The Soong Ching Ling I knew


by Yen Chun

Father’s Contact with Soong Ching Ling

I was born in Beijing, China, to American citizens Chee Kwon Chun and Sau Chun Wong Chun. My father's sister Chen Shuying married Dr. Sun Fo, son of Dr. Sun Yat-sen. It was my uncle Dr. Sun Fo who took my father to China from Hawaii in 1934, to be Sun Fo's English Secretary. Sun Fo was the President of Legislative Yuan, the highest law-making body in Nanjing government.  Since my father was born and raised in U.S.A., he did not speak very good Chinese. Sun Fo asked his Chinese teacher Yang Yaokun to teach my father Chinese. After observing my father for a while, Yang told my father that he was not in the right place with the KMT government because my father had high ideals but the KMT government was corrupt and not wanting to fight the Japanese. Yang felt he should meet Soong Ching Ling. Through Sun Fo's arrangement, my father met Soong Ching Ling for the first time in Shanghai. The Sun family used to call Soong Ching Ling "Shanghai Grandma" as opposed to "Macao Grandma", Dr. Sun's first wife Lu Muzhen. My father called Soong Ching Ling "Aunty". He described her as soft-spoken, kind, yet had conviction and principles.

Mao's calligraphy 1939.

In l937 when the Sino-Japanese war broke out, Dr. Sun Fo asked my father to take his 2 sons T.P. Sun and T.K. Sun to study at University of California at Berkeley. At the same time, my father attended Graduate School at Berkeley. It was there my father read the book "Red Star Over China" by Edgar Snow and was inspired to meet with Mao Zedong and communist leaders and fight in the war. With Zhou En-lai's introduction, he went to Yanan, which was the Communist headquarters. My father spent 9 months in Yanan. He met with top leaders including Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, Generals Zhu De and Wang Zhen. Chairman Mao wrote this calligraphy for my father after dinner at Mao's cave.

My father was most impressed by the spirit of the young people in Yanan. They were all so selfless and dedicated to work on one common cause – to fight the Japanese and save China. My father asked the leaders to send him to the front and fight the war. Premier Zhou Enlai said, "We don't need soldiers, we have plenty of them. We need some one with your background and connection to go back to Chongqing to tell the people there what you saw in Yanan and educate them."

Chee Kwon Chun, left and General Wang Zhen in Yanan in 1939.

My father followed their instruction. He started telling people at the KMT government how inspired he was with what he saw in Yanan. After a while, Dr. Sun Fo summoned him to his office and told him to stop talking about Yanan.  "Chee Kwon, Chiang Kai-shek will suspect I sent you to Yanan."

From 1940-1946, my father served as Director of Chinese Industrial Cooperative (INDUSCO) at seven southeast provinces and four war zones. INDUSCO was a crucial industrial movement in support of the anti-Japanese war.  They collected resources for the war effort by creating small cooperative industries in the countryside.  Dr. H. H. Kung, then Premier and brother-in-law of Soong Ching Ling was Chairman of INDUSCO. My father met with Soong Ching Ling frequently during this period and discussed his work with her. My father considers this period the most rewarding and exciting time of his life because he was actively engaged in fighting the Japanese and providing employment for young people.

In 1947, when China's civil war broke out, my father returned to Honolulu and worked as a real estate broker.  His good friends introduced my father to my mother Sau Chun Wong.  They courted for a few years and were married in 1950.  By this time, the People's Republic of China was already established. My father said, "I have seen how corrupt the KMT regime was when I was working with them.  I want to see the New China now". Eight days after their marriage, my parents moved to Beijing China. From 1950 to 1961 my parents lived in China. 

My father worked in the Foreign Press Publishing House and helped distribute Chinese publications worldwide. In 1957 my father assisted China in setting up the first Guangzhou Trade Fair. 

My brother Chen Ping and I were born in Beijing. We visited Soong Ching Ling at her old home but I was too young to remember much.


Our visits with Soong Ching Ling

In 1961, our family moved to Hong Kong where my father became a banker. He was the only American citizen working as a high-ranking officer in a People's Republic of China bank. He helped to cultivate relationships between US and Chinese banks before normalization between US and China. He also assisted Bank of America in issuing its first travelers' checks in Hong Kong.

In 1972, President Nixon made his historical visit to China and soon after that US and China established diplomatic relationship.  Because my father is one of the unique individuals who had contacts with top leaders of both the Nationalist and the Communist governments and at the same time, knew American culture and practices, he started his US-China consulting business. He and my mother represented numerous Fortune 500 Corporations in China from 1972 to 1987 when they retired. They were regarded pioneers of US-China business consultants and were very successful.

My parents befriended former President George Bush when Bush was the Chief of the U.S. Liaison Office in Beijing in the 70s.  Through George Bush's introduction, my father met the Chairman of Hughes Tool Company, founded by Howard Hughes' father.  Hughes Tool subsequently appointed my father as their corporate advisor. China's great leader Mr. Deng Xiao Ping toured Hughes Tool Company, one of ONLY two companies he visited during his historical visit to USA in 1979.

