Soong Ching-ling– January 27, 1893 – May 29, 1981
Soong Ch’ing-ling was one of the Soong sisters, three sisters whose husbands were amongst China’s most significant political figures of the early 20th century. Also known as Madame Sun Yat-sen, she was described as the “one who loved China”. Her Christian name was Rosamond.
Soong Ching-ling was born to the wealthy businessman and missionary Charlie Soong in Nanshi (known today as the Huangpu District), Shanghai, attended Motyeire School for Girls in Shanghai, and graduated from Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia, United States.
She married Sun Yat-sen in Japan on October 25, 1915. Sun Yat-sen had previously been married to Lu Muzhen. Ching-ling’s parents greatly opposed the match, as Dr. Sun was 26 years her senior. After Sun’s death in 1925, she was elected to the Kuomintang (KMT) Central Executive Committee in 1926. However, she exiled herself to Moscow after the expulsion of the Communists from the KMT in 1927.
Although Soong reconciled with the KMT during the Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945), she sided with the Communists in the Chinese Civil War. She did not join the party but rather was part of the united front heading up the Revolutionary Committee of the Kuomintang.
In 1939, she founded the China Defense League, which later became the China Welfare Institute. The committee worked for peace and justice, and now focuses on maternal and pediatric healthcare, preschool education, and other children’s issues.
In the early 1950s, she founded the magazine, CHINA RECONSTRUCTS, now known as CHINA TODAY, with the help of Israel Epstein. This magazine is published monthly in 6 languages (Chinese, English, French, German, Arabic and Spanish).
After the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, she became the Vice Chair of the People’s Republic of China (now translated as “Vice President”), Head of the Sino-Soviet Friendship Association and Honorary President of the All-China Women’s Federation. In 1951 she was awarded the Stalin Peace Prize (Lenin Peace Prize after destalinization), and in 1953 a collection of her writings, Struggle for New China, was published. From 1968 to 1972 she acted jointly with Dong Biwu as head of state.
On May 16, 1981, two weeks before her death, she was admitted to the Communist Party and was named Honorary President of the People’s Republic of China. She is the only person ever to hold this title.
Unlike her younger sister Soong May-ling (Madame Chiang Kai-shek), who sided with her husband Chiang Kai-shek and fled to Taiwan with the Nationalist government, Soong Ching-ling is still a beloved figure in mainland China.
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