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Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister: Three Women at the Heart of Twentieth-Century China

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  1,776 ratings  ·  235 reviews
They were the most famous sisters in China. As the country battled through a hundred years of wars, revolutions and seismic transformations, the three Soong sisters from Shanghai were at the center of power, and each of them left an indelible mark on history.

Red Sister, Ching-ling, married the 'Father of China', Sun Yat-sen, and rose to be Mao's vice-chair.
Little Sister, M
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ebook, 381 pages
Published October 29th 2019 by Vintage Digital
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Moh-Lim Ong Yes. it had already been translated into Chinese:<宋氏三姊妹與她們的丈夫:20世紀三位傳奇女子,一部動盪百年的中國現代史>
張戎 著 麥田 出版 2020/7/30 出版…more
Yes. it had already been translated into Chinese:<宋氏三姊妹與她們的丈夫:20世紀三位傳奇女子,一部動盪百年的中國現代史>
張戎 著 麥田 出版 2020/7/30 出版(less)

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Veronica ⭐️
Oct 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister is the biography of the amazing Soong sisters who together made a huge impact on history.
The three sisters became a modern Chinese fairytale. They were much talked about and fanciful gossip about them was often passed around.

“In China there were three sisters. One loved money, one loved power, and one loved her country.”

Charlie Soong being very forward thinking sent each of his daughters to an American boarding school at a young age. He made influential frie
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Lorna
Nov 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister: Three Women at the Heart of Twentieth-Century China by Jung Chang, was a sweeping and gripping account of the Soong family of Shanghai, not only of these three sisters that played a large part in the shaping of the history of China in the twentieth century, but it also tells about their three brothers, each making history in their own right, as part of the inner circle of the Chiang Kai-shek regime.

This is a magnificent biography of the three Soong sisters
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Jemima Pett
This is an epic undertaking by an excellent writer and historian. Jung Chang brings the early twentieth century to life as she explores the world of Sun Yat-sen and Chiang Kai-Shek. She shows their progress towards revolution, seen through the lives of the family who knew them.  Taking the three sisters as the focal point is a clever way of exploring the twists and turns of Chinese society and politics as it moves from a monarchy through to communism.

The author crafts the extraordinary story thr
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Anne M
Oct 20, 2019 rated it liked it
Published by:
Random House UK, Vintage Publishing
Jonathan Cape
Pub Date 17 October 2019. Reviewed 20 October 2019.

The official description:
They were the most famous sisters in China. As the country battled through a hundred years of wars, revolutions and seismic transformations, the three Soong sisters from Shanghai were at the centre of power, and each of them left an indelible mark on history. Red Sister, Ching-ling, married the ‘Father of China’, Sun Yat-sen, and rose to be Mao’s vice-chair.
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Hadrian
20th-century Chinese history as viewed through three sisters, who each married major figures and at times played a role themselves in that history. There is a saying dating from the Maoist era that one sister loved money, one loved power, and one loved her country, although Chang at least attempts to add some nuance and perspective. She relies on memoirs and biographical sources for this.

Mostly, I get the impression that this book is mainly notes - some interesting tangents are not discussed at
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Tanja Berg
An absolutely fascinating tale of three sisters at the heart of the events in China last century. A well written, interesting read that mixes historical facts with personal lives.
Louise
Jan 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: china, biography
This is an ambitious undertaking, pruning the eventful lives of these 3 women to fit into one book. Jung Chang takes this on and covers all the highlights. The book is easily readable. The presentation is neutral to positive. The sisters's loyalty to one another is stressed. In each of the marriages, the Soong sister appears to be the better partner.

It is fitting, given their roles in history, that Ching-ling and May-ling have the most text. Ei-Ling is in the background.

Sun Yat-sen’s status as
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Jessica
this book has indeed educated me on the history of China and introduced me to the historical figures behind the founding of CCP and the Nationalist Party. It was a great reading experience in terms of gaining insights on the political stances of these founding members and especially the Soong sisters.

The writing style helps readers who are not used to reading biographies understand the context of the book easily. It was as if I was reading a historical fiction novel. However, I must say that the
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morgan
Jan 13, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I am so happy I've learnt about these women.
I cannot believe I've never heard of them before.
this was so gripping and felt so personal
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Moonkiszt
This book ended out on my list due to a challenge from a friend to read something way out of my comfort zone. I know very little about China or its history, and was invited into this wing of the library because there were three women who were important and relevant as to how China shaped into the nation it has today.

