Wed, Mar 06, 2002 - Page 2 News List

Taiwan marks Madame Chiang's 105th birthday

DPA , TAIPEI

Taiwan yesterday began celebrating the 105th birthday of Madame Chiang Kai-shek (蔣宋美齡), the former first lady of Taiwan once known as the "most powerful and most beautiful woman in China."

She has lived in seclusion in New York since 1975.

The National Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall (國父紀念館) in Taipei opened a painting exhibition by 116 women painters -- doing its bit to wish Madame Chiang a long life.

Later this month, the National Women's League -- founded by Chiang -- will hold a birthday party for her.

League Vice Chairwoman Yen Chuo-yun (辜嚴倬雲) will lead a delegation to New York to attend Madame Chiang's family celebration, bringing her sweets, cookies and orchids -- her favorite flower.

Chinese in the US will also hold birthday parties for Madame Chiang.

The widow of late president Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) is reported to be in good health, but seldom leaves her apartment on Long Island, New York.

Madame Chiang was born on Feb. 12, 1899, according to the lunar calendar. March 25 will be her birthday this year by the Western calendar. Chinese traditionally add two years to one's actual age, making her 105 years old.

Madame Chiang, whose maiden name was Soong Mei-ling (宋美齡), was born in Guangdong Province. Mei-ling (美齡), Ai-ling (藹齡) and Ching-ling (慶齡) -- the three Soong Sisters -- studied at Wesleyan College in Georgia in the US.

Mei-ling later transferred to Wellesly College in Massachusetts.

After she married Chinese Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek in Shanghai in 1927, the Western press called her "the most powerful and most beautiful woman in China."

During China's 1937-45 War of Resistance against Japan, she visited troops and orphanages and toured the US to raise funds for the anti-Japanese cause.

She followed her husband to Taiwan in 1949 after the Nationalists lost the Chinese civil war to the communists. Chiang ruled Taiwan as the president of the Republic of China's government-in-exile until he died in 1975.

Madame Chiang moved to New York in 1975, saying she had more relatives in the US and the climate there was better for her skin disease.

She returned to Taiwan for brief visits in 1986, 1988, 1991 and 1994.

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