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Soong Ching-ling

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Rosamond Soong Ch'ing-ling
Soong in the 1940s
Honorary Chairwoman of the People's Republic of China
In office
16 May 1981 – 29 May 1981
Appointed bythe Standing Committee of the 5th National People's Congress on 16 May 1981
PremierZhao Ziyang
Vice Chairwoman of the People's Republic of China
In office
27 April 1959 – 17 January 1975
Serving with Dong Biwu
PresidentLiu Shaoqi
Vacant (after 1968)
Preceded byZhu De
Succeeded byUlanhu (1983)
Acting Chairwoman of the People's Republic of China
In office
31 October 1968 – 24 February 1972
PremierZhou Enlai
Preceded byLiu Shaoqi (as Chairman)
Succeeded byDong Biwu (as Acting Chairman)
Vice Chairperson of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress
In office
17 January 1975 – 29 May 1981
ChairmanZhu De
Ye Jianying
In office
27 September 1954 – 28 April 1959
ChairmanLiu Shaoqi
Vice Chairperson of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference
In office
25 December 1954 – 29 April 1959
ChairmanZhou Enlai
Vice Chairperson of the Central People's Government
In office
1 October 1949 – 27 September 1954
Serving with Zhu De, Liu Shaoqi, Li Jishen, Zhang Lan, Gao Gang
ChairmanMao Zedong
Personal details
Born(1893-01-27)27 January 1893
Shanghai International Settlement
Died29 May 1981(1981-05-29) (aged 88)
Beijing, China
Political partyChinese Communist Party (1981)
Other political
Kuomintang (1919–1947)
Communist International (1930s–1943)
Revolutionary Committee of the Chinese Kuomintang (1948–1981)
(m. 1915; died 1925)
Parent(s)Charlie Soong and Ni Kwei-tseng
RelativesSoong Mei-ling (sister)
Chiang Kai-shek (brother-in-law)
Soong Ai-ling (sister)
Alma materWesleyan College
n.b. ^ Between 1976 and 1978, Soong presided over the meeting of the National People's Congress Standing Committee and performed its powers as head of state in her capacity as the NPCSC First Vice Chairperson.
Soong Ching-ling
Traditional Chinese宋慶齡
Simplified Chinese宋庆龄

Rosamond Soong Ch'ing-ling (27 January 1893 – 29 May 1981) was a Chinese political figure. As the third wife of Sun Yat-sen, then Premier of the Kuomintang and President of the Republic of China, she was often referred to as Madame Sun Yat-sen. She was a member of the Soong family and, together with her siblings, played a prominent role in China's politics. After the proclamation of the People's Republic of China in 1949, she held several prominent positions in the new government, including Vice Chairman of the PRC (1949–1954; 1959–1975) and Vice Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (1954–1959; 1975–1981). She traveled abroad during the early 1950s, representing her country at a number of international events.

During the Cultural Revolution, however, she was heavily criticized.[1] Following the purge of President Liu Shaoqi in 1968, she and Dong Biwu as Vice Presidents became de facto Heads of State of China until 1972,[2] when Dong was appointed Acting President. Soong survived the political turmoil of the Cultural Revolution but appeared less frequently after 1976. As the acting Chairwoman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress from 1976 to 1978, Soong was again the acting Head of State, as the office of President had been abolished. During her final illness in May 1981, she was given the special title of "Honorary President of the People's Republic of China".

Life and activities before 1949

Sun Yat-sen and Soong Ch'ing-ling wedding photo (1915).

Soong Ch'ing-ling was born to businessman and missionary Charlie Soong in Chuansha, Pudong, Shanghai,[3][4] the second of six children. She graduated from McTyeire School for Girls in Shanghai, attended Fairmount College in Monteagle, Tennessee, and graduated from Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia, United States.[5] Like her sisters, she spoke fluent English due to being educated in English for most of her life. Her Christian name was Rosamonde. In her early years, her passport name was spelled as Chung-ling Soong, and in her Wesleyan College diploma, her name was Rosamonde Chung-ling Soong.

Third Plenary Session of the KMT Second Central Committee in Wuhan, March 1927. Soong Ching-ling is in the front next to her brother, T. V. Soong.

Soong married Sun Yat-sen, leader of China's 1911 revolution and founder of the Kuomintang (KMT or Nationalist Party),[6]: 47  on 25 October 1915. Even though he was a Christian, her parents greatly opposed the match, as he was 26 years her senior.

