, he rounded up all 53 of the “five categories” and their
families and killed them with swords then and there. The bodies, as they were, were all thrown into the village’s publicly used cellar, with the exception of a man named
Zheng Gongjin, whose body was too big to put into the narrow hole that led into the cellar. To cope
with this, militiamen reportedly brought a saw and severed his body at the waist. The
last person killed was Zheng Cuiyun, Zheng Gongjin’s 17-year-old daughter. The girl,
who had been saved as a “sideshow” of the murder, was gang-raped by the Party
Secretary Li Chunsheng, before anybody else, and eight “meritorious” militiamen in total, had both her breasts cut off and was then killed, entirely nude.
There are many more of these descriptions of murders that could not be
crueler, but I should stop quoting here. I do not expect my readers to withstand anymore of these depictions. Detailed information about these massacres is provided in abundance in
the aforementioned book by Song Yongyi.
Mass murders of this kind are also strongly indicative of the terrifying nature of Mao Zedong and the Communist Government he led in terms of the methods of murder they employed. When Nazi Germany killed Jews in concentration camps, the victims were “matter-of-factly” fed into gas chambers and handled “routinely,” as a general practice. By comparison, techniques such as “ripping the body with a knife, rubbing salt into the wound and pressing a hot iron onto it” and “repeatedly raping (a woman), thrusting a poker into the vagina and skewering to death” can only be described as totally different dimensions of cruelty and inhumanity. The intensity of the hatred for other people and the lack of humanity on display were characteristic of the nature of the autocracy of Mao Zedong and the CCP.
In any case, during the decade of the Cultural Revolution, a movement that Mao
implemented out of his own desire for power, “persecution to death,” “pre-holiday
murder festivals” and “mass slaughter” were commonplace. It is an undeniable fact that
the number of people who were cruelly murdered or driven to suicide by Red Guard and
dipi liumang rebels or by the “organs of despotism” of the Communist Government
amounted to at least ten million.
China at the time of the Cultural Revolution was a pan-demonic “murderer’s paradise,” created by Mao’s Communist Party. This, the largest massacre in history against tens of millions of ordinary Chinese people, can be seen as the culmination of the murderous career of the Communist Party led by Mao Zedong, who established a regime through murder and strengthened that regime through murder.
CRUEL TALES OF MASSACRES MAKING THE PAGES
OF THE IMPERIAL HISTORY OF CHINA
The Tyranny of the Qin Empire That Carried out “Three Types of Massacres”
In the first three chapters of this book, I have given a detailed account of the history
of mass murders conducted by the CCP Government. In the course of the long history of China, no other regime has been as deserving of the title “Champion of Murderous Regimes” as this Government.
Nevertheless, the CCP Government was certainly not the first Chinese regime to use its power to carry out massacres. Since ancient times, successive dynasties have produced no shortage of regimes and tyrants of a murderous nature.
Massacres throughout Chinese history can be roughly classified into three types:
mass slaughter as an inseparable part of wars fought for the unification of the country,
arbitrary massacres against ordinary people perpetrated by those in power, and mutual
killing in the course of power struggles at the center of power.
The Qin Dynasty, which created the first great empire in the history of China, has
long been noted as a classic example of a tyrannical dynasty that carried out all three types of massacres.
Towards the end of the Warring States Period in the third century B.C., it is well
known that the first emperor, Qin Shi Huangdi, destroyed all of the other six states that
existed in Mainland China at the time and unified the country. In fact, before that, King
Zhao of Qin, great-grandfather of Shi Huangdi, had seized half of China through force
of arms and built the foundation for unification. It is only because King Zhao employed
Bai Qi, the greatest commander of the Warring States Period, and won a series of
campaigns against the other states that Qin was later able to unify the whole of China.
All of the successive advances towards unification were accompanied by mass
slaughters of opposing armies.
The “Biography of Bai Qi” given in the Records of the Grand Historian lists the
series of slaughters.
In 293 B.C., the Qin army led by Bai Qi defeated the allied forces of the states of Han and Wei in the Battle of Yique (between the present Luoyang City and Yichuan) and beheaded 240,000 men.
In 280 B.C., they defeated the army of the state of Zhao in Dai County (the present
Yanggao County, Shanxi Province) and decapitated 20,000 men.
In 273 B.C., they defeated the Wei army at Huayang and beheaded 130,000 men,
after which they fought against the Zhao army that came in support of the enemy, won
that battle, and drowned 20,000 soldiers in a river.
In 264 B.C., the Qin army made inroads into Xingcheng in the state of Han (northeast of Houma City, Shanxi Province) and cut off 50,000 heads.
Finally in 260 B.C., Bai Qi’s army completely destroyed the major forces of the
enemy at Changping, which is in the present-day Gaoping County in Shanxi Province,
resulting in the killing 450,000 enemy troops. This was the battle that settled the course of unification by Qin.
Of all the Zhao army soldiers killed in the Battle of Changping, the number of men
who died in action was in fact only about 50,000. The remaining 400,000 were killed
after the defeat and surrender to the Qin army.
To explain the course of events, in the final phase of the battle between the two
armies, the Qin army besieged the Zhao army that was encamped in Changping for 46
days to carry out thorough starvation tactics. In the end, with their provisions totally
exhausted, the entire Zhao army was obliged to surrender.
The victorious Qin army, however, was faced with a major problem. Having
advanced into enemy territory, it did not have enough provisions to feed the 400,000
starving prisoners or war of the Zhao army. But a serious situation would transpire if those 400,000 soldiers were not fed and rose in insurrection. Under these circumstances
General Bai Qi made a horrible decision. He ordered his army to kill most of the
400,000 soldiers of Zhao by burying them alive.
This live burial of surrendered soldiers at Changping is among the best-known
killing incidents in the history of China.
General Bai Qi’s war for unification culminated in this shocking mass slaughter and
the total number of enemy troops his forces killed amounted to 910,000 as recorded in
the Records of the Grand Historian alone.
During the more than 40 years from King Zhao’s era, when Bai Qi was active, until Shi Huangdi unified the country, Qin forces killed more than 1.3 million enemy troops. The entire population of the whole of China was about 20 million, which shows the enormous scale of slaughter by Qin forces. More than one person in every 20 in China was killed in the course of the “unification of the country” by Qin.
Ever since the Qin Empire, Chinese history has followed the tradition of the
maintenance of “unification.” As with the Qin Dynasty, the wars for unification by
successive dynasties have without exception been accompanied by mass murder. For
well over two thousand years, every time a great empire that achieved the “unification
of the country” has been born, the Chinese people have been obliged to make a tremendous sacrifice.
After all, the first unification of the country was accomplished in 221 B.C. when the
first centralized, great empire in the history of China was founded by Qin Shi Huangdi.
Under a centralized dictatorship, absolute political power was concentrated into a
system running from the emperor on down and the rulers during this period were
omnipotent. Power made anything possible.
This inevitably made political battles for the seizure of power even more severe. As a result, excessive slaughter in the course of power struggles?a vicious tradition in the
history of China?became established during this period.
Power struggle and slaughter in the Qin Empire began immediately after the death of Shi Huangdi.
In his last moments, Shi Huangdi appointed his eldest son Fusu, who had a good
reputation, as his successor. However, Zhao Gao, a eunuch who was an aide to Shi
Huangdi, and the Chancellor Li Si conspired to smother the imperial decree of the
appointment of the Emperor’s successor and instead named his second sun Huhai, who
was easy to control, as the next Emperor. At the same time, the two conspirers falsified
the deceased Emperor’s will and forced the eldest son Fusu to commit suicide.
The second son, Huhai, became the next emperor but he had some cause for
concern. Shi Huangdi’s many princes were not necessarily happy with the
succession and there were disaffected elements among the senior retainers as well. At
the instigation of Zhao Gao, Huhai began killing senior retainers. Firstly, the most
meritorious of the retainers General Meng Tian and his younger brother Minister Meng
Yi were killed and this was followed by the elimination of one senior retainer after
another except for those belonging to Zhao Gao’s and Li Si’s clique.
Once the killing of senior retainers was, for all practical purposes, complete, next in line to be eliminated were the princes, Shi Huangdi’s sons and Huhai’s brothers. Twelve
princes were arrested at once and executed. Ten princesses, who were uninvolved in
politics, were killed by crucifixion as well. A prince named Jianglu, who was arrested along with his two brothers, born of the same mother, made a desperate effort to exculpate himself, but without success. He is reported to have looked up to heaven three times and shouted, “Is this Heaven’s will? I am innocent!” Then he died. In this way, all of the children of Shi Huangdi except Huhai met with untimely deaths.
After a while, the two main conspirers turned on each other. Zhao Gao, who was one of the aides closest to the second emperor, decided to eliminate Chancellor
Li Si, who had become a hindrance, so that he could retain power form himself. He
took advantage of his position, which gave him frequent access to Emperor Huhai, and
constantly spoke ill of Li in the Emperor’s presence. At last, Zhao Gao succeeded in
laying a charge of treason on Li by slandering him and arrested Li’s entire family in the
name of the Emperor.
The jailed Li Si wrote letters to the Emperor in which he desperately pleaded his
innocence, none of which reached their intended recipient, for all of Li’s letters were intercepted by Zhao. This was how Li Si, one of the greatest schemers of the era, was
dragged out into the streets of Xianyang, the capital, and executed together with his
family?the “three classes of relations” (father, children and grandchildren)?on the
orders of Huhai, whom he himself had made into the second emperor through his
involvement in a grand plot. This is an example of the type of execution known in
Chinese as zu zhu (the execution of all relatives).
Incidentally, throughout the long history of China, it has been a general rule that the
loser in a power struggle is sentenced to zu zhu that involves the death not only of himself but of his entire clan. This horrifying tradition of the Chinese empires can also be traced
back to the period of the Qin Empire.
After disposing of Li Si and seizing total control over the Imperial Court, Zhao Gao
desired to make his authority absolutely unshakable. To achieve this goal, he resolved to
remove the final hindrance on his power by putting the Emperor himself to death. By
this time, Zhao had gathered enough power to carry out this plan, and so, before long,
Huhai, who was the son of the first emperor in Chinese history, unexpectedly
became the first Chinese emperor to be killed by one of his subjects.
After killing Huhai, Zhao appointed Prince Ying, a grandson of Shi Huangdi, as the
third emperor with the intention of exercising ultimate power himself as the guardian of
the new Emperor. However, Prince Ying, who had already reached adolescence, was
not content to be Zhao’s puppet emperor. So he faked an illness in order to call Zhao to
his residence and killed him with a single stroke of his sword. In this way, the life of
Zhao Gao, who had schemed and plotted to reach the summit of power, was brought to
a sudden and violent end, after which his three classes of relations were also put to
death under zu zhu.
By this point, an insurrection against the Imperial Regime had spread across the
country and insurgent troops had approached right up to the gates of the capital,
Xianyang. Prince Ying was obliged to surrender to the insurgent army. When the
commander in chief of the insurgent army, the famous Xiang Yu, arrived at the capital,
every member of the Qin Imperial Family including Prince Ying was executed at once.
The Qin Empire, which had been founded with a great deal of fanfare, evporated like the morning dew.
One reason why the Chinese people rose in mass insurrection lay in the Empire’s arbitrary massacres. Shi Huangdi, in particular, was noted as an extraordinary tyrant with a taste for massacre. In addition to ordering the mass burial of 460 Confucian scholars, when a meteorite struck the ground at a place called Dongjun, he had every single resident in the entire area killed. His only reason for ordering this
massacre was that somebody had written on the meteorite, “The death of Shi Huangdi
will split the territory.”
Moreover, the Qin Empire’s legal system was extremely rigorous in sticking to the
letter of the law. The number of “criminal offenses” that were punishable by death ran
into the thousands and there were even “crimes” that seemed as if they had been
promulgated solely for the purpose of killing people.
For example, on numerous occasions the Empire requisitioned hundreds of thousands of people for large construction works such as palaces and the Shi Huangdi’s Imperial Tomb. After being conscripted, the laborers traveling toward the designated
construction site could not afford to arrive late by as much as one day. Otherwise, they
would be immediately executed as provided for by law.
However, this practice backfired. One requisitioning group led by two men named
Chen Sheng and Wu Guang was caught in a heavy rain, which made it impossible for
them to reach the site on time. When it became clear that they would be late, the two
leaders and the whole group under their command decided to go on a rampage before
they were to be killed in any event and rose in rebellion. This incident triggered the nationwide revolt that led to the fall of the Qin Empire.
It is an irony of history that the Qin Empire, which so wantonly massacred people,
was eventually destroyed itself as a result of its policy of massacre.
The Han Empire’s 400-year History Filled with Intrigue and Killings
In the fight for the unification of the country, after the downfall of the Qin Empire,
Liu Bang, who was originally a scoundrel, defeated Xiang Yu and established a new
dynasty, which marked the birth of the Han Empire. Subsequently, the Han Dynasty
held sway over the Chinese continent for about 400 years through the two periods
known as the Former and Later Han and built the foundation of what we regard as modern “China.” Even today, Chinese characters are known as kanji in Japanese, a word that literally means “Han characters, and the majority Chinese ethnic group are referred to as the Han people. These are some of the facts that indicate the broad extent of the impact of the Han Empire on the history of China.
Delving a little deeper into the transition of political power during the Han Dynasty, what happened can best be described as a long succession of loathsome plots and gruesome and brutal atrocities, just as was the case with the preceding Qin Dynasty. Indeed, the 400-year history of the Han Empire is literally brimming with intrigues and killings.
Right from the start, these intrigues and killings were targeted at those who
had accomplished distinguished achievements during the founding of the Han Empire.
In the battles for the unification of the country, Liu Bang needed the cooperation of
numerous powerful figures and able generals in order to defeat Xiang Yu, who
commanded the most powerful military force. At the time of the establishment of the
dynasty, Liu, on becoming the Emperor, was forced by circumstances to act against his
will in distributing feudal states and thrones to numerous meritorious individuals as reward for their services. This is analogous to what was later done in Japan by Tokugawa Ieyasu, the triumphant commander in the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, who handed out territory to many warlords. In Liu’s case, the list of people who were given feudal states and thrones included Han Xin, who was invested with the kingship of the state of Chu, Peng Yue with the kingship of Liang, Ying Bu with the kingship of Huainan, and Lu Wan with the kingship of Yan. Because these men were not members of the Imperial Liu Family, they were called yixing wang, which literally means “kings who do not share the surname of the Emperor.”
