Not too many people know about Charlie Soong (Song Jiashu) and his wife, Ni Kwei-Tseng, but countless Chinese people know their children, as they became some of the most prominent individuals in China and Taiwan during the early 20th century.
Soong was a Chinese businessman who first achieved prominence as a Methodist missionary in Shanghai. Soong graduated from Vanderbilt University in the United States, from which he received a degree in theology in 1885. He was a close friend of Sun Yat-sen, and a key player in the events that led to the Xinhai Revolution in 1911.
In the years leading up to the revolution in 1911, Soong started a family in Shanghai with his wife Ni Kwei-Tseng, who was the daughter of a wealthy Chinese family of scholars and government officials.
She was followed by their first son, Soong Tse Ven, a year later, who served in a succession of offices in the Nationalist Government, including governor of the Central Bank of China and Minister of Finance.
She was followed by brothers Soong Tse Liang, who was the General Manager of Guohuo Bank and Director of the Guangdong Provincial Finance Department, and Soong Tse An, who was the Chairman of China Construction Bank Corporation and the Hong Kong Bank of Guangdong.
Every one of the couple’s children became high achievers. They not only sent them to be educated in the United States, but also taught them three important life lessons:
Soong and his wife catered to their children’s emotional needs, so they would believe nothing in life was impossible. Soong often told them stories of his adventures, saying:
“If one has courage and vision, one can accomplish anything.”
When their children were playing games, they intentionally looked for opportunities to show them how to cultivate their confidence.
The couple did not spoil their children; rather, they believed that loving their children required that they let them cultivate independence. Even when they were just at the crawling stage, Soong encouraged them with remarks such as:
”Walk one step, two steps, and three steps; don’t cry if you fall; get back up and walk again.”
When the children were a little older, their parents sent them to boarding schools and later to college in the United States, where they further developed their independence.
Helping children develop their endurance ensures that they have the courage to face any difficulties, which was a view shared by both parents. On one occasion, Soong and his wife chose a rainy day to take their children to Longhua. There, they visited Longhua Temple, where Soong asked the children to close their umbrellas.
Looking up at the ancient Longhua Pagoda in the rain, Soong said to his children:
“You see this tower? It’s more than a thousand years old, and is not afraid of the wind and rain. Why? Because it has a solid foundation. If you want to have a strong foothold in life, you also need to have a solid foundation. Let’s have a race!”
Song took the lead and ran down a trail in the rain, and his children followed. If one fell down, they just got up and continued to run. It was a fitting visual metaphor of their lives.
Translated by Yi Ming and edited by Kathy McWilliams.