Liu Wenhui

Liu Wenhui (simplified Chinese: 刘文辉; traditional Chinese: 劉文輝; pinyin: Liú Wénhuī; 1895–24 June 1976) was one of the warlords of Sichuan province during China's Warlord era. Liu who rose to prominence in Sichuan in the 1920s and 1930s, came from a peasant family. At the beginning of his career, he was aligned with the Kuomintang (KMT), commanding the Sichuan-Xikang Defence Force from 1927 to 1929. The western part of Sichuan province was then known as Xikang. Bordering Tibet, the region had a mixed population of Tibetans and Han Chinese.

Liu Wenhui
Liu Wenhui.jpg
Liu Wenhui
Governor of Sichuan
In office
March 1929 – 21 December 1934
Succeeded byLiu Xiang
Governor of Xikang
In office
29 December 1934 – 9 December 1949
Succeeded byHe Guoguang (Ho Kuo-kuang)
Personal details
Dayi County, Sichuan, Qing Empire
Died24 June 1976(1976-06-24) (aged 80–81)
Beijing, China
NationalityHan Chinese
Political partyKuomintang
Military service
Allegiance China
Years of service1928–1949
CommandsChairman of Xikang Provincial Government
Battles/warsSino-Tibetan War, Second Sino-Japanese War, Chinese Civil War


Liu was then made Chairman of the Government of Sichuan Province from 1929, but his relationship with Chiang Kai-shek was unstable as was the province he governed. Sichuan was in the hands of Liu and four other warlords: Liu Xiang, Yang Sen, Deng Xihou, and Tian Songyao. No one warlord had enough power to take on all the others at once, so many small battles occurred, pitting one warlord against another. Large conflicts seldom developed, plotting and skirmishing characterized the Sichuanese political scene, and ephemeral coalitions and counter coalitions emerged and vanished with equal rapidity.

In May 1930 his province was invaded by the army of Tibet.[citation needed] With the province locked in internal struggles, no reinforcements were sent to support the Sichuan troops stationed in Xikang. As a result, the Tibetan army captured, without encountering much resistance, Garze and Xinlong (Zhanhua). When a negotiated ceasefire failed, Tibet expanded the war attempting to capture parts of southern Qinghai province. In March 1932 their force invaded Qinghai but was defeated by the Qinghai warlord Ma Bufang in July, routing the Tibetan army and driving it back to Xikang. The Qinghai army captured counties that had fallen into the hands of the Tibetan army since 1919. The victory on the part of the Qinghai army threatened the supply lines to the Tibetan forces in Garze and Xinlong. As a result, this part of the Tibetan army was forced to withdraw. In 1932 Liu in cooperation with the Qinghai army, sent out a brigade, to attack the Tibetan troops in Garze and Xinlong, eventually occupying them, Dege and other counties east of the Jinsha River.

Brigade commander Ma Xiao was a Muslim in Liu Wenhui's army.[1]

In 1932 in the Sino-Tibetan War Liu drove the Tibetans back to the Yangtze River and even threatened to attack Chamdo. Liu Wenhui and Ma Bufang defeated the Tibetan forces. They signed ceasefires with them.[2]

Liu Wenhui had a rivalry with his nephew, General Liu Xiang.[3] Finally Liu was ousted from Chengdu by Liu Xiang in 1935, when Liu Xiang sided with smaller warlords against Liu. A family-brokered peace was arranged which mollified Liu with control of the familiar neighbouring Xikang province, a sparsely populated but opium-rich territory on the periphery of Han China. Liu set up headquarters in the city of Ya'an and set about the highest priorities of a warlord: self-preservation and self-enrichment. Self-enrichment was relatively secure through the illicit but uncontrollable opium trade; survival entailed maintaining troops but using them as little as possible. In this, the territory of Xikang province was advantageous to Liu, since its marginal position effectively insulated him from rival warlords, and from military engagements ordered by the central government.

During the pursuit of the communist forces during the Long March, this conflict between the two leaders came to a head. Chiang repeatedly ordered Liu to bring his troops against the fleeing communists, but Liu made excuses, while secretly allowing safe passage for the Red Army in a non-aggression pact consistent with the first priority of a warlord: preserving one's troops and one's power. Thus the engagements around Xiakou Village in 1934 did not involve Liu's 24th Route Army, but the 21st army of GMD troops garrisoned just across the Sichuan border in Mingshan.

In 1936 Liu Wenhui's ties soured with the Consolatory Commission.[4]

From 1939 as Governor of Xikang Province Liu tried to establish the infrastructure needed to support the remote province. Its transport was primitive and it had no industry to speak of. Large projects such as the hydroelectric plant built in 1944 promised to bring the area into the modern world. Liu also promoted education as a way to improve Xikang’s situation.