Once the power base of the dynasty was firmly established, Liu Bang wasted no time in attempting to overthrow the yixing wang, as their continued existence was nothing but a hindrance and a threat to the maintenance of the power of the Liu family’s dynasty.
To that end, a series of underhand intrigues were hatched. The territory of Han Xin,
King of Chu, included the lake Yunmeng Ze, which was the largest in China in
those days. Under the pretence of visiting the lake, Liu approached Han’s territory,
accompanied by his imperial guards. Han Xin naturally came out of his territory to meet
the Emperor and his entourage and he was arrested on the spot by the guards and taken
to the capital city of Chang’an.
What awaited Han Xin in Chang’an was the false accusation of “rebellion by the King of Chu.” Some time later, Han was executed on the charge of “rebellion” and all the members of his family, who had been brought to live in Chang’an, were killed as well.
The next target was Peng Yue, King of Liang. As with Han Xin, he was also arrested in a plot contrived by the Emperor himself and put to the sword along with his entire family. After that, his body was salted and distributed to the other lords.
Ying Bu, King of Huainan, to whom the salted flesh of the late Peng Yue was
delivered, realized that his turn would come next. So he provoked a rebellion against the
Empire, which was exactly what Emperor Liu Bang had expected. Liu immediately led
an army to destroy Ying Bu’s rebel forces and decapitated Ying.
Intimidated by these events, Lu Wan, King of Yan, was compelled to abandon his
territory and sought shelter in the land of the Xiongnu in the north of China, but his
family was killed and his territory confiscated.
Several other yixing wang suffered the same fate and most of those kings who did not share his surname were destroyed within the reign of Emperor Liu Bang.
Feeling relieved, Liu Bang took to his deathbed. Yet immediately after his death, the
turn came for his own family to be killed.
The position of empress was held by Empress Lu, Liu Bang’s legitimate wife. One of the sons between Liu and Empress Lu succeeded to the throne after Liu died and
became Emperor Hui of Han. In his final years, however, Liu had bestowed special
favor upon Lady Qi, with whom he fathered a prince named Ruyi, who had been made
King of Zhao. On top of this, Liu had favored Ruyi the most among his children and at one point had considered giving him the Imperial Throne.
With this situation in the background, Empress Lu, who gained power because her
son had been made Emperor after the death of Liu Bang, immediately set about
retaliating against her “rival” in the race to seat their respective sons on the Imperial
Throne. First, she poisoned Prince Ruyi, King of Zhao, to death. Then, she arrested his
mother Lady Qi, had her hands and feet cut off, had her blinded and deafened and then
had her thrown alive into a toilet. Needless to say, Lady Qi died before long. This
is a very well-known murder incident in the history of China which indicates how
tremendous a woman’s jealousy can be.
Subsequently, taking advantage of the poor health and incapacity of her son Emperor Hui, Empress Lu made herself into the guardian of the Emperor and took control of the helm of politics. From that time on, the only thing that occupied her mind was how to suppress the Imperial Liu family and maintain the political power of the Lu family. To that end, she embarked on a campaign to ruin kings of the Liu family, the sons of Liu Bang. Various plots were concocted, which resulted in many of the kings, including Liu You, King of Huaiyang, Liu Hui, King of Liang and Liu Jian, King of Yan, meeting with untimely deaths, one after another, through Empress Lu’s foul play. Of the eight sons of the preceding Emperor Liu Bang, only two escaped murder during Empress Lu’s era.
After thoroughly repressing the Liu family, Empress Lu steadily invested the men of her own Lu family with kingships to give them real political power. Obviously, her aim was the foundation of a “Lu family dynasty” to replace that of the Liu family.
Before she could accomplish her aim, however, Empress Lu fell ill. Realizing that her own death was imminent, she appointed her nephews Lu Lu and Lu Chan to command the northern and southern armies of the capital and ordered them to defend the Lu family’s political power to the death by force of arms.
However, there were still a few survivors left among the hard-bitten old retainers who had followed the preceding Emperor Liu Bang since the days of the battles for
unification. These men, who were far from pleased with the Lu family’s monopoly of
power, had been plotting secretly for the return of political power to the Liu family and were waiting for a chance to set their plans in motion. When the Empress died, a weight was suddenly lifted from the old retainers, and they rose up at once to kill Lu Lu and Lu
Chan in a lightning coup and recovered the command of the armies.
Nothing now remained to protect the power or life of the Lu family. The entire clan
was hunted down and subjected to zu zhu.
Seizure of power calls for killing and loss of power calls for being killed. This has
always been an invariable principle in the history of power struggles in Imperial China.
After the downfall of the Lu family, Liu Heng, King of Dai, one of the kings of the
Liu family who had escaped persecution by the Lu family, succeeded to the imperial
throne and became Emperor Wen of Han. During the reigns of Emperor Wen and his
successor Emperor Jing, the politics of the Han Empire was relatively peaceful and this
period is referred to as Wen Jing zhi zhi (the good rule of Emperors Wen and Jing). In
the era of Emperor Wu, who followed Jing, however, the maelstrom of war returned.
The kanji for the “Wu” of Emperor Wu means “military.” And in keeping with his
name, the Emperor was famous for his fondness of using military power. During the 53
years of his reign, he launched more than a dozen wars of conquest against the
surrounding peoples including the Xiongnu, Nanyue and Joseon and spent almost all of
his time waging wars. As a result, the nation suffered financial collapse and a
tremendous amount of blood was shed. The wars of conquest launched by Emperor Wu
often involved more than 100,000 deaths on both sides in a single battle.
In one respect, Emperor Wu may be considered an “archetype” of Chinese emperors. Needless to say, his reign encompassed an endless series of killings in the course of
power struggles at the center of power from the Emperor on down.
In fact, the biggest killing spree of all occurred between Emperor Wu and his first son the Crown Prince.
In the latter part of the Emperor’s life, from 92 B.C. and continuing into the next year, a scandal arose that shook the nation to its core. The aging Emperor Wu was suffering from a fatal disease and his condition worsened day by day, which caused a rumor to spread that somebody in the capital city of Chang’an had put a curse on the Emperor’s life. In response, Jiang Chong, the head of secret intelligence of the areas around the capital, went into action. Under the pretext of hunting an “outrageous traitor who has put a curse on the Son of Heaven,” he went on a thorough search to arrest targeted individuals, one after another, on fabricated charges and false accusations, which ultimately resulted in the execution of tens of thousands of people on trumped-up charges.
Eventually, the hunt reached close to the Crown Prince. Jiang Chong, who had
incurred the Prince’s hostility in a previous incident, considered what would happen
when the Prince became emperor upon Emperor Wu’s death and decided that he needed
to eliminate the Prince before this happened. For that reason, based on fabricated
evidence, Jiang reported to Emperor Wu that, “The key figure in placing the curse is His
Highness the Crown Prince.” The old Emperor believed Jiang’s fake story.
The Prince knew the his father’s personality better than anybody else. Being well
aware that any explanation he might give would be useless, he wasted no time in taking
action. He sent soldiers to arrest and kill Jiang Chong. At the same time he made
preparations for a battle against his own father, Emperor Wu.
At that time the Emperor was at the Ganquan Palace on the outskirts of Chang’an for
the purpose of convalescence. On hearing the news of the “Crown Prince’s rebellion,”
he immediately dispatched a unit of imperial guards to make inroads into the city of
Chang’an and entered into a state of war against the “rebel army” led by the Prince. For
five days, the Emperor’s army and the Prince’s force waged fierce street warfare in the
capital. After taking a toll of thousands of lives, the battle resulted in the defeat of the
He escaped to the countryside but was tracked down. He hanged himself just before his pursuers broke into his shelter and his two sons, who had accompanied him, were killed at the same time. The other members of the Crown Prince’s family left behind in Chang’an were, naturally, caught and executed. The Crown Princess, the Crown Prince’s other son and daughter and the son’s wives were all killed. Even Empress Wei, the Prince’s biological mother, was ordered to commit suicide and the only surviving member of the family was the Prince’s grandchild who was a nursing baby.
Four years after this incident, Emperor Wu, who had killed his own son and
grandchildren, died a broken man. His successor was Emperor Zhao, who was still
a child of eight years when he acceded to the throne, and the real political power was
monopolized by a high official named Huo Guang in possession of the titles of Da Sima
(Commander in Chief) and Da Jiangjun (General in Chief). Huo went onto kill Empress
Xu, the Emperor’s legal wife, with poison and installed his own daughter in the place of
the Empress to make himself a “maternal relative” of the Imperial Family, thereby
successfully strengthening his power base. During the reign of Emperor Zhao, Huo and
his family monopolized the center of power and wielded authority arbitrarily.
However, after Huo Guang died and Emperor Xuan, the next emperor, began to
exercise direct administration himself, the same old story was repeated again. The entire
Huo family was arrested on the charge of rebellion and all its members were executed.
People from dozens of other families who were political supporters of the Huo family
also had their lives ended on the execution grounds.
More than 70 years after the destruction of the Huo family, another maternal relative
of the Imperial Family, an official named Wang Mang successfully took over the Han
Empire and founded his own dynasty called Xin. After the destruction of the Xin
Dynasty due to rebellions by the peasantry, the Han Dynasty was restored by the Liu
family, marking the start of the Later, or Eastern, Han Dynasty.
It goes without saying that the above series of changes of administration cost millions of lives, but even during the more peaceful Later Han Period, massacres, inseparable from the struggle for power, often took place.
The Later Han was a dynasty dominated by maternal relatives and eunuchs. Most of
the emperors of this dynasty from the third one onwards died at young ages and
maternal relatives and eunuchs took turns in holding political power. Accordingly,
killings in the course of power struggles mostly took place between these two groups.
Above all, the zu zhu of the Liang Ji family, maternal relatives of the Imperial Family, carried out in the reign of Emperor Huan, and the massacre of eunuchs after the death of Emperor Ling are classic examples worthy of special mention.
Liang Ji gained power because his younger sister became the wife of Emperor Shun
of Han. Emperor Shun met an untimely death at the age of 30 and was succeeded first
by Emperor Chong, and then by Emperor Zhi, both of whom acceded
to the thrown as “child emperors” and died relatively soon thereafter. In the course
of these events, the Liang family alone steadily strengthened its power.
At its peak, the family produced three empresses, seven feudal lords and two Generals
in Chief. Liang Ji himself was such as powerful figure that the young Emperor Zhi
called him “a domineering general.”
When Emperor Huan replaced Emperor Zhi on the Imperial Throne, Liang again
married another one of his younger sisters to the Emperor as a means of reinforcing his
own position as a maternal relative.
Emperor Huan, who acceded to the throne at the age of 15, had no intention of letting the domineering general stay in a position of dominance indefinitely. However, he had endured the situation for twelve years with patience and prudence, when Empress Dowager Liang from the Liang family died. The Emperor took advantage of this opportunity and conspired with the eunuchs, including one named Dan Chao, to send troops to have Liang’s residence surrounded and his official seal of General in Chief taken away. Resigning himself to his fate, Liang committed suicide together with his wife, after which his entire family was executed. Moreover, their bodies were placed on public display in the city. Hundreds of officials who had followed Liang were also put to death.
After the zu zhu of the Liang family, the eunuchs, including Dan Chao, who had
distinguished themselves in the overthrow, seized power. The Later Han Dynasty now
entered what could be termed a golden age for the eunuchs but, during the reign of
Emperor Huan’s successor Emperor Ling, a maternal relative of the Imperial Family
named Dou Wu in an alliance with Chen Fan, the head of bureaucratic officials, made an attempt to
exterminate the most powerful eunuchs. However, the eunuchs discovered the plot and
were able to win over the Emperor and establish control over the imperial guards, after
which they drove Dou Wu to suicide and caught and killed Chen Fan. Naturally, the
Dou family was subjected to zu zhu and hundreds of officials with links to Chen were
executed as well. The death toll in the incident amounted to over 600.
It was immediately after the death of Emperor Ling that the eunuch faction was
finally eradicated. At that time, revolts against the Han Empire had spread and regional
armies were also being stationed in the capital city of Luoyang to protect the center of
the regime. This prompted He Jin, the Empress He’s half brother, to obtain assistance
from the regional armies to exterminate the eunuchs. He brought over Yuan Shao, the
commander of a regional unit, to his side as a collaborator and carried out the plan, step
Again, however, He’s scheme came to the eunuchs’ attention. They ambushed him
when he came to the Imperial Palace and cut him down with a single sword stroke.
Fortunately, Yuan Shao’s unit was already standing by near the Palace. On finding out
that He Jin had been killed, Yuan ordered his men to besiege the Palace and he himself
led a troop of soldiers to break into the complex.
Subsequently, they combed the entire Palace for eunuchs and killed every last one of them, regardless of age. Some other men were reportedly mistaken for eunuchs due to a lack of facial hair and also killed. The total number of eunuchs slaughtered was said to be over 2,000.
A year after this wholesale massacre of eunuchs, Luoyang, the capital of the Han
Empire, was burned down and destroyed on the orders of Dong Zhuo, the commander
of a regional army who had come up to the capital. This raised the curtain on the
tumultuous Three Kingdoms period, which is described in the historical text the Records of Three Kingdoms. Thus, the above-mentioned slaughter of 2,000 eunuchs is regarded as the culmination of the history of “intrigues and killings” of the Han Empire.
Bloodthirsty Power Holders in Turbulent Times
The virtual downfall of the Han Empire around 200 A.D. marked the beginning of a
long period of turbulence for all of China. The first 60-odd years was a period of the contest for supremacy between the three states, well documented in the Records of Three Kingdoms, but the Jin Dynasty (Western Jin), which took over the Kingdom of Wei, ruled over the entire country for some time. However, the Western Jin Dynasty came to an abrupt end less than 30 years later, which led to another period of division between the Northern and Southern Dynasties. For the next 270 years or so, northern China came under the rule of different races, who founded a succession of states commonly referred to as the Sixteen Kingdoms of the Five Nomadic Tribes, which contended against each other for supremacy. In southern China, by contrast, five dynasties from the Eastern Jin to the Chen took turns in ruling and the recurring pattern of rising and falling of dynasties played out.
Perhaps because of the turbulence of events, killings in the course of power struggles during these years were particularly harsh and ruthless and men of power who had a penchant for killing appeared in great numbers. This marked the period as a definitively cruel and bloodthirsty epoch.
