Biography in English

Yeh T'ing 葉挺 Orig. Yeh Hsi-p'ing 葉西平 T. Hsi-i 希夷 Yeh T'ing (1897-8 April 1946), Communist military commander who led the Independent Regiment attached to the Fourth Army on the Northern Expedition in 1926 and, with Ho Lung (q.v.), directed the Nanchang uprising of 1 August 1927. He commanded the New Fourth Army from 1938 until January 1941, when his forces clashed with Nationalist troops. Yeh was charged with insubordination and detained by the Nationalists for the duration of the Sino-Japanese war.

The Waichow (Huichou) district of Kwangtung, a mountainous area adjacent to Hong Kong, was the birthplace of Yeh T'ing. Born into a peasant family, he received his early education at the local school at Huiyang. In 1911 he enrolled at the Waichow Agricultural School, but he soon left that institution to prepare for a military career. He gained admission to the Whampoa Military Primary School near Canton, where the students were affected by the strong nationalist tradition established by its dean, Teng K'eng (q.v.). After graduation from the Whampoa school in 1916, Yeh went to Wuchang, where he studied for two years at the Second Military Preparatory School.

Yeh T'ing then returned to the south, where he began active military service as a company commander in the Kwangtung Army led by Ch'en Chiung-ming (q.v.). He took part in the campaign against Lu Jung-t'ing (q.v.) which led to the reoccupation of Canton by the republican forces in October 1920, and he became a battalion commander and a member of the Kuomintang. At this early stage in his career, Yeh was associated with an energetic group of young Cantonese officers, many of whom became prominent in later years. This group included Chang Fa-k'uei, Hsueh Yueh, Teng Yen-ta, and Yü Han-mou (qq.v.), a number of whom had been members of the sixth class, graduated in 1919, at the Paoting Military Academy. In 1921, a Nationalist garrison regiment was organized to guard Sun Yat-sen's presidential headquarters; its three battalions were commanded by Chang Fak'uei, Hsueh Yueh, and Yeh T'ing. In June 1922, when supporters of Ch'en Chiung-ming besieged that headquarters, Yeh helped to provide the resistance that permitted Sun to escape to a gunboat in the Pearl River. After the republican forces established a new government at Canton in 1923, Sun Yat-sen moved forward with plans for reorganization of the Kuomintang, construction of an alliance with the Communists, and expansion of a Nationalist party-army. The following year, Liao Chung-k'ai (q.v.), the senior Kuomintang representative at the new Whampoa Military Academy, selected Yeh T'ing to go to Moscow for advanced training. In the Soviet Union, Yeh spent ten months at the Communist University for Toilers of the East and the Red Army Academy, where he was a contemporary of Nieh Jung-chen (q.v.). In 1925 Yeh joined the Moscow branch of the Chinese Communist party. From the Soviet Union he went to western Europe. Teng Yen-ta, also a native of the Waichow district of Kwangtung, had then resigned his post at Whampoa and was in Germany; and he and Yeh T'ing became acquainted with Chu Teh (q.v.), Kao Yü-han, and other members of the Chinese Marxist group at Berlin.

After his return to south China, Yeh T'ing became a regimental commander in the military forces commanded by Li Chi-shen (q.v.). In October-November 1925, the combined efforts of Li Chi-shen and Chiang Kai-shek succeeded in defeating Ch'en Chiung-ming and establishing Kuomintang control over eastern Kwangtung. In preparation for the Northern Expedition, forces under the new National Government at Canton were reorganized and given standard designations as elements of the new National Revolutionary Army. A part of the Kwangtung Army was reconstituted, under Li Chi-shen, as the Nationalist Fourth Army, composed of four divisions. Yeh T'ing was ordered to command and train an independent regiment attached to the Fourth Army, and he actively recruited young Communists from Whampoa to join that unit. Ch'en Yi (1901-; q.v.) was assigned as a political officer, and Lin Piao (q.v.) and other infantry graduates of Whampoa became platoon leaders.

