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Picture source: New York Social Diary ; Soong Mei Ling & Chiang Kai shek

 The  V Day’s vibe has mercilessly taken over the city. Yet, love is not an easy thing, even in the romantic and alluring Shanghai. Today, we would like you to meet 3 famous couples whose romantic entanglement brought a significant amount of drama to this glamorous metropolis.

1)     Soong Ching Ling and Sun Yat- sen

Picture source:; Soong Ching Ling & Sun Yat-sen in Shanghai in 1919

Soong Ching Ling ( 1893-1981) was one of the 3 smart daughters of Charlie Soong. He was an American educated Methodist missionary in Shanghai, who made his fortune printing Chinese language bibles.She was a shy and thoughtful student with idealistic beliefs in Chinese nationalism. After her older sister (and the only one of 3 who didn’t enrage the family with the choice of her significant other) Ai Ling got married , Ching – ling replaced her as a secretary for Dr Sun Yat-sen – the leader of the revolution that established the Republic of China in 1911.

According to the book by Sterling Seagrave ‘The Soong Dynasty’ – ‘She believed as did no one else in his revolution. A grand passion consumed them.He was nearly 50,she was barely 20’.

Obviously, the idea of his daughter’s relationship with a man 26 years her senior scandalized Charlie. And not just because of the age difference.

This  man was one of his best friends for 2 decade. What’s more Sun Yatsen  had already been married and he didn’t divorce his original wife. Instead, he simply told everyone that he considered himself divorced.

Charlie became bitter. This time Sun had gone too far. He vowed that he would never again have anything to do with Sun Yat-sen or his adventures, breaking off the relationships with him and his party”.

He disowned Ching Ling and later, whenever the subject of Ching – ling came up, the Soongs simply said that she had ‘formally joined Dr Sun’

2) Chiang Kai Shek and Soong Mei Ling

Picture source: Wikimedia Commons

Soong Mei Ling (1898 – 2003)  was the headstrong charmer of the family and a Shanghai socialite. In 1920 she met Chiang Kai – Shek (political and military leader of The Republic of China). Since Charlie died in 1918, it was now just her mother – Ni-Kwei Tseng, who had to face another scandalous relationship in the family. Chiang Kai Shek was 11 years older than Mei Ling, a Buddhist  and just like in the case above – also already married. Therefore Ni-Kwei Tseng vehemently opposed the marriage, but finally agreed when Chiang showed proof of his divorce and promised to convert to Christianity. Not the whole family approved of the controversial unanimously though and the biggest opposer was none other than the family’s first ‘black sheep’ – Ching Ling. Here’s why:

After Sun’s death, Ching Ling was elected to Kuomintang’s Central Executive. But when the Communists were expelled from the party in 1927, she denounced its right-wing leader Chiang Kai-shek for betraying Sun's legacy, and left China.

When she returned, she was shocked to discover her younger sister May-ling had married Chiang, opening a major rift between the sisters, which was never resolved.

3)  Ruan Lingyu ,Damin Zhang & Tang Jishan

Picture source:Best China News

She was one of the reigning queens of the  golden age of Chinese cinema - the “Greta Garbo of Shanghai”. the bewitching young actress was born in 1910 in Guangdong Province. Ruan had a chameleon ability to step into myriad roles – prostitutes, workers, teachers and mother. According to filmmaker Mark Cousins ‘ She was honest. Chinese women saw themselves, not some male or western or cinematic hope in her. It was ground breaking, and it changed Asian cinema”

Picture source: Best China News; Ruan & Damin

Before her career started, at the age of 16 she moved in together with  a playboy and gambler named Damin Zhang – the son of a wealthy family.

While Damin gambled away his inheritance, Ruan covered his bounced cheques, supported her mother and transformed her raw talent into a burgeoning film career.

Her relationship with Damin was floundering, and he routinely extorted money from her, threatening to go to the “mosquito press”, or Chinese Tabloids, alleging she was his concubine. Eventually Ruan agreed to pay him a monthly salary for two years to dissolve their affair.

The magnetic actress didn’t last too long in a solitary confinement, but her new crush brought even more misery to Ruan’s restless life. His name was Tang Jishan and he was a wealthy (and married) tea tycoon, a patron of cinema with a weakness for leading ladies

Picture source:; Ruan & Tang

He bought the actress a Hollywood-style art deco house in Shanghai and she became his mistress. Damin – spying a lucrative business opportunity – sued both for a share of their assets. The scandal made front-page news, and Tang reacted by beating Ruan, blaming her for his public dishonour – a neighbour remembered him throwing her dog out of a window. The night before she was due in court to defend herself against Damin’s lawsuit, Tang and Ruan attended a wrap party, drank wine and argued violently on the way home. Around midnight, she made a bowl of congee, mixed in three bottles of sleeping pills and wrote two suicide notes. In one, she attacked the press (“gossip is a fearful thing”) and in the second, her former lover Damin (“I’ve been driven to death by you”).

When the news of Ruan’s death broke, a grief-stricken city stood still: a crowd of 300,000 silently lined the roads to watch her funeral procession pass by. She was just 24 years old, but already a screen legend with 29 films to her name.

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