Tuesday, June 26, 2007
At the turn of the century, three sisters influenced the events of China's modern history.
The Soong sisters were famously described as "one loved money, one loved power, and one loved China."
Soong Ai-ling married H.H. Kung, the richest man in the country who was also the Finance Minister of China, while Soong Mei-ling got together with Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek.
But it was Soong Ching-ling who married Dr. Sun Yat-sen, 27 years her senior and aided the Communists in their bid to help found the People's Republic of China. In turn, Chairman Mao named her vice-president and gave her a former palace from the Qing Dynasty in Hou Hai.
It takes a long stroll to get to this elegant compound, past the bars and boutiques, on the other side of the lake. But it's well worth visiting.
The focal point of the Chinese garden is a small man-made pond with carp in it, surrounded by wisteria, shrubs and rocks. Nearby is a bust of Madame Sun and her living quarters turned into a museum.
There's lots of historical information enamoured of Charlie Soong's second daughter. And there are lots of her and Dr. Sun's personal effects on display, from their clothing to wedding quilt, bottles of wine and maple syrup, and even a pistol he gave her as a wedding present. Perhaps he was worried about her safety.
And on the main floor you can see her dining room, a Western-style antique dining table and cabinet, and a sitting room next door that has a portrait of her husband on one side of the room, and Chairman Mao on the opposite side.
Upstairs there are many rooms labelled, but visitors can't enter, except see her bedroom/office behind glass. The antique clock outside her room is stopped at the time she died, and her furniture and items left as they were. It's a simple, large room, with a plain bed, a dressing table with makeup and creams, and then a desk with piles of papers, magazines, and books.
But back downstairs there are several pictures of the three sisters who visited an orphanage, Soong Ching-ling personally inspecting aid given to those less fortunate, and her giving a speech rallying others at the funeral of writer Lu Xun.
These three sisters witnessed momentous change in China, and helped it move forward into the 20th century.
And today the country is in the midst of another transformation, from a rural-based economy to an industrial and hi-tech one.
But there aren't any influential women or families to selflessly guide China forward.
We need another Soong Ching-ling. Any volunteers?