Xintan, one of the towns of Honghu City, seen from a Yangtze levee
Xintan, one of the towns of Honghu City, seen from a Yangtze levee
Honghu is located in Hubei
Location in Hubei
Coordinates: 29°49′37″N 113°28′34″E / 29.827°N 113.476°E / 29.827; 113.476Coordinates: 29°49′37″N 113°28′34″E / 29.827°N 113.476°E / 29.827; 113.476
CountryPeople's Republic of China
Prefecture-level cityJingzhou
 • Urban41.40 km2 (15.98 sq mi)
 • County-level city819,446
 • Estimate 
 • Urban138,600
Time zoneUTC+8 (China Standard)

Honghu (Chinese: 洪湖; pinyin: Hónghú Shì) is a county-level city in the municipal region of Jingzhou, in the south of Hubei province. The city lies on the northwest (left) bank of the Yangtze River, across from Hunan Province and Xianning, Hubei. It is named after the adjacent Hong Lake, which since ancient times has periodically flooded.

The traditional Chinese holiday, Dragon Boat Festival, celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, features boat races which are run on Hong Lake.

By means of its famous lake, Honghu City produces forty kinds of fish and an abundance of plants, such as lotus, reed and a type of black algae.

As of 2000, Honghu City had a population of 335,618 or more people.[3]


Honghu is celebrated as an important supporter of the Communist side during last century's Chinese Civil War. Westerners know it for New Zealand communist Rewi Alley's relief work and Gung-ho (共合, Gonghe) co-operative movement.

Civil War

Honghu and other regions around its lake were part of an important communist stronghold called the Hunan-Western Hubei Revolutionary Base Area (湘鄂西革命根据地, Xiang-Exi Geming Genjudi, also called the Hunan-Western Hubei Soviet, 湘鄂西苏维埃, Xiang-Exi Suweiai). The Hunan-Western Hubei Soviet was actually a collection of several isolated bases linked together by underground and guerrilla activities. The Honghu Base, the largest, was itself the object of four Encirclement Campaigns, the last of which was strategised as one stage of the broadly successful Encirclement Campaign against Hunan-Western Hubei Soviet.

The base area or soviet was under the leadership of communist general (later Field Marshal) He Long through most of its existence, and defended by his Second Army Group. Finally crushed by Chiang Kai-shek's Chinese Army and various allied warlord forces, co-ordinated in his Encirclement Campaigns, the Soviet and its military force retreated westward to form the Hunan-Hubei-Sichuan-Guizhou revolutionary base area, which in October 1934 refuged the retreating troops of the Sixth Army Group.[4] Folding the men of the Sixth into his ranks, He Long formed the Second Front Red Army which was to take its own route on the Long March.

Gung Ho

Rewi Alley carried out flood relief in Honghu 1932. Famous for the Gung Ho Cooperative movement that he founded (along with others) during the Second Sino-Japanese War (World War Two), Alley established half a dozen small-scale industrial co-operatives in Honghu under the revamped Gung Ho movement he led in the 1980s.


Market Economy in the 1950s

In 1954, Yangtze River had a huge flood that only occurred once a century, and in order to save major cities including Wuhan, Honghu was designated as the flooded area, resulting in nearly a million local residents becoming refugees after the entire county was flooded. As the flood subsided and refugees returned to begin rebuilding, another political disaster struck the county that was already devastated by the flood: on May 5, 1955, Mao Zedong personally claimed that the time was critical for collectivization, and ordered the immediate start of collectivization, which must be completed within three years.

The local communist party secretary Mr. Li Jinyu (李金玉)(1922 - October 8, 2002) was assigned to the area in 1955 and witnessed the devastation first hand. Li strongly opposed Mao's policy and openly claimed that there must be prerequisite conditions for collectivization and Honghu had not met any of them. Instead Li convinced his colleagues to adopt an economic policy that was completely against Mao's wish - a de facto market economy (for political reasons the term could not be mentioned).

This proved to be a great success: not only the county was fully recovered from the devastation within a year, the average industrial annual growth was 17.7% and average agricultural annual growth was 11.3%. In the era where most Chinese peasants were only able to eat meat once a year during the Chinese new year, the local peasantry students at all schools in Honghu county were guaranteed a meal of chicken, a meal of fish, and a meal of meat every week. However, the good times would not last long: Li and his colleagues as well as the local population would eventually pay a heavy price for going against Mao's will. Li, keenly aware of this, asked the local populace to prepare by stocking grains and other foods at their homes.[5]

