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[R.I.P.] Madame Chiang Kai-shek (Soong Mei-ling) - October 23, 2003

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    Madame Chiang Kai-shek, 106, at center of China s tumult By Mark Feeney, Globe Staff, 10/24/2003
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 24, 2003
      Madame Chiang Kai-shek, 106, at center of China's tumult
      By Mark Feeney, Globe Staff, 10/24/2003

      Madame Chiang Kai-shek, the widow of China's leader during World War
      II and the era's last surviving global figure, died yesterday in New
      York. She was 106.

      Madame Chiang had been treated for cancer and other ailments. She
      lived in semiseclusion after the death of her husband, Chiang, in
      1975, spending most of the time in her Manhattan apartment or at her
      family's 36-acre estate in Lattingtown, an exclusive Long Island
      suburb 35 miles east of New York City.

      "One of the most famous and powerful women in history," as a
      biographer described her, Madame Chiang loomed large in two of the
      defining events of the 20th century, World War II and the Cold War.

      During World War II, Madame Chiang was considered the great heroine
      of the Allied side, personifying an embattled but defiant China. "A
      modern Joan of Arc," the Associated Press called her. She said her
      husband declared her presence worth 20 divisions to the Chinese
      cause. It would be hard to exaggerate her role as intermediary to
      the West. "All I knew [about Chiang Kai-shek] was what Madame Chiang
      told me about her husband and what he thought," President Franklin
      D. Roosevelt said in 1945.

      During the Cold War, she played a similar but harsher role,
      presenting herself as a kind of Mother Courage of anticommunism.
      Some, however, who labeled Madame Chiang's US advocates "the China
      Lobby" and noted the dictatorship her husband imposed on Taiwan
      after he fled China in 1949, wondered whether her opposition to
      communism extended to support for freedom. "She can talk beautifully
      about democracy," Eleanor Roosevelt said, "but does not know how to
      live democracy."

      Madame Chiang's life spanned three centuries and both hemispheres.
      She also spanned the broadest possible spectrum of responses. In
      1942, the playwright Clare Boothe Luce (whose husband Henry Luce,
      the publisher of Time and Life magazines, was instrumental in
      creating the noble image of Madame Chiang and her husband)
      pronounced her "the world's greatest living woman."

      A year later, the Harvard scholar John King Fairbank wrote in his
      diary about meeting with her: "An actress, with a lot of admirable
      qualities, great charm, quick intuition, intelligence; but
      underneath . . . a penchant for playing a part which produces

      President Harry S. Truman detected more than falsity. "They're all
      thieves, every damn one of them," he said of Madame Chiang and her

      At their initial encounter, Eleanor Roosevelt said, "I had a desire
      to help her and take care of her as if she had been my own
      daughter." Yet, in her autobiography, she recalled a White House
      dinner at which President Roosevelt described US labor troubles and
      asked Madame Chiang what she would do. "She never said a word,"
      Roosevelt wrote, "but the beautiful small hand came up very quietly
      and slid across her throat -- a most expressive gesture."

      Madame Chiang, who stood 5 feet 4 inches tall, seemed larger than
      life, a central-casting combination of formidability and daintiness,
      ambition and femininity. A graduate of Wellesley College who once
      described herself as "Chinese only in looks," she both embodied and
      transcended Western stereotypes about Asians. That capacity to seem
      familiar as well as exotic made Madame Chiang especially alluring to
      the media.

      It's a measure of Madame Chiang's hold on the American imagination
      that she not only appeared on the Gallup Organization's poll of the
      world's most admired women 17 times but also helped inspire the
      Dragonlady character in the comic strip "Terry and the Pirates."

      The story of Madame Chiang's family, the Soongs, was, if anything,
      even more remarkable than her own. "Few families since the Borgias
      have played such a disturbing role in human destiny," Sterling
      Seagrave wrote in "The Soong Dynasty."

      T. V. Soong, Madame Chiang's brother, served Chiang Kai-shek as
      finance minister, foreign minister, and premier. Ai-ling, her oldest
      sister, married one of China's richest men, H. H. Kung. Ching-ling,
      her older sister, married the founder of the Chinese republic, Sun
      Yat-sen. After Sun's death, she supported the cause of Mao Tse-tung,
      the Communist leader who overthrew Madame Chiang's husband. She
      eventually became vice chairman of the People's Republic.

      Their father, Charlie Soong, had been born Han Chao-shun. He
      received his Westernized name at 9 when brought to Boston by an
      uncle. Converted to Christianity, he returned to China after 15
      years in the United States. He made a fortune publishing Bibles.

      Soong Mei-ling was born on March 5, 1897, in Shanghai. Her mother
      was Soong (Ni) Kwei-tseng. At 11, Madame Chiang joined her sisters
      in the United States, where they were studying at Wesleyan College
      for Women, in Macon, Ga. She spent five years there, learning to
      speak English with a Southern accent.

      Madame Chiang entered Wellesley in 1913, with a major in English and
      minor in philosophy. She graduated in 1917 and returned to China,
      where she became involved in charitable work.