Three daughters of Charlie Soong are introduced and their lives and impacts on society skillfully unfolded for a neophyte reader on this topic. Author Jung Chang does a clear and com
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Carol Douglas
Feb 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
As a person who loves China and is fascinated by Chinese history, I was captivated by this book. I had already learned a great deal from Jung Chang's book Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China. I appreciate how Jung Chang has brought to light the lives of important Chinese women.

Before she wrote this book, Jung Chang had wanted to write about Sun Yat-sen, who has been called the Father of (Modern) China. She had done a great deal of research about him before she moved on
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Ellie
Apr 30, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars - but only because I just slightly prefer Wild Swans.

Jung Chang is such an excellent writer. She makes such complicated moments in history so easy to understand and after reading this I feel like I’m a FOUNTAIN of knowledge on the politics of twentieth-century China.
Mal Warwick
Dec 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
The three sisters’s lives spanned three centuries of Chinese history. Born late in the nineteenth century, the youngest of them died at the age of 105 in 2003. Together, these three extraordinary women helped shape the destiny of the world’s most populous nation from the closing days of the Manchu dynasty to the dawn of China’s ascension into a superpower. In Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister, the acclaimed Chinese-British historian Jung Chang tells their story with compassion and an obsessi ...more
Patricia Kitto
Jul 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
It was refreshing to learn about the history of 20th century China through the lives of women. The sisters involvement in and influence on government figures and policy was extraordinary and compelling (the male leaders of China didn’t exactly come out smelling like a rose that’s for sure!).
The writing was good although at times got lost in the details. I found myself wanting to get back to the story about the sisters instead of the minutiae of the rise to power of this leader and the fall from
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George1st
Aug 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jung Chang is probably best known for her hugely successful family autobiography Wild Swans, however she has also written two historic books Mao: The Unknown Story and Empress Dowager Cixi. Now she tells the extraordinary story of three sisters who due to marriage and family association found themselves at the centre of the tumultuous events that engulfed 20th century China. We have Red Sister, Ching-ling who married the still revered ‘Father of China’, Sun Yat-sen and due to our allegiance to t ...more
Amanda
Mar 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was a little disappointed in this book. From the title and subtitle ('Three women at the heart of twentieth-century China) I expected much more personal detail about the sisters themselves. Sure, they were married to or associated with, arguably, the three most important figures in twentieth century China, but, to me, the book marginalized them to concentrate on the history itself. I would have preferred to get to know them a little better, rather than read pages of detail about the men they w ...more
Kelly Furniss
Apr 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
An epic group biography detailing the lives of three woman who helped shaped twentieth century China and also their three brothers who also made history.
The story is crafted cleverly through research to bring alive the tale through memories and letters of acquaintances. Not a light read but very rewarding. I dipped in and out of this around my other books and learnt something new every time.
I would like to thank the author, publisher and Netgalley in providing this arc in return for a honest rev
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Christian
Jan 18, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating history of three sisters and their incredible influence over the tumultous political landscape of China and Taiwan. From monachy to democratic republic to dictatorship to communism their lives connected and shaped it all.
Victoria Sadler
Feb 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Wild Swans remains one of the most radical and influential books that I have ever read and Jung Chang’s talent for pivoting Chinese history and examining it from new – often female – angles is laid out for all to see again in this tremendous epic work of non-fiction that reflects on the three Soong sisters from Shanghai who, through marriage and unmatched acumen, found themselves at the heart of twentieth century China.

But though these three extraordinary women were bound by blood, the tumultuou
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Carole
Apr 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is the fourth book I've read by this author, starting with Wild Swans, which recounted the experiences of three generations of her family during the cataclysmic 20th century transitions through imperialist, nationalist, and finally communist China. Her books are abundantly researched and documented, including first person interviews with witnesses and government figures. Her massive Mao: The Unknown Story and Empress Dowager Cixi substantially revise the prevailing popular judgment of these ...more
Debbie Gayle
Jul 25, 2020 rated it liked it
No doubt there is a ton of information contained in this book but with the vast amount of characters it was very difficult to keep up with who she was writing about and what year it was. I know almost nothing of the more recent history of China and through this book I was able to piece together the rise and fall of leaders like Chiang Kai-shek, Sun Yat-sen and Mao Zedong and the pivotal roles of the three Soong sisters, Ei-Ling (Big Sister), May-Ling (Little Sister) and Ching-Ling (Red Sister).

