The Escape from Canton

Date:2019-09-09      Source:北京宋庆龄故居

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Chen Jiongming's subsequent open treason, marked by a surprise armed attack on June 16, 1922 which Sun and Ching Ling survived only through courage and good fortune, has been graphically described in an account she wrote, in English, close on the heels of that crisis.

She began with how, while Sun and she were at the Northern Expedition's front-line headquarters at Shaoguan, Chen Jiongming ordered the bulk of his troops into Guangzhou city where they rode roughshod and tried to cut off communications with the outside. Alerted, on May 22, to the threatening situation, the couple returned to Guangzhou.

Ching Ling, continuing her account, wrote that Chen promised to withdraw but kept delaying.

"He retained 25,000 troops in the Guangzhou area, while by contrast, “we had only about 500 men in the capital; all the rest of our troops were at the front."

"At two o'clock in the morning of June 16, Dr. Sun roused me from my sweet dreams, telling me to hurry and dress, that we were in danger and must escape. He had received a phone call that Chen's troops were about to march on us. We must leave immediately for a gunboat, from where we could direct our men in resisting the rebels."

Then she wrote of how she urged Sun to leave her behind, as she might be a burden and as a private person was in less peril.

Other accounts quote Ching Ling as saying, "China can do without me, but can't do without you. "All agree that Sun was persuaded only with difficulty, and ordered his whole personal bodyguard of fifty men to remain to look after his wife who after almost seven years of marriage was pregnant for the first time.

She wrote,"Half an hour after he had gone, shots rang out in the vicinity." "The enemy fired downhill at us from two sides, shouting. Kill Sun Wen! Pitch darkness covered them completely. Our small defense force therefore kept quiet."

"As day broke, our men began to reply to the fire with their rifles and machine guns while the enemy employed field guns. My bath was smashed to bits. One third of our handful of troops had been wiped out, by eight o'clock our store of ammunition was running low.... Our Captain advised me to leave, and the troops agreed with him."

"Four of us, Colonel Bow who was a foreign attendant of Dr. Sun's, two guards and myself, taking with us only the most necessary supplies...crawled along the bridge passage to make our escape."

"Half an hour later we saw a flash of fire, and one section of the bridge was completely demolished."

"I was absolutely exhausted and asked the guards to shoot me. Instead, they dragged me forward, one on each side."

When the firing subsided I disguised myself as an old countrywoman, and with the [other] guard in the guise of a pedlar, we left the cottage."

"Next morning, still in my countrywoman outfit, I arrived in Shameen, and there another friend, a foundry worker, arranged for a small boat."

"At last, that night, I succeeded in meeting Dr. Sun on board ship. After a life and death struggle, we soon went to Hong Kong, disguised."

In this narrative, Ching Ling did not mention her pregnancy, nor the miscarriage brought on by the hardship of her escape. The mental anguish to her and her husband, but particularly to her with her love of children, must have been great-especially as, it is said, she was told upon medical examination that she could never again conceive.