      Madame Chiang's father was among Sun Yat-sen's leading financial
      backers. His family was thus in frequent contact with the leadership
      of Sun's party, the Kuomintang. A rising Kuomintang star was a young
      military officer named Chiang Kai-shek. Smitten with the youngest
      Soong daughter, he proposed marriage -- this despite the fact he was
      already married and not a Christian (the latter was considered an
      even greater nuptial impediment in the devout Soong household). Her
      mother dismissed the proposal.

      After Sun's death, Chiang emerged as his successor. He again
      proposed to Madame Chiang, this time successfully. (He had divorced
      his previous wife and agreed to study Christianity, to which he
      converted several years later.) They married on Dec. 1, 1927.

      Madame Chiang busied herself promoting the Kuomintang's Strength
      Through Joy movement, a public campaign promoting the traditional
      virtues of courtesy, service, honesty, and honor. In 1936, Chiang
      named her head of the aviation ministry. Further underscoring Madame
      Chiang's importance was her decisive response when a rival warlord
      kidnapped her husband later that year. Forbidding a Kuomintang
      attack, she rushed to join him and was widely credited with helping
      secure his release.

      Madame Chiang, who had injured her back in a 1937 auto accident,
      came to the United States for medical reasons at the end of 1942.
      She remained for seven months, and the visit turned into a triumphal

      Staying at the White House, she brought her own silk sheets and had
      them changed four or five times daily. She addressed both houses of
      Congress and held a joint press conference with FDR. "Some day they
      may put [the actress] Helen Hayes in the part," Time magazine
      said, "but she'll never do it any better than Madame Chiang."

      Madame Chiang embarked on a nationwide series of speeches and public
      appearances. At a Symphony Hall reception in Madame Chiang's honor,
      Governor Leverett Saltonstall hailed her as "the most charming woman
      in the world."

      Attending her class reunion at Wellesley, she was seen wearing
      trousers on a campus stroll. "Golly, what a break she gave us!" an
      undergraduate remarked. "Now they'll stop razzing us about the way
      we look in dungarees." "Anyone who can look as smart as Madame
      Chiang in slacks may wear them," announced Wellesley's president,
      Mildred McAfee.

      Madame Chiang's self-assurance matched her sense of chic. Staying in
      New York, she received an invitation from Winston Churchill, also
      visiting the United States, to meet him in Washington. She "refused
      with some hauteur," as Churchill later put it, proposing instead the
      British prime minister come to New York to see her. Later that year,
      attending the Cairo conference with Roosevelt, Churchill, and her
      husband (who spoke no English), she was given to announcing, "If you
      allow me, I shall put before you the Generalissimo's real thoughts."

      The success of her US visit masked an increasing estrangement
      between Madame Chiang and her husband.

      Superseding the Chiangs' domestic difficulties were growing
      political troubles. Years of corruption and authoritarian rule made
      their Nationalist forces no match for Mao's Communists. When Madame
      Chiang visited Washington in 1948 seeking aid, she received a far
      different reception from the one she had enjoyed five years
      before. "I wouldn't let her stay in the White House like Roosevelt
      did," Truman later recalled. "I don't think she liked it very much."

      With the Nationalists' removal to Taiwan in 1949, Madame Chiang
      became less prominent on the world stage, although visits to the
      United States in 1953 and 1965 were well publicized. She reportedly
      hoped to succeed her husband as Kuomintang chairman when he died in
      1975. The post went to Chiang's son by his first marriage, Chiang

      Over the past three decades, Madame Chiang variously lived on Long
      Island, Taiwan, and in Manhattan. She underwent two mastectomies,
      suffered from skin ailments, and relied increasingly on a
      wheelchair. Her last visit to Taiwan was in 1995, to visit an ailing

      Madame Chiang painted traditional Chinese landscapes and still
      lifes. In 2000, 10 of her paintings were exhibited at San
      Francisco's Asian Art Museum. "It takes a marvelous spirit to live
      through such tumultuous periods and become a painter," said the
      museum's director.

      © Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.


      Madame Chiang Kai-shek dies

      TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) -- Madame Chiang Kai-shek, the widow of the
      Nationalist Chinese president who used her charm and fluent English
      to lobby Washington and become a driving force in Taiwan's
      Nationalist government, died Thursday in New York. She was 106.

      She died in the evening at her apartment in Manhattan, according to
      Andrew Hsia, director-general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural
      Office in New York. Her niece, her niece's husband and a great-
      grandson were with her at the time, he said.

      "I was told by family members that she died very peacefully in her
      sleep," Hsia said.

      "Her niece, her niece's husband and her great-grandson were with her
      at the time of her passing."

      The cause of death was not immediately available, according to
      Taiwan's Foreign Ministry spokesman Richard Shih.

      Madame Chiang had been treated for cancer and other ailments. She
      lived in semi-seclusion after her husband's death in 1975, spending
      most of the time in her Manhattan apartment or at her family's 36-
      acre estate in Lattingtown, an exclusive Long Island suburb 35 miles
      east of New York City.

