April 4th 2020

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY The world has changed: Now for the new order

FAMILY AND SOCIETY Move to curtail underage online porn epidemic

CANBERRA OBSERVED ScoMo's delicate balancing act in extraordinary times

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Time and timing are crucial to Cardinal Pell's appeal by Peter Westmore

NEW ZEALAND Political divisions polarise across the Ditch

NEW ZEALAND Victorian Road Map smooths way of NZ anti-life clique to abortion 'reform'

FREE SPEECH Intolerance brigade at UQ attacks professor of Law

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Victoria lifts moratorium of gas exploration

CHINESE HISTORY The Soong Dynasty: Three sisters who rules China

LAW AND SOCIETY Guilt by accusation: The kangaroos are roaming freely through Australia's legal system

GENDER POLITICS Dr Quentin Van Meter's Australian talk is opening eyes in the U.S.

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Australia is not safe in the borderless globalised world

SHOPPING AND SOCIETY The Ubermensch in the aisles

MUSIC We seem to have lost the point of counterpoint

CINEMA The Current War: Industrial miracle workers

BOOK REVIEW A dark trade that continues unabated worldwide

EBOOK READ THIS Both sides to this old story



NATIONAL AFFAIRS Use detention centres to help deal with covid19 epidemic

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Justice at last: Cardinal Pell set free

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The Soong Dynasty: Three sisters who rules China

by Jeffry Babb

News Weekly, April 4, 2020

There is an old saying about the Soong Dynasty, as the three Soong sisters are called: “One loved money, one loved power and one loved China.”

The Soong Dynasty, left to right:

Ching-ling, Ai-ling and Mei-ling

“Soong Dynasty” is a play on words. The ancient Song Dynasty (960–1279 AD) was a golden age in China’s history, a time of peace and prosperity.

The three Soong sisters were Ai-ling, Ching-ling and Mei-ling. They were the daughters of Charles Jones Soong (usually called Charlie), an American-educated Methodist missionary of Hakka descent. The Hakka are known as “ke jia ren” (“guest people”), due to their nomadic way of life.

Charlie Soong made a fortune as a publisher of Bibles in the Chinese vernacular. The Bibles were cheap and written in language that people could understand. He was involved in the Chinese nationalist movement, in which he sponsored Sun Yat-sen. Dr Sun was also Hakka.

Dr Sun was the father of the Xinhai Rebellion, which led to the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty in 1911.

Charlie Soong proved to be an adept businessman but remained true to his Methodist faith. He died of stomach cancer in 1918. It has been suggested that, in Shanghai, “stomach cancer” was the equivalent of “lead poisoning” in Chicago.

In Chinese nomenclature, each child has a surname. This is the name of the lineage, the surname of the distant ancestor who founded the lineage. (The Chinese practice of “ancestor worship” should be more properly called “veneration”.)

Chinese names usually have three elements – first, the surname, in this case “Soong”, followed by an individual name, followed by a generational name.

Common surnames, such as Chen or Lee, are found anywhere you find Chinese people. Two-character surnames, such as Ou-Yang, are rare.

Not all Lees, for example, are related. There are several different Chinese characters for “Lee”, which are not related at all. If someone says that their surname is “mu-dz li de li” it describes the Lee character “wood word Lee”.

Chinese women keep their maiden name after marriage. Some women take their husband’s name, so they would be called “Xieh tai-tai”, or Mrs Xieh. In the past, most wealthy men took concubines, who are not called “tai-tai”. The “tai-tai” is the chief wife.

The concubines are somewhere between a wife and a servant. The concubine’s main duty was to produce sons, in case the “tai-tai” did not produce sufficient sons to sustain the lineage. Concubines were sometimes married for “love”. In traditional China, “love” was not important.

Ai-ling loved money. She married H.H. Kung, the richest man in China, the descendant of a family of Shanxi moneylenders, and of Confucius. “Kung” is the family name of Confucius.

Kung is said to have looted the Chinese Treasury. He was highly influential with the Kuomintang (Nationalist) government, where he gained notoriety as a devious manipulator. He was on good terms with Hitler and Mussolini, both of whom earned his praise for their economic reforms.

Ching-ling married Dr Sun Yat-sen. She is said to have loved China. Dr Sun was considerably older than Ching-ling; she was his third wife. Ching-ling supported the People’s Republic of China (PRC) government, in which she played an active role. She was not, however, a life-long communist. The leaders of the PRC valued her as a link between old and New China.

Ching-ling was not admitted to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) until less than two weeks before her death in May 1981. She was also awarded the unique post of “Honorary President of the PRC”.

Mei-ling spent much of her early life in the United States. She lived to be well over 100 years old. Although all three sisters studied in the U.S., Mei-ling graduated from the prestigious Wellesley College in Massachusetts. She spoke fluent English with a slight Southern intonation. She was an enormous asset to her husband, Republic of China (ROC) President Chiang Kai-shek, whom she outlived.

Mei-ling toured the United States rallying support for the Republic of China (ROC) during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–45). For many Americans, she was the face of China. Mei-ling died without issue. Chiang Ching-kuo succeeded his father as President of the ROC.

Mei-ling was a very good-looking woman. Although she was the wife of the “man who lost China”, she probably had the most fulfilling life of the three Soong sisters.

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Last Modified:
April 4, 2018, 6:45 pm