It’s fun to choose documents for a display, not least because I often seem to stumble across things I never knew we had. This week I was getting ready for a visiting group from Shanghai and remembered these photographs of Soong May-ling, who hailed from a wealthy Shanghai family. She is pictured here with her husband, the Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, sightseeing during the Cairo Conference in 1943.
Chiang Kai-shek and his wife at the Cairo conference, 1943.
But a little bit of browsing in the catalogues also brought to light letters from her sister, Soong Ching-ling (or Madame Sun Yat-sen), written to Violet Seymour, the wife of Horace Seymour, wartime British Ambassador to China. Written throughout her life, but mainly in her later years 1971-80, the letters are an entertaining mix of news, weather reports, gardening tips, health complaints and gossip. Here are some political comments that caught my eye:
Describing Madame Mao (and one of her biographers)
The Red Guards
Pat Nixon in China
Selecting documents for the exhibition and preparing the captions, gave me the chance to find out more about the Soong sisters and the extraordinary part they played in the history of twentieth century China. Now I’m on the look out for something in our collections about their eldest sibling, Soong Ai-ling, so I can reunite the three sisters in one of our displays.