      Madame Chiang and Chiang Kai-shek were one of the world's most
      famous couples. They married in 1927, a year after Mr. Chiang, also
      known as the Generalismo, took over China's ruling Nationalist

      The Nationalists, or Kuomintang, overthrew China's last dynasty, the
      Qing, but their pledges to bring democracy to China and modernize
      the economy were frustrated by Japan's invasion during World War II
      and corruption within the government. After the war, the
      Nationalists lost a bloody civil war to Mao Tse-tung's Communist
      Party and retreated to Taiwan in 1949.

      Though born in the East, Madame Chiang was thoroughly Western in
      thought and philosophy. Brought up in a Methodist family, she
      studied in America from the age of 10 to 19 and graduated with
      honors from Wellesley College in Massachusetts in 1917.

      "The only thing Oriental about me is my face," she once said.

      Her supporters said she was a powerful force for international
      friendship, understanding and good. But her detractors called her an
      arrogant dragon lady and propagandist for her husband's corrupt and
      incompetent government.

      She was born Soong Mei-ling in 1898, on the southern Chinese island
      of Hainan. Her family's background could stand as a brief history of
      modern China as seen through revolution, efforts to unify and
      modernize and the split between the communist People's Republic of
      China and the Nationalists Republic of China.

      Her father, Charles Soong, was educated as a Christian missionary at
      Vanderbilt University in Tennessee. Soong worked closely with Dr.
      Sun Yat-sen, leader of the Nationalist revolution that overthrew
      China's last emperor in 1911.

      Education was important to Soong, and Madame Chiang and her two
      sisters were among the first Chinese women educated in the West at a
      time when foreign education was considered important only for sons.

      A scholar at heart, Madame Chiang once said her idea of happiness
      would be a life of uninterrupted reading, studying and writing.

      Eleanor Roosevelt and Madame Chiang during a 1943 visit.
      Madame Chiang met her husband, a disciple of Sun Yat-sen, around
      1920 and married him December 1, 1927. She later converted him to
      Methodism, but their marriage was often stormy, in part because of
      Chiang's infidelities.

      Madame Chiang's sisters also married prominent Chinese figures and
      all three of her brothers held high posts in the Nationalist regime.

      Ching-ling, the second of six Soong children, married Sun Yat-sen,
      the father of modern China. She broke with the family's Nationalist
      ideology and sided with the Communists after her husband's death in

      She eventually was appointed to a high-ranking position in the
      Communist government in Beijing, one roughly equivalent to vice
      president. Madame Sun died in 1981.

      Madame Chiang was a working wife, taking on tasks ranging from
      interpreter and social worker to head of China's air force during
      World War II, an ironic twist of fate since she suffered greatly
      from air sickness.

      She also was one of her husband's most prominent lobbyists in
      Washington. The Generalismo could not speak English and disliked
      dealing with foreigners, so his wife became his mouthpiece to the
      outside world, creating an image of an attractive, young couple
      trying to steer China out of war.

      As the Generalismo's health deteriorated, control of the Nationalist
      government eventually passed in 1972 to one of his two sons by a
      previous marriage, Chiang Ching-kuo. Madame Chiang and her husband
      had no children of their own, and she had long been on bad terms
      with Chiang Ching-kuo.

      After her husband's death in 1975, Madame Chiang moved to the United
      States, staying in the stucco Long Island mansion where a large
      portrait of her late husband decked in full military regalia hung in
      the living room. She moved out of the house in 1998 and spent most
      of her time in her Manhattan apartment.

      When President Jimmy Carter announced in 1978 that the United States
      was breaking off diplomatic relations with Taiwan and establishing
      formal ties with the People's Republic of China, Madame Chiang
      remained in seclusion and did not comment.

      The Nationalists eventually gave up the goal of "retaking the
      mainland," and the party's ranks began to fill with native Taiwanese
      as the influence of the mainlanders who retreated with Chiang Kai-
      shek faded away.

      In March 2000, the party lost its five-decade control of Taiwan's
      presidency. Madame Chiang endorsed Nationalist candidate Lien Chan,
      but few voters paid serious attention to her and Lien was battered
      at the polls -- an example of her fading influence.


      Madame Chiang Kai-shek

      Mayling Soong, who became Madame Chiang Kai-Shek, is the Wellesley
      Person of the Week.

      One of the most influential women of the twentieth century, Mayling
      Soong was born in March, 1897, in Shanghai. Her father
      Yaoju "Charlie" Soong, was a Methodist minister and businessman, who
      spent some 15 years during the latter part of the 19th century in
      the United States, where he earned a certificate in theology at
      Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN. Her mother, Kwei Twang Nyi,
      was a devout Christian and strict disciplinarian.

      The fourth of six children, Soong came to the United States in 1908,
      living near the campus of the Wesleyan College for Women, in Macon,
      GA, where her sister was a student. She was tutored by Wesleyan
      students, and attended school in Demorest, GA. She was an excellent
      student, who picked up English, which she spoke with a Georgia
      accent, quickly.

