The Long March (長征, pinyin:Chángzhēng) was a massive military retreat undertaken by the Chinese Communist Army to evade the pursuit of the Kuomintang army. The Communist Army of the Chinese Soviet Republic, led by Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai, was on the brink of complete annihilation by Chiang Kai-Shek's troops in Jiangxi Province in October 1934. The communists escaped in circling retreat to the north which ultimately covered some 8,000 kilometers (4960 mi). The route branched through some of the most difficult terrain of western China and arrived 9600-km (5952 mi.) west, then north, to Shaanxi.
Along the way, the Communist Army confiscated property and weapons from local warlords and landlords, while recruiting peasants and the poor. Nevertheless, only some 20,000 out of about 90,000 soldiers who had started the march ultimately made it to the final destination of Yan'an in 1935. A variety of setbacks contributed to the loss including fatigue, sickness, desertion, and military losses.
While costly, the Long March gave the Communist Party of China the isolation it needed, allowing its army to recuperate and rebuild in the north of China. Following the end of World War II, the Communist Army, a.k.a. Eighth Route Army (八路軍 pinyin:bālů-jūn) (and later People's Liberation Army (人民解放軍, pinyin: rénmín-jǐefŕng-jūn), returned to drive the Kuomintang out of the mainland to the island of Taiwan. Upon the establishment of the People's Republic of China, the Long March has since been glorified as the party's symbol for strength and resilience.
The Long March was also a significant event in solidifying Mao's role as the undisputed leader of the CCP. Many participants of the March also went on the become prominent party leaders including Liu Shaoqi, Zhu De, Lin Biao and Deng Xiaoping.