Sun Yat-sen (12 November 1866 – 12 March 1925)was aChinese revolutionary and president. As the foremostpioneer of Nationalist China, Sun is referred to as the"Father of the Nation" in the Republic of China (ROC), andthe "forerunner of democratic revolution" in the PeoplesRepublic of China. Sun played an instrumental role in theoverthrow of the Qing dynasty during the XinhaiRevolution. Sun was the first provisional president when theRepublic of China was founded in 1912 and later co-foundedthe Kuomintang (KMT), serving as its first leader. Sun was auniting figure in post-Imperial China, and remains uniqueamong 20th century Chinese politicians for being widelyrevered amongst the people from both sides of the TaiwanStrait.
Although Sun is considered one of the greatest leaders ofmodern China, his political life was one of constant struggleand frequent exile. After the success of the revolution, hequickly fell out of power in the newly founded Republic ofChina, and led successive revolutionary governments as achallenge to the warlords who controlled much of thenation. Sun did not live to see his party consolidate itspower over the country during the Northern Expedition. Hisparty, which formed a fragile alliance with theCommunists, split into two factions after his death. Sunschief legacy resides in his developing of the politicalphilosophy known as the Three Principles of the People:nationalism, democracy, and the peoples livelihood.
The original name of Sun Yat-sen was Sun Wen (孫文) andhis genealogical name was Sun Deming (孫德明). As achild, his "milk name" was Dixiang (帝象). The courtesyname of Sun Yat-sen was Zaizhi (載之), and his baptizedname was Rixin (日新). While at school in Hong Kong hegot the name Yat Sen (逸仙; Hanyu pinyin: Yìxiān). SunZhongshan (孫中山), the most popular of his Chinesenames, came from Nakayama (中山樵), a form of theJapanese name given to him by Miyazaki Touten.
Sun Yat-sen (back row, fifth from left) and his family.
Sun Yat-sen was born on 12 November 1866 to a CantoneseHakka family in the village of Cuiheng, Xiangshan (laterZhongshan county), Guangzhou prefecture, Guangdongprovince in Qing China. He was the third son born in a familyof farmers, and herded cows along with other farming duties atage 6.
At age 10, Sun Yat-sen began seeking schooling. It is also at this point where he metchildhood friend Lu Hao-tung. By age 13 in 1878 after receiving a few years of localschooling, Sun went to live with his elder brother, Sun Mei (孫眉) in Honolulu.Sun Yat-sen then studied at the ʻ Iolani School where he learned English, UKhistory, mathematics, science and Christianity. Originally unable to speak the Englishlanguage, Sun Yat-sen picked up the language so quickly that he received a prize foroutstanding achievement from King David Kalākaua. Sun enrolled in Oahu College(now Punahou School) for further studies for one semester. In 1883 he was soon senthome to China as his brother was becoming afraid that Sun Yat-sen would embraceChristianity.When he returned home in 1883 at age 17, Sun met up with his childhood friend LuHao-tung at Beijidian (北極殿), a temple in Cuiheng Village. They saw many villagersworshipping the Beiji (literally North Pole) Emperor-God in the temple, and weredissatisfied with their ancient healing methods.They broke the statue, incurring thewrath of fellow villagers, and escaped to Hong Kong. While in HK in 1883 he studiedat the Diocesan Boys School and from 1884 to 1886 he was at the government Centralschool.In 1886 Sun studied medicine at the Guangzhou Boji Hospital under the Christianmissionary John G. Kerr. Ultimately, he earned the license of Christian practice as amedical doctor from the Hong Kong College of Medicine for Chinese (the forerunnerof The University of Hong Kong) in 1892. Notably, of his class of 12 students, only twograduated; Sun was one of them.
Sun was later baptized in Hong Kong by an Americanmissionary of the Congregational Church of the UnitedStates, to his brothers disdain. The minister would alsodevelop a friendship with Sun. Sun pictured a revolution assimilar to the salvation mission of the Christian church. Hisconversion to Christianity was related to his revolutionaryideals and push for advancement. Sun later became thegodfather of Paul Linebarger, a science-fiction writer.