      In 1913, Mayling entered Wellesley College, where she majored in
      English Literature and minored in philosophy. In her senior year,
      she was named a Durant Scholar, Wellesley's highest academic
      distinction. She was a member of the Tau Zeta Epsilon society and
      was a casual tennis player and swimmer during her Wellesley years.
      She boarded with a Wellesley family her first year, and lived in the
      Wood Cottage and Tower Court, on campus, from her sophomore year
      through her senior year. She was outgoing and popular, and according
      to a friend, "There always seemed to be some nice Chinese boy or
      other on the doorstep of Wood."

      Following her graduation from Wellesley College in 1917, she
      returned to China, where she honed her fluency in spoken Chinese,
      and studied the classics and literature of China. She did social
      work for the Y.W.C.A. in Shanghai and was appointed to be a member
      of Shanghai's Child Labor Commission.

      Mayling met Chiang Kai-shek in 1920. He was eleven years her elder,
      and a Buddhist. Although he was already married, Chiang proposed
      marriage to Mayling, much to the objection of Mayling's mother. He
      eventually won Mrs. Soong's blessing for marriage to her daughter by
      providing proof of his divorce, and after committing to convert to
      Christianity. He told his future mother-in-law that he couldn't
      convert immediately, because religion needed to be gradually
      absorbed, not swallowed like a pill. He was baptised in 1929. A
      rising star in the Chinese military, he became Generalissimo Chiang
      Kai-shek, the leader of the Nationalist Party, and engaged in a
      struggle with communist factions which would continue for the rest
      of his life.

      Madame Chiang initiated China's New Life Movement in 1934, with the
      goal of the "physical, eduacational and moral rebirth of the Chinese
      nation", based on traditional Chinese values. In 1936, she assumed
      the role of Secretary General of the Chinese Commission on
      Aeronautical Affairs. She said, " Of all of the inventions that have
      helped to unify China, perhaps the airplane is the most outstanding.
      Its ability to annihilate distance has been in direct proportion to
      its achievements in assisting to annihilate suspicion and

      Madame Chiang Kai-shek was her husband's English translator,
      secretary, advisor and an influential propogandist for the
      Nationalist cause. She distinguished herself as a skilled negotiator
      during the "Xi'an Incident". Following the refusal of Nationalist
      forces in Sian, China, to engage communist forces in December, 1936,
      Chiang Kai-shek went to Sian, where he was "arrested" by military
      subordinates. Madame Chiang Kai-shek flew to Sian and successfully
      negotiated the Generalissimo's release, on Christmas Day.

      In February, 1943, Madame Chiang became the first Chinese national,
      and the second woman, to ever address a joint session of the U.S.
      House and Senate, making the case for strong U.S. support of China
      in its war with Japan. She came to Wellesley College the next month,
      her first visit to her alma mater following her graduation in 1917.
      In a nationally broadcast speech, Madame Chiang addressed assembled
      students and faculty in Alumnae Hall.

      In 1949, when communist forces gained control of China's major
      cities, Chiang Kai-shek fled the mainland, and declared Taipei,
      Taiwan to be the temporary capital of China, where he was elected
      president. Madame Chiang continued to play a prominent international
      role. She was the honorary chair of the American Bureau for Medical
      Aid to China, a Patron of the International Red Cross Committee,
      honorary chair of the British United Aid to China Fund, and First
      Honorary Member of the Bill of Rights Commemorative Society. Through
      the late 1960's she was included among America's 10 most admired
      President Chiang Kai-shek died during his fifth term, in 1975.
      Following her husband's death, Madame Chiang returned to the U.S.,
      residing in Lattington, NY.

      Her many published works include This Is Our China (1940), Sian: a
      coup d'Etat (1941) and The Sure Victory (1955). Among the
      institutions to grant Madame Chiang honorary degrees are Boston
      University, Hahnemann Medical College, Loyola University, University
      of Michigan, and Wellesley College.

      Madame Chiang Kai-shek is 103 years old and lives in New York City


      "You, as representatives of the American people, have before you the
      glorious opportunity of carrying on the pioneer work of your
      ancestors beyond the frontiers of physical and geographical
      limitations." (U.S. Capitol, Washington, D.C., February 18, 1943)
      (listen to her audio file at this URL)

      On February 18, 1943, Soong Mei-ling, the wife of Chinese
      Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek, appealed to the U.S. Congress to
      provide aid for the Nationalists in their struggle against Japan and
      the Chinese Communists. Mei-ling, who in her youth was educated in
      the United States, was the first Chinese and the second woman ever
      to address a joint session of Congress. Although China had endured a
      decade of civil war before the Japanese invasion in 1937, Chiang Kai-
      shek and his wife became the international symbols of China during
      World War II. Mei-ling, who spoke perfect English, wrote many
      articles on China for U.S. journals, and her 1943 visit to the
      United States secured greater U.S. aid for her husband's government.
      Mei-ling herself so impressed the American public that throughout
      the 1950s and most of the 1960s her name appeared annually on the
      U.S. list of the ten most-admired women in the world. With the
      triumph of Mao Zedong's Communist forces in 1949, she fled with her
      husband to the island of Formosa, which later became the independent
      Chinese republic of Taiwan. With the death of President Chiang Kai-
      shek in 1975, Mei-ling retired to the United States.


