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Zhu De
Marshal Zhu De in 1955
1st Vice Chairman of the People's Republic of China
In office
27 September 1954 – 27 April 1959
ChairmanMao Zedong
Succeeded bySoong Ching-ling and Dong Biwu
Vice Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party
In office
28 September 1956 – 1 August 1966
ChairmanMao Zedong
Commander-in-Chief of the People's Liberation Army
In office
28 November 1946 – 27 September 1954
Preceded byPost established
Succeeded byPost abolished
Personal details
Born(1886-12-01)1 December 1886
Yilong County, Sichuan, Qing dynasty
Died6 July 1976(1976-07-06) (aged 89)
Beijing, People's Republic of China
Political partyChinese Communist Party (1925–1976)
Xiao Jufang
(m. 1912; died 1916)
Chen Yuzhen
(m. 1916; died 1935)
Wu Ruolan
(m. 1928; died 1929)
(m. 1929)
Alma materYunnan Military Academy
  • "Old Chief Zhu"
  • "The Father of the Red Army"
Military service
Years of service1927–1976
Chinese name
Courtesy name: Yujie
Simplified Chinese朱玉阶
Traditional Chinese朱玉階

Zhu De[a] (1 December 1886 – 6 July 1976) was a Chinese general, military strategist, politician and revolutionary in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Zhu was born into poverty in 1886 in Sichuan. He was adopted by a wealthy uncle at age nine and received a superior early education that led to his admission into a military academy. After graduating, he joined a rebel army and became a warlord. Afterward he joined the CCP. He commanded the Eighth Route Army during the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Chinese Civil War. By the end of the civil war he was also a high-ranking party official.

Zhu is regarded as one of the principal founders of the People's Republic of China, and was a prominent political figure until dying in 1976. In 1955, he was ranked first among the ten marshals.


Early life[edit]

Zhu was born on 1 December 1886, to a poor tenant farmer's family in Hung, a town in Yilong County, Nanchong, a hilly and isolated part of northern Sichuan province.[1] Of the 15 children born to the family only eight survived. His family relocated to Sichuan during the migration from Hunan province and Guangdong province.[2][3] His origins are often given as Hakka, but Agnes Smedley's biography of him says his people came from Guangdong and speaks of Hakka as merely associates of his.[4] She also says that older generations of his family had spoken the "Kwangtung dialect" (which would be close to but probably different from modern Cantonese) and that his generation also spoke Sichuanese, a distinct regional variant of Southwestern Mandarin that is unintelligible to other speakers of Standard Chinese (Mandarin).[5]

Despite his family's poverty, by pooling resources Zhu was chosen to be sent to a regional private school in 1892. At age nine he was adopted by his prosperous uncle, whose political influence allowed him to gain access to Yunnan Military Academy.[6] He enrolled in a Sichuan high school around 1907 and graduated in 1908. Subsequently, he returned to Yilong's primary school as a gym instructor. An advocate of modern science and political teaching rather than the strict classical education afforded by schools, he was dismissed from his post[3] and entered the Yunnan Military Academy in Kunming.[7]: 151  There he joined the Beiyang Army and the Tongmenghui secret political society (the forerunner of the Kuomintang).[8]

Nationalism and warlordism[edit]

Zhu De in 1916.

At the Yunnan Military Academy in Kunming, he first met Cai E (Tsai Ao).[9] He taught at the academy after his graduation in July 1911.[10] Siding with the revolutionary forces after the Chinese Revolution, he joined Brig. Cai E in the October 1911 expeditionary force that marched on Qing forces in Sichuan. He served as a regimental commander in the campaign to unseat Yuan Shikai in 1915–16. When Cai became governor of Sichuan after Yuan's death in June 1916, Zhu was made a brigade commander.[11]

