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Madame Chiang Kai-shek: China's Eternal First Lady Paperback – September 1, 2007
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Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
The Nationalist regime, headed by her husband, was hated by the Chinese people for its notorious brutality and corruption. But as portrayed by Madame Chiang, especially to American audiences, Chiang Kai-shek's government was a modern, educated bulwark of democracy and freedom for a country whose history had allowed little of either. Indeed, Madame Chiang personified the vaunted hopes, bitter disappointments and complex misunderstandings of the U.S.-China relationship, which vacillated wildly during her exceptional 105-year lifetime. Laura Tyson Li's incisive new biography, rises to the tall task of capturing this pivotal figure in all her splendor and humiliation, against a backdrop of war, revolution and unending political turmoil. Li, a journalist with a decade of experience in Asia, accurately portrays her as "beautiful, vain, witty, spirited, capricious, scheming, selfish, and driven."
What a character. What a tale.
The book opens in the waning days of China's second-to-last emperor in the late 1890s, when Mayling Olive Soong was born in Shanghai, the youngest daughter of a businessman who had made a fortune selling Bibles and presided over a family of savvy, idealistic and recklessly ambitious children. One married Sun Yat-sen, China's first president. Another became finance minister and acting prime minister of Nationalist China. Another became one of China's richest women. Mayling became Madame Chiang Kai-shek.Read more ›
The position and affluence of the Soong family was previously unknown to me, as was the close political ties her family forged with the Chinese leadership - Mayling's sister was the wife of Sun-Yat Sen (founder of the KMT). The fact that Mayling was educated in America and was, as a result, bi-cultural was also something I was previously unaware of. Li shows how these important events in her life shaped her as a force to be reckoned with in her own right, and as a valuable ally to her husband Chiang Kai-Shek as he sought to unify China, and later as they established a separate government on the island of Formosa.
That Madame Chang-Kai Shek lived so long (she was over 100 when she died), was such a powerful and influential woman, and played such an active role in events has earned her as many detractors as supporters. Li does not pull any punches in showing how she became notorious (rumors of her affair with Wendell Willkie and her appeal for American support during the Chinese civil war following WWII, the press portraying her as a 'femme fatale'), or her strong personality in matters of state (both with her husband and step-son Chiang-kuo). Whether or not she is a woman to be admired, her presence and impact was certainly felt in shaping (or attempting to shape) events. It is a fascinating read about an intriguing and strong woman, that also provides much insight into the political evoluition of modern China. A highly recommended read.
While almost every aspect of this life is intriguing, certain people and episodes stand out. I had forgotten Zhang Xueliang until he emerged after a 50 year house arrest, after which he & his wife move to Hawaii. Apparently he was able to keep his pre-war fortune, or had been cared for financially; he is deemed a friend of the Madame. (Another 5 year house arrest of a physician who botches an operation of the General suggests house arrest is a common punishment for "friends" and other professionals.) Madame's war time US appeal for funds, with its cross country caravan of staff whom MCKS treats "as coolies" is certainly an episode worth a small volume. (The $800,000 she raises goes to her personal account.) While the Wendel Wilkie relationship (true or false) is intriguing, I fixed on the William H. Donald relationship, which may have been a professional friendship and refuge from her husband's authoritarianism, but her end of life treatment of him suggests something else.
There are a host of issues worthy of their own books. Perhaps these books exist but I don't know about them. One issue is the "arrival" of 2 million mainlanders to the island of Formosa, who's 7 million citizens seemed to have some degree of prosperity under the Japanese. While the Chaings arrive with resources, others huddle in makeshift places and cry at night.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Engaging and easy to read, this book was the first one I've ever read about Madame Chiang. I was unfamiliar with her and with the events surrounding the Nationalist government's... Read morePublished 4 months ago by J.C. Pappas
The book's condition is exactly as described, arrived quickly, and damage free.
If one enjoyed reading "The Soong Dynasty" by Sterling Seagrave, this book would be the perfect... Read more
Very good book! Finally I really understand this whole complex Chinese history starting from the past 100 years. Read morePublished 19 months ago by Puma70
Mayling Soong, the future Madame Chiang Kai-Shek, born in 1898, was the fourth child of Christian parents and had her school and university education in the United States. Read morePublished on August 19, 2013 by Ralph Blumenau
First, I read a lot, and my love is history. That being said I was excited to begin reading about one of history's most notable women. Read morePublished on July 30, 2013 by Karina149
This is a very readable biography of a life that lasted over a century.
Soong Mayling was born in the 19th century and lived to see the 21st. Read more
I found this book to be a fantastic biography regarding the life of Madame Chiang Kai-Shek. Laura Tyson Li did a great job not only providing a great amount of detail - both... Read morePublished on May 29, 2013 by Antoine