      Marriage of Chiang Kai-shek and Soong Mei-ling
      Shanghai Star. 2001-06-14

      THROUGHOUT Chinese history, the marriages of the prominent, famous
      or notorious were often marriages of convenience - by marrying they
      formed alliances that would benefit each other. So it was with
      Chiang Kai-shek and Soong Mei-ling.
      Chiang Kai-shek's marriage to Soong Meiling paved his way to supreme
      power. Their wedding was celebrated in the old Majestic Hotel, where
      a Russian orchestra played Mendelssohn and an American tenor
      sang "Oh, Promise Me."

      Chiang Kai-shek was inextricably linked to the Shanghai underworld.
      He allied himself with Du Yuesheng, known as the Godfather of

      However, Chiang was an ambitious schemer who would not confine
      himself to underworld circles.

      In order to whitewash his unsavoury origins, he decided to forge a
      connection with someone of noble blood. The Soongs were one of the
      city's most influential families.

      Chiang's marriage to Soong Mei-ling, the younger sister of Sun Yat-
      sen's widow, Soong Ching Ling, paved the way to realizing his wild

      The wedding ceremony of these two famous characters of the past
      century was a spectacular occasion.

      On December 1, 1927, Soong and Chiang held a private religious
      wedding ceremony in the Soong mansion, which was on Seymour Road
      (now Shaanxi Beilu).

      David Uii, then general secretary of the Chinese Young Men's
      Christian Association, officiated at the ceremony.

      Afterward, they moved to a four-leaf-clover-shaped ballroom in the
      Majestic Hotel, which stood on today's Majestic Theatre, to hold a
      Chinese-style wedding before the public.

      More than 1,300 guests were invited to the ceremony. Thousands
      crowded the streets trying to catch a glimpse of the famous couple.

      The bride was led down the red carpet by her brother, T.V. Soong,
      who later became finance minister in the Kuomintang government.

      Chiang's best man was his chief secretary, Liu Chiwen.

      According to W. Smith, band leader at the wedding, the most
      important part of the ceremony was the procedure of bowing.

      A life-sized portrait of Sun Yat-sen hung over the platform in the
      centre of the ballroom, flanked by Kuomintang flags. The bride and
      groom bowed three times toward the picture.

      Then David Uii read aloud the marriage certificate and sealed it in
      an envelope. In succession, the bride and groom bowed to each other
      once, once to the witnesses and once to the guests.

      According to the band leader, Chiang appeared uncomfortable in his
      western-style suit. Soong, however, was beautiful in her western-
      style bridal gown made of white satin and lace.

      After the wedding, they left the Majestic ballroom for the hometown
      of Chiang.

      (By Zou Huilin)


      Censors And Sensibility
      No By-line in original
      (Making of the "Soong Sisters"

      When Hong Kong movie director Cheung Yuen-ting finished her latest
      film, a historical tale of three Chinese women, she was amazed to
      find China's government censors firmly waving shiny scissors under
      her nose.
      "They cut two major scenes that did a lot of harm to the balance of
      the picture," Cheung fretted in a recent interview from behind blue-
      tinted glasses.

      Her film, a Hong Kong production made in China, tackles the lives
      and loves of three sisters from China's prominent Soong family, set
      against the tumult of a bloody civil war and Japan's invasion of
      China during the first half of the 20th century.

      "I tried to look at history from a human perspective," Cheung said,
      adding she wanted to show the sadness of a close family breaking
      apart when the two younger sisters married men of opposing

      The middle sister, Soong Ching-ling, married Sun Yat-sen, revered as
      the father of modern China. Youngest sister Mei-ling wedded Chiang
      Kai-shek, the nationalist leader whose government was driven from
      the mainland to Taiwan by communist forces. The eldest sister, Ai-
      ling, married wealthy financier H.H. Kung.

      Any movie made in China about famous Chinese personalities needs
      approval for the script and the released version from an official
      film bureau. This bureau ordered the cuts.

      "The Soong Sisters," filmed in lush, poetic frames, comes across to
      audiences as a story about little girls who grow up to face immense
      personal loss.

      In researching her film, Cheung scoured New York library archives
      for clues to Mei-ling, who wrote long, flowing letters in perfect
      English to her American friends about the general she loved.

      "She said he has the power and the charisma of a military man but
      the charm and tenderness of a poet," Cheung related.

      Mei-ling told her friends about how Chiang picked delicate plum
      blossoms from the mountains and hid them until dinner time to
      present to her as a surprise in a reed basket.

      Much to her chagrin, Cheung discovered that China is terribly
      particular about how its national enemies are depicted.

      "The censors did not like me to make Chiang Kai-shek too much of a
      human with thoughts and feelings and a personal life, so by trying
      to make Chiang Kai-shek and Soong Mei-ling three-dimensional they
      already found it difficult to accept," she said.