The Great Leap Forward

On a levee in Xintan Town, Honghu City
On a levee in Xintan Town, Honghu City

In accordance with Mao's Great Leap Forward, the communist party apparatus at prefecture level issued orders on July 4, 1958 to produce forty thousand tons of steel, thirty-six thousand tons of iron, and over half a million people were mobilized for this effort. Another three thousand were mobilized to logging in order to meet the fuel demand of making steel and iron. Honghu, a county belong to the prefecture could be no exception and Mr. Li Jinyu (李金玉)'s own son, Mr. Li Shutang (李树棠), a student at the time, was among those mobilized. After witnessing the furnace hastily built at his son's school, which was completely useless but still functioned due to the political reason, Mr. Li Jinyu (李金玉) only muttered one sentence: "This is a joke!", but he and his colleagues were powerless to stop the foolish policy that was issued by the Chinese paramount leader Mao Zedong. Once his son Li Shutang (李树棠) excitedly told him that there average yield of a single hactre of rice reached 100 tons, Mr. Li Jinyu (李金玉) angrily shut his son up by telling the truth: that was the total production of twenty hactres of rice put into one, the propaganda had lied.[6]

The consequence of Mao's distratrous policy soon appeared: since June 1959, according to official records of the Chinese government, the death of local prefecture numbered 115,844 in 1960, which was more than the double of the average annual death of 50,000. The price at Honghu county skyrocketed and the number of people becoming ill due to starvation drastically increased. Mr. Li Jinyu (李金玉) and his colleague decided to save the local population totaling more than half a million from starvation, which ultimately would doom their fates.

The Great Chinese Famine

Massive death in the local Jingzhou prefecture forced the local cadres at prefecture level to gather as much grains as possible, and Honghu county, the only county in the prefecture without death caused by starvation, became their only target. The local communist party secretary of Jingzhou prefecture, Xue Tan (薛坦), asked Li Jinyu (李金玉) to leave only 13.5 kilograms (30 lb) of grains of monthly rations for each resident of Honghu, and give out the rest.

Li refused, arguing that it would at least take 15 kilograms (33 lb) of monthly ration to prevent death resulting from starvation. After much argument without any satisfactory result, Li decided to go against his superior's order and allow the local populace to have enough to eat. As a result, in an era when all other counties suffered tens of thousands of starvation deaths, Honghu county did not lose a single person to starvation, and the local population of Honghu county actually increased by 15.52‰ (or 1.552%).[7]

Honghu county during Cultural Revolution

Mr. Li Jinyu (李金玉) and his colleagues soon paid their price for saving the local population. Even before the Cultural Revolution, the local cadres were persecuted. In October 1964, the communist apparatus at the Jingzhou prefecture level decided that the communist organization of Honghu county was completely "rotten" and Mr. Li Jinyu (李金玉) and his colleagues were struggled in public trials in front of ten thousand people. In April 1965, the charge became much more serious, the local communists of Honghu county headed by Mr. Li Jinyu (李金玉) was accused of (though accurately) being reestablishing capitalism. In February 1966, the local communists of Honghu county were accused of establishing independent kingdoms, forming reactionary anti-communism revisionist group, a serious political crime that was punishable by death. Finally, in 1966, a total of 341 cadres of Honghu county, or 90% of the county administrators and local communists in charge, including communist party secretary Mr. Li Jinyu (李金玉), first deputy communist party secretary Mr. Xu Wei (徐伟), deputy communist party secretaries Han Yaohui (韩耀辉), Ma Xiangkui (马香魁), Gu Chengqi (辜呈清, also serving as Honghu County chief at the time) and Sun Keti (孙克惕, also serving as the deputy Honghu County chief at the time) were all arrested and sent directly to labor camps without trials or any other legal proceedings, and everyone received at least ten years jail terms, with Mr. Li Jinyu (李金玉) had the longest, a fifteen-year term. The persecution had such devastation on those suffered that many, including the former deputy communist party secretary Mr. Xu Wei (徐伟) refused to be interviewed about the experience, even in the 2000s (decade), more than three decades later. The subject remains a taboo in official documents by the Chinese government until this day, but those local populace who survived the massive famine thanks to what Mr. Li Jinyu (李金玉) had done would remember him. After Mr. Li Jinyu (李金玉) had died on October 8, 2002, many of those who had experienced the famine went to his funeral to honor him, including many who could not go but insisted on being carried to the funeral.[8]

Administrative divisions

Two subdistricts:[2][9][10]

Fourteen towns:

The only township is Laowan Township (老湾)

Three administrative zones:


Climate data for Honghu (1981−2010)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 22.9
Average high °C (°F) 8.2
Daily mean °C (°F) 4.7
Average low °C (°F) 2.0
Record low °C (°F) −7.3
Average precipitation mm (inches) 60.0
Average relative humidity (%) 80 79 80 80 78 81 78 80 79 79 78 77 79
Source: China Meteorological Data Service Center[11]

Revolutionary opera

The Red Guards on Honghu Lake
The Red Guards on Honghu Lake

The scenic Lake Honghu was the centerpiece of a revolutionary opera: "The Red Guards on Honghu Lake" (洪湖赤卫队) which was based on a true story about the Red Army and its struggle with the Kuomintang (KMT) in the Chinese Civil War.

