The marriage of Qian Xuesen and Jiang Ying is a sweet story the public often talk about. In addition, many classic plots, such as the intimacy of childhood, marital harmony, sharing wealth and woe, mutual help and relief in time of poverty as well as growing old together appear in their love story.
Jiang Ying, wife of Qian Xuesen, was born into a distinguished family and her father, Jiang Baili, was a famous military theorist in modern China who established a close and deep friendship with Qian Junfu. Jiang Baili had five daughters who were regarded as the “Five Golden Flowers” of Jiang Baili. Meanwhile Qian Xuesen was the only child of the Qians and the couple adopted Jiang Ying, third daughter of the Jiangs, and changed her name to “Qian Xue Ying”.
The Qians adopted Jiang Ying at the age of four, but Qian Xuesen was a teen. When they lived together, Qian Xuesen did not get along well with his little sister and Jiang Ying felt bored and wanted to return to her home. After she went back home, the two children went to school and received further studies separately. Their intimate relationship in childhood also came to end.
The separation lasted 12 years. At the age of 24, Qian Xuesen was admitted to Tsinghua University and would study in the US under the Boxer Indemnity Scholarship Program. He paid a visit to Jiang Baili to say goodbye and he met Jiang Ying once again. By that time, Jiang Ying was 16 and had become a young lady in a big, noble family. She played a piece of piano music for Qian Xuesen, her nominal elder brother when the Qians adopted her.
Another twelve years’ separation was coming. During that period, Qian Xuesen was in America for aviation theory study, while Jiang Ying went to Europe and studied vocal music in the Hochschule fuer Musik "HannsEisler" in Berlin. After the Second World War broke out, Jiang Ying left for Switzerland to continue her studies.
In 1947, as the smoke of Second World War gradually cleared. Jiang Ying came back to Shanghai and held her first solo concert in the Lycenm Theatre where Qian Xuesen often listened to concerts in his university days. Her beautiful voice, wide register and skilled singing method were highly appreciated by music critic Yu Bianmin, who praised Jiang Ying’s singing, say it was “was extremely controlled and excellent in both the register and volume”.
Soon after, Qian Xuesen returned to China to visit his family. In the same year, Qian Xuesen turned 36 years old and became the youngest full professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Qian Xuesen had a successful career, but was single. This made his father worried and he want him to get married during his holiday.
Fan Xuji, who was a good friend of Qian Xuesen and later elected as president of Jiao Tong University recalled, “His father asked Jiang Ying to introduce a girlfriend to Qian Xuesen. Jiang Ying organized a dinner for him. Later, I asked him, ‘how about the lady Jiang Ying introduced to you?’ Qian Xuesen stated that he and the lady did not match, but praised Jiang Ying for her proper conduct as hostess and took a fancy to her.”
As a hostess, Jiang Ying invited Qian Xuesen to attend her party and introduced a lady to him. That party was their first meeting after twenty years’ separation. Upon seeing his “nominal sister”, Qian Xuesen was taken. The intuition of a scientist directed him to precisely “lock” Jiang Ying as his lifetime partner.
Qian Xuesen proposed to Jiang Ying very soon, and directly asked her to “go to the United States with me”. Jiang Ying was “defeated” by his strong affections and love. She had left the home of Qian Xuesen 24 years before, but married him in the end. From then on, Qian Xuesen jokingly called Jiang Ying the “child bride” of his home.
On September 17, 1947, they held a wedding ceremony in Shanghai Sassoon House (today Peace Hotel). The perfect combination of a famous scientist and a prominent artist was well publicized, passing from mouth to mouth with approbation. Their wedding photo and beautiful marriage brochure are on display in No.4 Exhibition Hall.
Jiang Ying went to the US together with Qian Xuesen, and fully supported her husband’s scientific research. Qian Xuesen bought her a Steinway Grand piano as the marriage gift. Beautiful melodies often floated from their home to the streets. Soon afterwards, their son, Qian Yonggang, and daughter Qian Yongzhen successively were born, bringing more joy and happiness to their family.
During Qian’s persecution in the US from 1950 to 1955, Jiang Ying became the second spiritual pillar of Qian Xuesen besides his continuous scientific research. Like all strong-minded Chinese women, Jiang Ying became more resilient in the face of danger and risk. She did all the housework, took care of their young children and fought against US spies with wits and courage. Sometimes, she played guitar. Qian Xuesen catered to her and played bamboo flute, letting off their depressed feelings buried in the heart with melodious sound.
After their return to China, Qian Xuesen started on his new journey and devoted himself fully to constructing Chinese aerospace undertakings and national defense causes. In order to make him focus on work, Jiang Ying became a teacher of vocal music and gave up her singing career. Jiang Ying was transferred to the Central Conservatory of Music to take care of the whole family.
Because Qian Xuesen often rushed about here and there, Jiang Ying became a “major domo”, took care of the old and their children and did housework. Qian Xuesen said nothing to Jiang Ying about his work and Jiang Ying would not ask him. After sharing weal and woe together for so many years, Jiang Ying clearly understood that understanding from family members and peaceful family life were the biggest supports for Qian Xuesen.