      As depicted by Cheung, Mei-ling played a central role in Chiang's
      policy shift in the Chinese city of Xian during the chilly winter of
      1936, when he finally formed a pact with the communists to fight the

      That scene, showing Mei-ling in a bright red cheongsam facing dour
      warlords dressed in black and arguing passionately for a nationalist-
      communist alliance, was snipped out. "Vivian Wu gave the best
      performance in the entire movie in that scene," Cheung said

      In all, Chinese government censors sliced about 18 minutes from the
      film, mainly parts showing Chiang Kai-shek and Mei-ling. The censors
      slashed 10 crucial minutes off the ending, the most painful cut for

      In it, sisters Mei-ling and Ching-ling visit an army camp to present
      a united front, symbolic of the nationalist-communist pact against

      In a sweeping chase, the sisters are attacked by strafing Japanese
      bombers. They escape, their plane catches fire and they jump
      together from the aircraft with the last available parachute,
      clinging to each other accompanied by a lilting musical score by
      composer Kitaro.

      "I've been trying to think what was wrong with this ending. Some
      said that it's not true, it never happened, but many of the things
      in my film never happened," says Cheung.

      During the parachute jump, the film flashes back to the past and
      leaps forward into the future, showing in a brief documentary what
      happened to China and Taiwan.

      "I used computer graphics to generate Chiang Kai-shek with the
      crowds retreating to Taiwan," Cheung explained.

      She noted with regret the trouble she went to and the money she
      spent to perfect the special effects.

      "It's all gone." She lets out her breath in a low, incredulous

      The cuts in her film puzzled Cheung because her original script had
      been approved in 1993. By the time the film was completed in 1995,
      the personnel at the film bureau had changed.

      "The new head of the film bureau came and they already were quite
      shocked to find this film has been made and they asked why such a
      film was approved in the first place," Cheung said.

      Oddly enough, after numerous trips to Beijing to appeal the
      decisions on the cuts, Cheung befriended the censors.

      "They told me they thought they were the best scenes in the entire
      picture, but they had to do it because it was their policy," Cheung


      MADAME CHIANG KAI-SHEK • Politician

      Name at birth: Soong Mei-ling
      Born in China and educated in the United States, Soong Mei-ling
      married Chiang Kai-shek in 1927 and went on to become an
      internationally famous advocate for her husband's Chinese
      Nationalist government. Fluent in English and a student of Chinese
      culture, she was a goodwill ambassador and the popular partner of
      Generalissimo Chiang during the 1930s. During World War II she went
      on an international tour and spoke before the United States congress
      (1943) to drum up support for China's fight against Japan.
      Articulate and charismatic, her celebrity status was considered a
      key element in winning funds and weapons from the Allies (including
      airplanes -- Madame Chiang was key player in the Chinese air force).
      While exiled in Taiwan (1949-75), she was still considered one of
      the most politically important women in the world and continued her
      crusade for aid to China. After the generalissimo's death, Madame
      Chiang moved to New York City.

      Extra credit: Her sister, Soong Ch'ing-ling, was married to Sun Yat-
      sen... When Madame Chiang was 103 years old, she had an exhibition
      of her paintings in New York.


      Madame Chiang
      Author: Ralph Zuljan
      Contributor(s): Jennifer Wilding

      Once upon a time there were three sisters. One loved money, one
      loved China, and one loved power...

      The eldest Soong sister, Ai-ling, loved money, she became the wife
      of the banker H.H. Kung. The second Soong sister, Ching-ling, loved
      China, she became the wife of Dr. Sun Yat-sen. The third Soong
      sister, Mei-ling, loved power. She was Madame Chiang, media darling
      and the power behind the Nationalist leader, Chiang Kai-shek.

      The Soong family played an enormous role in the Chinese revolt
      against the Manchu dynasty and in subsequent events. The father,
      Charlie Soong was an American educated Methodist minister who
      acquired a huge fortune in China publishing Bibles and then in
      commercial publishing. His fortune was instrumental in financing the
      Nationalist revolution. This participation was the reason his
      children were educated in the United States, he knew dangerous times
      were coming and he wanted them as far away as possible.

      Mei-ling was born in 1897, fourth of six children. As a very little
      girl she was chubby, spoiled and ruled her family with a reign of
      terror. She always got her own way. At eight years of age she was
      sent to America to begin formal schooling. She was young, but her
      elder sisters and one brother were already there, and it seemed to
      Charlie Soong to be the safest thing to do. Mei-ling was very well
      liked by her schoolmates throughout her academic career. She
      returned to China in 1917 with a degree in English Literature, ten
      years later she married Chiang Kai-shek.

      It is difficult to know the truth of the Chaings marriage. Some
      biographers describe it as one of the great love matches of all
      time, others describe it as a marriage of convenience. It is certain
      that Chiang was not as faithful as one might expect a professed
      Christian to be (he fathered at least one illegitimate son during
      his marriage) and it is equally certain that Mei-ling became
      immensely powerful. The Chiangs never had children.

