Book Review: “The Chiangs of China” by Elmer T. Clark (1943)

Americans are not immune to the phenomenon of subjective history. This is often most obvious when historians recount the specifics of civil wars, whether overseas or our own, for the write must often necessarily argue more from one side or the other, but I must say that this is what adds flavor to books of history. The West’s general regard for China’s governments of the past has often swayed from favor to disfavor based far more often on supposed ideology than behavior, but again, it is this fickleness that makes our history books interesting. 

The Chiangs of China is a wartime human interest story recounting the legacy of Charles Jones Soong, a man who left China for the sake of education, but who later returned to his homeland for the sake of the Gospel. It is through his three famous daughters, however, and their political romances that the real story of this book and China’s revolution progresses. This book follows the legacy of the Soong sisters and their politically charged husbands, focusing most on the lives and faith of Maying Soong and her husband, the Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. The depth of quotations and anecdotes regarding the Generalissimo’s Christian faith is what makes this book most interesting, and now with seventy years of history behind it, some might still speculate on the sincerity of his conversion, just as they did in 1930:

“When the news of Chiang’s conversion and baptism flashed around the world, cynical speculation as to reasons and motives began. There were editorials about currying favor with America and Britain and seeking foreign support in the coming struggle with Japan. But one editor rebuked his colleagues: ‘Does it not occur to you that he might have had an experience of God in his heart?’ Such is the import of the only answer the Generalissimo himself gave when asked the reason for his step: ‘I feel the need of a God such as Jesus Christ’—which is, as another American editor commented, ‘a great confession. A theologian with hours of study could not frame [one] better or more significant.’ Many who knew Chiang then vouched for his sincerity, and few would doubt it now” (p.85).

More thorough and updated accounts of the personalities behind the Chinese civil war certainly exist, but this little book was actually a fun little read, and it offered a glimpse at the religious claims behind some of modern China’s most famous couples. Best for research, but a quick history lesson too for anyone interested.

©2013 E.T.

Book Review: “The Chiangs of China” by Elmer T. Clark (1943)Americans are not immune to the phenomenon of subjective history. This is often most obvious when historians recount the specifics of civil wars, whether overseas or our own, for the write must often necessarily argue more from
one side or the other, but I must say that this is what adds flavor to books of history. The West’s general regard for China’s governments of the past has often swayed from favor to disfavor based far more often on supposed ideology
than behavior, but again, it is this fickleness that makes our history books interesting. The Chiangs of China is a wartime human interest story recounting the legacy of Charles Jones Soong, a man who left China for the sake of education, but who later returned to his homeland for the sake of the Gospel. It is through
his three famous daughters, however, and their political romances that the real story of this book and China’s revolution progresses. This book follows the legacy of the Soong sisters and their politically charged husbands, focusing
most on the lives and faith of Maying Soong and her husband, the Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. The depth of quotations and anecdotes regarding the Generalissimo’s Christian faith is what makes this book most interesting, and
now with seventy years of history behind it, some might still speculate on the sincerity of his conversion, just as they did in 1930: “When the news of Chiang’s conversion and baptism flashed areoung the world, cynical speculation as to reasons and motives began. There were editorials about currying favor with America and Britain and seeking foreign support in
the coming struggle with Japan. But one editor rebuked his colleagues: ‘Does it not occur to you that he might have had an experience of God in his heart?’ Such is the import of the only answer the Generalissimo himself gave when
asked the reason for his step: ‘I feel the need of a God such as Jesus Christ’—which is, as another American editor commented, ‘a great confession. A theologian with hours of study could not frame [one] better or more significant.’
Many who knew Chiange then vouched for his sincerity, and few would doubt it now.” More thorough and updated accounts of the personalities behind the Chinese civil war certainly exist, but this little book was actually a fun little read, and it offered a glimpse at the religious claims behind some of modern China’s
most famous couples. Best for research, but a quick history lesson too for anyone intersted.E.T.

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