Photograph of Sun Yat-sen (seated, second from left) and hisrevolutionary friends, the Four Bandits, including YeungHok-ling (left), Chan Siu-bak (seated, second fromright), Yau Lit (right), and Guan Jingliang (關景良)(standing).
During and after the Qing Dynasty rebellionaround 1888 Sun was in Hong Kong with a groupof revolutionary thinkers that were nicknamedthe Four Bandits at the Hong Kong College ofMedicine for Chinese. Sun, who had grownincreasingly frustrated by the conservative Qinggovernment and its refusal to adopt knowledgefrom the more technologically advanced Westernnations, quit his medical practice in order todevote his time to transforming China.
In 1891 Sun met revolutionary friends in Hong Kong including Yeung Kui-wan who was the leader and founder of the Furen Literary Society. Thegroup was spreading the idea of overthrowing the Qing. In 1894, Sun wrotean 8,000 character petition to Qing Viceroy Li Hongzhang presenting hisideas for modernizing China. He traveled to Tianjin and to personallypresent the petition to Li but was not granted an audience. After thisexperience, Sun turned irrevocably toward revolution. He left China forHawaii and founded the Revive China Society, which was committed torevolution to restore China’s prosperity. Members were drawn mainly fromChinese expatriates, especially the lower social classes. The same month in1894 the Furen Literary Society was merged with the Hong Kong chapter ofthe Revive China Society. Sun became the secretary of the newly mergedRevive China society, which Yeung Kui-wan headed as president. Theydisguised their activities in Hong Kong under the running of a "QianhengCompany" (乾亨行).
In 1895 China suffered a serious defeat during the First Sino-Japanese War.There were two types of response. One group of intellectuals contendedthat the Manchu Qing government could restore its legitimacy bysuccessfully modernizing. They stressed that overthrowing the Manchuwould result in chaos leading to China being carved up by imperialists. Sointellectuals like Kang Youwei and Liang Qichao support responding withsomething like the Hundred Days Reform. In another faction, Sun Yat-senand others like Zou Rong wanted a revolution to replace the dynasticsystem with a modern nation-state in the form of a republic. The HundredDays reform turned out to be a failure by 1898.
Plaque in London marking the site of a house where SunYat-sen lived while in exile
Letter from Sun Yat-sento James Cantlieannouncing to him thathe has assumed thePresidency of theProvisional RepublicanGovernment of China.Dated 21 January 1912.
In the second year of the establishment of the Revive China society on26 October 1895, the group planned and launched the First Guangzhouuprising against the Qing in Guangzhou. Yeung Kui-wan directed theuprising starting from Hong Kong. However, plans were leaked out andmore than 70 members, including Lu Hao-tung, were captured by theQing government. The uprising was a failure.
Sun Yat-sen spent time living in Japan while in exile. He befriended andwas financially aided by a democratic revolutionary named MiyazakiToten. Most Japanese who actively worked with Sun were motivated bya pan-Asian fear of encroaching Western imperialism. While inJapan, Sun also met and befriended Mariano Ponce, then a diplomat ofthe First Philippine Republic.
On 22 October 1900 Sun launched the Huizhou uprising to attackHuizhou and provincial authorities in Guangdong. This came five yearsafter the failed Guangzhou uprising. This time Sun appealed to the triadsfor help. This uprising was also a failure. Miyazaki who participated inthe revolt with Sun wrote an account of this revolutionary effort underthe title "33-year dream" (三十三年之夢) in 1902.
Sun was an exile not only in Japan, but in Europe, the United States, andCanada. He raised money for his revolutionary party and to supportuprisings in China. In 1896 he was detained at the Chinese Legation inLondon, where the Chinese Imperial secret service planned to kill him.He was released after 12 days through the efforts of James Cantlie, TheTimes and the Foreign Office, leaving Sun a hero in Britain. JamesCantlie, Suns former teacher at the Hong Kong College of Medicine forChinese, maintained a lifelong friendship with Sun and would later writean early biography of Sun.
