A Gown Journeyed Thrice across the Pacific Ocean Reveals Priceless Friendship

2008-07-11 12:45:03   China Soong Ching Ling Foundation

Recollections of Mr. Kouji Ariyoshi Jr.

Among the senior council members of China Soong Ching Ling Foundation (CSCLF) is Mr. Kouji Ariyoshi Jr. from Hawaii of the United States. His father Kouji Ariyoshi, an American Japanese, came to China as a member of the Observation Group of the U. S. forces and worded under General Joseph W. Stilwell. He was stationed in Yan"an for sometime. During his stay in China, Kouji got acquainted with Soong Ching Ling, Liao Chengzhi and some leaders of the CPC.

Every time he comes to China and pays a visit to the Soong Ching Ling"s Former Residence, Mr. Kouji Ariyoshi Jr. would stop and take a close look at a special exhibit being displayed. Not long ago, he told us a story of this exhibit, which journeyed thrice across the Pacific Ocean.

"In 1970 when my father visited China on invitation, he put a silk brocade embroidered traditional Chinese gown in his suitcase. I asked him whose it was and why he would take it with him. My father explained that this was a gift given to Soong Ching Ling by her mother when Soong married Dr. Sun Yat-sen. In 1951 when Senator McCarthy launched an anti-Communist campaign in the United States, my father was arrested and put into prison in accordance with the Smith Act. At that time, my family was poor, so when Madame Soong Ching Ling learned about this, she asked someone to take this gown to Hawaii and hoped that we would sell it to cover the expenses of my father's lawsuit. However, my father kept it instead of selling it.

"Three months later, when my father came back from China, this gown was still in his suitcase. I asked him why he had not given it back to Madame Soong. My father said that when he gave it back to her, she said that since she had given it to him, it belonged to him. Thus, this gown journeyed across the Pacific Ocean for the second time and was brought back to Hawaii again.

"My father passed away in 1976, but we still kept the gown intact. In 1981, when Madame Soong Ching Ling passed away, Hawaiian media asked me whether I"d like to have this gown exhibited. I didn"t want to make this known to the public, so I declined. A few days later, a man from New York Museum made a phone call to my home and asked me whether I"d like to donate this gown to the museum. I told him that we planned to give it back to China. He said that the museum had the intention of buying it, but I declined for the second time. The following day, he called me again and offered 25,000 US dollars for it, and I told him that it was not something for sale, and stressed that we intended to give it back to China. The third day, he called again and told me they wanted to buy this gown at a doubled price. I told him explicitly that we would never sell it. At this he told me unhappily, 'Young man, everything has a price." I answered unhappily, 'This gown is priceless, Sir. You will never have enough money for it." Then he said that I was a fool and hung up on me.

"My mother was also in favor of giving the gown back to China. Hearing what had happened, she said: 'How could we sell it? If we do, your father would feel uneasy in heaven." Then I came to know that we shared the same idea.

"In September 1981, I brought this gown back to China and expressed my wish to meet Mr. Liao Chengzhi. I still remember the day while I was sailing along the Yangtze River, I asked China Tourist Bureau whether they could help me contact with Mr. Liao Chengzhi. The guide was astonished, saying, 'How can I make such a request for you? And this is not something you should request. How could you know him?" After hearing her questions, I explained that my father used to be Mr. Liao"s friend and that I hoped to give this gown back to China through him. Only in this way could I be sure that it would be put in a reliable place. In the following few days, I was wondering whether I could meet Mr. Liao.

"After my arrival in Beijing, Mr. Liao Chengzhi and Mr. Ma Haide (Dr. George Hatem) met with me in Sichuan Hall of the Great Hall of the People, where I gave the gown back to China on behalf of my family. Later Mr. Liao sent it to the Soong Ching Ling"s Former Residence, where the gown should be preserved.

"Even then I did not know who had brought this gown to my father. One day in mid-1980s, I received a call from Lawyer Takumi, one of my friends, who at the time was working for American Friends Service Committee. He told me that a woman called Margaret Stanley, who was paying a visit to Hawaii, inquired about my father Kouji Ariyoshi. Arranged by Lawyer Takumi, I met with Ms. Stanley. 

"When we met, Ms. Stanley showed me a photo, in which she was standing in front of our former house. She said that she worked in China in the 1940s and got acquainted with Madame Soong Ching Ling. When Madame Soong learned that Ms. Stanley was returning to the United States via Hawaii, she asked her to take a parcel to Kouji Ariyoshi, one of Soong"s friends in Hawaii. Then I came to realize it was Ms. Stanley who had brought this gown to my father. When I asked her whether she knew what was in the parcel, she said no. Madame Soong only asked her to take care of this parcel and give it to my father in person. I expressed my thanks to Ms. Stanley for telling me this.

"Recalling the past and seeing that the gown has returned to where it should be, I believe that what I have done is right."