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Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial

After lunch we went to the huge Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial that does a similar job on him as similar museums do on Mao Zedong, Ghandi, Ho Chi Minh and so on.

It is topped by a large bronze statue of Chiang, enthroned like Lincoln in Washington DC, with patriotic quotations inscribed on the walls in three general areas: Ethics, Democracy and Science; to inspire visitors.

The museum contains a replica of his office (seen above) and a couple of his cars in addition to detailing his life history.

 

 

So how did he become the self-proclaimed leader of the whole of China?

Those of you who have seen the movie: The Last Emperor, will recall that the Qing dynasty collapsed as a result of the Xinhai Revolution, shortly after the death of the infamous Empress Dowager Cixi – see our visit to Beijing - click here.

Initial power struggles among the revolutionaries were resolved when Sun Yat-sen was overwhelmingly elected by the revolutionary representatives of 17 provinces, as the first provisional president of Republic of China on 29th December 1911.  

This was not a general election by the people but by representatives of the the revolutionaries themselves.  Six weeks later (on 12th February 1912) six-year-old Emperor Xuantong Puyi the last of the Qing, and the subject of the film,  was forced to abdicate in his favour, ending thousands of years of imperial rule.

Thus Sun Yat-sen became the new Chinese premier.  But his hold on power was anything but stable.  Soon the Communists and Sun Yat-sen’s brother in-law, General Chiang Kai-Shek, leading the Nationalist faction, would be at each other’s throats. 

A new civil war erupted.  Chaing Kai-Shek was in command of the Nationalist forces and was generally regarded to be prevailing - until the Japanese invaded.  Soon after the Japanese intervened he was reluctantly forced to join forces with the Communists against the common enemy.

This period of cooperation allowed Mao Zedong to outmanoeuvre him, gaining ground; additional support; and military resources.  And the rest is history.

According to his memorial, Chiang Kai-Shek was a wonderful, inspired leader.  

We learned how in later life he was a committed convert to Christianity, as a result of his marriage to his last wife, yet an inspired protector of Chinese culture, including the local blend of Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism.  

Contrary to my previous misapprehensions he was not at all the sort, who although completely unelected, would maintain that he was the properly appointed ruler of the whole of China; or who would use martial law to suppress the slightest protest in his newly adopted home in order to reign supreme there throughout his long life; or attempt to establish a dynasty of his own by installing his son as successor.

Amazingly, one of the three international tributes to him inscribed on a golden wall is perfectly apt – maybe it reads differently in Chinese:  All his life, the lean and ambitious soldier fought bravely, though in the end vainly, to shape history to his personal specifications.  Time (Magazine) – April 14 1975 Vol 105 No.15.

 

 

 

 

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