In their lifetime, and afterwards, the Soong sisters from Shanghai seemed like figures from a Chinese fairy tale. There were three of them: ‘One loved money, one loved power and one loved her country.’
They came from a family of prosperous Methodist converts and, for almost 100 years, one or other of them presided at or near the centre of power in China. The middle sister, Chingling, married Sun Yatsen, the founding Father of the Republic, transferring her allegiance after his death to the small group of bandits, led by Mao Zedong, who formed the nucleus of the Chinese Communist party. To this day Chingling enjoys something like mythical status in the People’s Republic of China.
The youngest sister, Mayling, married Sun’s successor, General Chiang Kaishek, commander-in-chief of the victorious Nationalist army, who ruled China for two central decades of the 20th century.