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The Soong Dynasty
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The Soong Dynasty

3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  301 ratings  ·  35 reviews
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 ...more
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Published November 7th 1996 by Corgi Books (first published January 1st 1985)
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Holly
Riveting, harrowing, tragic—rarely do I exclaim, "My god! Oh my god!" or "Jesus Christ!" over and over while I read a book, sometimes more than once on a single page, but I did with this one. What else can do you when you encounter sentences like “He was no match for military men whose troops enjoyed disemboweling young girls and winding their intestines around their naked bodies while they were still conscious”?

I'm just so flabbergasted. I'm not a complete ignoramus when it comes to China: I wa
...more
Charlie Brown
Anyone that sets out to understand the reasons for America’s disastrous foreign policy vis-à-vis Asia in the twentieth century (and I am thinking especially of the Vietnam War) will eventually find his research leading to the massive events in China triggered by the fall of the Manchu dynasty in 1913. David Halberstam says (in The Best and the Brightest, p. 379) “The job of Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs is a crucial one, perhaps on the subject of Vietnam the most crucial o ...more
Ron
Although very well written and interesting, this was a hard read for me. I have no previous education in 20th Century China except that which comes with news headlines. My ability to retain Chinese names, which keep changing, is undeveloped and my in depth education in world history for the 20 Century is also what I have learned from the news. This book focuses on the impact that one family had in the shaping of China during the first half of the century. Five children of an American educated Ch ...more
Delicious Strawberry
There were many things I liked about this book, and a few that I did not, and it all adds up to a decent rating. I rate this book 3.5, not 4 stars. It's better than a 3 in my opinion, but just is not quite a 4. Having read 'Dragon Lady' by this very same author and finding it very well-written and researched, I have to say that I found this book to be somewhat disappointing. It was not quite the same caliber as 'Dragon Lady', since this book has more speculation, and actually says negative thing ...more
Sandra
Well, this one certainly filled in some gaps in my own scant knowledge about the world in which we live. I am old enough to remember the homage that was paid to Chiang Kai-shek and his Dragon Lady post WWII in this country--the big photo spreads in all those Luce publications, as well as the exaggerated depictions of the evil threat posed by Mao and the demonic "Red Terror." All those poor, starving Chinese about to lose their only shot at democracy. Ha! As usual, the U.S. was hoodwinked. Surpri ...more
Cindy Friend
I found myself slogging my way through this book. While the story of the Soong family is an interesting one I could have done without the military and political history with all of the names and dates. I am not a student of history and simply do not retain historical facts. That being said, I was surprised to learn how powerful the Soong family was (both in China and abroad) and how they helped manipulate the "landscape" of China via Sun-Yat-Sen and Chiang-Kai-Shek. I also was amazed at the leve ...more
Charles
I didn't know that much about the KMT in China. Seagrave was a little too emotional in his opinions of the Soong family. He gave virtually no opinion of the opposition(the CCP), though it wasn't really relevant.

But, having read about both sides of the civil war, it seems like the Chinese were stuck between a rock and a hard place. The KMT was a very corrupt, inept, and sometimes cruel government; the CCP was a corrupt(but mostly at the top) and an almost always cruel government.

This book was mor
...more
Jerjonji
It took me weeks to finish this book. I lost it behind the couch, left it at my Dad's, and read a few pages at night before I fell asleep. The author had an personal agenda and it took me a long time to figure out where his biase was coming from, and with that he doesn't share much of his personal history with the Soongs, but he obviously had one. Overall, it was a good background book for modern Chinese/American history and introduced all the major players with their foibles and weaknesses. Now ...more
Terry
I read this several years ago and it was absolutely fascinating. What an interesting piece of International history.
James
Seagrave writes a comprehensive biography of the Song Sisters: three women who helped shape the destiny of modern China (Meiling, Qingling, and Ailing). However Seagrave also has a clear bias towards Song Chingling and his rather heavy-handed treatment of the other two sisters and their husbands (Chiang Kai-shek and H. H. Kung) shows, and lets down Seagrave's otherwise good writing.

A good read though for an introduction to one of modern China's most powerful political families, though more rece
...more
Bev
Extremely well written, hard to put down. Fascinating family, unbelievable corruption and tyranny. Hitler and Stalin had nothing over Chiang Kai-Shek in evil doings. America and FDR were completely hoodwinked believing giving Chiang Kai-Shek billions of dollars was promoting democracy and Christianity when he supported neither. Loved reading about the family and their wealth, intrigues, struggles. Especially liked T. V. Soong who seemed wise and intelligent and tried to do much good but saw Chin ...more
Sense
Rare to find authors willing and able to evaluate true human motivations, particularly of historically popular characters; without the unqualified, smug, self-righteous, simplistic, Western view that certain things or people are either good or bad, regardless of circumstances; without convenient ignorance of how Americans had scalped early Chinese settlers in America; without misplaced sense of cultural superiority; and/ or without bias from religious beliefs.
Deeann
Jan 28, 2011 Deeann added it
It took me a long time to finish this book. It wasn't compelling reading, but I found it fascinating all the same. It amazes me that one family could wield so much power and yet have come from relative obscurity. It's also scary to realize once again that too much power in the hands of a few people can go so very, very wrong. I'm glad I live in a country where there are checks in place to keep any one person from having too much power.
Mike
Apr 28, 2009 Mike rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who like geopolitics, Asia, history
Another book that brings clear facts and interpretation to a crucial time in the modern history of the world's most populous country.

