The Soong Family

The Soongs probably wielded more influence and power over modern China than any other family. The father of the family, Charlie Soong, grew up in Hǎinán and, after an American evangelical education, finally settled in Shànghǎi. He began to print bibles and money, becoming a wealthy businessman and developing ties with secret societies, during which time he became good friends with Sun Yatsen (Sun Zhongshan). Charlie had three daughters and a son.

Soong Ailing – said to be the first Chinese girl in Shànghǎi to own a bicycle – married HH Kung, the wealthy descendent of Confucius, Bank of China head and later finance minister of the Republic of China. Soong Meiling (May-ling) became the third wife of Chiang Kaishek (Kuomintang leader and future president of the Republic of China) in 1928. She went to the USA during the Japanese occupation of China and fled to Taiwan with Chiang after the communist victory. Much to the disapproval of her father, Soong Qingling (more commonly known as Song Qingling) married Sun Yatsen, 30 years her elder, studied in Moscow and was the only member of the family to live in China after 1949, until her death in 1981. TV Soong, Charlie’s only son, served as the Republic of China’s finance minister and premier, becoming the richest man of his generation.

Mainland Chinese say that of the three daughters, one loved money (Ailing), one loved power (Meiling) but only one loved China (Qingling). Among them, the siblings stewed up a heady brew of fascism and communism.

Song Qingling died in Běijīng and is buried at the Song Qingling Mausoleum in Shànghǎi. Her sister Meiling declined the invitation to return to China to attend her funeral; she died in the USA in October 2003, aged 105.