Mme. Soong Qingling and Dr. Sun Yat-sen seen here with the Rosamonde biplane; the first indigenously designed aircraft in China in which Mme. Soong would fly as a passenger with pilot Huang Guangrui at the controls.

After Sun's death in 1925, she was elected to the KMT Central Executive Committee. However, she left China for Moscow after the expulsion of the Communists from the KMT in 1927, accusing the KMT of betraying her husband's legacy. Her younger sister, May-ling, married Chiang Kai-shek, a Methodist like Soong and her sisters.[7] This made Chiang Soong's brother-in-law. The Chinese Communist Party still treats Sun Yat-sen as one of the founders of their movement[8] and claim descent from him[9] as he is viewed as a proto-communist[10][11] and the economic element of Sun's ideology was socialism.[8] Sun stated, "Our Principle of Livelihood is a form of communism".[12][13] After an initial warm public reception in Moscow for the cadre, to which Soong Ching-ling belonged, from 1928 their attempts to establish a leftist Chinese front were frustrated.

Soong Ching-ling with Eugene Chen in Moscow, 1927.

Soong returned to China in June 1929 when Sun Yat-sen was moved from his temporary burial site in Beijing to a new memorial in Nanjing, but left again three months later, and did not return until July 1931, when her mother died. She resided afterwards in Shanghai until July 1937, when the Second Sino-Japanese War broke out. Following the outbreak of hostilities, she moved first to Hong Kong (where she befriended future restaurateur and philanthropist Sylvia Cheng[14]), then to Chongqing, the wartime capital of the Chinese government. In 1939, she founded the China Defense League, which raised funds and sought supplies primarily for the Chinese Communist controlled areas of northern China. In 1946, the League was renamed the China Welfare fund, continuing to seek funds and support for the Chinese Communists.[15]

During the Chinese Civil War, Soong permanently broke with her family and supported the Communists[citation needed]. In 1948, she became honorary chairwoman of the Revolutionary Committee of the Kuomintang, a left-wing splinter group of the KMT that claimed to be the legitimate heir of Sun's legacy.[16] With the collapse of the Nationalist government and the Communist victory in the civil war, she left Shanghai in September 1949 to attend the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), convened in Beijing by the Chinese Communist Party to establish a new Central People's Government. On 1 October, she was a guest at the ceremony in Tiananmen Square marking the birth of the new People's Republic of China. The Nationalist government issued an order for her arrest,[17] but this was soon blocked by the swift military victory of the Communists. The KMT fled from mainland China to Taiwan soon after this.

Political offices and activities after 1949

Soong Ching-ling and Li Jishen at the Founding Ceremony of the PRC (1949).

Soong was the third person in the new government mentioned by Mao in the founding Proclamation of the People's Republic of China.

"Representing the will of the whole nation, [this session of the conference] has enacted the organic law of the Central People's Government of the People's Republic of China, elected Mao Zedong as chairman of the Central People's Government; and Zhu De, Liu Shaoqi, Song Qingling, Li Jishen, Zhang Lan, and Gao Gang as vice chairmen [of the Central People's Government]"

Soong was held in great esteem by the victorious Communists, who reckoned her as a link between their movement and Sun's earlier movement.[16] After the formal establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949, she became one of six vice chairpeople of the Central People's Government,"[18] and one of several vice-chairpeople of the Sino-Soviet Friendship Association.[18] In April 1951, it was announced that she had been awarded the Stalin Peace Prize for 1950.[19]

In 1950, Soong became chairwoman of the Chinese People's Relief Administration, which combined several organizations dealing with welfare and relief issues. Her China Welfare Fund was reorganized as the China Welfare Institute and began publishing the magazine China Reconstructs, now published as China Today. In 1953, a collection of her writings, Struggle for New China, was published.[19]

Mao Zedong, Soong Ching-ling and Deng Xiaoping at the 1957 International Meeting of Communist and Workers Parties.