Liu walked the tightrope of allegiance throughout the 1940s. He made sure that his forces saw as little action as possible, while at the same time he was careful not to arouse the full wrath of Chiang Kai-shek, and thereby continued to reap the benefits of wearing the Nationalist mantle.

As Governor of Xikang Province Liu switched sides from his half-hearted alignment with the Kuomintang to siding with the Communists on 9 Dec. 1949.[5] He was rewarded with a bureaucratic post in the new communist government in Beijing. For the rest of his life, the former warlord served in various capacities in the Communist party, including as the minister of Forestry Ministry. Although Xikang ceased to exist in 1956 as part of the land reform, Liu’s measures gave the area a solid basis for development. The hydroelectric plant he constructed in 1944 is still in operation. Kangding, once the provincial capital, is now a thriving town. In his last days, against governmental ban and relatives' objection, Liu convinced his relatives to go to Tiananmen Square to pay his respect to Zhou Enlai when the Chinese premier died.

Timeline of careerEdit

  • 1926 General Officer Commanding 24th Division
  • 1927 – 1929 General Officer Commanding Sichuan-Xigang Defence Force
  • 1929 – 1935 Chairman of the Government of Sichuan Province
  • 1935 – 1949 General Officer Commanding 24th Army
  • 1938 Director of the Generalissimo's Headquarters Chungking
  • 1939 – 1950 Governor of Xikang Province
  • 1944 – 1945 General Officer Commanding 22nd Corps


  • 1916 – 1918 Staff Officer 2nd Division, Sichuan Army
  • 1918 – 1920 Commanding Officer 29th Regiment, 8th Division, Sichuan Army
  • 1920 – 1921 Commanding Officer Independent Brigade, 8th Division, Sichuan Army
  • 1921 – 1923 Commanding Officer Mixed Brigade, Sichuan Army
  • 1923 – 1925 General Officer Commanding 9th Division, Sichuan Army
  • 1923 – 1925 General Officer Commanding Chengdu Garrison
  • 1925 Deputy Head of Military Affairs Sichuan Province
  • 1926 General Officer Commanding 4th Division, Sichuan Army
  • 1926 – 1932 General Officer Commanding 24th Army
  • 1926 – 1928 General Officer Commanding 4th Detachment, 24th Army
  • 1928 General Officer Commanding 1st Division, 24th Army
  • 1928 – 1929 General Officer Commanding Sichuan-Xikang Defence Force
  • 1928 – 1935 Chairman of the Government of Sichuan Province
  • 1932 General Officer Commanding Sichuan-Xikang Border Defence Headquarters
  • 1935 – 1946 General Officer Commanding 24th Army
  • 1937 – 1938 Commander in Chief 5th Army Corps
  • 1939 – 1949 Chairman of Xikang Provincial Government
  • 1939 – 1945 General Officer Commanding Xikang Security Headquarters
  • 1944 – 1945 General Officer Commanding 22nd Army
  • 1945 – 1946 Deputy General Officer Commanding Sichuan-Xikang Pacification Headquarters
  • 1946 – 1949 General Officer Commanding Xikang Province Army Area
  • 1946 – 1949 General Officer Commanding 24th Division
  • 1949 Revolts against the Nationalist Government


  1. ^ Hanzhang Ya, Ya Hanzhang (1991). The biographies of the Dalai Lamas. Foreign Languages Press. pp. 352, 355. ISBN 0-8351-2266-2. Retrieved 2010-06-28.
  2. ^ Richardson, Hugh E. (1984). Tibet and its History. 2nd Edition, pp. 134–136. Shambhala Publications, Boston. ISBN 0-87773-376-7 (pbk).
  3. ^ China monthly review, Volume 70. Millard Publishing Co., inc. 1934. p. 12. Retrieved 2011-06-13.
  4. ^ Hsiao-ting Lin (2010). Modern China's ethnic frontiers: a journey to the west. Volume 67 of Routledge studies in the modern history of Asia (illustrated ed.). Taylor & Francis. p. 52. ISBN 0-415-58264-4. Retrieved 2011-12-27. A force of about 300 soldiers was organized and augmented by recruiting local Khampa bandits into the army. The relationship between the Consolatory Commission and Liu Wenhui seriously deteriorated in early 1936, when the Norla Hutuktu
  5. ^ Steen Ammentorp (2000–2009). "The Generals of WWII Generals from China Liu Wenhui". Retrieved 31 October 2010.

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