We shall return momentarily to the details of this sort of party-overseen barter by which the poorer cultivators were able at least to keep warm – their most pressing priority.
But before going that far down the road of detail, one last major point needs to be made, and that concerns the (hidden) overlordship of this 9-county “drug zone” on the eastern/northeastern rim of the Luliang Mts/forests (themselves famous as “bandit” predator hangouts).
The proprietor-in-chief, at least by early 1943, was without doubt He Long, the commander of the 120th “Division” (65,000+ soldiers in the Base Area, perhaps 40,000 more as transferred “guards” within the Yenan suburbs). For reasons probably related to his mini-warlordism or Taliban-like “enclavizing” in the W. Luliang foothills between 1943 and 1947 [where he was expected to build up his own supply and “finance” system, as if in a totally removed base area cut off by Japanese traffic and patrols] he at some point found his true-’nuff bandit (tufei) background in Sangzhi, Hunan – where he began his soldiering at the head of a Tujia minority robber gang – re-excavated as a class-labelling club used against him in high level 8RA/PLA political maneuvers, that is in the feuding between the “7 Marshals” (yuanshuai) that Mao seems to have encouraged. We don’t know enough about He’s stature and power base during the “17 years” to be quite sure, but by 1965 He’s principal accuser was none other than Lin Biao, former commander of the 125th (Shandong) Infantry Division and his always loyal helpmate, Jiang Qing, who seem to have daubed more paint each day onto the portrait of He as a kind of bandit king. Indeed, that characterization was what prompted his eventual (1965-7) imprisonment-without-trial and (in the end) death from untreated diabetes.
Beyond that point, published material will not take us, but – and here one must confess to a purely speculative impulse – it is not inconceivable that the strange surfacing of an utterly unique document of the opium planting and taxing that transpired in the 8RA “rear” might not be just accident, for the Xinzhou, Shanxi, Municipality (then prefecture) from which these documents arrive was smack in the middle (heart) of the Jin-Sui Base Area He controlled/patrolled.
On Jan. 29, 1943, Vladimirov reports as follows:
“Everywhere illicit (?) opium traffic is going on. Thus in Tsai-ling [sic], at the rearmost headquarters of the 120th Infantry Division, they have allotted a premise where raw materials are processed and from where opium as finished product goes to markets.” (Then): in Northwestern Shansi [the lower half of the Base Area] virtually all the counties have been flooded with Japanese goods. These goods are supplied directly from Japanese rear-depots [in the eastern end of Inner Mongolia?]. …In the headquarters of the 120th Division. discussions center [not on military matters] but on commercial dealings and profits”. (p 95).
The “Tsai-ling” is almost certainly a garbled version of Caijiaya Zhen (township) aka 蔡家崖, about 3-4 miles due west of the Xing xian county town, and right where (2-lane) S 313 and S 228 intersect today (they would have been mere unpaved transit trails before 1949), exactly where a leader unsure of when he might need to flee, and in which direction, would base himself, thus as well keeping his main-unit guerrillas out of view (reconnaissance view…) of possible (Japanese or KMT) spies who would certainly have been inserted into the county town. An undated photograph from after 1942? identifies the place as 蔡家崖