Representations of History in Chinese Film and Television


The Soong Sisters
(Songjia Huangchao)


(Hong Kong, PR China, Japan, historical drama, 1996/97)


The Hong Kong movie "Songjia Huangchao" / "The Soong Sisters" of noted female director Mable Cheung, for the greater part shot in the People's Republic of China, was produced in 1996 and released in Hong Kong in 1997, the year of the hand-over. It was shown also in Singapore, the PR China and Taiwan as well as at film festivals in Berlin and Toronto in the same year. It was a high-budget project produced by Golden Harvest, and the cast reads like a who-is-who of globalised Hong Kong cinema. The movie can be categorized as an epic or historical drama. It narrates the story of the three Song sisters Ailing, Qingling and Meiling, starting at the end of the 19th century and following mainly Song Qingling’s (1893-1981) and Song Meiling's (1898-2003) lives until 1949.

The Song sisters were important players in Chinese history during the 20th century. Her father Charlie Song (1866?-1918) who was educated in the United States and made his fortune in China, supported Sun Yat-sen (1866-1925) in his struggle to found a new China. His eldest daughter Ailing (1890-1973) was married to H. H. Kung (1881-1967), one of the richest Chinese men in his times, banker and later minister of finance in the Chinese Republic. Qingling was married to Sun Yat-sen and after his death was seen by many as heir to his political beliefs. Therefore she became a kind of political symbol. After 1949 she stayed in mainland China and was appointed to various honorary functions there. Meiling married Chiang Kai-shek (1887-1975), became China’s First Lady in the Nanking decade and (after 1949) on Taiwan. Though Charlie also had three sons, including prominent T.V. Song (1894-1971), expert in finances and important official under Chiang Kai-shek, as well as T.L. Song and T.A. Song, none of the three appear in the movie. The movie, in fact, is a character study of the three Song sisters that concentrates on a small number of people. Therefore many important figures of the time are simply left out. The director even twists time and space to achieve a more coherent story. By putting emphasis on the three sisters, Chinese history is deliberately presented from a female and familial perspective. Even though the movie won several awards in Hong Kong and Taiwan, it was no hit at the box office. Still it was published at least twice on DVD.

For some background information on the film and its production see here. For a synopsis of the film please see here. For comments please contact us .


© 2006 Gotelind Müller-Saini