Following the death of his mentor Cai E and of his first wife Xiao Jufang in 1916, Zhu developed a severe opium habit that afflicted him for several years until 1922, when he underwent treatment in Shanghai.[12] His troops continued to support him, and so he consolidated his forces to become a warlord. In 1920, after his troops were driven from Sichuan toward the Tibetan border, he returned to Yunnan as a public security commissioner of the provincial government. Around this time he decided to leave China for study in Europe.[13] He first traveled to Shanghai, where he broke his opium habit and, according to historians of the Kuomintang, met Sun Yat-sen. He attempted to join the Chinese Communist Party in early 1922, but was rejected for being a warlord.[14]

Converting to Communism[edit]

Zhu photographed in Berlin, 1922

In late 1922 Zhu went to Berlin, along with his partner He Zhihua. He resided in Germany until 1925, studying at one point at Göttingen University.[15] Here he met Zhou Enlai and was expelled from Germany for his role in a number of student protests.[16] Around this time he joined the Chinese Communist Party; Zhou Enlai was one of his sponsors (having sponsors being a condition of probationary membership, the stage before actual membership).[17] In July 1925, after being expelled from Germany, he traveled to the Soviet Union to study military affairs and Marxism at the Communist University of the Toilers of the East. While in Moscow He Zhihua gave birth to his only daughter, Zhu Min. Zhu returned to China in July 1926 to unsuccessfully persuade Sichuan warlord Yang Sen to support the Northern Expedition.[15]

In 1927, following the collapse of the First United Front, Kuomintang authorities ordered Zhu to lead a force against Zhou Enlai and Liu Bocheng's Nanchang uprising.[15] Having helped orchestrate the uprising, Zhu and his army defected from the Kuomintang.[18] The uprising failed to gather support, however, and Zhu was forced to flee Nanchang with his army. Under the false name of Wang Kai, Zhu managed to find shelter for his remaining forces by joining warlord Fan Shisheng.[19]


Zhu (second from right) photographed with Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai (second from left) and Bo Gu (left) in 1937.

Zhu's close affiliation with Mao Zedong began in 1928 when, with the help of Chen Yi and Lin Biao, Zhu defected from Fan Shisheng's protection and marched his army of 10,000 men to Jiangxi and the Jinggang Mountains.[20] Here Mao had formed a soviet in 1927, and Zhu began building up his army into the Red Army, consolidating and expanding the Soviet areas of control.[21] The meeting, which happened on the Longjiang Bridge on 28 April 1928, was facilitated by Mao Zetan, who was Mao's brother serving under Zhu.[22] He carried a letter to his brother Mao Zedong where Zhu stated, "We must unite forces and carry out a well-defined military and agrarian policy."[22] This development became a turning point, with the merged forces forming the "Fourth Red Army", with Zhu as Military Commander and Mao as Party representative.[23]

Zhu's leadership made him a figure of immense prestige; locals even credited him with supernatural abilities.[24] During this time Mao and Zhu became so closely associated that to the local villagers they were known collectively as "Zhu-Mao"[25][26] In 1929, Zhu De and Mao Zedong were forced to flee Jinggangshan to Ruijin following military pressure from Chiang Kai-shek.[27] Here they formed the Jiangxi Soviet, which would eventually grow to cover some 30,000 square kilometers (11,584 square miles) and include some three million people.[28] In 1931 Zhu was appointed leader of the Red Army in Ruijin by the CCP leadership.[29] He successfully led a conventional military force against the Kuomintang in the lead-up to the Fourth Counter Encirclement Campaign;[30] However, he was not able to do the same during the Fifth Counter Encirclement Campaign and the CCP fled.[31] Zhu helped form the 1934 break-out that began the Long March.[32]

Red Army leader[edit]

During the Long March Zhu and Zhou Enlai organized certain battles in tandem. There were few positive effects since the real power was in the hands of Bo Gu and Otto Braun. In the Zunyi Conference, Zhu supported Mao Zedong's criticisms of Bo and Braun.[33] After the conference, Zhu cooperated with Mao and Zhou on military affairs. In July 1935 Zhu and Liu Bocheng were with the Fourth Red Army while Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai with the First Red Army.[34][35] When separation between the two divisions occurred, Zhu was forced by Zhang Guotao, the leader of Fourth Red Army, to go south.[36] The Fourth Red Army barely survived the retreat through Sichuan Province. Arriving in Yan'an, Zhu directed the reconstruction of the Red Army under the political guidance of Mao.[37]

