Expats visit Soong Ching Ling mausoleum ahead of tomb-sweeping day
Expats in Shanghai paid tribute on Thursday to the honorary president of the People's Republic of China and other foreigners buried at the Mausoleum of Soong Ching Ling ahead of the Qingming Festival.
Qingming is also known as tomb-sweeping day, which falls on April 5 this year. Chinese people pay respects to their ancestors during the festival.
This is the first year that the Shanghai People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries and the management committee of the cultural relics of Sun Yat-sen and Soong Ching Ling have invited foreigners to follow the Chinese tradition at the mausoleum where Soong and over 600 expats from 25 countries and regions are buried.
On Thursday, consuls from Japan, the US, Austria and Romania in Shanghai, along with other expats, bowed and placed flowers in front of Soong's tomb and those of other foreigners buried there.
Talitha Gerlach (1896-1995), a member of the American Young Women's Christian Association who worked as a social worker in Shanghai for the majority of her life, is among those who are buried here.
Gerlach traveled to Shanghai in 1926 to establish a YWCA office. During World War II, she assisted in the rescue of refugees and provided assistance to China's resistance to the Japanese invasion.
She worked as a counselor for the China Welfare Institute, which Soong founded to promote the welfare of women and children, and was granted permanent residency in China. She died in Shanghai.
Justin O'Jack and his wife and daughter were among the foreigners who visited the cemetery. He is the chief representative of the University of Virginia China office and won the 2022 Shanghai Magnolia Silver Award. This is his third trip to the mausoleum.
"When I first came here, I had no idea there were so many foreigners, including Americans, buried here," he said.
The visit was especially meaningful for his wife's family because her grandfather was a vice director of the cemetery and chaired its construction. They were thrilled to see a photograph of him in the cemetery's exhibition hall.
"Seeing that is very meaningful for us, especially for my daughter," he said. "There's some kind of family connection."
The expats also paid respects to two Japanese who are buried here – Kanzo Uchiyama (1885-1959) and Reizo Amemiya (1915-1987).
Uchiyama, an Okayama resident, was a friend of the famous Chinese writer Lu Xun. He and his wife moved to China in 1913 and opened a bookstore in Shanghai in 1917, selling revolutionary books by Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin and Lu Xun. They had saved a number of progressive Chinese writers, including Lu.
Uchiyama returned to Japan in 1947 and was active in promoting Sino-Japanese friendship. He was a founding member of the Japan-China Friendship Association. He died of a cerebral hemorrhage in Beijing after attending the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1959 as the association's vice president. He was buried with his wife in Shanghai, as he had wished.
On Wednesday, Sampei Matsui, executive director of the Okayama Japan-China Friendship Association, arrived in Shanghai from Japan to sweep Uchiyama's tomb.
"People in Okayama hold Uchiyama in high regard for his significant contributions to promoting Japan-China relations," he said. "I am honored to have been invited to pay my respects to Madame Soong and Uchiyama after the COVID-19 pandemic."
Matsui was also awarded the Magnolia Silver Award by Shanghai last year for his contributions to promoting ties between Shanghai and Okayama in areas ranging from medicine and education to youth exchanges.
"I feel privileged to be recognized," he said. "I believe we need to do more to promote exchanges between young people in our two countries because they are the future, and this will be one of my focuses in my work."
Amemiya was a founding member of the Osaka Japan-China Friendship Association and was committed to promoting trade and cultural exchanges between Osaka and Shanghai. He died in 1987 and was buried alongside his wife in Shanghai in 1988.
Another tomb belongs to Romanian doctor Bucur Clejan (1904-1975), who was known as the Romanian equivalent of Canadian thoracic surgeon Norman Bethune.
Clejan joined the Romanian Communist Party in 1931 and went to China to support the country's anti-Japanese war in 1939, treating and saving many Chinese soldiers. He was active in promoting Sino-Romanian ties after returning to Romania. He died on January 13, 1975, and was laid to rest in Shanghai in 2008.
An Austrian native buried in the cemetery is Ruth F. Weiss (1908-2006). She came to China in 1933 and initially worked as a freelance journalist in Shanghai, reporting the war against Japanese invasion in China to the world.
After the war, she served the China Welfare Foundation and went to the US in 1946.
She was invited to return to China in 1951 and became a lecturer for the Publishing House for Foreign Literature in Beijing from 1952 to 1965.
In 1965, she worked as a journalist for China Pictorial. She acquired Chinese citizenship in 1955 and was a national political adviser.
She passed away on March 6, 2006, in Beijing, and was buried in Shanghai in 2009.
The organizers said that by paying respects to the ancestors, they wished to pass on the spirit of internationalism and promote people-to-people bonds to build a shared future.