The period began with the Rebellion of the Eight Kings of the Western Jin Dynasty.
This dynasty had been founded by the Sima family. The head of the family, Sima Yan,
made himself into the first emperor of the dynasty, Emperor Wu of Jin, and appointed
many of his brothers and sons as kings with their own territories and armies. The “eight
kings” is a reference to these kings.
Emperor Wu died in the 24th year of his enthronement and the Crown Prince
succeeded to the throne to become Emperor Hui, which heralded the start of a lengthy
period of bloodshed and mutual killing. While Emperor Wu was reigning, Empress
Yang’s family exercised authority as the Imperial Family’s maternal relatives, but the
replacement of the Emperor naturally prompted the family of Empress Jia, Emperor
Hui’s wife, to attempt to take the place of the Yang family. The Yang, however, were
reluctant to give up the interests they had gained, and in the end, massacre provided an
In order to exterminate the Yang family, in power at the heart the regime, the Jia
family allied with Sima Wei, who was the King of Chu and a half brother of
Emperor Hui. Instigated by the Jia family, Sima Wei, King of Chu, suddenly went up, together with his troops to the capital, launched a coup and immediately slaughtered the
entire Yang family. The Rebellion of the Eight Kings had begun.
Three months later, the Jia family employed Sima Wei again, this time to take the life of Sima Liang, King of Runan, the doyen of the Sima family, and supporter of the Yang family. Once all of the rivals of the Jia family in its quest for total power had been
eliminated this way, the family had no further use for Sima Wei, King of Chu, and he
soon met his death at their hands.
The utter despotism of the Jia family provoked furious anger among the other kings
of the Sima family. In the end, Sima Lun, King of Zhao, led an army to the capital,
deposed Empress Jia, and killed her family. This mission accomplished, the King of
Zhao assumed the post of Chancellor and seized actual political power. After a while,
however, he attempted to usurp the throne from Emperor Hui and make himself
Emperor, a move that was totally unacceptable to other kings of the Sima family. In an
effort to subdue the ambitious King of Zhao, the King of Qi was the first to rise in arms.
He allied himself with the other kings including the King of Chengdu, the King of
Hejian and the King of Changsha; they made inroads into the capital and punished the King of Zhao and his family with death.
After the success of the subdual, the King of Chengdu and other kings went back to
their own territories, and the capital of Luoyang was placed under the rule of the King
of Qi. He held supreme power over state affairs and indulged in extreme luxury and
tyranny. In response, his former allies, the Kings of Chengdu, Hejian, and Changsha,
once again returned to the capital with their armies, killed the King of Qi and
annihilated his faction.
There then followed a scuffle between the kings for the leadership of the capital. In
addition to the three kings mentioned above, the King of Donghai made entry into
the quagmire of power struggles and killings, which went on endlessly. In the course of
events, the King of Changsha was grilled to death by his enemies, the King of Chengdu
was assassinated by a commanding officer, and King of Hejian was punished with death
by the new Emperor enthroned.
Kings were far from being the only victims of this unending succession of free-for-all fights. The battle between the King of Changsha’s army and the combined forces of the Kings of Chengdu and Hejian alone resulted in more than 100,000 deaths among the soldiers on both sides. In China, regardless of the era, men of power have historically made victims of huge numbers of commoners to achieve their ambitions.
In the days of the Rebellion of the Eight Kings, there was a man called Liu Yuan, the cavalry commander in the King of Chengdu’s army. He was a nobleman from the
Southern Xiongnu tribe, which was located in the northern part of Shanxi Province. After the King of Chengdu was killed, Liu Yuan led the cavalry and went back home, where he united the Southern Xiongnu and established his own regime. Two years later
in 308 A.D., he declared himself Emperor, made Pingyang (the present day Linfen City in Shanxi Province) his capital, which marked the beginning of the Sixteen Kingdoms of the Five Nomadic Tribes.
After Liu Yuan died during the second year of his reign, his son Liu Cong succeeded to the throne. In the following year 311, Liu Cong’s massive army made inroads close to Luoyang, the capital of the Western Jin Dynasty. The army of Jin attempted death defying resistance but there was no way it could repulse the cavalry corps of Xiongnu. The Jin Imperial Army was completely annihilated with more than 100,000 combat fatalities and the capital Luoyang fell.
After taking over Luoyang, Liu Cong’s army indulged itself in massacre and pillage
to its fullest satisfaction in the thriving city. During the two days following the capture, it slaughtered 75,000 officials and citizens, including members of the Imperial Family,
violated Imperial Tombs and burned down everything within the walls of Luoyang
This incident is referred to in the history books as the Yongjia Rebellion, although it
was in fact a truly horrible event that could be more suitably called the “Great Luoyang
This marked the death of the Western Jin Dynasty. The copious amounts of blood
shed from the outset of the Rebellion of the Eight Kings and through the “Great Luoyang Massacre” sprang from the Western Jin Empress Jia’s family desire for power. In the realm of Imperial China, the lust for power has sometimes had tremendous
Serving in Liu Cong’s army that sacked Luoyang was a commander named Shi Le.
He was from the Jie tribe, which is said to be a “variety of Xiongnu.” After the fall of
Luoyang, as Liu Cong’s empire fell into disorder due to the Emperor’s
misgovernment, Shi Le led an army and became independent as Prince of Zhao, before
finally establishing his own dynasty and assuming the title of Emperor. This dynasty
was the Later Zhao of the Sixteen Kingdoms of the Five Nomadic Tribes. Shi Le is
remembered as a fairly wise ruler. He unified almost the entire North China region and
consolidated the foundation of the Later Zhao state.
In Shi Le’s army, there was a brave general, Shi Hu, who was actually a cousin of Shi Le. After Shi Le died during the fourth year of his reign, his eldest son Shi Hong succeeded to the throne, but the following year, a dissatisfied Shi Hu staged a coup. He killed all members of the new Emperor Shi Hong’s family and all direct
descendants of his uncle, the previous emperor Shi Le, and took for himself the title
“Heavenly Prince.” The most murderous tyrant of the Sixteen Kingdoms of the Five
Nomadic Tribes was born.
After becoming Emperor, Shi Hu first appointed his first son Shi Sui his successor,
the Crown Prince. Shi Sui was a very brutal man. Every time he held a feast, he cut off
a beautiful woman’s head, put it on a tray after washing off the blood and showed it off
to his guests for amusement.
Shi Sui grew dissatisfied with his status as Crown Prince and plotted to assassinate
his father and take his place as Emperor. The plot was detected by Shi Hu, who
immediately captured Shi Sui and his wife and children?26 people in total?executing
them all at once and burying them in a single, huge coffin.
After the death of Shi Sui, Shi Hu allowed his second and third sons, Shi Xuan and
Shi Tao, to take turns at the helm of the state every other day. This, however,
proved to be the cause of conflict that led to a new round of mutual killings when Shi
Xuan used one of his favorite retainers to secretly assassinate his younger brother Shi
Shi Hu had been partial to his third son Shi Tao. Feeling distress over the
assassination of Shi Tao, Shi Hu ordered the uncovering of the culprit at once and
discovered that it was none other than his second son Shi Xuan.
Growing absolutely furious, Shi Hu arrested Shi Xuan. He then made a pyre on the
north of the castle. Shi Xuan, with his hands and feet cut off and eyes gouged out, was
placed on the pyre, which was set alight to burn him to death. Emperor Shi Hu is said to
have watched the burning of his son Shi Xuan from a hill.
Shi Hu went on to kill all of Shi Xuan’s nine wives and children. He even executed
Shi Xuan’s youngest son, a five-year-old child that he himself loved as a favorite
The execution of Shi Xuan’s subordinates was also thorough and exhaustive. His 300 palace guards, including the commander and 50 eunuchs, were all executed by drawing the body apart with wagons pulling in different directions so that limbs at the joints were torn to pieces.
In 349 A.D., the year following the execution of Shi Xuan, the murderous fiend Shi
Hu at last died from disease and the recently named young Crown Prince Shi Shi
succeeded to the throne of the Later Zhao Dynasty. However, the real power after the
death of Shi Hu fell into the hands of a man named Shi Min.
Originally of the Han race, Shi Min followed Shi Hu at an early date, earned his
trust, and eventually became his adopted son and right-hand man. After seizing the real
power of the Later Zhao Dynasty, Shi Min appointed generals and officials from among
the Han to key posts in quick succession in order to build a force of Han people
centered around him.
This strategy naturally incurred the hostility of the imperial Shi family, who were of the Jie race, and of other ministers of the Jie. They plotted to capture Shi Min
and the ministers of Han origin all at once but their conspiracy came to Shi Min’s attention. He immediately ordered all generals and ministers of the Han race to launch an annihilation campaign against the nomadic (Jie) tribe. In those days, many Han lived
both inside and outside of the capital, and they were all mobilized into the campaign.
Shi Min led an army of imperial guards himself to identify those of Xiongnu and Jie
stock inside the castle and kill them all, irrespective of age or sex. Han living inside the
castle also took up arms to take part in the “nomadic tribe hunt” and beheaded tens of
thousands of the “nomads” in a single day.
As a result of this all-out annihilation campaign, more than 200,000 Xiongnu and Jie
were killed and their bodies were tossed outside of the castle, and served as food for wild dogs and wolves.
Shi Min’s execution of the Xiongnu and Jie is considered to be among the largest-scale ethnic massacres in the history of China.
Needless to say, Shi Min did not forget to impose zu zhu on the Imperial Shi Family.
Twenty-eight grandchildren of Shi Hu were killed, together with other members of
the family. In this way, the regime of the Shi family, which began with a massacre,
disappeared with the zu zhu of the family itself.
The above comprises a very rough outline of the rise and fall of the regimes of the
Northern Dynasties with fragmentary mention of the accompanying massacres. In terms
of the level of violence and killing, however, the northerners were well matched by the
Southern Dynasties, in which ethnic Han were at the helm.
After the collapse of the Western Jin Dynasty, the King of Langye, a member of the
Imperial Family, fled to southern China and established the Eastern Jin Dynasty, which
marked the beginning of the Southern Dynasties. The Eastern Jin Dynasty conducted a
relatively peaceful administration and remained in existence for over 100 years. At last,
however, a general called Liu Yu hijacked the regime and the Dynasty was brought to an end. Liu Yu had himself enthroned as Emperor and founded the Song Dynasty. Emperor Wen, the third ruler of this Dynasty, also presided over a very stable administration, but towards the end of his reign a series of tragedies struck in the course of the race to succeed him.
In 453 A.D., Emperor Wen was assassinated at the hands of the Crown Prince. The
act arose out of a suspicion that the Emperor intended to depose the Crown Prince. With
the army of the imperial guards under his control, the Crown Prince systematically killed all members of the Imperial Family and the senior retainers who cast doubt over his version of the Emperor’s death. In response, a prince named Liu Jun, who was the
commander of a regional army corps, rose in arms to suppress the Crown Prince’s act of
violence and immediately made inroads into the capital.
Liu Jun’s army annihilated the Crown Prince’s imperial guards, after which the Crown Prince himself, his four children, his brother, who had belonged to his gang of
conspirators, and his three children were all put to the sword. The heads and bodies of
the dead were placed on public display and then thrown into the Yangtze River. The wives, concubines and daughters of the killed Crown Prince and his brother were all forced to commit suicide by taking poison.
The victorious Liu Jun acceded to the throne and called himself Emperor Xiaowu.
But since he had risen to his exalted rank from being the commander of a regional army
corps, he regarded all the members of the Imperial Family and the senior retainers in the
capital with suspicion. As a result of his anxieties, he proceeded to have Imperial
Family members and senior retainers killed one after the other, a policy that pushed the
entire capital into an abyss of terror.
Another prince, Liu Dan, who was unable to stand on the sidelines any longer, was compelled to rise in revolt in the provincial city of Guangling where he was stationed.
However, he was soon defeated by the Imperial Army and Guangling Castle fell.
As a matter of course, Liu Dan and his entire family were all killed by the sword.
Even this punishment was not enough to appease Emperor Xiaowu’s anger. So he
ordered the commander of the punitive force to kill all the officials and common people
The commander sought to save the lives of the people in the castle and he also
begged the Emperor to spare the lives of women and boys no taller than five Chinese
feet tall (about 1.5 m), for which, after a fashion, permission was granted. But even so,
more than 3,000 people were slaughtered.
Furthermore, Emperor Xiaowu had more than 3,000 heads brought into the
capital city of Jiankang (present-day Nanjing) and piled them up on the south bank of the Yangtze River at a place he called the “Skull Hill” and designated it as a “scenic spot” for the public to view.
Upon his death, Emperor Xiaowu was succeeded by his younger brother, who
became Emperor Ming. The first task the new Emperor carried out was the killing of all
of Emperor Xiaowu’s 16 children.
Emperor Ming was followed by a boy Emperor who proved to be yet another extreme tyrant. Emperor Houfei, who succeeded to the throne at the age of ten, engaged in so many repeated acts of violence and aberrant behavior that a senior retainer named Ruan Dianfu plotted together with some other ministers to depose him. However, the plot was revealed. Ruan Dianfu and the conspirators were all arrested and subjected to zu zhu.
One month later, when a denunciation was received that three ministers including
Shen Bo, who was in the post of Situ Zuo Changshi (Assistant Administrator to the
Minister of Civil Affairs) were involved in Ruan’s conspiracy, the boy Emperor
immediately led his guards, attacked their residences in quick succession, and put their
entire families to death by the sword. He cut off the limbs, cut the bodies into pieces,
and fed them to more than a dozen fierce dogs that he kept.
This boy Emperor was later killed by Xiao Daocheng, the Chief of the Lingjun Fu
(Office of the Imperial Army). Xiao Daocheng, who came into power through this act,
destroyed the Song Dynasty two years later, set himself up as Emperor and founded the
This time, Xiao slaughtered all of the surviving members of the Song Dynasty
Imperial Family, irrespective of age or sex. One prince of Song was said to have declared, in a voice filled with grief before his execution, “I do not want to be born into a royal family ever again.”
In Chinese history, there have been numerous members of royalty who have felt from the bottom of their hearts the desire to utter such cries.
Great Blood Purges Reiterated in the Ming Empire
Even after the turbulence of the Northern and Southern Dynasties died down, the
history of China continued to witness the rise and fall of many dynasties including the
Sui, Tang, those of the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period, the Song and Yuan. And each time one dynasty was replaced by another or a power struggle occurred, slaughters took place, including massacres, during war and mutual killing between those
grappling for power. To a greater or lesser degree, “massacre,” the vicious tradition that
has developed since the times of the Qin and Han Dynasties, has had an enduring
presence throughout the history of China.
