Ulanhu in 1955
3rd Vice President of the People's Republic of China
In office
15 March 1983 – 15 March 1988
PresidentLi Xiannian
LeaderDeng Xiaoping
Preceded bySoong Ching-ling and Dong Biwu (until 1972)
Succeeded byWang Zhen
Personal details
Born23 December 1907
Tumed Left Banner, Suiyuan, Qing dynasty
(present-day Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, China)
Died8 December 1988(1988-12-08) (aged 80)
Beijing, China
Political partyChinese Communist Party
SpouseYun Liren
Alma materMoscow Sun Yat-sen University
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese
Literal meaningRed son (in Mongolian)
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese
Mongolian name
Mongolian CyrillicУлаанхүү
Mongolian scriptᠤᠯᠠᠭᠠᠨᠬᠦᠦ

Ulanhu or Ulanfu (Chinese: 乌兰夫; pinyin: Wūlánfū; 23 December 1907 – 8 December 1988), born Yun Ze (Chinese: 云泽),[1] was the founding Chairman of China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, serving from 1947 to 1966.

An ethnic Tumed Mongol, he took the nom de guerre Ulanhu (lit.'Red son')[2] and had the nickname of "Mongol Prince” during his political career. He served as Vice-Premier between 1956 and 1966. He was purged during the Cultural Revolution but later reinstated. Between 1983 and 1988 he held the office of Vice President of the People's Republic of China.

Ulanhu was the highest-ranking minority official in PRC history, and became an icon of loyalty both to the Mongolian people and to the PRC.[3] Except for the period of the Cultural Revolution, his family dominated the politics of Inner Mongolia.[4] His son Buhe served as Chairman of Inner Mongolia for a decade, and his granddaughter Bu Xiaolin was appointed to the same position in 2016.

Early career

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Born in Tumed Left Banner, just outside the city of Hohhot, Ulanhu was the child of herders. He went to elementary school in his hometown, and went on to study at the Mongolian-Tibetan College of Beiping (now Beijing). He joined the Socialist Youth League of China (later renamed Communist Youth League) in 1924, intending to become communist revolutionary. In 1925, he joined the Chinese Communist Party and was sent to Moscow Sun Yat-sen University in the Soviet Union to study Marxism. In Moscow, Ulanhu shared a desk with Chiang Ching-kuo, the son of Chiang Kai-shek.

In 1929, when he returned from his studies, Ulanhu began organizing communist rallies in Mongolia, and was appointed a Committee Member of the CCP's West-Mongolia Working Committee. In 1931, Ulanhu was chosen to run the military and intelligence offices in Mongolia, serving in Ikh Juu League (now the city of Ordos). During the Second World War, Ulanhu led his forces to stop the Japanese from advancing towards Hohhot and led his officers to march to northern Shaanxi where he continued battling against the Japanese forces. In August 1941, he arrived at the revolutionary base of Yan'an to work on ethnic affairs.

Ulanhu during his days as a Communist revolutionary

Civil war

During the Chinese Civil War, Ulanhu was one of the commanders of the Pingjin Campaign and the Liaoshen Campaign, he also led his Communist forces to destroy the local bandits and anti-communist forces in Mongolia. Ulanhu was instrumental in bringing Inner Mongolia under the control of the Chinese Communist Party and was elected the Acting Governor and founding Chairman of the Autonomous Government of Inner Mongolia in 1947. Inner Mongolia was the first of five recognized autonomous regions in China.[citation needed]

Early PRC

In September 1954, Ulanhu was named Vice-Premier, ranking eighth.

In 1955 he was awarded the rank of General (shangjiang), becoming one of only 57 generals bestowed the honour of being a "founding general" of the People's Republic. He served as Party Committee Secretary and regional government chairman of Inner Mongolia from the region's founding to 1966.[citation needed]

During the Great Leap Forward, Ulanhu delayed de facto communization in Mongol pastoral areas.[5]: 134  Traditional forms of herd management remained until 1965 when herds were communized just before the Cultural Revolution.[5]: 134–135 

Cultural Revolution

See also: Inner Mongolia incident

Ulanhu and the delegates of Inner Mongolia People's Congress.

