Charlie Soong (宋嘉樹) has been called many things: a missionary, a businessman, a revolutionary, a pioneer of woman’s education, and North Carolina’s first international student. He was also the father of China's famous Soong sisters ( 宋氏三姐妹): Soong Mei-ling (a.k.a. Madame Chiang Kai-shek and 宋美齡), Soong Ai-ling (宋藹齡 ), and Soong Qing-ling (宋慶齡 ). As a youth in the 1880s, Charlie spent several formative years living in North Carolina before moving back to China to become a successful business man and a close friend and revolutionary associate of Sun Yat-sen (孫中山).
Born in 1861 to a fishing/merchant family on Hainan Island off the coast of southern China, Charlie arrived in America while a young man around 1878 in order to work in a relative's tea and silk shop during the formative years of Boston's Chinatown. Unhappy with his fate, he eventually found work on a ship docked in the Boston Harbor.
In North Carolina
After working aboard the USS Albert Gallatin for over a year off the New England Coast, Charlie found his way to the port city of Wilmington, then the largest city in North Carolina. Charlie abandoned maritime work when he was taken in by the Methodist Church in Wilmington and Durham and generous sponsors agreed to pay for his education and training as a missionary to be sent to China. From 1881 to 1885, Charlie attended both Trinity College (which would later change its name to Duke University) and Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.
China and the Chinese Revolution
After returning to China in 1886, Charlie eventually quit missionary work for various reasons, and gradually transformed into a successful businessman through various business enterprises, including both the selling and printing of Bibles and the management of a flour mill. In the 1890s, he established a friendship with a young Sun Yat-sen, the leader of the Chinese Revolution that eventually brought down the last emperor of China and gave birth to modern republican government in China. Charlie secretly supported and financed Sun Yat-Sen and his revolutionary movement for two decades.