In the period of the Ming Dynasty, which followed the Yuan, “an emperor’s arbitrary massacre of his retainers,” which is regarded as one of the traditional types of slaughter, reached the peak.
The founder of the Ming Dynasty was a man named Zhu Yuanzhang. His family were originally vagrants and he himself had led a life wandering as a begging monk for many years from his boyhood. Zhu, who rose from being a common soldier, was a tyrannical ruler, second to none in cruelty.
As has been pointed out by Japanese authorities of the study of Chinese history (such as Mitamura Taisuke), the Imperial autocracy in China was in fact consummated by Zhu Yuanzhang. Since the period of the Qin Dynasty, an emperor had traditionally exercised indirect rule over the administration and military organization through senior retainers including the Zai Xiang (Chancellor) and Da Jiangjun (General in Chief). In Zhu’s Ming Empire, however, those posts were all abolished and the administrative
organization and armed forces came under the direct control of the Emperor. All power
was concentrated in the Emperor’s hands, which made him an absolute dictator,
functioning as the general director of the administration and the supreme commander of
the military in addition to the head of state. In Mitamura Taisuke’s words, this was the “perfection of absolute imperialism.”
The position of the Emperor as an absolute dictator is also described by one historian as follows:
“In the periods of the Han and Tang Dynasties, ministers and the Emperor sat in
chairs and consulted together when administering the affairs of state. In the Song period, ministers were not permitted to sit down and had to remain standing straight up. Later
on, in the Ming period, they were not even allowed to remain standing and had always
to kneel down in the presence of the Emperor.”
In short, the “absolute imperialism” perfected by Zhu Yuanzhang made all of the
Emperor’s retainers into “slaves.”
Zhu’s treatment of his “slaves” was characterized by unprecedented purging.
The great purges started with the Hu Weiyong Case 13 years into Zhu’s reign. Hu
Weiyong had been a meritorious retainer since the establishment of the Ming Empire
and he had served Emperor Zhu as the head of the administrative organ for a long time
after the founding of the Empire. In 1380, however, an anonymous report was received
that he had long been plotting a rebellion while contacting remnant Mongolian forces
and Japan. In response to this report, Hu Weiyong and other high officials in his faction
were arrested one after another and executed as a “gang that plotted a rebellion.”
At the same time, a “Hu party exposure campaign” was put into full gear in central
and regional official circles. Pointing the finger at anybody with whom one was on bad
terms and naming that person as a “member of the Hu party” anywhere in the city was
enough to cause them, regardless of who they were, to be arrested and executed. In the
course of this campaign, 15,000 people were executed on the grounds that they were
involved in “Hu Weiyong’s rebellion.”
Of course, nobody today knows whether or not it really was the case that Hu
Weiyong had linked up with Mongolia or Japan in an attempt to foment a rebellion. The
historically accepted theory is that it was probably a false accusation concocted by
Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang himself as a pretext for a purge.
A decade later, the same false accusation was again put to use in furnishing the
grounds for launching a new purge. The target this time around was Li Shanchang, the eldest of the retainers who was said to be a great contributor to the founding of the nation. He was ordered to commit suicide on a charge of knowingly failing to report on his younger brother, who had been involved in the “Hu party” — more than 70 members of his family were then killed by the sword. Punishing a great contributor to the founding of the nation with zu zhu for such a trivial reason is nothing but purging based on a false accusation and, once Li Shanchang was eliminated, over ten thousand more people were executed on the pretext of their being of the “Hu party.”
This second purge took place well over ten years after the death of Hu Weiyong.
Only three years later, an incident known as the Lan Yu Case occurred. Lan Yu, who shared the same birthplace as Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang, was a competent general who had made substantial contributions to the unification of the country by the Ming
Dynasty. At that time, he was in the position of head military officer. One day, out of the blue, the Jinyiwei (Brocade Guards), a secret service under the direct control of the
Emperor, laid the accusation against Lan Yu that he was plotting a rebellion. In no time,
Lan Yu and many other senior retainers and high officials who had escaped accusation
in the Hu Weiyong Case were arrested and subjected to zu zhu together with their
families. Record has it that the number of people killed in this incident exceeded 20,000. Although no details or developments of the “Lan Yu rebellion” were announced after the decision to carry out the punishment was made, it is certain that the massacre was
In these two incidents based on false accusation, namely the Hu Weiyong Case and
Lan Yu Case, the lives of more than 50,000 people in total were taken, putting them
squarely into the category of extraordinarily bloody purges even by the standards of
Apart from these particular mass killings based on false charges, the Emperor
conducted arbitrary slaughter of his retainers on a routine basis. In the reign of Zhu
Yuanzhang, a horrific punishment for retainers known as tingzhang, which literally
means beating with a cane in the Court, was invented. If an official made any mistake or
incurred the Emperor’s displeasure through language or behavior at a morning
assembly or at any other meeting in the Imperial Court, he would immediately be held
down by palace guards and beaten with a cane. Not a few such unfortunate officials
were beaten to death.
For high officials in those days, attending Court was the equivalent to entering
into the jaws of death. Officials are said to have bidden farewell to their wives and
children every single morning as they left home for work and rejoiced together over
“another day survived” when they returned home in one piece in the evening.
Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang’s Court was a veritable hell on earth of terror and massacre. The most tyrannical emperor of the Ming Dynasty, next to Zhu Yuanzhang, was the
third emperor Zhu Di, also known as the Yongle Emperor. Zhu Di, a son of Zhu
Yuanzhang, was invested with a kingship at the age of 21 as was the case with his
brother princes. He became the King of Yan based in Beiping (present-day Beijing). In
defense against remnant Mongolian forces in the north, Zhu Di was provided with a
large army by the Emperor. As he stayed in Beiping over an increasing period of time, the King of Yan gradually gained strength as a force with his own military power.
Originally Zhu Yuanzhang had intended to cede the throne to his eldest son, the
Crown Prince Zhu Biao. Unfortunately, however, the Crown Prince died from a disease
before his father. After a lot of pondering over whom to name his successor, he finally
decided on his grandson and heir apparent, Zhu Yuwen, the son of Crown Prince Zhu
Biao. Zhu Yuanzhang could not have ever dreamed that this decision would be the source that would precipitate disturbance and massacre.
After the death of Zhu Yuanzhang, his grandson and heir apparent acceded to the
throne and, at the age of 16, became the Jianwen Emperor. After a while, the Jianwen
Emperor followed some of his retainers’ advice and decided to depose the kings who
had formed quasi-independent regional forces by that time. His first target was Zhu Di,
King of Yan.
However, Zhu Di was no longer of such a modest existence that he could be deposed of merely by an order from the Court. Instead, instigated by his aides including the evil Buddhist monk Dao Yan, Zhu Di finally took up arms in rebellion and eventually marched on the Imperial Capital of Yingtianfu (present-day Nanjing). This is what is referred to as the Jingnan Campaign.
In the four years that followed, a furious civil war was waged on and off between Zhu Di’s rebel forces and those of the Emperor. Ultimately Zhu Di’s army captured
Yingtianfu and gained final victory.
At the fall of Yingtianfu, the Jianwen Emperor resigned himself to his fate, set the
palace on fire himself and committed suicide by fire together with his Empress and
princes. A number of aides and high officials followed the Emperor to the grave. Thus
the Jianwen Emperor and his family were virtually killed by his own uncle.
No sooner had Zhu Di, King of Yan, entered Yingtianfu as the victor that he declared himself Emperor, becoming the Yongle Emperor, Chengzu of the Ming Empire. With the appearance of this new emperor, another horrendous massacre took place.
Among the central officials of Yingtianfu at that time was Fang Xiaoru, who had been given a position of trust by the deceased Jianwen Emperor. Fang had been the de facto leader of the central official circles. After the fall of Yingtianfu, he was arrested and imprisoned as a former retainer of the Jianwen Emperor’s. The King of Yan, who had just seized power, then attempted to gain control over the officials by having Fang
Xiaoru work under him. First, he tried to get Fang to draft the Imperial Edict of
ascension to the throne, but Fang absolutely refused. Having run out of patience, the
King of Yan met with Fang in person and entreated him to write the Edict, in response to which, Fang, who was determined to remain a loyal subject of the deceased Jianwen
Emperor, wrote, “The thief of Yan has usurped the throne” and threw out the brush.
“Even the ruin of ten grades of my relations will not shake my will,” he exclaimed.
This outburst set off a vehement murder spree, which has gone down in history. The
enraged King of Yan had Fang Xiaoru’s mouth ripped to his ears and had his blood
relatives, friends and pupils, dragged out one by one, to be killed in front of him. Not
merely his wife, children and siblings, but nine grades of his relations including his
wife’s and mother’s families, in addition to which were his pupils’ families, or in other
words, the “ten grades of relations” just as Fang Xiaoru had said. All were put to the
sword. The number of people killed in that incident alone amounted to 873.
There were many other former retainers of the Jianwen Emperor who disobeyed the
Yongle Emperor and suffered zu zhu. One of them was Tie Xuan, the Bingbu Shangshu
(Minister of Defense), who had almost captured the King of Yan during the civil war. As he was stood before the King of Yan, who had became the Emperor, he continued cursing him with his back turned towards the Emperor, and would not stop. The infuriated Yongle Emperor had Tie’s ears and nose cut off, which were then boiled and fed to him. Nonetheless, Tie still kept cursing him and was finally thrown into a large pot of boiling oil to be killed. Naturally, all the members of his family lost their lives on the execution grounds.
Jing Qing, an imperial censor, pretended to serve and pledge allegiance to the Yongle Emperor on the surface but always kept a dagger concealed in his breast to kill the Emperor. However, the censor failed in the attempt and was himself cut down by a
sword on the spot. His body was skinned, stuffed with grass after the internal organs
had been ripped out, and was exposed at Chang’an Gate. Needless to say, his entire
family was killed as well.
The number of former retainers and their relatives killed in this way at the hands of
the Yongle Emperor amounted to more than 3,000 people. In a manner of speaking, the
Yongle Emperor’s throne was established on the corpses of those people.
The Yongle Emperor also attempted to erase history. Incredibly, he obliterated all
records that contained references to the preceding Jianwen Emperor. He completely
denied the fact that an emperor called the Jianwen Emperor had existed before he
himself became Emperor. The official records of the Ming Dynasty since then show that the Yongle Emperor, who was supposed to be the third emperor, as the second emperor
following Zhu Yuanzhang, the founding emperor.
Blatant falsifications of history in this vein were another vicious tradition of Imperial China that went in parallel with “massacres.” Once established, these traditions
continued to be handed down for a long time.
Incidentally, one administration that surpasses, by far, the tyrants of the Ming Empire in terms of both massacre and falsification of history is none other than the present Chinese Communist Party regime.
BLOODCURDLING INDISCRIMINATE MASSACRES IN
THE HISTORY OF CHINA
The “Great Sichuan Massacre” Began with the Killing of a Million People
The “9/11 terrorist incident” that destroyed the World Trade Center buildings in New York City shook the world as an indiscriminate massacre that killed at once the few thousand civilians who happened to be in the buildings. In the long history of China, massacres on a similar scale have occurred on numerous occasions. In addition to mass killings during wartime and political disturbances aimed at specific targets such as soldiers or political foes, as mentioned in the previous chapter, many instances of indiscriminate slaughter of common people have also taken place. In China, the magnitude and scale of massacres have been absolutely enormous.
The most conspicuous example of indiscriminate killing in the history of China was
the massacre carried out against people in Sichuan by a man named Zhang Xianzhong,
who led a rebel army and occupied the province during the dynastic change in the
middle of 17th century when the Ming Dynasty was replaced by the Qing Dynasty.
In fact, the massacre conducted by Zhang Xianzhong was not a single “massacre
incident” involving killing over a strictly limited period in a narrowly defined area. It
was a continuous and systematic great massacre that targeted everybody in Sichuan
without discrimination, contining for several years, from Zhang’s invasion of
Sichuan up until the defeat of his rebel forces. Chinese history books refer to this as
Zhang Xianzhong Tu Chuan, in which “Tu” means slaughter and “Chuan” stands for
Sichuan. In short, what Zhang slaughtered was “Sichuan” itself.
This is no exaggeration. While the population of Sichuan was over six million at the
end of the Ming Dynasty, the survey conducted after Zhang was defeated and the Qing
Dynasty took control of Sichuan revealed that the number of people surviving was only
about 18,000. It is assumed that most of the reduction of population is accounted for by
the slaughter carried out by Zhang.
How, then, did Zhang Xianzhong execute Tu Chuan? Let me first explain the course
of events that led up to the massacre.
Zhang Xianzhong came from Yan’an in Shaanxi Province and was originally a
“military official” of a border defense unit of the Imperial Court, which was
equivalent to the current military rank of sergeant. In China in those days, such minor
official ranks were often occupied by those who had previously been scoundrels, so to
speak. Zhang is assumed to have been of such an origin. In any case, this man, who was
well known as being “yellow-faced and tall,” was nicknamed “Yellow Tiger” and was
already something of a bete noire to people.
Towards the end of the Ming Dynasty, numerous insurrections against the Imperial
Regime broke out all over the country. Zhang Xianzhong, who had broken away from
the Imperial Army, achieved some success and led a few thousand vagrants to join in
the rebellion. From that time on, he gradually gained power through repeated killing and
looting while skirmishing against the imperial forces dispatched to put down the
rebellion. In 1644, the 13th year after the start of the revolt, Li Zicheng, the leader of the
largest force of the rebel armies, was finally able to enter the Ming capital of Beijing
and put an end to the Dynasty. Zhang Xianzhong, in the meantime, led a large army that
had expanded to 600,000 troops and headed towards Sichuan. To feed this massive
force, he intended to capture the last granary that had not yet been ravaged by war,
which was the start of a terrible calamity for the people of Sichuan.
The series of massacres began first of all in Chongqing, the gateway to Sichuan.
According to the description in a history book, The History of Ming, Zhang Xianzhong’s
army burned all of the imperial officials after capturing Chongqing following severe
attacks. In addition, they gathered a total of more than 37,000 imperial soldiers and
civilians who surrendered to them and cut off the arms of each and every one of them, according to the book. Why they cut off arms rather than heads is not known but it was at any rate simply a “prelude” to the great massacre that was to follow.
