By Li Jiachi
Li Jiachi, former deputy director of Government Offices Administration Bureau, Shanghai Municipal Government, was responsible for dealing with the administrative work of the Former Residence of Soong Ching Ling and the Former Residence of Dr. Sun Yat-sen. He participated in the preparatory work of Soong's funeral and the sort-out of her Former Residences in Beijing and Shanghai. This article was written according to the interview with him.
Polite Refusal of Building a New House in Shanghai
In 1955, Ke Qingshi, the newly appointed Party Secretary of CPC Shanghai Committee, thought that Soong Ching Ling's house in Huaihai Road Shanghai was not large enough for her position as the Vice President of the People's Republic of China. Therefore, Ke proposed to build a larger house for her in Shanghai. Then he asked staff-members to pass his proposal to Soong Ching Ling. She firmly said upon hearing the news, 'I don't need other larger house as the country is still poor and moreover this house is good enough for me. In fact, I like this house as the camphor trees are well planted in the yard. And they make air extremely good and also do a lot of good for lungs.' Thus, Soong Ching Ling politely refused the offer made by the Leaders of CPC Shanghai Committee.
After liberation, Shanghai People's Government assigned some staff –members, including drivers, cooks, gardeners, security and secretaries to work for Soong Ching Ling. She always comforted them by saying 'You come to work for me and I, of course have to take good care of all of you.' Since then, she paid them for food. On some special occasions, such as Spring Festival, she would treat them and invite them to make dumplings together. After the 1950s, Soong Ching Ling often lived in Beijing. However she had a pile of businesses to attend to and she would never forget her staff-members in Shanghai residence and always send some of her own savings to them and asked them to make dumplings to celebrate their holidays. During the Cultural Revolution, some people posted 'Big-character Posters' against Soong Ching Ling, saying that she had paid meals for her staff-members. For this reason, she had to stop paying for them. But at the Chinese New Year or special occasions, she would still send money to Shanghai staff and ask them to make dumplings in order to cherish her friendship and show her concern to them. After the smashing of the 'Gang of Four', she had taken great care of her staff as usual and kept the practices till she died in 1981.
Her Last Visit to Shanghai
Soong Ching Ling visited Shanghai on December 31 1978 and had her Spring Festival holidays celebrated in Shanghai. She did not go back to Beijing until February 25 1979. During her stay in Shanghai, she left me a deep impression on a few things.
Right before the holidays, she asked me to send the four bottles of French wines which she had kept for years to comrades Peng Chong, Wang Yiping, Zhang Suping and myself, one bottle for each, as Spring Festival present to wish us a Happy Chinese New Year.
After three o'clock in the afternoon on the New Year's Day1979, comrades Peng Chong, Wang Yiping, Shen Cuizhen, (Madam Zou Taofen and Secretary-General of China Welfare Institute (CWI), who was always with Soong in her last days) Zhang Suping and I went to Soong's home to wish her a Happy New Year. She personally prepared us with tea and pastries and had a wonderful talk with us for more than one hour.
During her stay in Shanghai, she invited the leading personnel of CWI to a dinner. It was a western food. At the beginning of the dinner, a responsible person of CWI was just rising to toast her for good health and a long-life while Soong Ching Ling suggested that 'no protocol today is needed, as matter of fact, I appreciate a free conversation and casual talk with you'. Immediately upon hearing her words, everyone felt she was so close and friendly to them that the conversation was carried out cordially and openly. Everybody was happy and talked a lot. At the end of the dinner, she also surprised everyone with some fruits and candies as the happy ending of the dinner.
Preparatory Work for Soong Ching Ling's Funeral
Comrade Feng Wenbin, director of the General Office of the CPC Central Committee, asked me to visit him at the Hall of Shanghai in the Great Hall of People while I was in Beijing for a meeting on April 13 1981. 'I ask you to come today as I want to discuss with you on the matter of Vice President Soong's health condition.' Comrade Peng said.
In fact, Vice President Soong was ill and suffered from high fever in the winter of 1980. And since then she had been troubled with a continuous high fever when I visited her at home in Beijing in December 1980
Comrade Feng told me that Vice President Soong had suffered from leukemia. 'Based on the advanced medical technology at home and abroad, this disease can be well treated. However the disease can be cured yet we still have to do some preparatory work in the second thought as her advanced age (then she was 88 years old) is concerned. We are sure that the Party Central Committee will do its utmost to organize all the best doctors and experts in this field across the country and now the Central Health Protection Committee has already sent a special medical team to her house to take care of her.'
He continued, 'on the other hand, we should do our preparatory work well before hand in case the unexpected things were happened, i.e. Vice President Soong wished to be buried in Shanghai with her parents if she died. This was clearly written in her Will. In so doing, I want to let you know the date of burial service earlier rather than being told after Vice President Soong passes away. If Vice President Soong passes away, we will only have one day for preparatory work, three days for public mourning, the fourth day for memorial meeting and the fifth day for the burial service in Shanghai. The time is already scheduled and can't be changed as this is a state funeral. Therefore you have to tell Shanghai city government to get the burial ground well prepared when you got back to Shanghai. We have to save time as we have only five days. And Shanghai Committee of CPC has to do every means possible to ensure the interment on time in case of anything happens.'
I flew back to Shanghai next day, comrade Chen Guodong, the first Party Secretary of Shanghai CPC Committee held the meeting, in which the consensus had been reached that the Shanghai Committee of CPC would definitely do a good work in accordance with the Party Central Committee's policy and Vice President Soong's Will.
The Sort-out Work of Her Former Residences in Shanghai and Beijing
After Vice President Soong passed away, I participated in the sort-out work of her two Former Residences in Shanghai and Beijing.
While sorting her Shanghai Former Residence, we found a safe in the closet by her bedroom, in which there were dozens of important letters, among which four were particularly important. The first one was written to her by Wang Jingwei on August 1 1927. In the letter, Wang said he was deeply shocked by Soong's break with KMT controlled by Chiang Kai-shek and Wang Jingwei (Known as Soong's 'July 14th' Declaration). Wang also said in the letter he would firstly suppress the rebellion of Communist Party, and then take the blame and resign. The second letter was an English telegraph to her who then was in Moscow sent by Chiang Kai-shek on December 18, 1927 after the "April 12th Incident". In the telegraph, Jiang said that the decision to stay in Russia was not from her own will, but being forced. Therefore, Jiang asked her to come back to China as early as possible. The third letter was written by Li Zongren on January 22 1949 after he became the 'Acting President'. He hoped Soong Ching Ling could come to Nanjing to preside over the KMT Party affairs. The fourth letter was written to her by Mao Zedong on June 19 1949, inviting her to attend the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference in Beijing. Premier Zhou Enlai also wrote to her and sent Deng Yingchao to Shanghai personally to welcome her to Beijing.
In June 1981, comrade Wang Zhimin once approached to me, and said, "Comrade Jiachi, Vice President Soong wrote in her Will that RMB500 Yuan should be given to you as a token." I immediately and politely refused, saying, "Her money has been saved bit by bit through her daily-life, as matter of fact, I've been very grateful to her for the care she had taken for me in her life-time. To serve her is our great pleasure and we are honored. I can not take any money from her as we are government employees.' As a result, I donated the RMB500 Yuan to the Former Residence as my permanent respect for her.
Extracted from 'Memories and Archives" 2006, 7th issue