      Throughout the Second World War Madame Chiang acted as her husband's
      translator and secretary. She prepared daily précis of the English
      language news for him and interpreted social nuances of Western
      behavior that often baffled and infuriated the Chinese who were
      thrown into close contact with Allied military and diplomats. Her
      husband benefited greatly from her linguistic skills and political

      Madame Chiang traveled extensively, with her husband and on her own,
      working to unify China. She was popular at home, having a vast
      knowledge of Chinese languages, literature and traditions, but her
      greatest admirers were the foreigners with whom she came into
      contact. She was a consummate politician, but never hesitated to
      play both ends against the middle to reach her goals. One such
      admirer was General Stilwell. He and Chiang Kai-shek loathed each
      other, but he found Madame Chiang sweet, reasonable, and
      sympathetic. She worked hard to foster this impression (although she
      cordially disliked him), her goal was to have China recognized as a
      great power and her husband a war leader on a level with Roosevelt,
      Churchill and Stalin. Stilwell had the ear of the Big Three at
      events such as the Cairo Conference of 1943. Perhaps if Madame
      Chiang had been less disinterested in the defeat of Germany as the
      first priority she may have succeeded. As is was, China's troubles
      in the war and with the Communists at home continued to be a distant
      second to the troubles of the Western Allies.

      Madame's behavior at the Conference seriously jeopardized her case.
      She was personally popular, but her habit of rewriting speeches and
      retranslating the official interpretation made her a liability
      rather than as asset. This was a source of irritation to all
      Westerners who dealt with Madame Chiang in the war arena. And deal
      they did. She was so prominent in the war effort that Stilwell
      recommended, only half jokingly, that she be appointed Minister of

      It was in America, however, that Madame Chiang really shone. She was
      so popular during her wartime tours of the US that she became a folk
      hero. Everywhere she went she was wildly acclaimed, her public
      speeches were attended by crowds of up to 30,000 people and the
      media adored her. She was so well regarded that she made the cover
      of Time magazine for the second time (the first had been with her
      husband as "Man and Wife of the Year"), was the model for "Dragon
      Lady", a sort of Air Force fairy godmother in a popular comic strip,
      and appears in a stained glass window in a Massena, New York church
      as "the First Lady of Christendom".

      The tours of the United States were not all popular acclaim and
      radio broadcasts. Madame Chiang was on the fund-and-sympathy raising
      circuit, she worked hard and did well. Her good looks and Western
      demeanor emphasized similarities rather than differences between two
      cultures. To fail to admire Madame Chiang was almost an admission of
      being a Communist sympathizer.

      One of her triumphs was squeezing a number airplanes out of
      Roosevelt. The other was her address to Congress on February 18,
      1943, only the second woman and the first Chinese to do so. Madame
      Chiang's appeal for help against the Japanese was so moving she
      received a four minute standing ovation. The emotional tidal wave
      was a concern to senior politicians, it was rumored that the
      bestowal of the airplanes was an effort to persuade her to end her
      trip to America.

      Madame Chiang also wrote a great number of books and articles,
      primarily for the American market. She remained in the forefront of
      the fight against Communism until the Nationalist retreat to Taiwan.
      In 1965 she returned to the United States to plead for war materiel
      with which to retake Mainland China, but received no aid.

      When Chiang Kai-shek died Mei-ling again returned to the United
      States. She lives in New York, where she observed her hundredth
      birthday by opening an exhibit of her own paintings


      The Art of War
      Every year about election time, the talk in the Taiwan Straits keeps
      turning to tanks and invasion schemes. Even on the other side of the
      Pacific, an exhibit of paintings got caught up in the political
      posturing, as old animosities outweighed the gentle skill of laying
      brush on silk
      By Ron Gluckman /San Francisco

      THEY ARRIVED IN WHEELCHAIRS and leaning on walkers - some of the
      world's most respected and venerable Chinese artists and collectors,
      coming together in San Francisco's Asian Art Museum for an uncommon
      moment. Among the pieces on show were calligraphy and paintings by
      the 100-year-old master Chen Li-fu and by nonagenarians Chang Long-
      yien and Fu Chuan-fu, two living greats of the Chinese art scene.
      However, the focus was not on them but on works by an even more
      elderly person - and one who, in all charity, could only be
      considered an ambitious dabbler before abandoning art altogether a
      quarter of a century ago.

      For all that, over 10,000 people were expected to file through the
      gallery by the time the show closed last week. Their purpose: To get
      a glimpse of 10 previously unseen works by 103-year-old Soong Mei-
      ling, the reclusive widow of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, the last
      man to rule both China and Taiwan. Never mind that the pieces were
      nondescript, without any memorable style. For many of the mainly
      Chinese people who gazed upon them, the paintings were less works of
      art than an emotional link with history and with their own troubled

      The highlight? Lotus: A Gentleman Among Flowers, a spare, gray ink
      sketch of a lotus among water lilies - a work that looks just like
      any of the silk paintings on sale outside temples and tourist traps
      across China. What makes it special is a hand-sketched inscription
      with a red seal at the top - "In a pure wind, I smell fragrance from
      afar. Sitting across from my wife, I forget the heat of summer."
      Those are the words of her husband - and they provide a tantalizing
      glimpse into the private life of a man whose public demeanor was
      that of an unbending, ruthless soldier.

