The Qiongya Revolutionary Base was located in the hills of Hainan Island. Despite multiple enemy assaults, its leaders and soldiers managed to keep fighting, and the base lasted for more than two decades.
Qiongya is the former name for Hainan when it was under the jurisdiction of Guangdong province a century ago. During the period of the first collaboration between the Communist Party of China and the Kuomintang, or Chinese Nationalist Party, a united force took control of Qiongya from warlords in 1926. The CPC held the first regional congress in Qiongya in June of that year.
After the alliance broke down in April 1927, the KMT began to purge CPC members nationwide, including in Qiongya. Local CPC leaders withdrew their forces to the fourth district of Lehui county－or Lesi－in today's Qionghai city. On Sept 23, they began to engage in military resistance against the KMT as soldiers attacked Yezizhai, a Nationalist stronghold.
At a meeting in November, the CPC decided to set up a revolutionary base in Qiongya. In December, a farmers' congress proclaimed the establishment of a district-level Soviet government in Lesi.
Meanwhile, the Party launched attacks on Wanning, Lingshui and Sanya counties and established Soviet governments. By February 1928, the Red bases were all linked and the Qiongya Revolutionary Base was formed.
In Lesi, land owned by feudal landlords was redistributed to farmers, with a small portion retained for the former landlords' families. The approach was acclaimed by the CPC's Qiongya committee and expanded. Soviet governments also set up farms and factories to produce basic necessities.
The KMT soon began taking steps to eliminate the base, launching offensives against it in March 1928. In the face of overwhelming force, the CPC was forced to retreat into the Murui Mountains, deep inland.
They were, however, able to take advantage of a later gap in the relocation of KMT troops and retook most of the bases by 1930. By the end of 1931, Red Army forces had increased to about 2,000 soldiers, with about 1 million people living on the base.
A special all-women company of about 100 soldiers was formed in May 1931. Dubbed the Red Detachment of Women, it fought in over 50 battles and earned a reputation. A famous ballet inspired by the company's exploits debuted in 1964 and remains a box office favorite to this day.
In mid-1932, the KMT launched a second suppression campaign. CPC troops fought hard but were unable to defend the base, partly because of faulty strategy. Feng Baiju (1903-73), head of the CPC in Qiongya, retreated with about 100 people to the Murui Mountains.
After surviving for eight harsh months, by the time the group made contact with the underground CPC network in northeastern Qiongya in April 1933, only 26 remained. They stayed hidden for several years before organizing into a guerrilla force in 1936.
As the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1931-45) entered full swing in 1937, the CPC came to an agreement with the KMT to fight the invaders together. In Qiongya, the guerrilla force regrouped and became an independent resistance force in December 1938.
Imperial Japanese forces invaded Hainan in February 1939 and soon occupied the island's strategic coastal areas. The CPC engaged in guerrilla warfare against the invaders, and despite blockades, the base was able to survive in inland areas centered around Baisha.
After Japan surrendered, the KMT sent an army to the island in 1946 and attacked the base as the War of Liberation (1946-49) broke out. CPC forces expanded the Baisha-centered base to more counties. By the first half of 1948, CPC-controlled areas and guerrilla zones covered four-fifths of the island, and the tide had turned in its favor.
The People's Liberation Army Qiongya Column, officially named in October 1947, seized multiple towns following a series of offensives in 1948 and 1949.
It successfully assisted in the secret landings of several PLA regiments and battalions in March 1950 and fought with the core landing force in April. In the final days of the battle, Haikou, the regional capital, was liberated on April 23. The entire island was captured on May 1, a day since designated to commemorate Hainan's liberation.