A synopsis of this story which happened on Lake Honghu:

Modern Opera. A revolutionary musical depicting the struggle between Communist guerrillas and a KMT landlord for control of a village. In the summer of 1930, a tyrant named Peng allied with Nationalist Army commander Feng raids the Red Army’s base in the Honghu area of Hubei province. Party Secretary Han Ying and the base director lead the local guards in an orderly withdrawal but later return to lead a raid on the enemy’s weapons storehouse. In retaliation, Peng has some local people tortured to try to discover Han Ying’s hideout. In order to protect his fellow villagers, Han Ying gives herself up, then escapes, with one of his deputies sacrificing himself in the effort. Han continues to lead the Red Guards in their struggle against the enemy.

— catalog entry for the 1961 film in the University of Chicago Film Library collection [12]

Noteworthy people born in Honghu


  1. ^ a b Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, ed. (2019). China Urban Construction Statistical Yearbook 2017. Beijing: China Statistics Press. p. 66. Retrieved 11 January 2020.
  2. ^ a b 洪湖市历史沿革 [Honghu City Historical Development] (in Simplified Chinese). XZQH.org. 6 August 2014. Retrieved 8 July 2018. 2010年第六次人口普查,洪湖市常住总人口819446人,其中:新堤街道128039人,滨湖街道24020人,螺山镇34410人,乌林镇45901人,龙口镇41425人,燕窝镇33999人,新滩镇35496人,峰口镇79078人,曹市镇49428人,府场镇16380人,戴家场镇47172人,瞿家湾镇14047人,沙口镇43997人,万全镇63023人,汊河镇47253人,黄家口镇33468人,老湾乡11011人,小港管理区11906人,大同湖管理区27678人,大沙湖管理区31715人。
  3. ^ City Data for Hubei Province in China
  4. ^ PLA Daily, "The Characteristics of the Present Political Situation (extracted)" Archived 2008-12-12 at the Wayback Machine - Excerpted from "On Tactics Against Japanese Imperialism" by Mao Zedong on December 27, 1935.
  5. ^ Chinese University of Hong Kong, University Center of China Studies
  6. ^ There's a Li Jinyu in Honghu (in Chinese)
  7. ^ There's Li Jinyu in Honghu, not a single person was starved to death (in Chinese)[permanent dead link]
  8. ^ Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), Folk History (民间历史), December 2007 issue, published by University Center of China Studies of CUHK
  9. ^ 2016年统计用区划代码和城乡划分代码:洪湖市 [2016 Statistical Area Numbers and Rural-Urban Area Numbers: Honghu City]. National Bureau of Statistics of the People's Republic of China. 2016. Retrieved 8 July 2018. 统计用区划代码 名称 421083001000 新堤街道办事处 421083002000 滨湖街道办事处 421083100000 螺山镇 421083101000 乌林镇 421083102000 龙口镇 421083103000 燕窝镇 421083104000 新滩镇 421083105000 峰口镇 421083106000 曹市镇 421083107000 府场镇 421083108000 戴家场镇 421083109000 瞿家湾镇 421083110000 沙口镇 421083111000 万全镇 421083112000 汊河镇 421083113000 黄家口镇 421083200000 老湾乡 421083450000 小港管理区 421083451000 大同湖管理区 421083452000 大沙湖管理区
  10. ^ 行政区划 [Administrative Divisions]. Honghu People's Government. 21 June 2017. Archived from the original on 8 July 2018. Retrieved 8 July 2018. 洪湖市现辖新堤、滨湖两个街道办事处,螺山、乌林、龙口、燕窝、新滩、峰口、曹市、府场、戴家场、瞿家湾、沙口、万全、汊河、黄家口14个镇,老湾回族乡1个乡,大同湖、大沙湖、小港3个管理区(农场)共20个乡镇办区和洪湖经济开发区(托管7村),下辖37个居民委员会、411个村民委员会;201个居民小组、2902个村民小组。
  11. ^ 中国地面气候标准值月值(1981-2010) (in Simplified Chinese). China Meteorological Data Service Center. Retrieved 22 August 2022.
  12. ^ "Red Guards of Lake Honghu" - entry for the 1961 movie, 洪湖赤卫队 ("A Red Guard Troop in Honghu"), in the Film Library Collection: Center for East Asian Studies, University of Chicago, Chinese Cinema.

Further reading