It teaches Westerners what all Chinese of a certain age know about the Soong Sisters:

One Loved Country
One Loved Money
One Loved Power

I actually picked this up while traveling in Asia for work. Very good, very well-written.
Peter
Fascinating story of the Soong Family, ruling family of China's dynasty. From H.H.KUNG, the finance minister, David Kung, New York financier, CHAING KAI-Shek, the generalissimo, their wives, this novel tells of thier influence on millions of Chinese people. Combines to explain how this family plays a major part of modern Chinese and American history. Very powerful family !!!
Roger Humbke
The story of Charlie Soong and his 3 daughters:

Ai-ling who married one of China's richest men;
Ching-ling who married Sun Yat-sen, leader of China's republican revolution; and
May-ling who married Chiang Kai-shek, the autocratic ruler of Nationalist China.

They married for money; for a cause; and for power.

An amazing family - watch the movie.
Roger Norman
Extraordinary goings-on in nationalist China in the 30s and 40s. If only half of it were fact, it would still shed an unsavoury light on the Kuomintang, US policy makers of the 40s, Time-Life, to name but a few. Written as history but in journalistic style, and that's what makes you wonder how much to believe. But it's an eye-opener nevertheless.
Mike
This is a very good book about the period in Chinese history between the Manchus and the rise of Mao. It mostly concerns the early to mid-20th century. By the end you will know why Mao was so successful and the story of the gansters that tried to take over then and ended up in Taiwan. It is a good read and explains a lot about modern China.
Leah Smith
Loved reading about hte Soong sisters who married the most powerful men in China and helped shape history!
Barbara Lovejoy
I first learned of this book when in was on a GR friend's--Sally Goldman--list "to-read." The history of other countries intrigues me so I decided to check it out from the library. I learned so much about different people in Chinese history who had pretty much only been names to me before reading this book.
Pat
Excellent examination of the Soong Family, Chiang Kai-shek and Sun Yat-sen. Unbelievable corruption and evil. Makes on wonder if Mao and the Red Army would have been a better option initially. United States role and relationship with Soong family embarrassing. Previously read in college.
Morris
Full of fascinating background and personal details about major players in China's evolution from corrupt monarchy to corrupt Communist dictatorship. Very painful at times as so many promising people flame out and disappoint or die and so contribute to the torments that the country went through.
Juneus
A wonderful story of the fascinating Soong family and their marriages. One of Charley Soong's daughters married Sun Yat Sin, one the heir to all the banking in pre WW II China and the other to Chaing Kai Shek. A real dynasty!
Melanie
Great read! The Soong Family was a real dynasty. A rich one at that. I did not realize how many gangs and factions existed in China at the time. A real eye opener, especially with respect to Chiang Kai Shek.
Teresa Thompson Arcangel
Maybe I would've liked this book more if I'd read it straight through as I did Seagraves' "The Marcos Dynasty." Instead, I read chunks of it here and there over a long period of time.
Kristina
I have the book in German, which is making it hard to read, even though I'm totally into this topic, because Madame Chiang-Kai-Shek went to Wellesley.
Loida
Sep 06, 2007 Loida rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: friends
still reading...have read a third .... always interesting to read narration of events surrounding persons leading one to understand persons better
Liz
Another one I'm giving up on...I was looking for a bio of the Soong sisters that I read a review of years ago. I don't think this is it.
Salvatore
A very thorough look at a family that dominated Chinese politics, coming from nothing to control everything. Well written and entertaining.
Jane Campbell
Fascinating history of an influential Chinese family influenced by the U.S. which in turn changed the course of events in China.
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An excellent historical read on China 1 10 Sep 14, 2009 09:30AM  
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  • The Concubine's Children
  • A History of Chinese Civilization
  • The Boxer Rebellion: The Dramatic Story of China's War on Foreigners that Shook the World in the Summer of 1900
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  • China: A New History
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  • The Stone of Heaven: Unearthing the Secret History of Imperial Green Jade
  • Sounds of the River: A Young Man's University Days in Beijing
  • Red China Blues: My Long March From Mao to Now
Dragon Lady: The Life and Legend of the Last Empress of China Lords Of The Rim Gold Warriors: America's Secret Recovery of Yamashita's Gold The Marcos Dynasty The Yamato Dynasty: The Secret History of Japan's Imperial Family

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