After the capture of Chongqing, Zhang’s army advanced directly north and occupied
Chengdu, the largest city and capital of Sichuan Province, where in November 1644,
Zhang founded a government called the “Daxi Dynasty” and declared himself the
“Emperor of the Daxi Dynasty.” Over the next one and a half years, until its destruction
at the hands of the Qing Imperial Army that invaded Sichuan during the spring of 1646,
Zhang’s “Daxi Dynasty” government turned the whole of Sichuan Province into a hell of
massacre and terror.
Soon after the establishment of the “Daxi Dynasty,” Zhang Xianzhong carried out a
mass killing of the officers and soldiers of the Sichuan defense forces of the Ming
Dynasty, who had laid down their arms, and their families as well.
A record entitled Shu Bi, which describes in detail the Zhang Xianzhong Tu Chuan, says that a total of 750,000 officers and soldiers of the defense forces and 320,000 members of their families were gathered around Chengdu and their slaughter began on a single order from Zhang to “kill everybody aged 15 or above.” From a place called Tongziyuan outside the south gate of Chengdu Castle all the way to Weifengshan in the north, there were reports of piles of bodies as high as mountain ranges extending for several dozen kilometers.
Enemy soldiers would “waste” provisions if taken captive and might rise in revolt if
released. Accordingly, it was considered preferable that they be killed. For these reasons, “the killing of surrendering soldiers,” has been customary throughout Chinese history, as was illustrated in the previous chapter. However, the massacre conducted by
Zhang Xianzhong, the Yellow Tiger, was of an entirely different dimension.
Starting on the very first day he occupied Chengdu, Zhang set a quota of “200 a day” and set in motion the mass killing of the residents of Chengdu. The first targets were officials and members of old-established families from the Ming Dynasty period, but the scope of the massacre gradually expanded. Shu Bi describes: “After taking over
Sichuan, the rebel Zhang Xianzhong assumed the title of Emperor and simply taxed his
ingenuity in devising methods of killing rather than trying to win the hearts of the
people. …He started to kill artisans and menials after the last learned man had been
killed, women after the last man, Buddhist monks and Taoists after the last commoner,
and soldiers when nobody else was left to kill.”
This was murder for the sake of murder ? a totally indiscriminate massacre. Before
long, the arbitrary slaughter spread to the bureaucracy of Zhang Xianzhong’s own “Daxi
Dynasty.” Every time a morning assembly was held at the “Imperial Court,” Emperor
Zhang Xianzhong released more than ten vicious dogs as the officials who attended the
palace were prostrated. Anybody who was sniffed at by any of the dogs, whether the
prime minister or the minister in charge of finance, or any other figure, would be
immediately dragged out and killed by the sword, a practice that called tian sha
High officials were killed in extremely cruel ways. Gong Wanjing, the Bingbu
Shangshu, a position equivalent to the Minister of Defense, was charged with failure to
maintain public order and punished with execution by skinning and ripping out his intestines, after which the corpse was dressed for public display. In the case of the You
Chengxiang (Minister of the Right) Yan Ximing, the luxurious mansion in which he
resided attracted the attention of Zhang Xianzhong, who had been touring the city. As a
result, the entire family was burned to death by setting the mansion on fire.
Because of the killings that took place in this way, of the 700 people who became the central officials at the time of the foundation of the “Daxi Dynasty,” only about 25 were reported to have survived until the collapse of the regime one and a half years later. Including the massacre of officials, the “200-a-day” slaughter of the “Daxi Dynasty”
became customary and continued for more than one and a half years, which means that
the number of people killed amounted to more than 10,000.
Of course, this was just the “every-day” side of the massacre conducted by Zhang
Xianzhong. What displayed the true capabilities of this murderous monster to the full
were the numerous massive killings.
When it was discovered that Daci Si, the largest Buddhist temple in Chengdu, had
sheltered a member of the Ming Dynasty royal family, the more than 1,000 monks who
belonged to the temple were killed at once. Zhang, however, was far from satisfied with
murder on such a modest scale. So he came up with a strategy to annihilate all
monks throughout Sichuan.
One day, Empress Chen of the “Daxi Dynasty” sent out word that a great donation
would be made to monks on the square in front of the palace on a certain day of a
certain month to come. This was to take the form of a generous gift of ten taels of silver
to each adult monk and six taels of silver to each young novice.
In hearing this news, the monks, who were in financial difficulties due to the war’s disruptions, uniformly shouted with joy. Every one of them felt sincerely
grateful for the “imperial benevolence of the Daxi Dynasty.” When the day of the great
donation finally arrived, tens of thousands of monks gathered from all over Sichuan.
Among them, many were reportedly impromptu “monks” who had suddenly had their
heads shaved in order to obtain a donation. The square in front of the palace was filled
with men in yellow robes and with shaven heads, when, suddenly, Zhang’s army
closed in, bound the monks with rope in groups of ten and took them all out to the
fields in the suburbs. What awaited the monks there were not “donations” but a killing, down to the last man.
The Buddhist circles of Sichuan had produced such an outstanding figure as Lanxi
Daolong, who traveled all the way to Kamakura, Japan and taught Zen to the regents of
the Hojo family in the 13th century. What Zhang Xianzhong did was to exterminate the
inheritors of Sichuan’s Buddhist tradition.
Zhang Xianzhong’s next massacre targets were the dushuren, or intellectuals, of
the whole province of Sichuan. Zhang, who was born and raised among scoundrels, had
a profound hatred of this educated class and was afraid of their underlying social
Determined to wipe out the dushuren, Zhang took advantage of the keju civil service
examination system. In those days, the only way for a dushuren to succeed in life was to
pass the keju examination to become an official. However, the examination had been
suspended for some time because of the civil war that had been raging since the final years of the Ming Dynasty and many of the dushuren in Sichuan were on “standby” for
Under these circumstances, Zhang declared a resumption of the huishi (a part of the
keju system that gathered candidates in the capital for examination) as a test for the
employment of officials and issued an “imperial order” to “gather in the capital city of
Chengdu on a certain day of a certain month to participate in the huishi.” For dushuren, who were eagerly waiting for huishi, this news must have come as a merciful
rainstorm at a time of drought.
On the day of the huishi, more than 17,000 dushuren gathered together in front of the Gongyuan (examination hall) in Chengdu Castle. Of course, Zhang Xianzhong had
absolutely no intention of holding a huishi. He just wanted to kill people.
To the assembled dushuren, Zhang issued a notice, saying that the huishi would be held at a temporary examination hall set up outside the south gate instead of at the examination hall in the Castle (the Gongyuan) because too many people had
gathered for the Gongyuan to accommodate them all, so everybody must move to the
south gate. As the people assembled one after the other, a unit of imperial guards were
already lined up and waiting. There, the dushuren were stripped of their belongings and
wallets by the imperial guards, after which they were taken out of the gate in groups of ten.
Of course, there was no “temporary examination hall” outside the gate. There was a
big river flowing outside the south gate of Chengdu Castle, which was spanned by a
bridge called the Nanmen Daqiao (the South Gate Bridge). The dushuren taken out of
the south gate in groups of ten were dragged out onto the bridge by other imperial
guards standing by outside of the gate and killed with swords. Their bodies were then dumped into the river.
Repeating this process from morning to afternoon, all of the 17,000 dushuren disappeared into the muddy waters of the blood-colored river. Only the brushes and inkstones they had brought with them for the examination are said to have been collected at one place and piled up mountain-high.
“Murder Competition” Within Zhang Xianzhong’s Army Brought About the
Annihilation of the Population
In carrying out these two massacres, namely, the “extermination of monks” and the
“extermination of dushuren,” Zhang Xianzhong antagonized the entire population of
Sichuan. It was natural that the ordinary people and peasants, who were pious Buddhist harbored hatred against the “Daxi Dynasty.” In addition, in those days, the dushuren were at the core of their individual local communities and the parents and relatives of the 17,000 murdered “examination candidates” could not remain quiet. In regions of the province, outside Chengdu, rebellious movement against the “Daxi Dynasty” rapidly reached a peak, with frequent uprisings and riots taking place.
Zhang’s response to this situation was to resort to more killing. Once any uprising
broke out in a certain town, or even if a report was received of a disquieting
atmosphere, he immediately sent in mobile troops for suppression. And suppression for
Zhang Xianzhong’s army meant nothing but slaughter.
As an invariable rule of Zhang’s army, once a unit of mobile troops had besieged and conquered a town, they would kill all the people in the town regardless of their age or sex. This was called caosha, or literally “grass killing.” In other words, they would kill people as if they were blades of grass to be cut. At times, rural areas on the periphery of towns became targets of caosha. That is when the Zhang Xianzhong Tu Chuan started on a full scale.
In a town of Gongzhou, some of the residents were led by local dushuren to rise
in revolt and killed the officials appointed by the “Daxi Dynasty.” A few days later, a
unit of mobile troops dispatched by Zhang Xianzhong broke through the castle wall and
entered the town. For the next three days, the unit, after imposing a curfew on all
residents, broke into the homes of each of the more than 10,000 families in the town.
Once they had located all the gold, silver and other valuables, they invariably
gang-raped all the women and killed all family members without exception.
After thoroughly completing the “caosha operations,” the unit of mobile troops
set fire to the entire town and withdrew. By the time that the flames that engulfed the
entire area had died down, the town of Gongzhou had been literally reduced to ashes.
In another town, Meixian, the governor appointed by the “Daxi Dynasty” himself led an army of guards to rise in revolt and held up in the castle. They continued to endure a siege for a few days after Zhang Xianzhong’s mobile troops enveloped them.
When they realized that the fall of the castle would only be a matter of time, however,
the residents inside had no other choice but to reconcile themselves to the treatment
they expected after the fall. It is said that people rushed to buy liquor at the liquor shop
to get their entire families blind drunk. The liquor shop owner made a fortune and was exhilarated at first but then finally realized the reason for the bonanza — and then he
reportedly started to cry loudly. The mobile troops entered the castle a few days later
and people all over the town, while totally inebriated, had their limbs torn off and were
killed to the last man.
The case of Guangyuan County was different. Here nobody rose up in revolt or
rebellion. But secret information was received that there was disquieting movement in the county and so mobile troops were immediately dispatched. At first, they summoned the officials including the governor and ordered them to gather all the men in the town to the parade ground outside the castle to welcome the Emperor, who they said would be arriving soon. The men assembled on the parade ground, where they were surrounded right away. Another unit of mobile troops promptly entered the castle and closed all of the gates, after which they killed the women and children remaining inside, one after another, with swords.
At the same time, the slaughter on the parade ground also started. The soldiers in the
first line of the encircling mobile troops went forward, flung up swords and axes and
charged ahead into the crowds of townsmen while cutting off or smashing their heads,
one by one. When the soldiers in the first line became fatigued, those in the second line
took their place at the front and continued with the hellish slaughter.
In this way, famous towns all over Sichuan Province became the settings of
Massacres, one by one. The Emperor Zhang Xianzhong decided to evaluate the
services of the generals, officers and soldiers sent out to perform these mass killings
according to the number of people slaughtered. The more people killed by an entire unit
of mobile troops, the higher the general’s titular rank and the greater his reward.
Promotion in rank for military officials and soldiers also depended on the number of
heads each individual had cut off.
To this end, the soldiers of the mobile units were required to bring back to Chengdu
physical evidence showing the number of people they had killed in the outlying regions.
It was naturally impossible to carry all the corpses back to the capital and so it was
eventually decided that everybody should bring back the pairs of hands cut from the
people they killed.
From that time on, the secretaries of the Imperial Court were very busily occupied
with counting and recording the number of hands brought back on the parade ground
inside the Chengdu Castle. As the human hands piled up here and there on the parade
ground, many generals and soldiers were rewarded and happily promoted. One soldier,
who killed more than 200 people alone and brought back their hands in a hand truck,
was promoted directly to the rank of military governor.
By the time things had gone this far, the murder competition among Zhang
Xianzhong’s mobile troops became unstoppable. Once a unit of mobile troops was
mobilized, the only thing everybody from military officials to common soldiers could
think of was how to make as many kills as possible. Naturally, the generals of the units
also started to scheme for more massacre duties to be given out by submitting false
reports on “a certain town plotting a rebellion” to the Emperor Zhang Xianzhong, while
at the same time spurring their subordinates to make greater efforts in killing. So many
of these reports came in that Zhang found it too much trouble to read them individually.
Accordingly, he simply gave his approval by quickly writing the kanji for “kill” on each
In this way, the whole of Sichuan was turned into a “competition arena” of murder by Zhang Xianzhong’s troops. Initially, the generals rushed to target cities and towns with large population concentrations. However, by the time half of the towns all over Sichuan had been subjected to caosha, the residents of the remaining towns had all ran away to hide in rural villages or in the mountains. In response, the mobile troops started mopping-up campaigns in rural and mountain areas and expanded the scope of the slaughter to cover the entire length and breadth of Sichuan.
In the end, this permanent “great massacre competition” for the annihilation of the
population led to a totally unforeseen situation. Because both towns and rural villages
had become targets of caosha, all productive activities and distribution of goods stopped, rice and vegetable fields were abandoned, and the resulting food shortage triggered a great famine.
This was when Zhang Xianzhong’s mobile troops transformed themselves from
“murder units” into “cannibal units.” Once they had captured peasants or refugees and
killed them, the troops first cut off their hands to save as the evidence for rewards as
usual. Then they cut off and threw away the heads as useless, but they processed most of the remaining body parts just as if they were pork or mutton to cook in big pots, and this fare then disappeared into the stomachs of the soldiers.
This was how many of the inhabitants of Sichuan, who had escaped the danger of
repeated slaughter, ended up as “food” for the 600,000 troops of Zhang’s army.
However, the appetite of 600,000 troops was vigorous enough to gradually reduce the
number of people who provided the “food materials.” Eventually, most of the population, other than the soldiers, vanished from the towns and rural villages in the prefectures and counties of Sichuan and starving mobile units came back to Chengdu empty handed, one after another. In those days, the last remaining “food” in the whole of Sichuan consisted of a little grain stored in the warehouse of the “Imperial Court” in Chengdu and the little more than 200,000 people living in the capital.