A "Heaven and Earth Society" sect known as Tiandihui has beenaround for a long time. The group has also been referred to as the"three cooperating organizations" as well as the triads. Sun Yat-senmainly used this group to leverage his overseas travels to gain furtherfinancial and resource support for his revolution.According to Lee Yun-ping, chairman of the Chinese historicalsociety, Sun needed a certificate to enter the United States at a timewhen the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 would have otherwise blockedhim. But on Suns first attempt to enter the US, he was still arrested. Hewas later bailed out after 17 days. In March 1904, Sun Yat-sen obtaineda Certificate of Hawaiian Birth, issued by the Territory ofHawaii, stating he was born on 24 November 1870 in Kula, Maui.Official files of the United States show that Sun had United Statesnationality, moved to China with his family at age 4, and returned toHawaii 10 years later.
A letter withSuns sealcommencingtheTongmenghuiin HK
In 1904 Sun Yat-sen came about with the goal "to expel the Tatarbarbarians, to revive Zhonghua, to establish a Republic, and to distributeland equally among the people." (驅除韃虜, 恢復中華, 創立民國, 平均地權).One of Suns major legacies was the creation of his political philosophy ofthe Three Principles of the People. These Principles included the principleof nationalism (minzu, 民族), of democracy (minquan, 民權), and of welfare(minsheng, 民生).On 20 August 1905 Sun joined forces with revolutionary Chinese studentsstudying in Tokyo, Japan to form the unified group Tongmenghui (UnitedLeague), which sponsored uprisings in China. By 1906 the number ofTongmenghui members reached 963 people.
Suns notability and popularity extends beyond the Greater Chinaregion, particularly to Nanyang (Southeast Asia) where a largeconcentration of overseas Chinese reside in Malaya (Malaysia andSingapore). While in Singapore he met local Chinese merchants Teo EngHock, Tan Chor Nam and Lim Nee Soon, which mark thecommencement of direct support from the Nanyang Chinese. TheSingapore chapter of the Tongmenghui was established on 6 April 1906.Though some records claim the founding date to be end of 1905. Thevilla used by Sun was known as Wan Qing Yuan. At this pointSingapore was the headquarter of the Tongmenghui.
On 1 December 1907 Sun led the Zhennanguan uprising against theQing at Friendship Pass, which is the border between Guangxi andVietnam. The uprising failed after seven days of fighting. In 1907 therewere a total of four uprisings that failed including Huangganguprising, Huizhou seven women lake uprising and Qinzhou uprising.In 1908 two more uprisings failed one after another including Qin-lianuprising and Hekou uprising.
Because of these failures Suns leadership was beginning to bechallenged by elements from within the Tongmenghui who wished toremove him as leader. In Tokyo 1907–1908 members from the recentlymerged Restoration society raised doubts about Suns credentials. TaoChengzhang (陶成章) and Zhang Binglin publicly denounced Sun withan open leaflet called "A declaration of Sun Yat-sens criminal acts bythe revolutionaries in Southeast Asia". This was printed anddistributed in reformist newspapers like Nanyang Zonghui Bao. Theirgoal was to target Sun as a leader leading a revolt for profiteeringgains.
The revolutionaries were polarized and split between pro-Sun andanti-Sun camps. Sun publicly fought off comments about how he hadsomething to gain financially from the revolution. In 1910 Sun took thetime to establish the United Chinese Library in Singapore. But by 19July 1910 the Tongmenghui headquarter had to relocate fromSingapore to Penang to reduce the anti-Sun activities. It is also inPenang that Sun and his supporters would launch the first Chinese"daily" newspaper, the Kwong Wah Yit Poh on December 1910.