When the Northern Expedition was launched in July 1926, the Nationalist war plan called for a drive through Hunan to support T'ang Sheng-chih (q.v.) against the armies of Wu P'ei-fu (q.v.) to the north. Yeh T'ing's Independent Regiment was assigned to this campaign, along with two divisions, those commanded by Chang Fa-k'uei and Ch'en Ming-shu (q.v.), of the Fourth Army. His regiment played an important part in Chang Fa-k'uei's capture in August 1926 of the two strategic points of Ting-ssu-ch'iao and Ho-sheng-ch'iao south of Wuhan and contributed directly to earning for Chang Fa-k'uei's 12th Division the name "Ironsides." By the time of the Nationalist victory at Wuhan in October, Yeh T'ing had established a reputation as an aggressive and resourceful combat commander, and the Independent Regiment had sustained heavy casualties. Kuo Mo-jo, who headed the propaganda section of the National Revolutionary Army's general political department under Teng Yen-ta, wrote of Yeh's exploits in his book Pei-fa [northern expedition], in which he gave him the nickname Chao Tzu-lung, a well-known military hero from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms.

After occupation of the Wuhan area, the units of the Fourth Army were reorganized and expanded under the command of Chang Fa-k'uei. Because of his excellent performance during the first stage of the Northern Expedition, Yeh T'ing was promoted to command the 24th Division of the Eleventh Army; and in the spring of 1927 he was assigned concurrently as garrison commander at Wuhan. During 1927 the growing split within the Kuomintang led to the establishment of two rival political centers at Nanking and Wuhan headed, respectively, by Chiang Kai-shek and Wang Ching-wei. Chang Fa-k'uei moved on Kaifeng in April and won control of most of Honan province. In an effort to take advantage of the reduced military forces in the Wuhan area, a Nanking-backed Hupeh force under Hsia Tou-yin declared itself anti-Communist and attacked Wuhan in early May. Yeh T'ing, as garrison commander, mobilized available troops at Wuchang and quickly repulsed Hsia"'s move. Yün Tai-ying (q.v.), Communist chief political instructor at the Wuhan branch of the Central Military Academy, played a key role in organizing its cadets to support Yeh T'ing during the crisis.

As tensions heightened, it appeared that the differences between the rival Kuomintang factions at Wuhan and Nanking might have to be settled on the battlefield. Yeh was ordered to lead his troops eastward as part of the advance by Chang Fa-k'uei's Second Front Army. In July, however, when the Kuomintang authorities at Wuhan began a purge of the Communists, Yeh moved southward toward Nanchang in Kiangsi. In the early morning hours of 1 August 1927, Yeh, commander of the 24th Division, and Ho Lung (q.v.), commander of the Twentieth Army, staged a coup to seize Nanchang. Chu Teh, who was then head of the Kiangsi public security bureau, supported the insurrection. Yeh T'ing's coup was successful in gaining control of the city, but within a few days units under Chang Fa-k'uei moved in to reestablish Nationalist control. Despite its failure, the Nanchang uprising became famous in the annals of the Chinese Communist movement, and 1 August 1927 came to be marked as the official birth date of the Red Army in China. After the Nanchang defeat, Yeh T'ing, Ho Lung, Chu Teh, and other military and political figures who had been associated with that action retreated southward to establish a territorial base in Kwangtung, where the peasant movement [see P'eng P'ai) had organizational roots. In September 1927 these Communist forces seized Swatow, but again they were driven out within a few days. Yeh T'ing and Ho Lung fled to Hong Kong, while remnants of their forces were reorganized by Chu Teh, who later joined Mao Tse-tung in Kiangsi in the spring of 1928. From Hong Kong, Yeh T'ing went secretly to Canton, where the Communists planned a new urban insurrection. There he reportedly had disagreements with Chang T'ai-lei (q.v.) zation of the Chinese Communist party. When the Canton Commune was established on 11 December 1927, Yeh T'ing was listed as commander of the Workers and Peasants Red Army, but his deputy Yeh Chien-ying (q.v.) actually led the troops that attempted to provide military support for the final, abortive Communist uprising of the year 1927. After the collapse of the Canton Commune, Yeh T'ing again went to the Soviet Union. Later, however, he severed connections with the Chinese Communist party and went to western Europe, where he spent time in Berlin and Vienna at the same time that his erstwhile schoolmate Teng Yen-ta was surveying European conditions. Yeh T'ing's activities during the early 1930's are obscure; he apparently avoided politics and lived in retirement in Hong Kong.