To cope with this situation, Zhang Xianzhong made the ultimate decision. His idea
was to abandon Sichuan and move his army to another region where food was more
likely to be available. In preparation, he first ordered the mobile units that came back to
Chengdu to kill all of the 200,000 remaining residents of Chengdu and save them as
“preserved provisions.” For one week after this order was given, the entire city of
Chengdu was transformed into a “human meat processing plant.” At the hands of
Zhang’s soldiers, the 200,000 people were quickly made into “processed food” by
smoking and salting. Zhang himself killed and salted more than 300 beautiful women he
had picked out from all over Sichuan to be his “consorts.”
When these “provisions” had been prepared, Zhang’s army was ready for departure
but did not neglect to take the trouble of setting the entire city on fire. As the city of
Chengdu and the remainder of the more than 200,000 bodies after the removal of their
flesh were engulfed in flames, Zhang Xianzhong and the murder-cannibal units he led
traveled north towards the Hanzhong region adjacent to northern Sichuan.
As Zhang’s force was moving north, however, they encountered a Qing Dynasty
battalion that had been occupying the northern regions of China but was now moving
into Sichuan from the north. The two armies clashed head to head, and Zhang
Xianzhong’s army suffered a crushing defeat and was annihilated. Zhang himself was
captured by the Qing army and decapitated.
The Qing army then advanced steadily on towards Chengdu, all the time wondering
why nobody was in sight along the way. What emerged before their eyes on their arrival
at the capital was a scene of burned ruins. The Qing army searched about only to
discover that there were just over 30 survivors in the ruins and seven houses that had
escaped the fire.
As I mentioned earlier, the result of a survey conducted later showed that only about
18,000 people had survived in the whole of Sichuan by hiding deep in the mountains.
This is the whole story of Zhang Xianzhong Tu Chuan, the most extensive
indiscriminate massacre in the history of China.
Incidentally, the roots of the Sichuanese of today can be traced back mostly to those
who moved in from the neighboring Hunan or Hubei Province or from Guangxi
Province after the Zhang Xianzhong Tu Chuan to fill in the gap in population. A native of Sichuan myself, I am actually of a family of such immigrants.
Reading historical materials in relation to Zhang Xianzhong Tu Chuan sometimes
reminds me of Mao Zedong’s massacres that I described in the first three chapters of
this book. The actions taken by these two men had several things in common, although
they appeared in different historical periods.
Both Mao Zedong and Zhang Xianzhong decisively carried out great massacres
against the ordinary people of China during their respective reigns following the
establishment of their governments. Zhang conducted a “massacre of surrendering
soldiers” that claimed a million lives immediately after the founding of the “Daxi
Dynasty” and Mao shot to death “710,000 counterrevolutionaries” two years after his
seizure of political power. Mao later used the tactic of “luring snakes out of their holes”
in an attempt to eliminate troublesome intellectuals in one fell swoop in the
Anti-Rightist Movement, which can be viewed as a latter-day version of the dirty trick
played by Zhang to lure intellectuals from all over Sichuan to the capital under the
pretext of huishi in order to kill them all. While Zhang exterminated the Buddhist
monks of Sichuan, Mao’s Cultural Revolution targeted all monks throughout China and
subjected them to political persecution. Moreover, in the same way that Zhang killed
most of the high officials of the “Daxi Dynasty” he himself established, so too were
countless numbers of high-ranking officials of the CCP Government driven to their
deaths at the hands of Mao.
Looking closely at the yicun yisha robbery and massacre carried out by the early Red Army, we can see that Mao and his gang’s technique bore a striking resemblance to
what the “rebel army of vagrants” led by Zhang did in the 17th century.
Comparing Mao Zedong with Zhang Xianzhong and the CCP Government with the
“Daxi Dynasty,” we can see that these two men and regimes of totally different periods
and with totally different characters were in fact remarkably similar in terms of their
harsh way of treating people. What can account for this similarity? It seems only natural
to assume some kind of traditional link exists between them.
Wang Xuetai, a distinguished Chinese historian, pointed out in his seminal work
Youmin wenhua yu Zhongguo shehui (Vagrant Culture and Chinese Society) that there is a special class called youmin (the vagrant class) in the traditional rural society of China. His study shows that a stratum of youmin, or those who, unlike the assiduous and
sincere peasants, live on the proceeds of wrongdoing without making an honest living,
that has always existed in rural Chinese society. In short, this is the class of people who
are commonly referred to as scoundrels. Although in normal times these people are in
the position of outcasts, they are often presented with opportunities to play active roles
as major forces of revolt once a period of universal disturbance begins. Accordingly,
many of the so-called “peasant uprisings” and “peasant revolts” that have occurred each
time one dynasty was replaced by another were not actually raised by peasants as the
main participants but were, Wang concludes, rebellions in which youmin were at the
This perspective points to the finding that one of the keywords linking Mao Zedong
with Zhang Xianzhong is youmin. Zhang himself and the core of the rebel army under
his command were precisely people of youmin origin as indicated by Wang. Mao, who
started his “revolution” by building “strongholds” in rural villages, stated openly that the
main forces who were to carry out the “rural revolution” were the dipi liumang.
Top-ranking officials such as Mao and Zhou Enlai were certainly intellectuals but the
mid levels of the Red Army they led and their “revolutionary government” were filled
with people of the dipi liumang class. In that sense, their revolution was also a
“rebellion of youmin.”
Another thing shared by Mao and Zhang’s regimes was their penchant for extreme
brutality and atrocity stemming from their resentment and sense of retribution against mainstream society.
One thing worthy of mention is that Mao Zedong and his comrades, in comparison to Zhang Xianzhong, who was just a scoundrel, had a justification for the tyranny and
massacre they presided over based on the Leninist theory of “revolution by force.” That
is arguably the only essential difference between the two. Probably, it was on account of
this “just cause” that Mao’s CCP Government was able to maintain itself in political
power for so long despite the huge scale of the massacres it conducted.
Conversely, it can be fairly stated without exaggeration that Mao Zedong’s
Communist Party was more horrific than any other murderous regime in history.
The Manchus’ War of Conquest Garnished with “Castle Slaughter”
As was described earlier, the murderous fiend Zhang Xianzhong and his rebel army
were destroyed by the army of the Qing Dynasty, the new Manchurian conquerors of
China from the north. However, in terms of their capacity for slaughter, the troops of the Qing Imperial Army were a close match with those of Zhang.
The Manchurian regime, which gained power in present-day Northeast China (the former Manchuria) towards the end of the Ming Dynasty, had already formed a plan to conquer the whole of China. In 1644, the same year that Zhang Xianzhong attempted to enter Chengdu, Li Zicheng, who led the biggest force among the rebel armies, finally penetrated Beijing and destroyed the Ming Dynasty. The Manchus saw this as a golden opportunity to unify the country under their rule. Taking advantage of the confusion caused by the fall of the Ming Dynasty, Manchurian troops promptly broke through Shanhaiguan, the gateway to the mainland of China, rushed into the country, vanquished Li’s troops and occupied Beijing, where the Manchus then declared the founding of the Qing Dynasty as the nationwide regime.
However, most of the mainland of China south of Beijing was still protected by
surviving retainers of the Ming Dynasty and so the Qing Dynasty, which had just
established itself, immediately advanced southward from Beijing and began a war to
conquer the whole of China.
This war of conquest was an extremely bloody affair and was accompanied by a
string of great massacres that the Chinese called tu cheng.
Tu cheng literally means “castle slaughter,” or more precisely, “the slaughter of all the people in an entire castle.” Unlike the case of Japan, in which the castle town was
separated from the central castle district, a “castle” in China was usually a whole town
enclosed within a castle wall. By definition, therefore, tu cheng naturally meant the
slaughter of all the residents of a town.
Among the numerous instances of tu cheng carried out by the conquering Qing army, the “Yangzhou tu cheng” and the “Jiading tu cheng” are the best known.
Yangzhou, a large city situated near an inlet to the north of the Yangtze River, had
flourished from ancient times as a waterway crossroads connecting the north and south
of China and had grown into a city of a million inhabitants by the end of the Ming
Dynasty. In its ambition to conquer southern China, the Qing Imperial Army advanced
directly from the north and besieged Yangzhou Castle but was met with stiff resistance from the Ming Imperial Army that held the castle and was obliged to fight a fierce battle. After an engagement that went on for three days, the Qing Army finally captured the
castle at great cost to its own forces.
For this reason, the commander-in-chief of the Qing Army ordered the soldiers to
undertake tu cheng as punishment against the military and the people of Yangzhou,
who had joined together in resistance, and as an advanced warning to all the other
military units and people of southern China who might be contemplating resistance
against the Qing Army in future. For ten days after the fall of the castle, as they
pleased, a little over 10,000 soldiers of the Qing Army engaged in plunder, rape and slaughter throughout the whole of Yangzhou.
First they broke into upper class residences and houses of the wealthy families in the
castle, killed all the family members except the young women and grabbed the
valuables. Then they used the residences and houses as their bases for further plunder
and slaughter. After getting up late in the morning, the soldiers went around the town,
killed people at random, seized valuables and young women and took them back to their base, where they drank liquor until midnight and raped the women, indulging themselves in carnal pleasure. The next day, they again went into town and repeated the activity.
One survivor, Wang Xiuchu, who was in the castle at that time, later wrote a
book attesting to the massacre entitled Yangzhou shiri ji (Account of Ten Days in
Yangzhou). In it, he describes scenes he witnessed of seizure of women and
slaughter by Qing Army soldiers as follows:
Three Manchu soldiers brought a group of women they had caught somewhere. One
Solider, armed with a sword, took the lead and another soldier with a spear drove them
on from behind. Yet another soldier walked in the middle and kept watch so that
no one could run away. A few dozen women were urged forward as if they were cows
or sheep, and were immediately beaten, or even killed with a sword on the spot, if they
stopped walking even for a moment. The women were tied up at the neck in a row
with a long rope like a string of beads and covered all over with mud. Toddlers had
been “thrown away” here and there on the road. The children’s small bodies were kicked
about by horses’ hoofs and stamped on by human feet and their innards were covered
with mud. In ditches and pools along the way were corpses piled up in heaps, with
hands and feet lying on top of one another. The blood in the water had turned the
blue-green and red ocher into many different colors. The ponds became so full of bodies that the water level became the same as the level as the road.
This was one scene inside Yangzhou Castle in the midst of tu cheng. When the
commander-in-chief of the Qing Army gave the order to “sheathe swords (halt the
slaughter)” on the tenth day after the start of the massacre, Yangzhou had already
become a city of the dead. Regarding how many people were killed, Yangzhou shiri ji
The number of bodies cremated reached over 800,000, including only those recorded in
the register, and not counting in those who fell into wells, were thrown into the river or
burned to death inside closed gates or who hanged themselves.
As of the present, this is the only known remaining account of the number of dead.
Accordingly, the figure of “over 800,000 dead” given in Yangzhou shiri ji is the only
data used for historical study.
Just as well known as the “Yangzhou tu cheng” was the “Jiading tu cheng,” which
was conducted in early summer of the following, year, 1645.
Jiading, a town located on the south bank of the Yangtze River, opposite to
Yangzhou, was a little smaller than Yangzhou, which was a big city serving as a county
seat. The reason why Jiading was subjected to tu cheng was, once again, that the people
attempted resistance against the invading Qing Army.
Immediately before the Qing Army began to attack Yangzhou, some of the surviving retainers of the Ming Dynasty established a provisional imperial regime under the banner of one of the members of the Ming Imperial Family and contrived to restore the Dynasty. The former capital up until the establishment of the Ming Dynasty was Nanjing, which was named the capital in this new regime as well. Jiading, a town located not far from Nanjing, also became an important outpost of the new regime.
In May 1645, however, after prolonged attacks, the Qing Army had crossed the
Yangtze River and finally resulted in the fall of Nanjing Castle and the provisional Ming regime that had been established with such great effort was terminated. While all other provinces and counties near Nanjing surrendered to the Manchurians, the people of Jiading alone decided to commit itself to do-or-die resistance by holding up in the castle in accordance with the unshakable resolve of the Governor and a few respected xiangshen (local gentry members or wealthy people of high standing) who were determined to sacrifice themselves for the Ming Dynasty.
This commitment was the prime cause that led to “Jiading tu cheng.” A complete account of the developments from the Jiading Castle siege to the tu cheng that followed is available in Jiading tu cheng ji lue (Record of the Jiading Massacre), a book written by Zhu Zisu, who actually witnessed the tu cheng. In Japan, a Japanese translation of this work was published in 1965, which was in a book of the publisher Heibonsha’s Toyo Bunko (Eastern Library) Series.
According to Jiading tu cheng ji lue, a massacre had in fact already started in Jiading Castle, under siege, before the arrival of the Qing Imperial Army. It began in the form of a “spy hunt” that took place in the frenzied, extraordinary atmosphere of all-out
The first targets were a xiangshen named Xu Mingzheng and his family. On a certain day, a rumor was passed by word of mouth: A spy was being harbored at Xu Mingzheng’s place and Xu was apparently plotting to kill everyone in the castle in cooperation with the spy in order to facilitate the victory of the Qing army. This rumor caused a disturbance throughout the entire castle. Some time later, a spy was caught outside the west gate, who admitted that he was operating under Xu’s orders, and the disturbance grew even stronger. God only knows whether the rumor was true or not but Xu attempted to flee in a rush and was arrested. He loudly proclaimed that the charge against him was false, but to no avail. At last, he was dragged out in front of the Duchayuan (Censorate) and beheaded on the spot. His body was disemboweled and dismembered and exposed at the gates to public view. All his family members were caught and killed as well and his residence was razed to the ground.
The next victims were the distinguished Li family. Li happened to be holding a
banquet on the evening that Xu Mingzheng was killed. When he heard of Xu’s arrest, he
suddenly dropped his cup and ran off into the house, which aroused suspicion among
other people. On the next day, a huge throng of town rowdies stormed the gate of the Li
residence. Besieged by so many people in a surge of frenzy, the gate was finally broken.
The mob plunged into the house and killed all the occupants, regardless of age or sex.
Still gripped with discontent, people then formed parties to attack the houses of Li’s
branch families, capturing the members at random and killing them until the entire Li
family was slaughtered to the point of extermination.
As is customary in Chinese society, mutual killing between those on the inside often
begins as a prelude to fighting against outside enemies.
At last, elite troops of the Qing Army arrived. Before embarking on a total assault on Jiading, the army conducted a massacre in a small town called Ximenzhen, which
impeded their advance. When the army had beleaguered the whole town, the general
went up to high ground, giving him a commanding view and took command of the
operation — he gave a single order to begin the slaughter, and in no time the lives of 1,073 residents of the town were taken.