At the beginning of the Cultural Revolution, zealous Red Guard organizations attempted to storm the Inner Mongolia government headquarters. Ulanhu used troops at his disposal to repel them, only to be later undone by military forces sent in by leftist leaders in Beijing, ousting him from office. He was accused of "ruling Inner Mongolia like an independent kingdom",[6] and persecuted as a suspected member of the independence-leaning Inner Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party, a charge later proven to be false. However, while he was a target for struggle, Ulanhu survived the Cultural Revolution without enduring some of the more severe physical hardships inflicted upon some of his colleagues, largely owing to the support of Premier Zhou Enlai.[citation needed]

After rehabilitation and death

Ulanhu was politically rehabilitated in 1973, prior to the 10th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, with the personal blessing of Mao Zedong. In 1977, Ulanhu became head of the United Front Department of the central organization of the CCP. Among various other posts, he served one term as Vice President of the People's Republic of China under President Li Xiannian from 1983 to 1988. Upon completion of the term as vice-president, he was elected vice-chairman of the National People's Congress. He died shortly thereafter in 1988 after an illness. He was eulogized with high honours by the CCP.[citation needed]

In 1992, the Ulanhu Memorial Hall was opened to the public in Hohhot. His Selected Works were published in 1999 at a dedication ceremony attended by Jiang Zemin, General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party.[7] In December 2007, the CCP held a high-profile conference to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Ulanhu's birth. In 2009, the historic epic Spring Comes Early to the Grasslands aired on China Central Television, and depicted some of Ulanhu's activities during the revolution.[citation needed]


Ulanhu married twice and had four sons and four daughters. His son, Buhe, served as the Chairman of Inner Mongolia from 1982 to 1993. His granddaughter (Buhe's daughter) Bu Xiaolin was appointed Chairwoman of Inner Mongolia in March 2016, making her the third generation of the Ulanhu family to hold that position.[8] Another son of Ulanhu, Uje, served as mayor of Baotou.[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ Pirie, Fernanda; Huber, Toni (31 July 2008). Conflict and Social Order in Tibet and Inner Asia. BRILL. ISBN 978-90-474-4259-2.
  2. ^ Pirie, Fernanda; Huber, Toni (31 July 2008). Conflict and Social Order in Tibet and Inner Asia. BRILL. ISBN 978-90-474-4259-2.
  3. ^ Gries, Peter Hays; Rosen, Stanley (2004). State and Society in 21st Century China: Crisis, Contention, and Legitimation. Psychology Press. p. 228. ISBN 978-0-415-33204-0.
  4. ^ Bulag, Uradyn Erden (2002). The Mongols at China's Edge: History and the Politics of National Unity. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 213–4. ISBN 978-0-7425-1144-6.
  5. ^ a b Harrell, Stevan (2023). An Ecological History of Modern China. Seattle: University of Washington Press. ISBN 9780295751719.
  6. ^ "Ulanhu, 82, a Mongol Who Rose To High Posts in Beijing, Is Dead". The New York Times. 9 December 1988.
  7. ^ 新华网资料:乌兰夫
  8. ^ "Inner Mongolia names new chairwoman". Sohu. 31 March 2016.
Government offices Preceded byvacantlast held by Soong Ching-ling and Dong Biwu in 1972 Vice President of the People's Republic of China 1983–1988 Succeeded byWang Zhen Preceded byLi Weihan Minister in charge of the State Ethnic Affairs Commission 1954–1975 Succeeded byIsmail Amat Preceded byOffice created Chairman of Inner Mongolia 1947–1966 Succeeded byTeng Haiqing Party political offices Preceded byOffice created Secretary of the CCP Inner Mongolia Committee 1947–1966 Succeeded byXie Xuegong Preceded byLi Dazhang Head of the United Front Work Department 1977–1982 Succeeded byYang Jingren