In central Beijing, nestled along the eastern side of the serene Houhai lake where retirees spend their days swimming, exercising and lazily playing chess is the Former Residence of Soong Qing Ling Museum. The Museum has just re-opened in time for the 70th Anniversary of the People’s Republic of China after being closed for several months for extensive renovations.
Soong Qing Ling (also known as Madam Sun Yat-sen) was one of the Founding Mothers of modern China as she was involved with activities throughout her life that contributed to building the Chinese Nation. She was born in Shanghai in 1893 and married Sun Yat-sen in 1915. After the PRC was founded, she served as Vice Chairman of the Central People's Government before she passed away in Beijing in 1981 aged 88.
The Soong Qing Ling Former Residence mansion was first built during the Kangxi Emperor’s reign (1662-1722) and was the residence of different princes and nobility during imperial China. Soong Qing Ling moved into the Residence in 1963 and lived and worked here until her death.
The Residence is preserved just as it was when Madam Soong lived and worked there and is designated a Major National Historical and Cultural Site. From the outside the Museum seems to not even exist as its high walls shelter it from the outside. Once inside the grounds, visitors are treated to a splendid garden environment, with willow trees draping over the garden pond and rockeries, Chinese traditional garden corridors meandering through the grounds and lush green grass.
The Museum features various halls dedicated to telling the story of Soong Qing Ling across the decades of her life during the tumultuous decades in China’s modern history. It’s a treasure trove of some 20,000 pieces of memorabilia on display including various artifacts, and collected items from Soong Qing Ling and Sun Yat-sen’s lives such as: photographs, clothing, household items, books, pamphlets, letters and even an antique car.
After the founding of the Peoples Republic of China in 1949, Song Qing Ling became involved in The Party, various community projects and she was also deeply involved in the China Welfare Institute. In particular, she advocated for Children’s welfare and a set of children’s swings she had installed in the Residence are still usable by children today.
As part of her work with the China Welfare Institute, Soong Qing Ling organized campaigns for promoting children’s welfare through collaborations with a popular comic strip called “Sanmao’s Paradise” by the artist Zhang Leping. Sanmao is the name of a fictional orphan boy growing up in poverty in Shanghai during the Sino-Japanese War. The comic strip outlined the harsh realities of life of children during those times in a lighthearted and comical way.
Madam Soong created Sanmao’s Paradise Clubs as a way to raise funds to help children in poverty and this legacy lives on through another collection on display at the Museum showing memorabilia from Sanmao’s Paradise including original illustrations, books and photographs.
Overall, the Former Residence Museum presents insights into Soong Qing Ling and Sun Yat-sen’s lives plus the history of China from the turn of the 20th Century through to the establishment and development of the PRC. The Residence grounds are serene and Museum halls well curated with English explanations throughout.