The Soong Dynasty by Sterling Seagrave

The Soong Dynasty Seagrave

Rating: 3 Stars ★★★☆☆

Shanghai no longer smells like the Mysterious East.

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Descendants of a Chinese runaway who grew up in America under the protection of the Methodist church and who returned to his homeland to make a fortune selling Western bibles, the Soong family became the principal rulers of China during the first half of the 20th century and won the support of the American government and press for many decades.

Sterling Seagrave describes for the first time the intricate and fascinating rise to power of Charlie Soong and his children: daughters Ai-ling, who married one of China’s richest men, H.H. Kung; Ching-ling, who married Sun Yat-sen, leader of China’s republican revolution; May-ling, who married Chiang Kai-shek, the autocratic ruler of Nationalist China whose ties to the Shanghai underworld the author has documented; and son T.V. Soong, who at various times served as Chiang’s economic minister, foreign minister and premier. How all of the Soongs except Ching-ling amassed enormous wealth while millions of Chinese starved or were killed in the long fight against Japan and the equally bitter struggle with Mao are just some of the revelations in this explosive book.

 

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Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China by Jung Chang

empress-dowager-cixi

Rating: 4 Stars ★★★★☆

In spring 1852, in one of the periodic nationwide selections for imperial consorts, a sixteen-year-old girl caught the eye of the emperor and was chosen as a concubine.


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Empress Dowager Cixi (1835–1908) is the most important woman in Chinese history. She ruled China for decades and brought a medieval empire into the modern age.

In this groundbreaking biography, Jung Chang vividly describes how Cixi fought against monumental obstacles to change China. Under her the ancient country attained virtually all the attributes of a modern state: industries, railways, electricity, the telegraph and an army and navy with up-to-date weaponry. Chang comprehensively overturns the conventional view of Cixi as a diehard conservative and cruel despot.

Cixi reigned during extraordinary times and had to deal with a host of major national crises: the Taiping and Boxer rebellions, wars with France and Japan—and an invasion by eight allied powers including Britain, Germany, Russia and the United States.

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