During the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Chinese Civil War, he held the position of Commander-in-Chief of the Red Army[38] and, in 1940, Zhu, alongside Peng Dehuai, devised and organized the Hundred Regiments Offensive. Initially, Mao supported this offensive.[39] While a successful campaign, Mao later attributed it as the main provocation for the devastating Japanese Three Alls policy later and used it to criticize Peng at the Lushan Conference.[40]

Later life[edit]

Zhu and Peng Dehuai (left) at the Marshal of the People's Republic of China rank awarding ceremony.

In 1949 Zhu was named Commander-in-Chief of the People's Liberation Army (PLA).[41] He also served as the vice-chairman of the Communist Party (1956–1966) and vice-chairman of the People's Republic of China (1954–1959).[42] Zhu oversaw the PLA during the Korean War within his authority as Commander-in-Chief.[43] In 1955, he was conferred the rank of marshal.[44] At the Lushan Conference, he tried to protect Peng Dehuai, by giving some mild criticisms of Peng; rather than denouncing him, he merely gently reproved his targeted comrade, who was a target of Mao Zedong. Mao was not satisfied with Zhu De's behavior.[45] After the conference, Zhu was dismissed from vice chairmen of Central Military Commission, not in least part due to his loyalty for the fallen Peng.[38]

In April 1969, during the summit of the Cultural Revolution, Zhu was dismissed from his position on the Politburo Standing Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, and the activity of the National People's Congress was halted.[46] In October 1969, Lin Biao issued a command named "Order Number One" that evacuated important martial figures to distant areas due to the tension between China and Soviet Union, and Zhu De was taken to Guangdong.[47][48] In 1973 Zhu was reinstated in the Politburo Standing Committee.[49]

He continued to work as a statesman until his death on 6 July 1976.[50] His passing came six months after the death of Zhou Enlai,[51] and just two months before the death of Mao Zedong.[52] Zhu was cremated three days later, and received a funeral days afterwards.[53][54]

Personal life[edit]


Zhu De married four times, according to the unfinished biography written by Agnes Smedley. However, there is no evidence of his marrying the mother of his only daughter. His known relationships were with:

  • Xiao Jufang (Chinese: 萧菊芳 or Hsiao Chu-fen). Xiao was a fellow student of Zhu's at Kunming Normal Institute (昆明师范学院).[55] The pair married in 1912. Xiao died of a fever in 1916 after giving birth to Zhu's only son, Baozhu.[56][55]
  • Chen Yuzhen (陈玉珍). After the death of Xiao Jufang, Zhu was advised to find a mother for his infant son. He was introduced to Chen by friends in the military. Chen had participated in revolutionary activities in 1911, as well as in 1916. Chen reportedly set the condition that she would not marry unless her future husband proposed to her in person, which Zhu did. The two married in 1916. Chen looked after the home, even building a study for Zhu and his scholarly friends to meet, which she furnished with pamphlets, books, and manifestos on the Russian October Revolution. In the spring of 1922, Zhu left his home to visit the Sichuanese warlord Yang Sen.[55] According to Agnes Smedley's biography, Zhu considered himself separated from Chen after leaving her and felt free to marry again, though there had been no formal divorce. Chen was killed by the Kuomintang in 1935.[57]
  • He Zhihua (贺治华). He met Zhu in Shanghai and followed him to Germany in late 1922.When Zhu was deported from Germany in 1925, she was already pregnant and later gave birth in a village on the outskirts of Moscow. Zhu named the daughter Sixun (四旬), but relations between the two had diminished, and He Zhihua rejected his choice, naming the baby Feifei (菲菲) instead. He Zhihua sent her daughter to live with her sister in Chengdu shortly after the birth. She then married Huo Jiaxin (霍家新) in the same year. He returned to Shanghai in 1928. She reportedly betrayed wanted communists to the Kuomintang, before being blinded in a gun attack by Red Army soldiers that killed her husband. After this, she returned to Sichuan, dying of illness before 1949.
  • Wu Ruolan (伍若兰 or Wu Yu-lan). Wu was the daughter of an Intellectual from Jiuyantang (九眼塘) in Hunan. Zhu met Wu after attacking Leiyang with the Peasant's and Workers Army. They married in 1928.[58] In January 1929, Zhu and Wu were encircled by Kuomintang troops at a temple in the Jinggang Mountains. Zhu escaped, but Wu was captured. She was executed by decapitation and her head was allegedly sent to Changsha for display.[59]
  • Kang Keqing (K'ang K'e-ching or Kang Keh-chin). Zhu married Kang in 1929 when he was 43.[59] She was a member of the Red Army and also a peasant leader. Kang was highly studious and Zhu taught her to read and write before they married. Kang outlived him.[60] Unlike most women who joined the Long March, she did not become part of the propaganda unit marching at the rear. Kang fought by the side of her husband, distinguishing herself as a combat soldier, a markswoman, and a troop leader.[61]


