ORIENTAL WOMEN TALK
Told by Hani Law Copyright © 2008 All Rights Reserved
THE MOST POWERFUL THREE SISTERS OF CHINA ARE THE THREE SOONG
SISTERS. Each of whom played a vital role in China during the first half of the 20th
Three girls were born to a father who was American-educated Methodist minister,
CHARLIE SOONG (1866-1918), also known as Yao-ju, and to a mother Ni Guizhen.
Charlie and Guizhen have six children altogether and they are in order of age:
SOONG AI-LING (also spelled as Soong E-ling)
SOONG QINGLING (also spelled as Soong Ching-ling)
SOONG ZIWEN (also known as TV Soong and spelled as Soong Tse-ven)
SOONG MEILING (also spelled as May-ling)
SOONG ZILIANG (also known as TL Soong and spelled as Soong Tse-liang)
SOONG ZIAN (also known as TA Soong and spelled as Soong Tse-an)
CHARLIE SOONG was of Hakka Chinese origin. He was called Soong Yao-ju when he
was born to this world in Hainan, a province in China. He was sent to America at the tender
age of nine to work as an apprentice in a family teahouse in Boston, which was then
managed by his uncle. However, Charlie had always wanted to go to school but his uncle
insisted that he should continue his apprenticeship in the teahouse. At
the age of 12, Charlie stowed away on a ship which was bound for the south. Charlie just
did not know or care where the ship was heading to as he just wanted to get
away. Of course he was caught and brought before the captain. The captain took
him on and offered him a job as a cabin boy. He was converted to Christianity by the
captain at 15 and then became a Methodist missionary in 1885. He was the first
international student at Trinity College (now Duke University), but later transferred to
Vanderbilt University where he received his degree. He went back to China and worked as
a Methodist missionary in Shanghai. There he married Ni Kwei-tseng
(also spelled as Guizhen) in 1886. He became very wealthy by printing and selling
the Bible in Chinese. SOONG AI-LING (also spelled as Soong E-ling.
Several years later, Charlie resigned from his missionary work in 1892 and became
a successful bible publisher and businessman in Shanghai. In 1894, he met and
became a close friend of Sun Yat-sen who was planning a revolution in China.
Charlie soon became one of Sun Yat-sen's most important supporters and played
an important role in financing Sun Yat-sen's revolution that toppled the Qing
Dynasty in 1911. China became a republic and Sun Yat-sen was elected the first president
of the republic.
Charlie died in 1918, but his three daughters became extremely influential and powerful
figures in China.
THE SOONG SISTERS
SOONG AI-LING (1890-1973)was born in Shanghai. She was the eldest daughter
of Charlie Soong. Her christian name was Nancy. She arrived in the United States
in 1904 at the age of 14 to begin her education at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia. She
returned to China in 1909 after graduation and worked as a secretary
for SunYat-sen. Ai-Ling met Kung Hsiang-his in 1913 and married him in Japan the
following year. She was engaged in improving child welfare but after marriage, she was too
busy to continue to work for Sun Yat-sen. Her sister, Qing-ling, who had
just graduated from America, succeeded her and worked as Sun Yat-sen’s
Kung Hsiang-his and Ai-Ling went to the United States with their family, after the
fall of the Nationalist government in 1949. She died at the age of 83 in 1973. She
had four children, two daughters and two sons.
Kung Hsiang-his (1881-1967) also known as HH Kung. He was born in Shanxi Province
in China. He was educated at Oberlin and at Yale. His family was in
banking business and was the richest man and one of the most powerful men in
China at that time. His first important position was Minister of Industry and Commerce,
and then was appointed Minister of Finance and later Governor of the Bank of China. In
1931, he joined the Central Executive Committee of the
Kuomintang (Nationalist Party).
SOONG QINGLING (1892-1981), was born in Shanghai. She also graduated from
Wesleyan College. Her christian name was Rosamond. In 1914 she married Sun
Yat-sen, who was 26 years her senior, in Japan after falling in love with him. Sun
Yat-sen, through arranged marriage, already had a wife, who bore him a son Sun
Fo, who later became a high ranking official in the Republican government. From
the first marriage, he also had two daughters, Sun Yan and Sun Wan. He kept his
wife far in the background as she had the old-fashioned bound feet. Charlie Soong thought
his friend was much too old for his daughter, but their love for each other
and their shared goal of making China strong and improving the livelihood of the people
gave them a bond so strong that they became inseparable.
After Sun Yat-sen's death in 1925, Qingling was elected in 1926 to the Kuomintang Central
Executive Committee. She sided with the Communists in the Chinese civil
war. After the defeat of the Communists, she resigned from the Kuomintang and
went to Moscow in 1927. The constant struggles for control between the
Communists and the Nationalists during the 1930's weakened China and left the country
vulnerable to Japan's expansionist ambitions. The outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War (1937-
1945) reconciled her with the Kuomintang. With the help of
her sister Qing-ling (despite their political differences), they both encouraged nationalist
cooperation between the Communists and the Kuomintang to fight the Japanese invasion
She remained in China after the Communists had taken over in 1949 and served as Vice
President of the People's Republic of China until 1981. She devoted herself to
the promotion of the welfare of children and women in China and represented
China in most forums attended by communist and third world nations. Two weeks before
her death, she was admitted into the Chinese Communist Party, so that she could be made
Honorary President of the People's Republic of China. Qingling believed in the Communist
ideology and eventually was estranged from her two capitalist sisters.