      Soong, better known as Madame Chiang Kai-shek, studied under masters
      Huang Chun-pi and Cheng Mang-ch'ing. However, she set aside her
      palette when she moved to New York in 1975, following the death of
      her husband. Now living in a Manhattan apartment, she rarely
      ventures out in public. Showings of her art are rarer still. The
      prominent display in the museum clearly indicates her immense
      importance, in historical, if not strictly artistic terms. Mme.
      Chiang is one of three remarkable sisters who helped shape
      contemporary China. The two others were Ching-ling, wife of Sun Yat-
      sen, modern China's founding father, and Ai-ling, who married
      mainland finance minister H.H. Kung.

      When Chiang was deposed as ruler of China in 1949, his wife fled
      with him to Taiwan. With them they took much of their nation's
      imperial art treasures. And therein lies one of the intriguing
      undercurrents of the San Francisco exhibition. In the ongoing battle
      for world attention and prominence that has pitted China and Taiwan
      against each other for over a half-century, even art is a combatant.
      Staged just before Taiwan's presidential elections - a time of such
      increased tension between Taipei and Beijing that China raised the
      specter of war - the exhibition took on an almost nationalistic

      Billed as "New Millennium Painting and Calligraphy By Madame Chiang
      Kai-shek and the Masters of Chinese Painting and Calligraphy," the
      show might have better been dubbed a tribute to Taiwan's old guard.
      Au Ho-nien, who resides in a San Francisco suburb, was the youngest
      artist on exhibit - by over two decades. "I'm the baby," chuckled
      the sprightly 65-year-old painter.

      The opening drew a tux-and-gown crowd, including an array of
      cheongsams (traditional Chinese dresses) from San Francisco's
      sizable Chinese community. Like the artists, nearly all claimed
      strong Taiwan connections. Likewise the money behind the exhibit,
      which - according to museum staff - was put together in an
      exceptional rush. Traditionally, shows of this stature involve at
      least a year's planning, but not this one. The ceramics normally on
      display at the Asian Art Museum were swiftly shunted off to the
      basement, and two chambers were readied in a month, involving lots
      of costly overtime work - bankrolled not by the museum, but by the
      World Journal newspaper.

      The overseas arm of Taiwan's United Daily, World Journal claims to
      be the largest international Chinese paper. It hosted the show in
      its New York offices in January and plans to take it to its Los
      Angeles premises later this month. Arthur Ku, deputy general manager
      of the group's operations in the Bay Area, declined to say how much
      the exhibition had cost. "This isn't meant to be a promotion for the
      paper," he said. "It's really meant to give people a rare chance to
      see the works of Mme. Chiang Kai-shek, and of five other masters.
      But Mme. Chiang is of course the main interest for everyone - not
      just for Taiwanese, but for all Chinese."

      The star draw was not present. Mme. Chiang is too frail to travel
      these days, but she did attend the opening of the exhibit in New
      York, which was viewed by more than 13,000 people. The turnout was
      no surprise, given that near-riots erupted in 1998 at the auction of
      800 items from her longtime rural New York estate (now sold). Police
      were called in to control the thousands of Chinese-Americans eager
      to simply tour the home of the legendary matron who played such a
      pivotal role in almost a century of Chinese history.

      The San Francisco exhibit featured a strong emphasis on
      calligraphy. "These are the top talents from Taiwan. All of them are
      very important," noted Terese Tse Bartholomew, the museum's curator
      of Himalayan and Chinese decorative art. She praised in particular
      the bold strokes of Wang Chi-chien, one of the first Chinese artists
      to emigrate to the U.S., where his style eventually became noticed
      in the West. Born in Suzhou, near Shanghai, Wang arrived in America
      in 1949. The 93-year-old artist served in the 1960s as chairman of
      the Art Department at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

      Bartholomew, who hails from Hong Kong and is a niece of Macau casino
      baron Stanley Ho, describes Mme. Chiang's work as "strong and
      competent." She is particularly struck by that intimate inscription
      accompanying Lotus: A Gentleman Among Flowers. She says: "For me,
      it's shocking. The Chinese never say anything like this. It's so
      personal." Mme. Chiang Kai-shek - more than a century old and still
      getting tongues wagging.


      Ron Gluckman is an American reporter who is based in Hong Kong, but
      who roams around Asia for a number of publications, such as
      Asiaweek, which sent him to the USA for this story that ran in March


      Chiang's widow in dark

      The widow of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek has not been told of the
      Kuomintang's defeat in the presidential election, Taiwan's media
      reported yesterday.
      Madame Soong Mei-ling who celebrated her 103rd birthday in New York
      on Sunday has not been told that Taiwan voters voted her husband's
      party out of power, the official Central News Agency said.

      The agency said Stephen Chen, Taiwan's representative in New York,
      withheld the bad news so as not to spoil the birthday party.

      Close aides to Madame Soong also have not broken the bad news to her
      because they did not want to upset her.

      The agency said guests at the birthday party, including former
      Taiwan premier Hau Pei-tsun, said nothing about the election to her.

      Just days before the election, Madame Soong issued an open letter in
      Taiwan urging voters to support the KMT candidate, Vice-President
      Lien Chan.

      Defeated on the mainland, Generalissimo Chiang had ruled Taiwan with
      an iron fist for more than 25 years until his death in 1975.

      Living a secluded life, Madame Soong spends much of her time in Long
      Island in New York.

      She has not returned to Taiwan for many years.
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