  • Zhu Baozhu (朱保柱) was born in 1916 and later changed his name to Zhu Qi (朱琦). He died in 1974 from illness.
  • Zhu Min (朱敏) was born in Moscow in April 1926 to He Zhihua (贺治华). Zhu De named her Sixun (四旬), but she rejected this and choose Feifei (菲菲). He Zhihua sent her daughter to her sister in Chengdu shortly after her birth, where she went by the name He Feifei (贺飞飞). She pursued higher education in Moscow from 1949 to 1953 before teaching at Beijing Normal University. She died of illness in 2009.[62]


Royal Order of Cambodia (Grand Cross Medal) (1964)[63]
Star of the Republic of Indonesia (2nd Class Medal) (1961)[64]


  • Zhu De (1986). Selected Works of Zhu De (1st ed.). Beijing: Foreign Languages Press. ISBN 0-8351-1573-9. Archived from the original on 25 February 2020. Retrieved 7 May 2020.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ KleinClark (1971), p. 245.
  2. ^ 朱德的祖籍家世. Archived from the original on 9 October 2014.
  3. ^ a b 朱德《母亲的回忆》英译. 4 June 2010. Archived from the original on 26 October 2018. Retrieved 1 October 2014.
  4. ^ Smedley, The Great Road, p. 14 and 23.
  5. ^ Smedley, The Great Road, p. 14
  6. ^ Pantsov, Alexander V.; Levine, Steven I. (2 October 2012). Mao. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 9781451654493.
  7. ^ Hammond, Ken (2023). China's Revolution and the Quest for a Socialist Future. New York, NY: 1804 Books. ISBN 9781736850084.
  8. ^ "The Manchu Qing Dynasty (1644–1911), Internal Threats". Countries Quest. Retrieved 26 September 2011. Tongmenghui
  9. ^ Platt, Stephen R. (2007). Provincial Patriots. Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780674026650.
  10. ^ "V26N2 - Personality Profile: Zhu De [Chu Teh]". mindef.gov.sg.
  11. ^ Shum Kui-kwong, Zhu-De (Chu Teh), University of Queensland Press (St. Lucia: 1982), p. 3-4.
  12. ^ Wortzel, Larry M.; Wortzel, Larry; Higham, Robin (1999). Dictionary of Contemporary Chinese Military History. Bloomsbury Academic. ISBN 9780313293375.
  13. ^ Zhu De and his Marriages
  14. ^ Shum Kui-kwong, Zhu-De (Chu Teh), University of Queensland Press (St. Lucia: 1982), p. 4-5.
  15. ^ a b c William W. Whitson, Huang Chen-hsia, The Chinese High Command: A History of Communist Military Politics, 1927–1971, Praeger Publishers: New York, 1973, p. 30f.
  16. ^ Wortzel, Larry M.; Wortzel, Larry; Higham, Robin (1999). Dictionary of Contemporary Chinese Military History. Bloomsbury Academic. ISBN 9780313293375.
  17. ^ 马玉佳. "The legacy of overseas study for China's early leaders: Zhu De". china.org.cn.
  18. ^ "Zhu De". www.chinadaily.com.cn. Retrieved 16 June 2021.
  19. ^ "Zhu De". Spartacus Educational. Retrieved 16 June 2021.
  20. ^ Mao, Zedong (1992). Mao's Road to Power: From the Jinggangshan to the establishment of the ... M.E. Sharpe. ISBN 9781563244391.
  21. ^ Daniel Morley (9 November 2012). "The Chinese Communist Party 1927–37 – The development of Maoism – Part Six". In Defence of Marxism.
  22. ^ a b Pantsov, Alexander; Levine, Steven (2013). Mao: The Real Story. New York: Simon and Schuster. p. 208. ISBN 9781451654479.
  23. ^ Lawrance, Alan (2004). China Since 1919: Revolution and Reform : a Sourcebook. London: Routledge. p. 39. ISBN 0415251419.
  24. ^ Zhu De Early History Profile
  25. ^ Bianco, Lucien (1957). Origins of the Chinese Revolution, 1915–1949. Stanford Press. p. 64, note 10.
  26. ^ http://chineseposters.net/themes/zhude.php Zhu De Biography
  27. ^ "Ruijin Revolutionary Memorial". chinaculture.org. Archived from the original on 4 December 2005.
