Born in 1896 in the mountains of Hunan, He Long began his revolutionary career by attacking a government tax assessor with a butcher cleaver. The attack on a salt tax office destroyed the tax office, resulted in some guns being captured and the beheading of the tax collector. In 1923, he was the commander of the Nationalist Twentieth Army. He joined the Communist ranks in 1926. After he joined the Communist, Chiang Kai-Shek never stopped trying to get him back to the KMT. Failing that, Chiang killed 100 of He Long's relatives including three sisters and his brother.
He was a flamboyant, mustachioed, outgoing man, unable to walk down the street without attracting a crowd, and he was a fine orator. He was a fine general. He fought in the Long March, the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1937-1945), and the War of Liberation. A handsome thirty-six year old in 1934, he was the commander of the Red Second Army. He Long told his troops they must rely on three things: their feet, their mouths, and their guns, meaning they must always keep on the move, use propaganda to win over the masses, and guns to hold off the enemy.
At the founding ceremony of the People's Republic of China on October 1, 1949, He was on the review stand with Chairman Mao. After the Japanese surrender, He became one of the Ten Chinese Marshals in 1955. He Long was the Secretary of the Department of Sports in the late 1950s and helped China win their first gold medal.
During the Cultural Revolution he was branded an anti-Party element and purged in 1966. He died in custody from diabetes, beatings and starvation. A stadium in Changsha was named after him in 1987.