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The Soong Dynasty

3.92  ·  Rating Details ·  411 Ratings  ·  49 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 1985)
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Holly
Dec 04, 2016 Holly rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
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
Oct 02, 2010 Charlie Brown rated it it was amazing
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
Martin
Feb 11, 2015 Martin rated it really liked it
This book is extremely well-researched and written in an entertaining manner that compelled me to get through it as quickly as possible. I cannot give it 5 stars, however, for two reasons. First, I don’t think the book is very balanced. First of all, the author is very derisive of Chaing Kai-shek and often condescending of May-ling, and he clearly leans heavily on Stillwell’s papers (or Barbara Tuchman’s biography of Joseph Stillwell) to support his opinion of the Chaings. I must say that I am c ...more
Sandra
May 07, 2013 Sandra rated it really liked it
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
Jerjonji
Sep 29, 2011 Jerjonji rated it did not like it
Shelves: asian-studies
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
بهمن بهمن
Apr 29, 2007 بهمن بهمن rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
baraye kesayi ke tarikhe chin ro doost daran ya ketabe "fatehan"az malraux ro khoondan ,hatman in ketab jaleb khahad bood.
shirley
Nov 19, 2016 shirley rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I found this book in a thrift book store. It was a very interesting summer read, particularly because I am a history enthusiast, and there is so much history to absorb. It was an eye opener, re-calibrating what I have learned in history classes. This hardcover book is sitting in my bookshelf. While I have donated hundreds of print books to charity, this book will never leave my library.
Riley Haas
Dec 14, 2016 Riley Haas rated it really liked it
Didn't write a review but very worth your time.
Nick
May 09, 2016 Nick rated it liked it
The story of the Soong family could not have been invented. Amid the chaos of China in the fifty years of the last century, one daughter (Ching-ling) married Sun Yat Sen, another (May-ling) became the famous Madame Chiang Kai-Shek, and a third (Ai-ling) became the wife of H. H. Kung, who for a long period ran (and in Sterling Seagraves' account, ruined) the national economy. (The names are confusing enough that I unfortunately find myself resorting to using the marriages for identification). Whe ...more
Thomas Canfield
Jun 14, 2015 Thomas Canfield rated it liked it
The Soong Dynasty, by Sterling Seagrave, is a detailed, engaging account about the family of the same name who played so critical a role in China in the first half of the 20th century. Indeed, this is as much a story about China’s struggles to emerge from a century of foreign domination and establish itself as a viable modern state as it is a tale about one family or one dynasty. The Soong’s role was so prominent, and so all pervasive, as to make them nearly synonymous with the China of that era ...more
Hilmi Isa
Soong Dynasty merupakan sebuah buku biografi tidak rasmi dan bersifat revision mengenai keluarga Soong. Ini merangkumi Charlie Soong (ironinya,nama sebenarnya adalah Han Jiaozhun!) dan anak-anaknya; Soong Ai-ling,Soong Ching-ling,T.V. Soong,Soong Mei-ling,T.L. Soong dan T.A. Soong. Penulis,Sterling Seagrave,bukan sahaja memberikan maklumat kisah kehidupan ahli-ahli keluarga Soong yang mempunyai ikatan darah semata-mata,namun,turut membincangkan sejarah individu-individu yang mempunyai perkaitan ...more
Lynn Lewis
Jun 15, 2015 Lynn Lewis rated it really liked it
Meticulously researched and enticingly written, this dynastic biography left me thoroughly disenchanted with modern Chinese history. What a mess.
At the turn of the century, the Qing Dynasty had lost its moral compass (if it ever had one) and its ability to govern, which it did have once upon a time. Enter Sun Yat-sen, the West's and China's Golden Boy, or so we think. Turns out he was a bumbler of the first degree. He may have had great ideas and a marvelous vision for New China but he couldn't
...more
M Strawberry
Nov 06, 2012 M Strawberry rated it really liked it
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
Ron
Dec 18, 2014 Ron rated it really liked it
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
Cindy Friend
Apr 29, 2014 Cindy Friend rated it liked it
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
May 27, 2010 Charles rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: in-taiwan
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
Julian Haigh
Jun 08, 2015 Julian Haigh rated it really liked it
Fantastic book that follows the modernist impulses of China from the 1800s to Communism's rise. It follows a mercantile run-away from Hainan growing up in Boston grocers and returning as a missionary to China eventually becoming a book publisher, banker and all round industrialist. His daughters married many famous names: Chiang Kai-check, Sun Yat-Sen, H.H. Kung, marrying various interests and bonding them together with the Green Gang to represent the power elite in the KMT: the communists main ...more
Jim
Jan 10, 2015 Jim rated it did not like it
This book is a shame, it's offensive, derogatory, untrustworthy.... It's a propaganda book that attempt to brainwash readers to believe what the book want them to believe... to think the Republic of China has a corrupt history, to think the Soong family was/is like a gang, to mislead everyone about the true Chinese history... This is unforgivable crime, as it is believed that the writer has been sponsored by communists to write propagandas for them, to mislead people to think the Chinese nationa ...more
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
Sep 12, 2013 Bev rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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
May 19, 2013 Sense rated it it was amazing
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.
Barbara Lovejoy
Oct 22, 2012 Barbara Lovejoy rated it it was amazing
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.
Roger Humbke
Sep 16, 2009 Roger Humbke rated it it was amazing
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.
Peter
Aug 10, 2012 Peter rated it it was amazing
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 Norman
Feb 25, 2011 Roger Norman rated it really liked it
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
Jan 30, 2012 Mike rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
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.
Mike
Apr 28, 2009 Mike rated it it was amazing  ·  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.
Katherine
Feb 13, 2016 Katherine rated it really liked it
As I was reading this, I kept wondering why I never learned about any of this history in school. But Seagrave makes it clear the level of embarrassing mistakes made by the American government in dealing with China during this period - it is absolutely a time America would like to forget, and millions suffered because of our lack of insight.
Morris
Apr 17, 2012 Morris rated it liked it
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.
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An excellent historical read on China 1 10 Sep 14, 2009 09:30AM  
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