  28. ^ "The Jiangxi Soviet". Chinese Revolution. 16 September 2019.
  29. ^ Mao, Zedong; Schram, Stuart R. (1992). Mao's Road to Power – Revolutionary Writings, 1912–1949. M.E. Sharpe. ISBN 9781563244575.
  30. ^ Wortzel, Larry M.; Wortzel, Larry; Higham, Robin (1999). Dictionary of Contemporary Chinese Military History. Bloomsbury Academic. ISBN 9780313293375.
  31. ^ Short, Philip (February 2001). Mao. Macmillan. ISBN 9780805066388.
  32. ^ "The Long March 1934 to 1935". historylearningsite.co.uk.
  33. ^ Kampen, Thomas (2000). Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai and the Evolution of the Chinese Communist Leadership. ISBN 9788787062763.
  34. ^ Benton, Gregor (1999). New Fourth Army. ISBN 9780520219922.
  35. ^ "Chinese Revolution".
  36. ^ Battle of Baizhangguan Pass
  37. ^ CCTV Eyewitnesses to history: Yan'an
  38. ^ a b "Zhu De". Encyclopædia Britannica.
  39. ^ Song, Yuwu (10 January 2014). Biographical Dictionary of the People's Republic of China. ISBN 9781476602981.
  40. ^ Zhang, Chunhou; Edwin Vaughan, C. (2002). Mao Zedong as Poet and Revolutionary Leader. ISBN 9780739104064.
  41. ^ Gray, Bruce (2012). Distant Water. ISBN 9781936909353.
  42. ^ Zhu De Concurrent Positions
  43. ^ "Zhu De". Answers.com.
  44. ^ "Marshal of People's Liberation Army: Zhu De". chinadaily.com.cn.
  45. ^ Wortzel, Larry M.; Wortzel, Larry; Higham, Robin (1999). Dictionary of Contemporary Chinese Military History. p. 201. ISBN 9780313293375.
  46. ^ 共产党新闻网—资料中心—历次党代会. people.com.cn.
  47. ^ Angang, Hu (2017). Mao and the Cultural Revolution (Volume 2). Enrich Professional Publishing Limited. p. 189. ISBN 978-1-62320-154-8.
  48. ^ Zweig, David (1989). Agrarian Radicalism in China, 1968-1981. Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-01175-5.
  49. ^ 陈霞. "The Tenth National Congress (Aug. 1973)". china.org.cn.
  50. ^ "Zhu De Death". chinadaily.com.cn.
  51. ^ "Three Chinese Leaders: Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, and Deng Xiaoping – Asia for Educators – Columbia University". columbia.edu.
  52. ^ "BBC ON THIS DAY – 9 – 1976: Chairman Mao Zedong dies". bbc.co.uk. 9 September 1976.
  53. ^ Davies, Douglas J. (October 2010). Encyclopedia of Cremation. ISBN 9781409423171.
  54. ^ http://politics.ntu.edu.tw/RAEC/comm2/InterviewItaly%20Sauro%20Angelini%20English.pdf Sauro Angelini Interview
  55. ^ a b c Chang 常, Xuemei 雪梅, ed. (14 July 2006). 朱德与四位女性的感情经历 [The relationship experience of Zhu De with four women]. Communist Party of China News (中国共产党新闻). Archived from the original on 19 July 2006. Retrieved 22 January 2017.
  56. ^ Smedley, The Great Road, p. 106
  57. ^ Smedley, The Great Road, p. 122 and 314
  58. ^ Smedley, The Great Road, p. 223-4
  59. ^ a b Chang 常, Xuemei 雪梅, ed. (14 July 2006). 朱德与四位女性的感情经历(2) [The relationship experience of Zhu De with four women, part 2]. Communist Party of China News (中国共产党新闻). Archived from the original on 2 February 2017. Retrieved 22 January 2017.
  60. ^ Smedley, The Great Road, p. 272-3
  61. ^ Ho, Alfred (2004). China's Reforms and Reformers. Westport, CT: Praeger. p. 15. ISBN 0275960803.
  62. ^ "Late Chinese marshal Zhu De's daughter dies at 83". China Daily. 20 April 2009. Retrieved 22 January 2017.
  63. ^ "中柬两国联合公报在京签字". People's Daily (zhouenlai.info). 6 October 1964. Retrieved 17 January 2023.
  64. ^ "1961年6月15日人民日报 第1版". People's Daily (govopendata). 15 June 1961. Retrieved 17 January 2023.


