Song Qingling is as close as you'll get to a modern Chinese Communist saint -- wealthy, obsessed with children, and a friend of Mao to boot. She married Sun Yat-sen, 30 years her senior, a diminutive man acknowledged as the "father of modern China" on both sides of the Taiwan Strait (even though he was in Denver during the 1911 Revolution). Qingling showed some sympathy to the Communist cause only after her husband's death in 1925. Her younger sister married Chiang Kai-shek (leader of the Nationalist Party and China's public enemy no. 1 until his death in 1975), while Qingling nearly died during the "white terror" of 1927 when the Nationalist Party was purged of Communist sympathizers. Mao rewarded Qingling for her loyalty by granting her this mansion in 1963, and she lived here until her death in 1981, devoting much time to education. The grounds are well-kept, making them the most popular spot in Beijing for soon-to-be-weds to be photographed. The exhibition on her life seems to contain nearly every article of clothing she wore and every letter she wrote. It's all a little too perfect.
- © Frommer's 2013
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