Chiang Kai-shek’s Marriage Proposal to Song Meiling (1927)
While Chiang Kai-shek's political and military accomplishments clearly marked him as a rising star within the KMT by the 1920s, in many ways it was his marriage to Song Meiling in 1927 that sealed his status in the eyes of the Chinese public. Song Meiling was the youngest of three sisters of the famous Sotig family who held an aura akin to the Kennedy family in the United States. Each of the Song sisters married prominent politicians or business leaders. With rumors of Chiang's impending marriage swirling, his marital status continued to be a source of concern due interviews given by Chen Rujie (referred to as "the lady traveling in America" in the following interview), who insisted she and Chiang remained married. To clarify the situation, Chiang gave an interview suggesting Chen was merely a "second wife" and thus not in the eyes of the law or "Chinese customs" officially his wife. While clearly an uncomfortable topic for Chiang, Song Meiling's parents did finally offer their blessing, and the two were married on December 1, 1927, exactly two months after this interview occurred.
SONG ZIWEN (1894-1971)—The third of six Song siblings born to Song "Charlie" Jiashu. Often known in Western sources as T. V. Soong, he was Harvard educated and served as the Finance Minister, Foreign Minister, and President of the Executive Yuan in the Nationalist government between 1928 and 1947.
- 1. Do you believe Song Meiling and Chiang Kai-shek shared similar motives in getting married?
- 2. Why might the Song family be concerned (or excited) about having Chiang as a future in-law?
In view of the many rumors and tales which have gone the rounds in Shanghai concerning the movements of General Chiang Kai-shek, I called on General Chiang and requested him to authorize a statement of his purposes and plans. General Chiang said:
"My present visit to Shanghai has no political significance. I have come to this city on purely private business, to arrange, if possible, for my marriage with Miss Soong May-ling [Song Meiling]."
Miss Soong May-ling is the popular sister of Mme. Sun Yat-sen [Song Qingling], Mr. T.V. Soong [Song Ziwen], former Minister of Finance and Mrs. H.H. Kung [Kong Xiangxi], wife of the former Minister of Industries of the Nationalist government. She is a graduate of Wellesley College in the United States and is prominent in Shanghai society.
"It would be advisable, General Chiang," I said, "to explain to the public through the medium of our newspaper, exactly what your relationships are, for although such a matter is strictly your own affair, your prominence and Miss Soong's connections, have given ride to many accounts, which if untrue, ought to be corrected."
General Chiang Kai-shek replied:
"During the 10th moon of the 10th year of the Republic [November 1921] I was duly divorced, in accordance with Chinese customs, from my first wife, who is now living at Fenhua. Here is a document of divorce which has been registered with the proper judicial authorities at Fenhua. According to it, we were divorced for incompatibility. All the details are in this document.
"Since that divorce, my life has been away from Fenhua, mostly in the battlefield of the revolutionary cause. Five years ago, in Canton [Guangzhou], at the home of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, I met Miss Soong. I felt that in her I would find the companionship which a man seeks in a wife. Miss Soong, at that time, however, was not interested. Since then I have been corresponding with her constantly, pressing my suit. Recently, our romance culminated in her agreeing to a marriage subject to the consent of her family, which we now hope to obtain. We shall be married in Shanghai, in the event of the usual Chinese family arrangements being satisfactorily made, and then we shall spend a year in travel abroad."
I then asked General Chiang about the lady who is travelling in America.
"Foreigners perhaps do not understand all the intricacies of the Chinese family system," he said. "That lady has been divorced in accordance with Chinese customs. I am present married to no one and am free to marry in accordance with the most monogamous practices. Miss Soong would not consent to a marriage in any other circumstances and I should not dare ask a lady of her character to marry me in any other circumstances.
"Please make it clear that this marriage is in no [way] a political marriage. It is accidental that we are all so prominent in politics, but not all of us are in the same camp and curiously enough, the Soong family has not yet given its consent. I have been courting Miss Soong these many years without a thought of the political bearing of such a marriage and any suggestion in that direction is unfair to me and unjust to all the members of the Soong family. Miss Soong's mother is ill in Japan and as soon as I am informed that I may wait upon her at Kobe, I shall go there to inquire after her health and to ask for her daughter's hand. I have no other business in Japan than that. And whether I go to Japan or not is entirely contingent upon what information we obtain from there with regard to Mrs. Soong's health."
KARAKHAN MANIFESTO (1919)—A
manifesto issued on July 25,1919, by Russian Foreign Minister Lev Karakhan relinquishing all Tsarist Russian claims to special rights and privileges in China. The Soviet Union did, however, continue to pursue special rights and privileges.
When interviewed, Miss Soong told me that she was quite surprised that so much interest was evidenced in her personal affairs, but she hoped that her friends would realize that in marriage there was no explaining why one takes the step but that sentiment alone must be the guide. She ridiculed the idea of a political marriage and said that she only hoped that the political members of her family would place no impediments in the way of her choice.