In 1953 Soong served on the committees preparing for elections to the new National People's Congress and the drafting of the 1954 constitution. Soong was elected a Shanghai deputy to the first NPC, which adopted the constitution at its first meeting in September 1954. She was elected one of 14 vice-chairpeople of the NPC's standing committee, chaired by Liu Shaoqi. In December of the same year, she was elected a vice-chairwoman of the CPPCC, which became a consultative body, and replaced Liu Shaoqi as chairperson of the Sino-Soviet Friendship Association. During this period, Soong traveled abroad several times, visiting Austria, India, Burma, Pakistan, and Indonesia. Her trips included a January 1953 visit to the Soviet Union, where she was received by Stalin shortly before his death. She visited Moscow again in 1957 with Mao Zedong's delegation to the 40th anniversary of the Russian Revolution.[19]

Despite Soong’s support of the CCP, she was skeptical of some radical actions such as the purging of capitalists and party moderates such as Liu Shaoqi of the government.[20]



In April 1959, Soong again served as a Shanghai deputy at the 2nd National People's Congress. At this Congress, Mao Zedong and Zhu De stepped down as President and Vice-President of the People's Republic of China. Liu Shaoqi was elected State Chairman (President), and Soong Ching-ling and Dong Biwu, a senior Communist Party 'elder', were elected Vice President of China. Soong resigned at this time from her positions as vice-chairwoman of the CPPCC National Committee and the NPC Standing Committee.[19] She was re-elected to the post of Vice-chairperson of the PRC at the Third National People's Congress in 1965, and appeared frequently in the early 1960s on ceremonial occasions, often greeting important visitors from abroad.

Soong Ching-ling and Kim Il Sung, the founder of North Korea, were raised Christian.

During the Cultural Revolution (1966–76), Soong was heavily criticized by Red Guard factions, and in one incident, the marker of her parents' grave was toppled and their bodies exposed.[1] Following this incident Premier Zhou Enlai recommended that Soong Ching-ling be put on a "List of Cadres to be protected." Zhou's recommendation was approved by Mao Zedong.[21]

Late in the Cultural Revolution, during the 4th NPC which approved the 1975 Constitution in January 1975, Soong's term as Vice President of China ended with the abolishment of that post, after which she was again appointed one of the vice-chairwomen of the NPC Standing Committee.[22]

Later life and death


Soong's public appearances were limited after the Cultural Revolution, and she was in generally poor health, but articles by her, primarily on children's welfare issues, continued to appear in the press[citation needed]. Her last public appearance was on 8 May 1981, when she appeared in a wheelchair at the Great Hall of the People to accept an honorary LL.D. degree from the University of Victoria. A few days later she began running a high fever and was unable to rise again. On 16 May 1981, less than two weeks before her death, she was admitted to the Communist Party and named Honorary Chairwoman of the People's Republic of China (中华人民共和国名誉主席). She is the only person to ever hold this title.[23] According to one of Soong's biographers, she had wanted to join the Chinese Communist Party as early as 1957. However, when she asked Liu for permission to join the party, the request was turned down because "it was thought better for the revolution that she not join formally, but that she would thenceforth be informed, and her opinion sought, concerning all important inner-Party events matters, not only those involving the government."[24]

Soong Ching-ling wrote seven letters to criticize the Cultural Revolution Campaign and objected to the excessive violence against her colleagues and other moderates within the CCP.[25]

Soong died on 29 May, 1981 in Beijing at the age of 88.



According to her wishes, Soong's cremated remains were placed next to her parents' restored grave in the Soong family burial plot at Shanghai's International Cemetery (Chinese: 万國公墓),[26] which was later renamed in her honor as the Soong Ching-ling Memorial Park (Chinese: 宋庆龄陵园).

Several of Soong Ch'ing-ling's former residences have also been transformed into museums:

In 1918, Soong and her husband Sun Yat-sen lived in a house in the French Concession of Shanghai. After her husband's death, Soong continued to reside there until 1937. The house has now been converted into a museum dedicated called the Former Residence of Sun Yat-sen. Though dedicated primarily to Sun, it also contains some of Soong's artefacts during their life together.

From 1948 to 1963 Soong Ching-ling lived in the western end of the French Concession in Shanghai. This building is now the Soong Ching-ling Memorial Residence. A memorial hall containing some of her belongings and photographs stands near the entrance. The main building and gardens are preserved in near original state with original furnishings throughout. In the garage are two large cars: one Chinese built Red Flag limousine and another Russian car presented to Soong by Joseph Stalin.

Soong Ching-ling obtained a mansion in Beijing in 1963 where she lived and worked for the rest of her life and received many dignitaries. After her death the site was converted into the Former Residence of Soong Ching-ling as a museum and memorial. The rooms and furniture have been kept as she had used them, and memorabilia are displayed.




Five years after her death, the Honorary President of the People's Republic of China was depicted in the film Dr. Sun Yat-sen. Soong is played by Maggie Cheung in the 1997 Hong Kong movie The Soong Sisters. Since the turn of the Millennium, she has been portrayed by various actresses in several mainland China historical drama movies.