English sources
  • Pozhilov, I. "Zhu De: The Early Days of a Commander". Far Eastern Affairs (1987), Issue 1, pp. 91–99. Covers Zhu from 1905 to 1925.
  • Boorman, Howard L. (1967). "Chu Teh". Biographical Dictionary of Republican China Volume I. New York: Columbia University Press. pp. 459–465. ISBN 0231089589.
  • Klein, Donald W.; Clark, Anne B. (1971). "Chu Te". Biographic Dictionary of Chinese Communism, 1921-1965. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. pp. 245–254. ISBN 0674074106.
  • Agnes Smedley, The Great Road: The Life and Times of Chu Teh (Monthly Review Press, New York and London, 1956)
  • Nym Wales (Helen Foster Snow), Inside Red China (New York: Doubleday, Doran & Company, Inc., 1939)
  • William W. Whitson, The Chinese High Command: A History of Communist Military Politics, 1927–71 (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1973)
Chinese sources
  • Liu Xuemin, Hong jun zhi fu: Zhu De zhuan (Father of the Red Army: Biography of Zhu De) (Beijing: Jiefangjun Chubanshe, 2000)
  • Zhonggong zhongyang wenxian yanjiu shibian, Zhu De Zhuan (Biography of Zhu De) (Beijing: Zhongyang wenxian chubanshe, 2000)
  • Liu Xuemin, Wang Fa’an, and Xiao Sike, Zhu De Yuanshi (Marshal Zhu De) (Beijing: Jiefangjun wenshu chubanshe, 2006)
  • Zhu De guju jinianguan, Renmin de guangrong Zhu De (Glory of the People: Zhu De) (Chengdu: Sichuan renmin chubanshe, 2006).

External links[edit]

Political offices
New title Vice President of the People's Republic of China
Succeeded by
Military offices
New title Commander-in-Chief of the People's Liberation Army
Succeeded by
Marshal Peng Dehuai
as Minister of National Defense

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