To sponsor more uprisings, Sun made a personal plea for financial aid atthe Penang conference held on 13 November 1910 in Malaya. The leaderslaunched a major drive for donations across the Malay Peninsula. Theyraised HK$187,000.On 27 April 1911 revolutionary Huang Xing led a second Guangzhouuprising known as the Yellow Flower Mound revolt against the Qing. Therevolt failed and ended in disaster; only the bodies of 72 revolutionarieswere found. The revolutionaries are remembered as martyrs.On 10 October 1911 a military uprising at Wuchang took place led again byHuang Xing. At the time Sun had no direct involvement as he was still inexile. Huang was in charge of the revolution that ended over 2000 years ofimperial rule in China. When Sun learned of the successful rebellion againstthe Qing emperor from press reports, he immediately returned to Chinafrom the United States accompanied by General Homer Lea on 21December 1911. The uprising expanded to the Xinhai Revolution alsoknown as the "Chinese Revolution" to overthrow the last Emperor Puyi.After this event 10 October became known as the commemoration ofDouble Ten Day.
Provisional governmentOn 29 December 1911 a meeting of representatives from provinces inNanking elected Sun Yat-sen as the "provisional president" (臨時大總統). 1 January 1912 was set as the first day of the First Year of theRepublic.Li Yuanhong was made provisional vice-president and HuangXing became the minister of the army. The new ProvisionalGovernment of the Republic of China was created along with theProvisional Constitution of the Republic of China. Sun is credited forthe funding of the revolutions and for keeping the spirit of revolutionalive, even after a series of failed uprisings. His successful merger ofminor revolutionary groups to a single larger party provided a betterbase for all those who shared the same ideals. A number of things wereintroduced such as the republic calendar system and new fashion likeZhongshan suits.
Yuan Shikai was in charge of the Beiyang Army, the military of northernChina. He was promised the position of President of the Republic ofChina if he could get the Qing court to abdicate. On 12 February 1912Emperor Puyi did abdicate the throne. Sun Yat-sen stepped down asPresident, and Yuan became the new provisional president in Beijing on10 March 1912. The provisional government did not have any militaryforces of its own, its control over elements of the New Army that hadmutinied was limited and there were still significant forces which stillhad not declared against the Qing.Sun Yat-sen sent telegrams to the leaders of all provinces, requestingthem to elect and to establish the National Assembly of the Republic ofChina in 1912. In May 1912 the legislative assembly moved from Nanjingto Beijing with its 120 members divided between members ofTongmenghui and a Republican party that supported Yuan Shikai. Manyrevolutionary members were already alarmed by Yuans ambitions andthe northern based Beiyang government.
Tongmenghui member Song Jiaoren quickly tried to control the parliament.He mobilized the old Tungmenghui at the core with the merger of a numberof new small parties to form a new political party called the Kuomintang(KMT) on 25 August 1912 at Huguang Guild Hall Beijing. The 1912–1913National assembly election was considered a huge success for the KMTwinning 269 of the 596 seats in the lower house and 123 of the 274 senateseats. The Second Revolution took place where Sun and KMT military forcestried to overthrow Yuans forces of about 80,000 men in an armed conflict inJuly 1913. The revolt against Yuan was unsuccessful. Sun was forced to seekasylum in Japan. In retaliation KMT party leader Song Jiaoren wasassassinated under the secret order of Yuan Shikai on 20 March 1913.
In 1915 Yuan Shikai proclaimed the Empire of China (1915–1916) withhimself as Emperor of China. Sun took part in the Anti-Monarchy war ofthe Constitutional Protection Movement, while also supporting banditleaders like Bai Lang during the Bai Lang Rebellion. This marked thebeginning of the Warlord Era. In 1915 Sun wrote to the SecondInternational, an organisation of socialist based in Paris, asking it to senda team of specialists to help China set up the worlds first socialistrepublic. At the time there were many theories and proposals of whatChina could be. In the political mess, even when Sun Yat-sen wasannounced as President, Xu Shichang was also announced as Presidentof the Republic of China.