Having built up momentum, the Qing Army eventually closed in on Jiading Castle.
After a few days of raging battle, Jiading Castle fell into the hands of the invaders,
which marked the start of the historic “Jiading tu cheng.”
Jiading tu cheng ji lue records the main details of the massacre as follows:
The Castle was broken at the first defensive line located north of the eastern barrier. Li
Chengdong (chief of the Qing Imperial Army) was still in the Xiaowudang Temple
outside the eastern barrier but, at eight o’clock in the morning, he opened the gate and
ordered tu cheng. At a roar of a cannon as the starting signal, soldiers were permitted
to massacre the population to their hearts’ content. Accordingly, they went from door
to door in search of people, entered the narrowest alleys and most secluded lanes, and
went through every reed thicket and brambles with a spear, and they did not stop
until they were certain that nobody was in there.
The soldiers yelled at each and every person they encountered, ‘Manzi (a derogatory
term for the people of southern China literally meaning “barbarian”), your treasure!’ If
the person surrendered the entire contents of their pockets and thoroughly satisfied the
soldier, they would be finally excused. But if they encountered another soldier, they
would be robbed again in the same way. Insufficiently handing over treasure would be
immediately reciprocated by three blows from a sword. Running out of things to give
up meant being killed. That is why all the bodies that lay across the streets had wounds
all over, indicating that they were slashed a number of times and met more than one
soldier before they were killed.
I had a neighbor who happened to hide in a bamboo grove and survived. He witnessed
an actual scene of murder. When a soldier had taken the first swing with a sword, the
victim cried, ‘Please, just spare my life.’ By the time the second stroke of the sword
was given, the voice became gradually fainter, after which the victim stayed still and
silent as he took blow after blow. Only the sounds of swords echoed here, there and everywhere and voices pleading for life were as noisy as the bustle of a marketplace. The
number of those who were killed was immeasurable. As far as the eye could see, there
were corpses hanging down from beams, bodies of those who jumped into wells,
bodies that were dismembered or had their faces covered with blood, and those who
had received blows from swords but were still alive with their limbs moving and
bodies totally mutilated. No less than several thousand people leaped into the river and
drowned. Three days later, there were bodies floating across the river from the western
barrier all the way to Gelongzhen and there was no space to plunge the pole into the
water to punt a boat. White fat was floating on the surface of the water, rising more
than a centimeter.
Ugly-faced women were killed at first glance but the ladies of prominent families and
the more beautiful women of the commoner class were all captured alive. And in broad
daylight, in public in the center of the town, soldiers sexually assaulted these women
with no shame whatsoever. Any disobedient woman was pinned down to a board with
long nails driven through the hands and then raped by force. Because women’s chastity
had traditionally been highly prized in Jiading, innumerable women died in tragic
ways. However, I failed to discover the names of those people due to the confused
On the 6th, Li Chengdong requisitioned civilian boats, loaded them with gold and
silver, beautiful women, cattle, horses, sheep and pigs, etc. and withdrew in more than
The above is the description of the “Jiading tu cheng” given by an eyewitness, which does not mention how many people were killed in this massacre. In fact, the record goes on to say that, after a while, people who had evacuated from Jiading Castle later came back, and that the town was forced to undergo tu cheng again. Another study estimates that these two tu cheng claimed the lives of most of the more than 50,000 people who were living in Jiading Castle in those days, except for the women who were snatched away. As of now, this “massacre of 50,000 theory” is the most widely accepted account.
The “Yangzhou tu cheng” and the “Jiading tu cheng” are typical examples of
indiscriminate massacre committed against the indigenous Han by the Manchus when
they conquered China. Throughout the long history of this country, wars for the
conquest of the whole land fought between different races have often been extremely
One brilliant irony in all this is that, in the present People’s Republic of China, which is a country mainly of Han people, the Kangxi Emperor, who was the fourth emperor of the Qing Dynasty founded by the Manchus, is placed on a pedestal as a “hero of the Chinese.” The reason is that he was the ruler who captured Taiwan and annexed it as national territory, in exchange all the many crimes of massacre committed by the Qing Dynasty in the course of its war of conquest have been completely erased from present history textbooks of China.
Fabricating a “great massacre” where there was none while at the same time expunging history of actual slaughters is the reality of history education in China today.
The Taiping Rebellion and the Genuine “Nanking Massacre”
Speaking of “slaughter” in Nanjing, or Nanking as it was formerly spelled, of China,
a great massacre certainly did occur there in the past. The time was July 1864,
when Nanjing (Tianjing), which had become the capital of the Taiping Heavenly
Kingdom regime, fell to the hands of the Qing Imperial Army.
The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom was a regional regime established towards the end of the Qing Dynasty period as the result of a revolt fomented by a cult founded by Hong
Xiuquan, a poor scholar who had failed the keju civil service examination. In July 1850,
the “God Worshippers,” a religious organization led by Hong as its founder, rose up in
arms in Guiping County, Guangxi Province and advanced towards the north while
taking vagrants into its ranks. This group successively defeated Imperial Army forces sent to suppress them and held under their control a vast
region centered on Nanjing and Wuhan.
In 1853, they captured Nanjing, which they followed up by establishing their own
regime called the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom and changed “Nanjing” to
“Tianjing,” which was turned into their capital. The founder Hong Xiuquan called himself the Heavenly King and became, after a fashion, a king. For the next eleven years, until the recapture of “Tianjing” by the Imperial Army, seesaw battles in the civil war between the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom and the Qing Dynasty were fought without one day of interruption, in the course of which the so-called “Taiping Rebellion”
spread over almost the whole of southern China.
This extended period of domestic warfare generated a number of massacres.
During the march on Nanjing after rising in revolt in Guangxi Province and while
developing their territory with Nanjing as its center, the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom
army routinely engaged in activities similar to the yicun yishao
yisha policy conducted by Mao Zedong later on. The area that suffered most was Hunan
Province, which lies adjacent to Guangxi Province, because the Taiping army moved
initially through Hunan in order to advance closer to Nanjing.
Historical literature records that, after the Taiping army surged into the province, over the length and breadth of Hunan, “seven or eight out of ten villages were assaulted,
treasures were plundered everywhere, entire families of landowners and xiangshen
(local gentry) were killed, corpses littered the fields and blood gathered to form streams,
characterizing an unprecedented calamity since the establishment of Hunan Province.”
For the Taiping army, Hunan Province was a grass field to mow on its way to conquer the entire country.
However, the slaughter in Hunan ended up being the seeds that led to the ultimate ruin of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom itself. After the Taiping army’s “grass cutting,” the surviving landowners and xiangshen of Hunan joined together, determined to
avenge their relatives and comrades. That is where Zeng Guofan came in. Zeng, born in Hunan, had passed the keju civil service examination to become a central official. As the Taiping Rebellion grew more serious, he obtained the support of the Imperial Court, rushed back to his native Hunan to form his own army, and dedicated himself to the annihilation of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom. Because Hunan Province was commonly called “Xiang” for short, Zeng’s troops were referred to as the Xiang Army. From the time of its formation, the Xiang Army maintained its role as the main force in the campaigns against the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom.
In 1864, 13 years after the “Hunan grass cutting” campaign of the Taiping army,
Nanjing (Tianjing), the “capital” of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, was invaded by
Zeng Guofan’s Xiang Army and a great massacre of historic proportions ensued.
What actually happened in this massacre, which later came to be called the “Tianjing
Zeng himself described in his report to the Imperial Court the actions taken by the
Xiang Army after the fall of Tianjing: “After entering the enemy’s capital of Jinling (an
alternative name for Nanjing), our army divided the city into several blocks and
besieged them, meticulously searched for rebels and immediately executed those found. In the course of the mopping-up operation that went on for three days, we executed more than 100,000 rebels.”
In short, Zeng reported the “execution of more than 100,000 rebels” in Nanjing Castle as his achievement to the Court.
However, before the fall of Tianjing Castle, a battalion of the Taiping army had set up the young “Heavenly King,” who had succeeded “Heavenly King” Hong Xiuquan,
and broken through the siege to exit the castle. It is a historical fact that the young
“Heavenly King” and most of the major commanders of the Taiping army were captured
and killed some distance away from Tianjing. In other words, immediately before the
fall, Tianjing had already been abandoned by the Taiping army.
If that was the case, it is quite unlikely that “more than 100,000 rebels” were still
hiding in Tianjing after its fall, as Zeng had claimed. The results of many studies
indicate that the size of the forces of the remnant Taiping army inside the castle after the
fall of Tianjing was only a little over 10,000.
This means that the “execution of more than 100,000 rebels” carried out by Zeng
Guofan’s Xiang Army consisted mostly of the slaughter of ordinary residents.
As a matter of fact, after the death of Zeng, a staff officer, Zhao Liewen, attested to the Xiang Army’s massacre of the residents of Nanjing in his diary Nengjing jushi riji:
During the few days after our army entered Jinling, the old and infirm and those
incapable of labor were all killed by the sword and their corpses lay here and there in
the city. Children also became the targets of killing and many soldiers wildly engaged
themselves in killing children as if they were playing a game. Regarding women,
those who were under 40 served as instruments of carnal pleasure for the soldiers but
most of those who were older or very ugly were randomly killed by the sword.
As this description reveals, the soldiers of the Xiang Army mainly targeted old people, women and children, rather than “rebels,” and carried out a cruel massacre of civilians.
I would also like to quote another testimonial in relation to the massacre at that time. A certain foreign mercenary, who was part of the force attacking Tianjing together with the Xiang Army, gave a first-hand account of what happened in the castle to the Times of India, a newspaper published in India, which was a British colony at that time.
I watched with my own eyes how the Imperial Army troops killed captives of the
Taiping army. Whether they were really captives from the army or not is uncertain.
Anyway, hundreds of people who were allegedly captives were assembled in a town
square, which is normally used as a vegetable marketplace. The crowd consisted of
men and women, old people and children. There were also an old woman who even
had trouble walking, a newborn baby and a pregnant woman.
The imperial soldiers first dragged the young women out of the crowd of captives.
After raping them on the spot, the soldiers handed them over to the scoundrels of the
town who were looking on to have them gang-raped. The soldiers were grinning
while this was going on and, when the gang rape had been more or less finished, they
grabbed the women who had been stripped naked by the hair and killed each of them
with one blow from a sword.
Then came the turn for men to be killed. All of them were killed by cutting off the
flesh of the entire body one piece at a time with a knife. I am not sure of the purpose
but the hearts were carefully scooped out of the chest one by one and put into
containers prepared in advance.
Next, the children were killed in front of their mothers and the same fate awaited the
mothers but I have no more courage to describe those scenes of killing here. In any
case, it was the most horrible of all the many atrocious sights I have witnessed since I
This is an eye-witness testimonial to “Tianjing tu cheng.” At present, it is generally accepted in historical circles that the number of residents killed in the “Tianjing tu cheng” was at least 100,000. This incident was the real “Nanking massacre” in Chinese history.
The “Tianjing tu cheng” might be viewed as an act of historic karmic retribution in
which the yicun yisha slaughter carried out by the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom in Hunan
served as the ultimate cause of the great massacre in Nanjing. In any case, hatred
invited more hatred and slaughter incurred further slaughter is a law that seems to
have been fully honored throughout the history of China.
The Tiananmen Incident: A “Beijing Massacre” of Only 18 Years Ago
Another indiscriminate massacre I must take up at the end of this book is the “Bloody Sunday” massacre that took place in Beijing, the capital of the People’s Republic of China, 18 years ago in June 1989: the Tiananmen Incident.
In April 1989, college students launched a storm of simultaneous pro-democracy movements in many parts of China, centered on Beijing, in which they demanded
political reforms, severe punishment for bureaucratic corruption, and so on. In response
to this movement, the CCP dispatched tanks and units of the regular military forces to
the city of Beijing and conducted an armed crackdown lasting from late in the evening
of June 3 through to the morning of June 4 on college students engaging in protest
activities in and around Tiananmen Square. In the course of this action, tanks crushed
young bodies under their treads, soldiers with machine guns fired wildly at students and
city residents alike, and numerous people were indiscriminately killed.
For me, this incident is not just an event in a history book. As one of those who had
committed themselves to the Chinese pro-democracy movement together with many
comrades throughout the 1980s, in a real sense, I myself was personally touched this
tragedy. At that time, I was already in Japan for study and so was able to escape the
danger, but several comrades with whom I was personally acquainted lost their precious
lives in this “Beijing massacre.”
To tell the truth, as a requiem for those comrades, and as a recapitulation of our youth, I intend to write a book someday depicting the entire story of the Tiananmen Incident from my own perspective. To that end, I am currently trying to gather various data.
For reasons of space limitation, I would like to present just one of the materials I have gathered for the abovementioned book that provides a glimpse of this unparalleled “Beijing massacre.” This is also a requiem that I would like to dedicate to my deceased
Among the people killed in the Tiananmen Incident was a young man named Yuan Li. He was one and a half years older than me and born on July 7, 1960. At that time, after having completed a master’s course at Northern Jiaotong University, he
was working for the Research Institute of Automation under the Ministry of Electronic
He was killed at a place called Muxidi in Beijing City, which is an intersection on
Chang’an Street, the main street leading to Tiananmen Square. Some time later, Yuan
Li’s father Yuan Kezhi and mother Li Xuewen released an account in both their names
describing the development of events leading up to the time their son was killed. Let us
follow the details based on the contents of their account.
After the pro-democracy movement broke out at the end of April 1989, Yuan Li, who had immersed himself in his work, did not actively participate in protest activities, including demonstrations. Still, as with many other young people of his generation, he
was naturally an enthusiastic supporter of the development of the movement and he had
a strong interest in what would happen in the future.
After coming back home from work every day, he would finish his dinner quickly
and bicycle to nearby Renmin University of China, where he could find out about the
latest trends of the movement and related news. Then he would return home late at night, wake his parents and brother and excitedly give his opinions about the outlook of the
movement and the future of the country while reporting what he had just heard, which
sometimes led to arguments with his family.
On May 19, the Chinese government finally placed Beijing under martial law. From
that time on, armed suppression of the student movement by military forces began to
look like a real possibility, which was something Yuan Li flatly refused to believe. He
reportedly confidently said that the People’s Liberation Army would never point its guns
at the people.