Q
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Lynn
The story of three sisters who were being in an important family at the turn of the 20th century. Little Sister became Madame Chiang Kai Shek, the laser of Chinese Nationalism who ended up in Taiwan. Red Sister married Sun Yat Sen, the Vice Chairman of Communist China, Big Sister Chaing’s second in command. An interesting story that I never knew about.
Crystal Gao
Mar 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
It is a fascinating book to read. The three Song sisters were the royals of the recent Chinese history - they were rich, beautiful, and married to powerful men. I heard their names often growing up. Has been very curious about them, but don't quite trust the "official" stories. Still not sure Chang's book is entirely truthful or accurate, but it is a good start. Chang clearly had done her research - there are a lot of details in the book, which I appreciate. That said, there are places where I f ...more
Lee Candilin
Apr 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Entertaining read. At times, reads like a gossip column, full of juicy details. At others, filled with historical details. Information on Sun and Chiang is quite different from what I had read during my school years. So all those wonderful things about these two were not exactly true? It reminded me of what a friend once commented, "History is written by (for) the winners"(paraphrase). I trust there is much truth in this book as it has been thoroughly researched.
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Heidi Larson
Jan 21, 2021 rated it really liked it
With so much drama, I'm surprised this hasn't been made into a mini series or movie... ...more
Sean Kennedy
This book seems to focus on the men in their lives just as much as the women, which is disappointing as theirs is a fascinating story.
Ruby Jusoh
Mar 31, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For the longest of time, I have always been in love with the Soong sisters, supremely important figures in modern Chinese history. This is my second book about them. Quite an easy read, only about 310 pages. I wish it could be more political and historical but I guess the biographer did not intend for it to be that. A lovely read, though. Recommended if one wants to learn more about pre-Communist modern China.
Kevin
Let's not pretend this is a light read, it does cover almost to 150 years of modern Chinese political history, but it's impressively accessible and not particularly dry or dense either. Partly, this is due to the perspective Chang approached it from - focusing on the three Soong sisters, part of one of the "Four big families of the Republic of China". The sisters are summarized by a Maoist saying, "One loved money, one loved power, one loved her country". This book clearly shows that's a fairly ...more
John
"In China, there were three sisters. One loved money, one loved power, and one loved her country." (pp. xvii-xviii)
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Divided into five parts according to the historical events (the overthrowing of Qing dynasty, ruling of Republicans, Japanese Occupation, Chinese Civil War, and the formations of Chinese and Taiwanese governments) this latest work by Jung Chang - who is well-known for her bestselling memoir Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China - explores the lives and deaths of the famous Soong s
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Wouter de Visser
Oct 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Jung Chang's latest book covers the extraordinary lives of the 3 Soong sister covering the modern history of China (and Taiwan).

It's exceptionally well written, and gives an intimate view on the influential Soong family and the centres of power in China. Red Sister, Ching-ling marrying Sun Yat-Sen, "the Father of the Republic of China" (quotations are intentionally) and ending up as Mao's vice chair. Little Sister, May-ling who would become Madam Chiang Kai-shek, leader of pre-communist China an
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Jung Chang (simplified Chinese: 张戎; traditional Chinese: 張戎; pinyin: Zhāng Róng; Wade-Giles: Chang Jung, born March 25, 1952 in Yibin, Sichuan) is a Chinese-born British writer now living in London, best known for her family autobiography Wild Swans, selling over 10 million copies worldwide but banned in mainland China.

See also ユン チアン, 張戎.
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“Entitled ‘My Country and Its Appeal’, she commented on China’s cultural icon Confucius: ‘His grossest mistake was the failure to regard womankind with due respect. We learn from observation that no nation can rise to distinction unless her women are educated and considered as man’s equal morally, socially, and intellectually … China’s progress must come largely through her educated women.” 3 likes
“They had been able to criticise the Beijing government publicly without fear of retribution. In 1929, a number of prominent liberals spoke out in a collection of essays called On Human Rights. Hu Shih, the leading liberal of the day, wrote that his fellow countrymen had already been through a ‘liberation of the mind’, but now ‘the collaboration of the Communists and the Nationalists has created a situation of absolute dictatorship and our freedoms of thought and speech are being lost. Today we may disparage God, but may not criticise Sun Yat-sen. We don’t have to go to Sunday church services, but we have to attend the weekly [Sun] Commemorative Service and read the Sun Yat-sen Testament.’ ‘The freedom we want to establish is the freedom to criticise the Nationalist party and to criticise Sun Yat-sen. Even the Almighty can be criticised, why can’t the Nationalists and Sun Yat-sen?’ And, ‘The Nationalist government is deeply unpopular, partly because its political system fell far short of people’s expectations, and partly because its corpse-like ideology failed to” 3 likes
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