The following year, my parents and I negotiated the transfer of Hughes Tool drill bit technology to the Ministry of Petroleum, which constructed a drill bit plant in Wuhan Jianghan Oil Field– a US200 million-dollar project.

It was during the 70s, my parents started visiting Soong Ching Ling on a regular basis.  When I joined my parents in their business in 1978, I also visited Soong Ching Ling, my grand Aunty, with my parents almost every time we were in Beijing. It would be my favorite place to visit. She was always very warm and affectionate towards us. We would hug and kiss each other when we met.

SCL and Yen kissing in 1980.

She always asked Mom or me to sit right next to her and would be holding Mom's hand while we were talking. I enjoyed every visit we had.  She impressed me very much.  As a great leader of China and so accomplished in her life, she was very humble and kind. She loved her country. She loved the children and women and she contributed her entire life for their welfare.  Grandaunt also loved her family.  She always asked my parents about her brothers Zi An and Zi Liang, and my cousins (Sun Fo's children), TP, TK, Pearl and Rose, and their families. She had amazing memory.

When I told her I was engaged and I brought my then fiancé to visit her. Grandaunt was so thrilled. She gave me an alarm clock wrapped in red paper and told me that was to wish me all the happiness in my new life. I will treasure this gift for many years to come.

Grandaunt always invited us to her home and gave us home cooking.  She would get a fresh fish from her creek and had it prepared for us. She always remembered my father liked spring rolls and braised prawns so those were the dishes she often served at her home. When we did not have a chance to visit her due to busy meeting schedules, she would have the spring rolls and braised prawns cooked and delivered to Peking Hotel where we usually stayed.

We also exchanged letters frequently. To protect Soong Ching Ling's identity, we would use her other name Lin Tai when we wrote to her from Hong Kong.

Reminiscence of Soong Ching Ling

In 1981, Grandaunt was diagnosed with leukemia, which eventually caused her life.  Before she passedaway, most of the relatives and good friends were at her bedside.  My parents and I rushed to Beijing when we heard she was seriously ill.  As soon as we arrived in Beijing, Liao Gong (Liao Cheng Zhi) received us and gave us a briefing of her medical status and sent us her home to visit her. We were joined by family members Pearl Sun Lin, Rose and her husband Paul Tchang, Paul and Eileen Lin, Dai Cheng Gong and Grandaunt's closest friends Ernest Tang and Shen Shuizhen.

We called her name when we arrived at her bedside. She was too weak to respond but tears rolled down her cheeks and she tried to speak to us. Soon after that, she went into a coma.

The Chinese leaders were very concerned about her. They sent a 12-member medical team with prominent doctors giving her round the clock care and the best possible medical treatment. One of the lead doctors was Dr. Zhou Shang Jueh, Premier Zhou Enlai's doctor whom we befriended years ago. Liao Goong and other leaders respected the family's opinion and consulted with us every step including her treatment, her funeral plan and burial plan.

At the early stage of Soong Ching Ling's illness, we decided to tell Soong Mei Ling about Soong Ching Ling's serious condition hoping Mei Ling would return to China to see her sister one more time before Soong Ching Ling passed away.  The family sent a telegram to New York to inform Mei Ling.  A couple days later, there was a return cable saying, "Send sister to New York for treatment.  Signed: Family." We were quite shocked about the response.  Mei Ling did not even sign her own name on the cable.  The content was very cold and indifferent.  After this cable, we never heard from Mei Ling again.

Grandaunt passed away on May 29, 1981. I went to the cable office late that night with a heavy heart to inform all the relatives around the world about the sad news.

The Chinese government gave Grandaunt the highest possible farewell.  Her body lay in state for 3 full days at the Great Hall of the people where thousands and thousands of people lined up to pay respect to her. There was a state funeral at the Great Hall of People attended by all the top leaders and common people representing all walks of life. After the funeral service, she was sent to Ba Bao Shan for cremation. We, the relatives boarded one bus and followed the hearse lead by police escort. All the Chinese leaders followed the procession. We saw thousands and thousands of people standing on both sides of Chang An Jie sending her off all the way to Ba Bao Shan. People crowded the streets so tightly that our funeral procession could hardly get through.  Many people cried bitterly.  Some of them saluted her when her hearse was passing through. We were touched by the degree all the people showed in their love for her. We realized how much she had contributed herself to improve the welfare of Chinese children and women and how much she had done to promote world peace. 

According to her will, which we later read about, she wanted to be buried next to her parents in Shanghai. On the other side of her grave, she had buried her close companion and servant who followed her many years. She was so humble that she did not demand to be buried with Dr. Sun Yat-sen at the Nanjing Mausoleum.