On the night of June 3, the moment of tragedy arrived. On that day, Yuan Li went out with his friends for the whole day. The martial law troops of the PLA were already
closing in on the outskirts of Beijing and Yuan and his friends went to an intersection
called Gongzhufen, one of the entrances to the city, with the intention of conducting a
propaganda drive targeted at the expected vanguard of the PLA with the aim of
persuading them to withdraw from Beijing. However, the vanguard did not appear even
after sunset and so Yuan went back home at around nine o’clock. He planned to rest for
the night and go out again the next day to try to persuade the PLA.
Just then, at around 11:30 at night, the explosive sound of gunshots resembling
firecrackers were heard coming from near Muxidi, an intersection on Chang’an Street,
which was close to Yuan Li’s house. He immediately darted out of the house and
reached over to the bicycle parked outside the front door. His mother, Li Xuewen, rushed out after him and held the bicycle with all her strength. “No,” she tried to keep him from going out. “The PLA is already firing. It’s too dangerous. Stop!” Angered, he looked sharply back at her. “What are you talking about at a time like this? How could I stay quiet at home?” He frantically tried to snatch the bicycle from his mother’s hands. In the instant her grasp was loosened, he was already astride the bicycle and in no time he disappeared into the darkness.
That was the last his mother saw of Yuan Li. His parents stayed awake all night to
await his return home but he never appeared even after the break of dawn on June 4,
which compelled them to think that, “something must have happened.”
His parents quickly began a search for Yuan Li together with all their relatives living in Beijing, whom they asked for help. The parents went first to Muxidi but the area was already sealed off by the PLA troops and not one local resident was in sight. Then the parents took their bicycles, headed towards Tiananmen Square and searched everywhere for their son. What they witnessed on the way was nothing less than an inferno.
In the account, they describe the scenes they saw:
On the way to Tiananmen, we came across many groups of students. There were
those who were stunned in shock, with injured hands or legs or carrying the dead or
wounded on hand trucks or boards. The faces of the young people were permeated
with great sadness as if their hearts had exploded.
As we approached Tiananmen, we saw concentrations of bullet holes in walls of
stores on both sides of Chang’an Street. Bloodstains were here and there on the street
and marks where tanks had crushed the asphalt surface were quite obvious.
The Square had already been encircled by loops of fully armed PLA soldiers. Many
residents had gathered outside the encirclement and confronted the PLA in silence.
The PLA soldiers kept their guns pointed at residents.
After that, Mr. and Mrs. Yuan Kezhi went back home again and confirmed that their
son still had not come back. They could not help fearing for the worst. For the next few
days, the couple visited each and every hospital in Beijing on their bicycles to see if
Yuan Li or his body had been taken to any of them.
At the hospitals in the city, the couple saw more scenes from hell. The account goes
What we saw at the hospitals were mountains of bodies of the victims. We went to 44
hospitals in search of Yuan Li, none of which was free of bodies that had just been
taken in. The number of bodies at a single hospital was in the dozens at least and
sometimes reached more than 100. To identify Yuan Li, we examined each body and
found most of the dead with their eyes remaining wide open. Some of them had half
or their head or face scraped off or the whole face covered with blood. Gathered
around the bodies were many surviving family members crying their hearts out and
mothers who had fainted.
It was at the Navy Hospital, the 44th hospital that Mr. and Mrs. Yuan Kezhi visited in their search, that they found Yuan Li’s body at last. The account also describes what
Yuan Li looked like when he was found:
The T-shirt and jeans that Yuan Li was wearing were totally soaked with blood. There
was a hole in his throat and another in his lower back, which apparently shows that a
bullet coming from above hit him in the throat and passed through his body. Probably
the shot was fired from aboard a tank or military truck. His two eyes were wide open
and his mouth was wide open as well. Perhaps he was crying out something at the
instant he was killed. At the time of cremation, we were able to close his eyes but
nothing could be done about his mouth. Yuan Li kept his mouth open to the very end.
As I present Mr. and Mrs. Yuan Kezhi’s account up to this point, I cannot hold back
my tears. This was the tragic death of a young man who was born and raised in China at
the same period as I was and with whom I shared the dream of democratization in the
1980s. He was totally innocent. He did nothing wrong. He was not a leader of or even a
core participant in the pro-democracy movement. He merely followed his own common
sense and conscience and thought and acted in an ordinary way as one young Chinese
man living during that period. And he seems to have believed right up until the end that the
People’s Liberation Army would never open fire on the people.
That man was killed. With his 29th birthday just ahead of him, he was shot to death
by a soldier of the PLA, an organization that he sincerely trusted. From aboard a tank,
with a single bullet that entered his throat and ran through his body, he was robbed of
his young life, of his irreplaceable youth, and of all his dreams for the future.
How many other young people and city residents were killed together with Yuan Li
between the night of June 3 and the dawn of June 4, 1989? The figure is still kept under
seal as a “top state secret” by the CCP Government, the murderous regime in question.
The assumption that the death toll was a few thousand is the most widely accepted
figure although it is not solidly grounded.
Nevertheless, as can be seen from how Yuan Li was killed, it is an unshakable
historical fact that, from the night of June 3 to the dawn of June 4, 1989, Deng Xiaoping
and the CCP Government he led conducted a most atrocious and most despicable
indiscriminate massacre against totally innocent young people and ordinary citizens.
This “Beijing massacre,” which occurred only 18 years ago, has furnished the
historical event to adorn the ending of the “Chinese history of massacres” examined in
this book. This massacre included, the CCP Government has never apologized for any
of the many crimes of mass murder it has committed since the era of Mao Zedong. Nor
has the regime even shown any sign of remorse for these atrocities.
As long as the current CCP Government continues to rule in China, there can be no
guarantee that the history of the country from now on will witness no further “massacres.”
THE LOGIC OF MASSACRE BORN OUT OF THE
I have made a detailed explanation of the history of slaughters stretching over more
than 2,200 years from the Qin Dynasty’s war of unification to the CCP Government’s
Beijing massacre. The big question that remains unanswered as yet concerns why so
many massacres were carried out over the history of this country.
Why does our race, which has long respected Confucianism with its principles of
“benevolence” and “compassion” as a “state religion,” have such a fondness for murder?
In the entire Chinese history of massacres, Zhang Xianzhong’s regime at the end of
the Ming Dynasty era and the present CCP regime stand head and shoulders above
the country’s other ruling regimes in terms of sheer bloodthirstiness. Both of them were
“dipi liumang regimes” that emerged from “vagrants’ rebellions,” as has been demonstrated in Chapter 5. The Leninist logic of revolution by force made the Communist Government even more atrocious, as was also described earlier.
However, the fact that many of the successive regimes and rulers who have
conducted the affairs of state of China, including the two regimes mentioned above,
liked slaughter so much should, after all, be attributed to some common factor
stemming from the traditions of China. If so, what then might this common factor be?
To begin with my own conclusion, the biggest factor appears to lie in China’s unique
power structure that has been in continuous existence since the time of the Qin Dynasty.
Ever since Qin Shi Huangdi unified China under history’s first large empire, successive Chinese imperial regimes have consistently been built around a centralized dictatorship with an emperor holding absolute authority and power at the top. The emperor was the inheritor of sanctity and ultimate authority as the “son of Heaven” and was a political dictator with absolute power at the same time, a situation that Mitamura Taisuke described as “absolute imperialism.” The Emperor of China may be compared, in Japanese terms, to the Emperor and the Shogun combined or, in Western European terms, to the combination of the Pope and the King as an individual in which the concentration and absolutization of power reached its ultimate degree.
Such absolute power naturally resulted in numerous negative influences and tragedies. The propensity to “massacre,” which is the main subject of this book, was also born as a by-product of absolute power.
The first point is that it was absolute power that made arbitrary massacre possible.
The acts of Zhu Yuanzhang, the founding Emperor of the Ming Dynasty, are typical
examples. He was the very man who brought “absolute imperialism” to completion, as
has been described earlier in the book, and, with literally absolute imperial power as his
support, he fabricated a number of cases of false accusations based on which he killed
over 50,000 of his own retainers at will. In Zhu’s Court, a minister whose language or
behavior displeased the Emperor was likely to be beaten to death on the spot.
One tyrant who overwhelmed even Zhu Yuanzhang in the actual performance of
slaughter was Mao Zedong of contemporary history. Although he did not give himself
the title of “Emperor,” Mao, who exercised total control over the party, army and secret
police, was in effect an even more absolute dictator than Zhu Yuanzhang. He assumed
full power under the one-party dictatorship of the CCP, which gave him the authority to
massacre hundreds of thousands of innocent people at once, merely by issuing a single
order to slaughter or specifying a murder quota.
Absolute power, which is at the root of all kinds of evil, has also been the largest
single factor in the production of massacre?a “specialty” of Chinese history.
The existence of absolute power provides a cause of massacre in another respect as
Once the emperor’s power has become absolute, all people other than the emperor
are placed in a situation in which their right to life is no longer guaranteed. Put simply,
the emperor becomes capable of having any other individual killed with ease that
nobody, apart from the emperor, is able to live in security. Consequently, the denizens of the world of power are left with only two choices in order protect their lives and
personal safety: they must either take the place of the emperor themselves or else win
themselves a position where they stand highest in the emperor’s good graces.
The other side of the coin is that the absolute nature of the emperor’s power gives
anybody, once they have become the emperor or monopolized the emperor’s favor,
everything they want including authority, wealth and prestige.
Under such conditions, the struggle for the imperial throne or for the favor of the emperor literally becomes a cutthroat battle, which naturally provides fertile ground for atrocious slaughter.
That is why the casual killing of parents, brothers and nephews in the quest to
become the emperor became habitual in Chinese history, while the all-out slaughter,
by anyone who ascended to the imperial throne, of the descendants, relations and
collaterals of the emperor of the previous regime became an invariable principle.
In addition, fierce battles between eunuchs and maternal relatives for the favor of the emperor and violent power struggles among maternal relatives and groups of
bureaucrats often played out involving the entire families of the relevant people. As a
result, those tragic episodes of mass murder known as zu zhu were repeated time and
Bigger fights for the acquisition of imperial power also took place in the shape of
wars for the unification of the country that occurred at times of dynastic change.
Chinese history has witnessed these extreme wars recurring dozens of times. As is
amply illustrated by the Qin Dynasty’s war of unification that killed one out of 20
people throughout the whole of China and the Qing Dynasty’s war of continental
conquest in which extremely cruel incidents of tu cheng were carried out on numerous
occasions, great wars of dynastic change were invariably accompanied by enormous
amounts of bloodshed.
In the final analysis, in China, the absoluteness of power caused the unceasing
“massacre by power for power,” which became a vicious tradition in the history of
This is clarified even further by comparison with Japanese history.
In the long history of Japan, the only person of power who carried out Chinese-style
massacres was Oda Nobunaga, who belonged to the period of civil wars from the
mid-15th to the late 16th century. However, his emergence and existence was an
exception in Japanese history. Of all the successive holders of power in Japan, he alone
aspired to the establishment of absolute power in anything like the Chinese style. So it
is understandable that he also resembles the power holders of the Chinese continent in
his liking for slaughter.
Apart from “Nobunaga the Demon,” however, hardly any Japanese ruler with
sufficient authority or bloodlust who developed a taste for mass slaughter can be found
anywhere in the pages of Japan’s long history spanning the almost 2,700 years since the
reign of Emperor Jimmu. Even during the Genpei War between the Minamoto and Taira
clans, or at the Battle of Sekigahara?”Realm Divide”?the number of dead was
nowhere near as great as occurred in comparable conflicts in China, and the punishment
meted out to the losers in power struggles was usually no worse than banishment to an
island. Although the leaders of rebellions were decapitated at times, there were probably
no mass killings along the lines of zu zhu, in which nine grades of relations were all
killed. At the very least, mass slaughter on a scale deserving the description “great
massacre” has only rarely occurred in Japan.
My presumption is that one reason for this has been the extreme rarity of absolute
power in the history of Japan.
Needless to say, not being in power has been the normal condition of the Imperial
Family of Japan for most of its history. What is more, in the Japanese-style political
structure characterized by the separation between authority and power, no one
individual could gain absolute power, regardless of whether they were the Regent of the
Emperor during the Heian period, the Regent of the Shogun during the Kamakura
period, or the Shogun of the Edo period.
In the unique power structure of Japan, arbitrary killing of an individual by the
Emperor could not happen in the first place. Even in the case of a shogun of the great
Tokugawa family, the limits of his power allowed him no more than to command Asano
Takumi no Kami alone, who had drawn his sword to cause an incident of bloodshed, to
commit seppuku and enforce o ie toritsubushi, or abolishment of the clan and
confiscation of its fief.
In other words, Chinese-style absolute power did not exist in Japan from the
beginning and for this reason the Chinese-style tradition of mass slaughter naturally did
not come into existence. Ethnic characteristics may have had an influence as well but
Japanese politics has generally been quite moderate.
In passing, this issue is linked to the “Nanking Incident” of 1937, which I mentioned
in the Preface. The verification of the facts should be left in the hands of experts but I
for one think that the Japanese historical tradition leaves no room whatsoever in support
of the notion that it was a “great massacre”.
By comparison, the situation of Chinese history, which has given birth to successive
periods of absolute power, is the diametric opposite. Strong aggression is inherent to
power, and when that power becomes absolute, aggression reaches its ultimate form:
slaughter. This has been the source of numerous tragedies in Chinese history.
The “absolute imperialism,” which is at the root of massacre in China, is not merely a thing of the past. Even in the present day, the absolute power of the Chinese Communist Party, in control of the army, government and secret police, still rules the country.
It is true that this regime has not perpetrated any massacre of particular note for some time since the Tiananmen Incident of 18 years ago, but its real nature has not changed. One officer of the People’s Liberation Army boasted at a press conference that China “would prepare itself for the retaliatory destruction of all of the cities east of Xi’an if it had to strike the US with nuclear weapons.” Premier Wen Jiabao, who, on the surface, is a mild-looking man, made clear his determination with regard to a possible attack against Taiwan with a terrifying comment: “The lives of individuals are not worth sparing; the significance of the unification of the homeland far exceeds the value of the lives of individuals.” Both of the above remarks were made fairly recently.
Under the rule of a government that officially declares its willingness to “spare no
individual lives,” it should come as no surprise if a “massacre by power for power” were
to occur at any time. The “Chinese history of massacres” has yet to come to a close.