The Red Detachment of Women, 1955


吴琼花 Wu Qionghua, is a peasant girl about 20 years old living on Hainan Island in the 1930s; she is from a poor family and has to work as a maid in the house of the local landed gentry; possessed by a deep hatred for the rich, especially her master Nan who torched her father to death simply because he kicked his family dog; she tries to run away from her master’s compound everytime she sees a chance, even though she is whipped each time after She is caught; joins the red detachment of women, a branch of the Red Army led by Chinese communist party, after she is given as a bound maid to the friend of her master, who turns out to be none other than a red army commander pretending to be passing through the area; in her career as an enlisted red army soldier, she shows great courage as she is driven by the need to avenge her father; together with her detachment, she is able to finally kill her master Nan, but only after she joins the communist party and truly understands, with the help of Hong Changqing, her army commander, that she is fighting not for personal reasons but to liberate all the poor and oppressed people in China and in the world. She is in love with the man who sets her free and helps her join the revolution (as well as the party) and becomes the division commander as well as a well disciplined soldier who will keep on fighting for the cause of communism and justice for mankind.
洪常青 Hong Changqing is a communist party member, a political cadre as well as the commander of the red detachment of women that is the first division of the red army in which all the recruits are women; his mission is to support and carry out the military actions by the red army on Hainan Isalnd, raise the political consciousness of his women soldiers, and instigate peasant revolution and uprising to eventual topple the oppressive rule of the landlord class, backed by the army of the Nationalists. In his role as the commander, he has given much personal attention and help to Wu Qionghua, trying to help her rise above and transcend the narrow interests of revenge on her part. He is very conversant with the theory of communist revolution and reads a lot; he too is from a very poor family and not without personal reasons to join the army. That he is able to read and write is all because of his father who was a member of workers union; when the union was infiltrated by government secret agents, he was arrested and thrown into a river in a gunnysack to drown. But as a true believer of communism, he understands that the reason he is in the fight is for the final liberation of all mankind. In all battles, he always risks his own life to ensure the safety of his soldiers, which is what happens in the battle with Nan and his men in collaboration with the Nationalist troops; Hong is captured and burned alive after he refuses to denounce communism and betray his army
南霸天, Nan Batian, a local landed gentry and owner of a coconut farm, or in the language of Chinese communist revolution, a despotic landlord (恶霸, èbà) that must be overthrown who is cruel to his tenents; his biggest concern, not very different from that of other landlords, is the security and stability of the region in which the red army is known for supporting peasant uprising; although he is a figure of authority, he finds it hard to maintain a small armed force for security purposes; when his men stop Hong passing through his turf pretending to be a rich landlord, Nan tries to befriend Hong by throwing a banquet on his behalf and approaches him with the proposition that they need to put their heads together to fight the communist insurgents that destablize the region; Nan becomes a prisoner of the red detachment led by none other than Hong when Hong pays him a “visit”; he escapes the capture through an underground tunnel; Nan welcomes the Nationalist troop on Hainan Island to round up and kill off the pockets of red army forces; but his dream of remaining number one strong man in the region is shattered when the nationalist troops are anhilated by the red army bit by bit; he becomes a captive the second time and killed by Wu, his former bond maid
Nan’s family butler, soft spoken and very thoughtful and cunning, overseeing the family coconut production business and offers advise to Nan; very suspicious of Hong Changqing’s profile and background as a landed gentry just like Nan but his word of caution is ignored; he suggests that Nan has nothing more to do with Hong about whom he knows practically nothing; he is seized when the peasants rebel and rise up (in the discourse of Chinese communism, the term is fānshēn 翻身) led by the red detachment; he is paraded in dun’s head like his boss through the main street in town, crowded with angry mobs aeger to see them hang
the head of the red detachment, a party member, directly under Hong Changqing’s leadership; she commands 122 soldiers and would not allow anyone to disobey her orders; it is into this commanding position and role that Wu Qionghua eventually steps when she dies in battle fighting the nationalist army;
Wu Qionghua’s friend and fellow soldier, 20 years old and from a very poor family that send her off as a child bride when she was only 10; married to a child who died young and for many years she has to sleep every night with a wooden effigy of her husband and work for the family of her in-laws as bond maid. She joins the red detachment together with Wu Qionghua and later gets married to a man also working in the army; she gives birth to a baby girl while serving as a fighter in the detachment
黄震山 Huang Zhenshan, a loyal friend of Nan and offers him his services as a bully to anyone that dares make trouble for Nan. He represents that stratum in Chinese society that, although mostly made up of men poor and in desperate situations, often work for the oppressor rather than join the revolution to change society for better. He and his men join the battle with the nationalist troops against the communist resurgents; he dies in one of the skirmishes with the red detachment