Establishing the Soong Ching Ling Foundation in USA

It was during her funeral service, that the family of Soong Ching Ling decided to form Soong Ching Ling Foundation in USA to honor her and to continue her work.  The founding members were all relatives of Soong Ching Ling. They were Pearl Sun Lin, Andrew Lin, Regina Lin (Pearl's daughter), Gregory Lin (Pearl's son), Rose Sun Tchang, Paul Tchang, Genevieve Tchang (Rose's daughter), Paul T. K. Lin (Andrew Lin's brother), Eileen Li, Chee Kwon Chun, Sau Chun Wong Chun, Yen Chun, Ni Bing and Victoria Tai (Dr. Sun's daughter's daughter). The Foundation was headquartered in San Diego, California. The objectives for the Foundation were:

1. To improve children and women's welfare in China

2. To promote understanding between USA and China

 3. To promote world peace

After the establishment of our Foundation, we suggested to China to form similar Foundations so that we could work together more effectively. Beijing and Shanghai both took our suggestion and formed their Foundations accordingly.  China's top leader Deng Xiao Ping agreed to be the honorary chairman of the Foundation.  He sent a congratulatory letter to us.

My parents worked tirelessly on numerous projects with the Foundation including bringing American classical films for Chinese children. They helped bring the Shanghai Children's Palace Art Troupe to perform in Hawaii in 1989, during the difficult time between China and USA. They also funded many school projects in China.

My parents lost their only son, my brother, Ping Chun, tragically in a plane crash in Chicago in 1979. My brother was only 26 years old. In order to obtain compensation from American Airline and McDonald Douglas, the two parties at fault for the plane crash, my family went through10 years of painful lawsuits. We went from district court to federal court and then appeal court and won all the way. Upon the settlement of the lawsuit, after paying the lawyers’ fees, my parents donated a major portion of the compensation for my brother’s life to the following organizations:

1. Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago – the university where my brother attended undergraduate and graduate school for 6 years. For five years, we offered scholarships to students majoring in electrical engineering, which was my brother's major. His dream was to help China to build her computer industry.

2. University of Hawaii – scholarship for Chinese students from the People's Republic of China to study in Department of public health.  We wanted to train more people who could return to China and work in the public health area.  Scholarship was offered for 5 years.

3. Funds for purchasing educational and gymnastic equipment for the Soong Ching Ling Kindergarten in Shanghai. The Kindergarten was founded by Soong Ching Ling and is under the leadership of China Welfare Institute and Soong Ching Ling Foundation in Shanghai.

4. Through the China Soong Ching Ling Foundation, we donated funds to build Datan elementary school in Hebei Province Feng Ning County. My parents visited this school with Ambassador and Mrs. Huang Hua and the leaders of the Soong Ching Ling Foundation in 1998.

From 1983-1985, my parents assisted in the establishment of Sister State relations between Hawaii and Guangdong and were two-time members of Honolulu City Council delegation to Hainan, China to establish Sister Island relation between Oahu and Hainan. In 1985, The Council of the Honolulu City and County issued resolutions to my parents for their contribution to the growth of Honolulu's role in the future development of the Asian/Pacific region.

In 1994, my father received the Soong Ching Ling Camphor Tree Award given to individuals with outstanding contributions to improving maternity care and children's education and health in China.

I have been continuing my parents' work after they retired, promoting U.S.-China friendship, cultural and educational exchanges.  I helped many schools in Hawaii on the student exchange programs with China. I set up management training programs for Chinese kindergarten and pre-school teachers to be trained in Hawaii and Chinese hospital directors to be trained at top hospitals in Hawaii. I set up summer camps for U.S. students in China. I helped arrange for the Shanghai Children's Palace Little Companion Art Troupe to perform in Hawaii 3 times. I led a Hawaii Hula Halau to participate in Shanghai International Children's Art Festivals three times. I hosted many top Chinese delegations' visiting Hawaii.  I served as the mistress of ceremony at the Mayor's banquet in honor of President Jiang Zemin during his historical visit to Honolulu in 1997. President Jiang complimented me to the Mayor of Honolulu, Jeremy Harris, that I was an excellent emcee and my Chinese was very good.

In Ambassador Huang Hua's most recent published book, "Memoirs of Huang Hua", Huang Hua stated that "Chee Kwon Chun's daughter has long taken over her aging parents' work in promoting friendship and understanding between the peoples of U.S. and China." It is such a great honor to receive Ambassador Huang's compliment.


Soong Ching Ling's influence in our lives

I admired Soong Ching Ling and considered her as a great role model for our family and also for the world in the 20th century.

I named my daughter Adrienne Yi Ling Chuck, remembering Soong Ching Ling. I hope my daughter will have Soong Ching Ling's strong principles in life, her intelligence and beauty inside and out.  Even though we live in Hawaii, I spoke Chinese to my son Jonathan (now almost 21) and daughter Adrienne (19) ever since they were born. I traveled to China many times with my children so that they would get to know their roots and understand Chinese culture. We joined my parents in Hong Kong in 1997 to witness the historical return of Hong Kong to China.

Family photo 2005

To my delight, my son has decided China will be in his future career focus. He worked in China last summer and planned to do the same this summer and be at the Beijing Olympics. My daughter did Chinese folk and minority dances for 11 years when she was growing up. She traveled to China three times with her dance group Phoenix Dance Chamber to very remote places for dance and culture exchanges with the national minorities. She wants to help the less privileged people in the world after she graduates from college. Both of my children have close ties with China.

My parents live a very exemplary life and are my great role models. Their work and accomplishment were recognized by both Chinese and American leaders.  I sincerely hope my children will follow their footsteps in the future.

 (Source: China Today January 1, 2008)