‘Red Army tree’ reaps happy fruits in Cili County

By Zhang Ziwei | Updated : Jun 09, 2021
"Every time when I’m back to Zhangjiajie, no matter how hard it is, I will go to see the big tree standing in the wilderness, the ancient tree that has withstood wind and rain for thousands of years." These are the words from an article ‘Go to See a Big Tree” written by He Jiesheng, the son of Marshal He Long. 

The tree stands in Zhangshu Village, Xikou Town, Cili County, only a 10 minutes’ drive from the exit of Zhangjiajie-Sangzhi Expressway.

The camphor tree is also known as "Red Army tree" by locals. He long and Xiao Ke held a mobilization meeting and gathered local armed forces to carry out the agrarian revolution under this tree at the end of 1934.
"Come and meet under the Red Army tree…" A song of that time has still been sung in the village.

The 1200-year-old "Red Army tree" is 23 meters in girth, 7.3 meters in diameter and 28 meters in height. It is contemporaneous with the great poets Li Bai and Du Fu of the Tang Dynasty. Standing under the tree and looking up, we can see the strong trunk is like powerful arms guarding this land.

In the summer of 2000, a lightning strike ignited the ancient camphor tree, and the villagers failed to stop the fire despite all the exertions. As a result, half of the trunk was carbonized, with only hollow roots and bare branches. Unexpectedly, two years later, it revived with new branches growing on the dead cracked bark and flourished, according to an old man in the village.

Now, villagers pick up stones to build a fence around the "Red Army tree", wrap it with red cloth, and come to visit it once at leisure. In their eyes, it seems that the revolutionary ancestors such as He Long and Xiao Ke are still discussing the domestic situations under the tree, and the voice of the soldiers in training resound through the sky.

A few hundred meters away from the "Red Army tree" is the former site of the Soviet Xikou District Government. This is a typical Tujia stilted building, with nine rooms in the main house. Its major features are of great value to the study of Tujia architecture.

Facing the Lishui River, this stilted building, with a history over a century and a construction area of nearly 1,000 square meters, is still well preserved after various vicissitudes. It is a cultural relic protection unit at provincial level. In 1934, He Long and Xiao Ke led the second and sixth Red Army Corps to establish the Soviet regime here, and set up the local Revolutionary Committee to carry out the revolutionary movement. They organized the first battle at Mount Cotton against "encirclement and suppression" in the base areas of Hunan, Hubei, Sichuan and Guizhou Province.

Standing at the main entrance of the old site, looking at the opposite Mount Cotton, an old villager told reporters that the Red Army soldiers had once fought here. More than 700 people devoted themselves to the revolution in Xikou, a town with a small population. There was another song in the village at that time: "One who eats chili shall not fear spicy, and one who joins revolution shall not fear death."

Seeing the huge potential of development in the "Red tree" village, an enterprise in Shenzhen planned to invest more than 100 million yuan to develop the rural tourist project "Red tree camp" in the village. Today, the first phase of the project with an investment of more than 30 million yuan has been completed and put into operation, including projects such as jungle crossing and rock climbing.

It is thrilling but exciting to walk on the steel wire net hanging at the waist of the tree. Although the total length is only 960 meters, it takes 40 minutes to walk.  

"Chang-Zhang Expressway brings a large number of local residents to the village, as well as people from Changsha, Changde and other cities along the way, and it is normal to see hundreds of cars coming to the village every weekend and during the tourist season," said Wang Linyuan. Driven by tourism, the per capita net income of villagers exceeded 15,000 yuan last year.

Edited by Li Ling 

2019 Zhangjiajie Bureau of Culture, Tourism, Broadcasting and Sports