Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Saturday, October 23, 2004

This morning I visited the home of Soong Ching Ling (Song Qingling), which has been made into a museum. I took the subway to the Jishuitan station, which is pretty close to where the museum is located. For some reason, I was not able to find a taxi that would take me there. I'm not sure why that is. Perhaps the drivers don't want to go a place where they would not be able to get a fare...I'm not sure. Anyway, I finally hired a bicycle taxi to take me there. It turned out to be the perfect mode of transportation for navigating the windy hutongs which led to the old mansion. At first I thought perhaps I should have just ridden my own bicycle, but it's probably a good thing I didn't. I probably would have gotten lost. The Beijing hutongs are a maze, and you can really get pretty confused if you don't have the neighborhood memorized.

The home I visited is actually the home where Pu Yi (the Last Emperor) was born. It was provided for Madame Sun Yat Sen by Zhou En Lai, and she spent the last eighteen years of her life there. Fortunately, there is a very good bilingual photo-journalistic display that provides considerable insight into Soong Ching Ling's life. They even have a copy of the original register that Soong Ching Ling and her sisters signed at Wesleyan College for Women in Macon, Georgia. Ai Ling, here oldest sister, was eighteen. Soong Ching Ling herself was fifteen, and little Mey Ling (as she signed her name then), was ten years old.

Soong Ching Ling is still a bit of a mystery to me...I guess I have to do my homework. She was not really a Communist (although she was made a member of the Communist party on her deathbed), but she supported Mao in his conflict with the Guomingdang. She was disgusted with her sister for marrying Jiang Jie-shi (Chiang Kai-shek), whom she hated with a passion. After Chiang's attack on the Communists in Shanghai in 1927, she was a vocal critic of the Nationalists. But she lived in this mansion through all the years of the Cultural Revolution, and was strangely silent about the injustice going on around her.

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