Reconnecting with the Long March Sketches

Friday, January 31, 2014
From left to right: Madame Huang Hao, Eric Wakin, Dai Bingguo, and Cui Tiankai.
Image credit: 
Annamaria Prati
From left to right: Madame Huang Hao, Eric Wakin, Dai Bingguo, and Cui Tiankai.
Image credit: 
Annamaria Prati
Huang Hao and Dai Bingguo
Huang Hao and Dai Bingguo

Former state councilor of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) Dai Bingguo, accompanied by his wife, Madame Huang Hao, visited the Hoover Institution Library and Archives on January 17, 2014. The delegation was led by Cui Tiankai (PRC ambassador to the United States) and Yuan Nansheng (San Francisco PRC consul general).

Eric Wakin (director, Hoover Institution Library and Archives), William Perry (former secretary of defense), and Deborah Gordon (associate director, Preventive Defense Project) greeted the dignitaries. Linda Bernard (deputy archivist), Hsiao-ting Lin (research fellow and co-curator of the East Asia Collection), and Lisa Nguyen (co-curator of East Asia Collection), were on hand to display Hoover materials relating to modern China.

The visit’s primary purpose was for Madame Huang Hao to reconnect with twenty-five black-and-white sketches depicting the Long March drawn by her father, former diplomat Huang Zhen (1909-89). Huang Zhen played an instrumental role in the US-China normalization negotiations during the 1970s.

Christine I. Ho (doctoral candidate, Stanford Art History Department) explained, “Drawn between 1934 and 1935, Huang Zhen’s sketches spontaneously record a People’s Liberation Army soldier’s observations as he journeyed to Yan’an, including scenes of deprivation, poverty, minority customs, and sacrifice.”

Belying the seemingly prosaic quality of Huang Zhen’s vignettes of the Long March, drawn on scraps of rice paper, is a historic imagery that has evolved to become the mnemonic representation of an iconic trek that resulted in the emergence of the PRC and are the only visual depictions created during the Long March known to exist.  For decades, the originals were presumed to have perished during the Sino-Japanese War or intervening conflicts and revolutions. Ambassador Cui was happy to inform Madame Huang that the originals had not only survived but were located in the Nym Wales collection at the Hoover Archives.

Madame Huang said that her father’s sketches evoke a revolutionary spirit and a reminder of China's past sacrifices. “The Long March belongs to China, and it also belongs to all humankind. I express my sincere appreciation to the Hoover Archives for its well-preserved collection of the Long March sketches. You have accomplished very significant and meaningful work.”

A full set of duplicate sketches, meticulously prepared by the archives’ Preservation and Digital Imaging Departments, was presented to the delegation.

The delegation also included Jan Berris, (vice president, National Committee on United States-China Relations), Chen Zhiya (standing councilor of  the China Foundation of International and Strategic Studies), Fu Xiao (research fellow of  the China Foundation for International and Strategic Studies), Major General Xu Nanfeng (defense attaché), Colonel Wu Qian (deputy defense attaché), and other members of the PRC Consulate in San Francisco.

Nym Wales (Helen Foster Snow) was one of the first US journalists to connect with the fledgling Chinese Communist Party in the early 1930s.  While in China, she married Edgar Snow: together, they spent many years documenting the Sino-Japanese War and the Chinese communist movement. The Nym Wales papers, which include an extensive collection of her writings, photographs, and collected works of Chinese artists, can be found at the Hoover Archives. The Brigham Young University Archives, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, holds another segment of the Helen Foster Snow papers.