Thu, Dec 16, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Chiang Fang-liang remembered

STOICISM, ENDURANCE Faina Vahaleva married Chiang Ching-kuo when she was 18, and later became first lady. Despite her position, she preferred to remain in the shadows

By Stephanie Wen  /  STAFF REPORTER

Fang-liang mastered English after coming to Taiwan, and her fluency enabled her to access world news and events through English publications -- which probably limited her knowledge of her husband's affair with Chang Ya-ruo (章亞若).

After Chiang Ching-kuo died, Fang-liang reportedly asked her second son Hsiao-wu, "I only have three sons, why are there reports saying I have five?"

Hsiao-wu, who had publicly reconciled with his half-brother Chang Hsiao-yan (章孝嚴/John Chang) chose to respond with silence.

The affair Chiang Ching-kuo had with Chang Ya-ruo occurred around 1940, and she bore him two sons: Hsiao-yan and Hsiao-tzu (孝慈).

No one, not even Hsiao-wu, knew if Fang-liang was aware of her husband's past romance with Chang Ya-ruo, but no one wanted to destroy the image of Chiang Ching-kuo in Fang-liang's heart.

Her old age was beset by ill-health, including heart disease, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and the tragic loss of first her husband, then her sons. Chiang Ching-kuo passed away in 1988. Of her three sons, Hsiao-wen died in in 1989, Hsiao-wu in 1991 and Hsiao-yung in 1996.

Her health further deteriorated four years ago with the discovery of a tumor in the upper part of her left lung. When she underwent an X-ray examination on Dec. 6, fluid was discovered in her left lung. After being plagued by ill-health for over 10 years, Chiang Fang-liang's heart finally ceased beating at 12:10pm yesterday at Taipei Veterans General Hospital.

Few first ladies in history stand out as being influential. Soong Mayling of the ROC, the US' Hilary Clinton and Eva Peron of Argentina are perhaps exceptions, but unlike them, Chiang Fang-liang endured a life away from her home country, and coped with being placed in the awkward position of being the first lady of an anti-communist nation when her own country was the proselytizer of world communism. And she lived out her final years alone, with her remaining daughter living in the US and most of her friends having passed away.

Chiang Fang-liang lived her life with the weighty crown of first lady. While she never enjoyed the glamour associated with the title, she will be remembered for her stoicism.

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