The Young Pioneers: Background information when reading The Little Red Guard

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Little Red Guard

A Family Memoir

by Wenguang Huang

The Little Red Guard by Wenguang Huang X
The Little Red Guard by Wenguang Huang
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Apr 2012, 272 pages
    Apr 2013, 272 pages

  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

Buy This Book

About this Book

Beyond the Book:
The Young Pioneers

Print Review

Memoirist Wenguang Huang was once a member of China's communist youth organization, which, during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), was known as The Little Red Guard. The group was originally formed by the Communist Party of China in 1949 as The Youth and Children of China Movement, but in 1953, it was renamed The Young Pioneers - the name the organization reverted to after the Cultural Revolution ended.

Most Chinese children become members of the Young Pioneers by the end of their grade school years; in 2002 it was estimated that over 130 million youths belonged to the organization. Those between the ages of 6 and 14 are eligible to join, after which time they may choose to advance to the Communist Youth League of China.

A red scarf is one of the most symbolic elements of the Young Pioneers uniform and is worn to school every day. The color is said to be derived from the blood sacrificed by martyrs of the Revolution, and children are taught that it is to be worn in reverence. Its shape - a triangle - symbolizes a corner of the communist flag. Being awarded a scarf indicates the student has acceptable grades, is a good citizen and shows proper respect for authority. It's generally given to new members by a senior member of the group who ties the scarf around the neophyte's neck during an award ceremony.

As described in an article in the New York Times: "Each year, nearly every second-grader in China goes through a solemn rite of initiation. Lined up before an audience of classmates, teachers and perhaps some beaming parents, the school band playing at the side, they stand at attention as sixth-graders march up and place red kerchiefs around their necks. An older student leads them in the pledge... From that day on, through the sixth grade, the students wear their kerchiefs to school every day - except in hot weather, when they wear a red pin instead." This ritual usually takes place on June 1, a holiday known as Children's Day on which children are encouraged to have fun by going to movies, playing with toys, etc.

The purpose of the Young Pioneers is to instill the basic tenants of Chinese communism in the students. They learn about the Communist Party's triumphs, respect for authority, and the importance of doing good deeds. They also read about model citizens who have given their lives in the service of others. The group is highly organized with a hierarchical leadership structure, a slogan, code of conduct, pledge, flag, badge and salute (see below).

  • Pledge: "I am a member of the Young Pioneers of China. Under the flag of the Young Pioneers I promise that: I love the Communist Party of China, the motherland, and the people; I will study well and keep myself fit, and to prepare for contributing my effort to the cause of communism."

  • Slogan: "Be prepared to struggle for the cause of communism," to which the correct reply is "Always be prepared."

  • Code of Conduct: "Honesty, Courage, Vivacity, Unity."

  • Emblem and flag: Red symbolizes the victory of the Revolution; the star, the leadership of the Communist Party; and the torch, the brightness down the path of communism.

flag of The Young Pioneers
  • Salute: This consists of bending the right arm in front of the body, upper arm slanting inward, with the palm of the hand flat and facing downwards, fingers together. It symbolizes that the interests of the People supersede all.
salute of The Young Pioneers
  • Theme Song: Click on the video below to hear members of the Young Pioneers sing "We are the Heirs of Communism."

Image of Young Pioneer saluting found at

Article by Kim Kovacs

This article was originally published in May 2012, and has been updated for the April 2013 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

This article is available to non-members for a limited time. You can also read these articles for free. For full access, become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: I Found My Tribe
    I Found My Tribe
    by Ruth Fitzmaurice
    Ruth O'Neill was only 28 when she married film director Simon Fitzmaurice in 2004. Changing her...
  • Book Jacket: The Art of the Wasted Day
    The Art of the Wasted Day
    by Patricia Hampl
    Patricia Hampl wants you to know that daydreaming is not a waste of a day. Nor is spending time ...
  • Book Jacket: Circe
    by Madeline Miller
    Towards the end of Madeline Miller's novel Circe, the titular nymph is questioned by her son ...
  • Book Jacket: All the Names They Used for God
    All the Names They Used for God
    by Anjali Sachdeva
    Pre-publication press has already compared Anjali Sachdeva to Kelly Link and other genre-blending ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Music of the Ghosts by Vaddey Ratner

A love story for things lost and restored, a lyrical hymn to the power of forgiveness.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Other People's Houses
    by Abbi Waxman

    A hilarious and poignant novel about four families and the affair that changes everything.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Leavers

The Leavers by Lisa Ko

One of the most anticipated books of 2017--now in paperback!


Word Play

Solve this clue:

T E H N Clothes

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.