Year Actress Title
1986 Zhang Yan Dr. Sun Yat-sen
1997 Maggie Cheung The Soong Sisters
2009 Xu Qing The Founding of a Republic
2011 Dong Jie The Founding of a Party
Jiang Wenli 1911
2012 Luo Yang Back to 1942
2015 Joan Chen Cairo Declaration
2017 Song Jia The Founding of an Army
2019 Qin Lan Mao Zedong 1949
2021 Liu Shishi 1921



Soong is a main character in Huang Ruo's 2011 Chinese-language western-style opera, Dr. Sun Yat-sen.



See also







  1. ^ a b Epstein 1993, p. 551.
  2. ^ Leaders of China (People's Republic of China), zarate.eu from 11 May 2017, retrieved 12 July 2017.
  3. ^ "宋庆龄上海出生地解谜". news.eastday.com. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 20 October 2012.
  4. ^ "宋庆龄出生地在川沙".
  5. ^ Hahn 1941, pp. 43–45.
  6. ^ Coble, Parks M. (2023). The Collapse of Nationalist China: How Chiang Kai-shek Lost China's Civil War. Cambridge New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1-009-29761-5.
  7. ^ Re-encounters in China: Notes of a Journey in a Time Capsule. Routledge. July 2016. ISBN 9781315495644.
  8. ^ a b "The Guomindang (Kuomintang), the Nationalist Party of China". www.sjsu.edu.
  9. ^ Allen-Ebrahimian, Bethany (8 March 2019). "The Chinese Communist Party Is Still Afraid of Sun Yat-Sen's Shadow".
  10. ^ "Tug of war over China's founding father Sun Yat-sen as Communist Party celebrates his legacy". South China Morning Post. 10 November 2016.
  11. ^ "Which is Sun Yat-sen's heir - Communist Party or KMT?". South China Morning Post. 25 November 2016.
  12. ^ Godley, Michael R. (1987). "Socialism with Chinese Characteristics: Sun Yatsen and the International Development of China". The Australian Journal of Chinese Affairs (18): 109–125. doi:10.2307/2158585. JSTOR 2158585. S2CID 155947428.
  13. ^ https://krex.k-state.edu/dspace/bitstream/handle/2097/26100/LD2668T41966L735.pdf?sequence=1 [bare URL PDF]
  14. ^ Dosti, Rose (3 November 1994). "KITCHEN MATRIARCHS : The Unsinkable Madame Wu". Los Angeles Times.
  15. ^ Epstein 1993, p. 437.
  16. ^ a b Song Qingling at Encyclopædia Britannica
  17. ^ "Mme. Sun Yat-Sen Ordered Arrested". Los Angeles Times. 9 October 1949.
  18. ^ a b Klein & Clark 1971, p. 785.
  19. ^ a b c d Klein & Clark 1971, p. 786.
  20. ^ "宋庆龄晚年七次书信毛泽东表示反感"文革"_盐城市纪委监委".
  21. ^ Epstein 1993, p. 550.
  22. ^ Sheng, Yonghua. 《宋庆龄年表》[A Chronology of Song Qingling]. Guangdong People's Press, 2006, 2: 601.
  23. ^ Epstein 1993, pp. 616–617.
  24. ^ Epstein 1993, p. 491.
  25. ^ "宋庆龄晚年七次书信毛泽东表示反感"文革"_盐城市纪委监委".
  26. ^ Avelihiihine-Dubach, Natacha. "The Revival of the Funeral Industry in Shanghai: A Model for China" in Invisible Population: The Place of the Dead in East-Asian Megacities, pp. 79–80. Lexington Books (Lanham), 2012.


Government offices
New office Vice Chairperson of the Central People's Government
Served alongside: Zhu De, Liu Shaoqi, Li Jishen, Zhang Lan, Gao Gang
Succeeded byas Vice Chairman of the PRC
Preceded by Vice Chairperson of the People's Republic of China
Served alongside: Dong Biwu
Title next held by
Preceded byas Chairman of the PRC Acting Head of State of the People's Republic of China
Co-Acting with Dong Biwu as Vice Chairpersons of the PRC

Succeeded byas Acting Chairman of the PRC
Preceded byas Chairman of the 4th NPCSC Acting Head of State of the People's Republic of China
As acting Chairwoman of the Standing Committee of the 4th National People's Congress

Succeeded byas Chairman of the 5th NPCSC
Honorary titles
New title Honorary Chair of the All-China Women's Federation
Served alongside: He Xiangning, Cai Chang, Deng Yingchao
Succeeded by
Honorary President of the People's Republic of China