Sun Yat-sen (1866-1925), often called the “Father of Modern China”, was born
into a farm-owning family near Guangzhou in China. He studied in an Anglican
boy school in Japan, where he came under Western influence, particularly that of
Christianity. In 1892 he received his medical qualification from the University of
Hong Kong and practised medicine there. In 1895, a coup he plotted to overthrow
the imperial government in China failed, and for the next 16 years Sun Yat-sen was
an exile in Europe, the United States, Canada and Japan, raising money to continue his
revolution in China.
Sun Yat-sen‘s main political ideology, known as the Three Principles of the People, was
modelled on western democratic principles. They are nationalism, democracy,
and people's livelihood. In 1911, the revolution led by him succeeded in
overthrowing the Qing Dynasty, which is the last monarchy in China. After establishing
the first republican government in China, Sun Yat-sen was elected the Provisional
President of the Republic of China in 1912 and co-founded the Kuomintang where he
served as its first leader. Two months after the establishment
of the Republic, he resigned from the post of Provisional President.
In the early periods of the Republic, China was fragmented as warlords virtually
disregarded the existence of the central government and administered the areas
under their respective control. Although he had resigned from the office of
President, Sun Yat-sen remained a unifying figure until his death in 1925. Lacking
a convincing leader, China was divided between two movements, the Communist
Party led by Mao Ze-dong and the Nationalist Party led by Chiang Kai-shek, until
the Communist formed the People’s Republic of China in 1949.
SOONG MEILING (1897- 2003), born in Shanghai, attended Motyeire School, an
American private school, in Shanghai at the age of eight. She graduated with
honours in 1917 with major in English literature and minor in philosophy in
Wellesley College. She spoke excellent English with a Georgia accent which
helped her connect with American audiences in her later life.
She met Chiang Kai-shek in 1920. At that time Chiang Kai-shek was 11 years her senior,
already married, and a Buddhist. Meiling's mother strong opposed the
marriage between the two, and insisted that Chiang could only marry her daughter
if he could divorce his first wife and became a Christian. After their marriage in
1927, Soong Meiling immediately engaged herself in politics. In 1945, she became
a member of the Central Executive Committee of the Kuomintang. As her husband rose to
become Generalissimo and leader of the Kuomintang, Meiling acted as his English
translator, secretary and advisor. As she was well versed in both Chinese
and Western cultures, she became popular both in China and abroad. Through her
personal friendship with President Franklin Roosevelt and his wife, Meiling successfully
drummed up American support for China's war of resistance against
the Japanese aggression (1937-1945). She was the first Chinese woman to address
the US Congress. Chiang Kai-shek’s undivided effort to eliminate the Communists
in China during Japan’s invasion put China in a most perilous state. However, he
was convinced by Meiling that the immediate task at that point in time was to join hands
with the Communists to fight the Japanese.
After the defeat of the Kuomingtang by the Communists in China in 1949, Meiling together
with her husband and many government and military officials fled to
Taiwan. Meiling continued to play an active role in international affairs. Through
the late 1960s she was elected one of America's 10 most admired women. Her
political adeptness was one of the driving forces of the Kuomintang leadership.
After the death of her husband in 1975, Meiling maintained a very low profile.
Chiang Kai-shek was succeeded by Chiang Ching-kuo, his eldest son from a
previous marriage with whom Meiling had a very poor relation. In 1975, she
emigrated from Taiwan to her family's 36 acre estate in Long Island in the suburb
of New York City where she kept a portrait of her late husband in full military
regalia in her living room. She sold her Long Island estate in 2000 and moved to her
Manhattan apartment where she spent the rest of her life. During her 28 years’
stay in theUnited States, she returned to Taiwan only three times. She believed that the
Democratic Progressive Party, which later took control of Taiwan, had little
reverence for her. Her life in her latter years was peaceful but somewhat solitary.
She had few visitors and passed her time growing flowers, practising calligraphy, drawing
pictures and reading. She died in her sleep in 2003 at the age of 106.
Chiang Kai-shek (1887-1975), the son of a wine merchant, was born in Fenghau, China.
His father died when he was a child and his family was in extreme poverty.
He was sent to live with relatives but he ran away and joined the provincial army.
He was a good soldier and was eventually selected for advanced training in the
military academy in Paoting. In 1907, he was sent to attend the Military State
College in Tokyo. During this period he became a supporter of Sun Yat-sen.
Chiang-kai-shek eventually emerged as the leader of the Kuomintang. Not only
had he to deal with a nation thoroughly plundered by Western powers, he also had
to rid China of her warlords who divided China into a number of spheres of control.
In 1926, Chiang Kai-shek defeated the Communist army and forced it to make the
famous Long March to Shensi in North West China. However, his own government was
corrupt and he was eventually defeated by the Communists in 1949. Chiang
Kai-shek and the Nationalist government officials fled to Taiwan where he
remained President till his death in 1975.
When the Japanese army invaded China in 1937, Chiang Kai-shek agreed to collaborate
with Mao Ze-dong and his Communist army to fight the Japanese.
After the bombing of Pearl Harbour, Chiang kai-shek received considerable
financial support from the United States. No sooner had the Japanese surrendered than
the Communists and the Kuomintang resumed the civil war in China. The Communists
eventually gained the control of the country in 1949 in which year
Mao Zed-dong announced the establishment of People's Republic of China.
Chiang kai-shek fled to Taiwan and set up his military government. He died in 1975.
SOONG QUINGLING the middle
SOONG MEILING, the youngest
SOONG AILING, the eldest
THE MOST POWERFUL THREE SISTERS OF CHINA
History of China
A true story