After the outbreak of war with Japan in the summer of 1937, a new Nationalist-Communist united front emerged, and the main Chinese Communist military forces in Shensi were reorganized as the Eighth Route Army. The Communists proposed that efforts be made to mobilize and regroup scattered units of the Red Army, left behind in 1934 at the start of the Long March, which remained operational in central China. The Kuomintang refused this proposal on the ground that it would be inadvisable to have these units continue under Communist command. Yeh T'ing then sent a message to Chiang Kai-shek proposing that he be assigned to command the Communist units in the Yangtze valley in action against the invading Japanese. Perhaps because Yeh T'ing had had no formal connection with the Chinese Communists for a decade, perhaps because of the personal support of Hsueh Yueh and other Nationalist officers regarded as politically reliable, Chiang approved the proposal. In late September 1937, the Military Affairs Commission of the National Government ordered the establishment of the so-called New Fourth Army; the designation was used in allusion to the earlier Fourth Army of the Northern Expedition period. Yeh T'ing at once proceeded to Shensi for conferences with Chu Teh and Mao Tse-tung.

The New Fourth Army was formally created in January 1938, with its headquarters at Nanchang. Yeh T'ing was named commander, with the Communist Hsiang Ying (q.v.) as deputy commander and political commissar, and Ch'en Yi as commander of its first column. The army was assigned a 150 mile-long sector along the Yangtze. During the spring of 1938 the New Fourth Army established a field command post in southern Anhwei and began to extend its area of operations. Raids were mounted against the Nanking- Shanghai and Nanking-Wuhu rail lines and along the road linking Nanking and Hangchow. After the Japanese captured Hsüchow in northern Kiangsu in May 1938, Yeh deployed elements of his army north of the Yangtze to operate behind Japanese lines.

During 1939-40, as Yeh T'ing's forces extended operations in the Kiangsu-Anhwei area, Ku Chu-t'ung (q.v.), the Nationalist commander of the Third War Area which included these provinces, came to view these Communist units as a greater competitive threat than the Japanese. Frictions increased. In December 1940, Ku ordered some 9,000 men of the New Fourth Army in southern Anhwei to move to bases north of the Yangtze. While these troops were on the march in January 1941, they came into conflict with Nationalist units under the command of Ku Chu-t'ung. The ensuing battle (6-14 January 1941) near Maolin in southern Anhwei ended in virtually complete rout of the greatly outnumbered Communist forces. In that action — known in Chinese Communist history as the New Fourth Army, or Southern Anhwei incident - Hsiang Ying was killed, and Yeh T'ing was captured. Ku Chu-t'ung's move diminished, but by no means eradicated. Communist military strength in the lower Yangtze valley. The top command at Yenan moved quickly to reorganize these forces. Ch'en Yi was assigned as acting commander of the New Fourth Army, with Liu Shao-ch'i (q.v.) as political commissar and Su Yü (q.v.) as deputy commander.

The Nationalists charged Yeh T'ing with insubordination to military orders and imprisoned him for the remainder of the war. He was held for a time at Shangjao, Kiangsi, but later moved to Enshih in southwestern Hupeh and then to Kweilin in Kwangsi. After the Japanese surrender in 1945, he was sent to Chungking. In the Nationalist- Communist negotiations in the early autumn of 1945, the Communists repeatedly requested that Yeh T'ing be set free. He was finally released on 4 March 1946 after over five years of confinement. The next day he requested reinstatement of his membership in the Chinese Communist party, and on 7 March Yenan confirmed that the request had been granted. A month later, Yeh left by plane for Shensi. On the flight to Yenan, the plane crashed in Shansi on 8 April 1946. In addition to Yeh T'ing, a number of other Communist leaders, including Ch'in Pang-hsien, Teng Fa, and Wang Jo-fei (qq.v.), died in the crash. Nationalist sabotage was widely rumored but never proved.

In 1925, while training the Independent Regiment in south China, Yeh T'ing married Li Hsiu-wen. She was the daughter of a prosperous gentry family of Nanhai (Namhoi), Kwangtung, and had graduated from a women's normal college in Canton. She, together with two of the Yeh children, died in the April 1946 plane crash. Six other children, who were at the time living in either Kwangtung or Shensi, survived their parents. Yeh Chun, the wife of Lin Piao who gained political prominence at Peking in 1969, was reportedly a daughter of Yeh T'ing.

Biography in Chinese

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