The Political Life of Song Qingling (1893-1981)
Song Qingling ranks among the most significant Chinese political figures of the 20th Century. She was born on 27th January 1893 to a businessman, missionary, and close friend of Sun Yat-sen, Charlie Song in Shanghai. The wife of Sun Yat-sen, Song Qingling is also known by the name of Madame Sun Yat-sen. She had political affiliations with both the Guomindang (KMT) and the Communist Party (CCP), but sided with the Communists during the Chinese Civil War (1927-1950) following their expulsion from the KMT in 1927.
She held several positions, both earned and honorary, in the People’s Republic of China. These included Head of State of the PRC. In holding this post she was the first non-royal head of state of China. She held this position three times: firstly as Co-Chairman of the PRC from 1968-1972; then again between 1976 and 1978; and finally shortly before her death in May 1981 as Honorary President.
Despite both her parents strongly opposing her marriage to Sun Yat-sen, the founding father of the Republic of China and leader of the 1911 revolution, they were married in 1915. When Sun Yat-sen died in 1925, she was elected to the Central Executive Committee of the KMT, but left the KMT and took the side of the Communists during the civil war.
Towards the end of the war she was involved in the foundation of the People’s Republic of China, and between 1949-1954 served as Vice-Chairman of the PRC. She held this office again between 1959 and 1975 alongside Dong Biwu.
Due to her political standing, influence, and marriage to Sun Yat-sen, she is sometimes referred to as the “Mother of a Nation”, much in the same way that Sun Yat-sen was referred to as the “Father of a Nation”. In 1993 a series of three commemorative coins was produced, featuring three different renderings of Song Qingling, celebrating the centenary of her birth in 1893.