When Zhou Enlai and Zhu De were driven out of Nanchang after their abortive uprising, they fled to the Jinggang Shan (井岗山, jĭnggāng shān) ranges, 300km southwest along the mountainous border with Hunan. Here they met up with Mao, whose Autumn Harvest Uprising in Hunan had also failed, and the remnants of the two armies joined to form the first real PLA divisions. Their initial base was near the country town of CIPING (茨坪, cípíng), and, though they declared a Chinese Soviet Republic in 1931 at the Fujian border town of Ruijin, Ciping was where the Communists stayed until forced out by the Guomindang in 1934. Today, Jinggang Shan is reasonably accessible thanks to new roads, though it doesn’t attract huge numbers of tourists, making the picture-perfect forest scenery and meandering hiking trails an attractive proposition.
Ciping is little more than a village. Completely destroyed by artillery bombardments during the 1930s, it was rebuilt after the Communist takeover and has recently been remodelled to take better advantage of tourism. It is unintentionally ironic that that the heart of Ciping, once the frontline of the Communist cause, is now a soulless market selling tourist tat commemorating the bloody struggle. The main streets form a 2km elliptical circuit, the lower half of which is taken up with a lake surrounded by well-tended gardens.Having waded through the terribly serious displays in town, it’s nice to escape into Jinggang Shan’s surprisingly wild countryside. Some of the peaks provide glorious views of the sunrise – or frequent mists – and there are colourful plants, natural groves of pine and bamboo, deep green temperate cloud forests, and hosts of butterflies and birds.