In this bold novel, one of Taiwan's most celebrated authors reimagines the lives of Sun Yat-sen, known as the "Father of the Chinese Revolution," and his wife, Song Qingling. Born in 1866, Sun Yat-sen dreamed of strengthening China from within, but after a failed attempt at leading an insurrection in 1895, Sun was exiled to Japan. Only in 1916, after the dynasty fell and the new Chinese Republic was established, did he return to his country and assume the role of provisional president.
While in Japan, Sun met and married the beautiful Song Qingling. Twenty-six years her husband's junior, Song came from a wealthy, influential Chinese family (her sister married Chiang Kai-shek) and had received a college education in Macon, Georgia. Their tumultuous and politically charged relationship fuels this riveting novel. Weaving together three distinct voices-Sun's, Song's, and a young woman rumored to be the daughter of Song's illicit lover-Ping Lu's narrative experiments with invented memories and historical fact to explore the couple's many failings and desires. Touching on Sun Yat-sen's tormented political life and Song Qingling's rumored affairs and isolation after her husband's death, the novel follows the story all the way to 1981, recounting political upheavals Sun himself could never have imagined.
About the Author
Ping Lu has written a diverse range of novels, including a short story about the life of Song May-ling and Chiang Kai-shek.
Nancy Du is a lecturer at the Graduate School of Translation and Interpretation Studies at Fu Jen Catholic University and National Taiwan Normal University.
Read an Excerpt
Love and RevolutionA Novel of Song Qingling and Sun Yat-sen
By Ping Lu
Columbia University PressCopyright © 2006 Columbia University Press
All right reserved.
Chapter OneDr. Sun Yat-sen's last voyage was unforgettable. If there must be a beginning, look at the photograph taken on deck. The photograph was taken on November 30, 1924. An aide had glanced at his pocket watch as the shutter clicked-three minutes to ten. This memorable snapshot was recorded aboard the Hokurei Maru, before it left Kobe.
In the photograph Dr. Sun wears a look of sadness and gravity. He has on a padded mandarin gown and a short overcoat. In his one hand he holds a gray felt hat, and in the other he loosely cradles the head of his cane. Two weeks earlier, on November 17, he had arrived at the port of Shanghai. A reporter for Wen Hui Bao, the local newspaper, had written, "Dr. Sun appears older by the day. He is a different man from the one I met in 1921. His hair is grayer and he lacks his former luster." On December 4, four days after the photograph was taken, Dr. Sun disembarked at his destination, Tianjin. The newspapers in Tianjin described him as "of swarthy complexion ... a dappled head of white ... no trace of his old self." The truth was that, since the start of this trip from Japan, journalists had used variations of the same adjectives todescribe his dejected appearance. Some newspapers even sneered that Dr. Sun's health had deteriorated because he had married such a young woman.
On closer inspection this photograph of Dr. Sun at the Kobe Harbor exemplifies that contrast. Song Qingling is standing right next to Dr. Sun, her head slightly tilted. She has on a fur hat and a gray opossum coat. Her feet are ensconced in a narrow pair of pointed high-heeled boots. Upon second look, one notices the almost frown on her face that makes her appear melancholic. She reminds one of a young bride, her heart slightly aquiver.
In the next instant, perhaps because he had caught sight of the distant Liu Jia Mountains and remembered the days of his youth, Dr. Sun walked toward the bow of the ship. Looking far older than his years, he stood against the light so that a dark shadow stained his forehead. His expression was indiscernible, giving no hint of what was on his mind. When one pores over the records of that fateful day in the official Nationalist Party records, the only clue lies in the phrase "Dr. Sun stands for a long time at the bow of the ship, takes off his hat and acknowledges the crowd." The two volumes of these records are as heavy as bricks and contain all the blood, sweat, and tears of the movement that immortalized Dr. Sun, yet his followers omitted all mention of the restless and romantic nature of revolutionaries. For example, Dr. Sun could slip from glee to gloom in an instant, and he loved to dream. The Peoples' Congress that he was intent on establishing was only one of his many dreams. Kobe, the city from which the ship was departing, was where his dreams had been born. His turbulent life was irrevocably tied to the tide of contemporary Chinese history. Even so, he cared greatly about what others thought of him.
At the precise moment the picture was taken, however, Sun Yat-sen felt quite pleased with himself. Although Inukai Tsuyoshi, the Japanese politician, had yet to meet up with him, and Sun Yat-sen had not been invited to Tokyo, his speech on Pan Asia the day before at the girls' high school was already headline news in Kobe. The newspaper Asahi Shimbun in Osaka also gave him a half page, which meant the paper still cared about what he was doing.
Be a defender of the Kingly Way of the East, Or a lackey of the Western reign of might?
He murmured the beautifully rhymed couplet to himself-how the words rolled off his tongue. He raised his arm as he faced the crowds, which were like countless ribbons about to be torn from him. Each time he departed from a harbor he was never sure he would return. Perhaps this time more than any other.... Before he left China, he had prophesized his fate. During the farewell dinner at the Whampoa Military Academy, Dr. Sun had mentioned that he did not know whether he would return. He said he was already fifty-nine years old, so he was not too young to die. For the last few months he had been able feel his organs rapidly giving way. His old friend Akiyama Sadasuke had advised Dr. Sun to move to Kyushu to recuperate at the hot springs resorts, but how could he leave with the country in the state it was in? Anyway, the word recuperate had never been part of his vocabulary. Even with his days numbered, his political instincts told him to make the most of the time he had left. Before leaving, he had reiterated with fierce conviction, "If I cannot go north, I'd rather die!"
The ship began to rock. In his cabin Dr. Sun was famished. Even though his eroded stomach could take only a little soup, he still managed to spoon bits of seaweed into his mouth. He had always preferred lightly seasoned Japanese cuisine but was unaccustomed to slurping his soup. Fifteen minutes later his aide, Ma Xiang, cleared the table and was happy to see the soup bowl empty. He wanted to help Dr. Sun retire for the night but heard Sun telling Dai Jitao, the only comrade on board who was not seasick, how he had escaped to Kobe with his childhood friends Chen Shaobai and Zheng Shiliang after the failure of the first Guangzhou Uprising. It was the first time the three of them cut off their queues. Dr. Sun started to say with a laugh, "In 1895," but before he could finish his thought, he saw his wife emerging unsteadily from her cabin. How old was she at that time? One or two years old? From the moment they joined as husband and wife, he knew she would end up widowed.
"Rosamund," he gently whispered her beautiful English name. With his eyes he beckoned to his tottering wife to come to his side.
Excerpted from Love and Revolution by Ping Lu Copyright © 2006 by Columbia University Press. Excerpted by permission.
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Table of Contents
Brief Biographies of Sun Yat-sen and Song Qingling
Love and Revolution
About the Author
What People are Saying About This
Love and Revolution offers very powerful portrayals of Sun Yat-sen's sense of torment at his apparent failure and Song Qingling's crumbling sensuality as she is abandoned, confined, and manipulated. Ping Lu's ability to describe the mental and physical conditions of aging, even dying, along with Song's need for a sensual life, makes this a very powerful work.
Love and Revolution successfully conjures a bleak vision of turbulent modern Chinese history, coupled with a deep sense of lament.