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Sunday, May 3, 2015

Sing, sing a Soong


On this most socialist of national holiday weekends, what could be more apropos than to pay our respects to one of modern China's most revered women, Soong Ching-ling (Sòng Qìnglíng 宋庆龄). Born into an influential family, she and her two sisters married into the upper echelons of Republican China - Soong Ai-ling 宋藹齡 (the oldest) tied the knot with H.H. Kung 孔祥熙, a wealthy banker and politician, while the other sister, May-ling 宋美齡, hooked up with Chiang Kai-shek 蔣中正. But it was Ching-ling who arguably came out on top by marrying none other than Sun Yat-sen 孫中山, the first president and "founding father" of the Republic of China 中華民國, who is also a revered figure in the People's Republic 中华人民共和国. As Madame Sun Yat-sen's mausoleum is only a short drive from our housing compound (and having already seen just about everything else there is to see in Shànghăi 上海), we made our visit on what turned out to be a glorious May Day (well, May 3) afternoon.

The sign that greets you as you enter the Song Qingling Exhibition Hall 宋庆龄陈列馆 sets the tone. Truth be told, other than marrying Sun, and choosing to side with the Communists at the end of the Chinese Civil War (proving that she could tell which way the winds were blowing at that time), it's hard to see what made her "one of the greatest women of the 20th century". But as this is an officially-sanctioned museum (and free of charge to visit), it's best to keep such potentially heretical musings to oneself and just enjoy the photographs:


Sister May-ling with Chiang. Attractive, Christian and fluent in English, it was she who mesmerized the U.S. Congress, and convinced the American public and its elected officials that it was better to side with the right-wing dictator of a corrupt regime instead of trying to find common ground with the new leadership of the world's most populous country:


Mr. and Mrs. Sun Yat-sen. I was surprised to learn that their 1915 wedding took place in, of all places, Tōkyō 東京, though the captions didn't explain why:


Soong's wedding dress:


Soong pictured with General "Vinegar Joe" Stilwell, probably talking about their mutual aversion to "peanuts". The general's career was ruined in part by Ching-ling's sister (the one who slept with Cash My Check):


Here Soong is seen with Máo Zédōng 毛泽东. While the exhibition hall covers her work with the Communist Party, including her stint as a deputy in the National People's Congress 全国人民代表大会, no mention is made of what Soong went through during the Cultural Revolution 文化大革命:



In contrast to the hagiography of the exhibition hall, Soong's outdoor tomb was surprisingly modest:



Also low-key was the statue nearby, unlike the figure depicted holding doves of peace in the museum foyer:



Skipping the "celebrity cemetery", we walked over to the small international cemetery near Soong's tomb, where my daughter checked out the grave of a Japanese couple, Mr. and Mrs. Uchiyama 内山:



There were some recognizable surnames on a few of the tombstones with strong connections to Shanghai, such as Sassoon and Kadoorie...:



...and some headstones explaining why these non-Chinese are buried here:



But most of the grave stones gave no information other than the person's name:



The grounds also contain a sad children's museum. Although there are displays extolling the recent successes of the Chinese space program, quite a number of the so-called "hands on" exhibits were not functioning properly, and everything looked as though it was laid out in the 1970's and hadn't been updated since. Of most interest were the mini propaganda comic books, which were being completely ignored by the kids present this afternoon, but were being avidly read by adults who presumably remembered them from their childhoods:



It was with a great sense of relief (especially from my Kuomintang 中國國民黨-supporting spouse) that we finally left the grounds of the Song Qingling Mausoleum for the short drive to that bastion of Japanese capitalism known as Takashimaya 高島屋, where an exhibit of a different kind was being held inside the department store:



It's been 25 years since Chibi Maruko-chan ちびまる子ちゃん made its debut in anime form on Japanese television. Amber used to watch the show when we lived in Taiwan, and judging by the crowds of young women present at Takashimaya this afternoon, it's also very popular in China:




Maruko-chan's enduring popularity is mainly due to the chord she strikes with Japanese women of a certain generation. The stories are based on the real-life experiences while growing up in Shimizu City 清水市, Shizuoka Prefecture 静岡県 of the manga's creater, Miki Miura 三浦美紀. I'm not sure what sort of connection is felt by Chinese or Taiwanese women born after the cartoon's debut in Japan in 1990, but the adventures of Momoko Sakura さくらももこ appear to be of greater relevance to the current generation than, say, Soong Ching-ling, demonstrating that there's still hope for the youth of China:





















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