Sun Yat-sen (middle, dressed in white) and Chiang Kai-shek (on stage inuniform) at the founding of the Whampoa Military Academy in 1924.
China had become divided between differentmilitary leaders without a proper centralgovernment. Sun saw the danger of this andreturned to China in 1917 to advocate Chinesereunification. In 1921 he started a self-proclaimedmilitary government in Guangzhou and was electedGrand Marshal. Between 1912 and 1927 threegovernments had been set up in South China: theProvisional government in Nanjing (1912), theMilitary government in Guangzhou (1921–1925), and Sun Yat-the National government in Guangzhou and laterWuhan (1925–1927). The southern separatist sengovernment in the South was established to rival the (seatedBeiyang government in the north. Yuan Shikai had on right)banned the KMT. The short lived ChineseRevolutionary Party was a temporary replacement andfor the KMT. On 10 October 1919 Sun resurrected the ChiangKMT with the new name Chung-kuo Kai-shekKuomintang, basically "Chinese Nationalist party".
By this time Sun had become convinced that the only hope for a unifiedChina lay in a military conquest from his base in the south, followed by aperiod of political tutelage that would culminate in the transition todemocracy. In order to hasten the conquest of China, he began a policy ofactive cooperation with the Communist Party of China (CPC). Sun and theSoviet Unions Adolph Joffe signed the Sun-Joffe Manifesto in January 1923.Sun received help from the Comintern for his acceptance of communistmembers into his KMT. Revolutionary and socialist leader Vladimir Leninpraised Sun and the KMT for their ideology and principles. Lenin praisedSun and his attempts at social reformation, and also congratulated him forfighting foreign Imperialism. Sun also returned the praise, calling him a"great man", and sent his congratulations on the revolution in Russia.With the Soviets help, Sun was able to develop the military power neededfor the Northern Expedition against the military at the north. He establishedthe Whampoa Military Academy near Guangzhou with Chiang Kai-shek asthe commandant of the National Revolutionary Army (NRA). OtherWhampoa leaders include Wang Jingwei and Hu Hanmin as politicalinstructors. This full collaboration was called the First United Front.
In 1924 Sun appointed TV Soong to set up the first Chinese Central bankcalled the Canton Central Bank. To establish national capitalism and abanking system was a major objective for the KMT. However Sun wasnot without some opposition as there was the Canton volunteers corpsuprising against him. Sun (seated, right) and his wife Soong Ching-ling (宋慶 齡) (seated, center) in Kobe, Japan in 1924
In February 1923 Sun made a presentation to the Students Union in HongKong University and declared that it was the corruption of China and thepeace, order and good government of Hong Kong that turned him into arevolutionary. This same year, he delivered a speech in which heproclaimed his Three Principles of the People as the foundation of thecountry and the Five-Yuan Constitution as the guideline for the politicalsystem and bureaucracy. Part of the speech was made into the NationalAnthem of the Republic of China.On 10 November 1924, Sun traveled north to Tianjin and delivered aspeech to suggest a gathering for a "National conference" for the Chinesepeople. It called for the end of warlord rules and the abolition of allunequal treaties with the Western powers. Two days later, he traveled toBeijing to discuss the future of the country, despite his deteriorating healthand the ongoing civil war of the warlords. On 28 November 1924 Suntraveled to Japan and gave a speech on Pan-Asianism at Kobe, Japan.
Sun died of liver cancer on 12 March 1925 at the age of 58 at the RockefellerHospital in Beijing. In keeping with common Chinese practice, his remainswere placed in the Temple of Azure Clouds, a Buddhist shrine in theWestern Hills a few miles outside of Beijing. Chinese Generals pay tribute to the Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum in Beijing in 1928 after the success of the Northern Expedition. From right to left, are Generals Cheng Jin (何成浚), Zhang Zuobao (張作寶), Chen Diaoyuan (陳 調元), Chiang Kai-shek, Woo Tsin- hang, Yan Xishan, Ma Fuxiang, Ma Sida (馬四達), and Bai Chongxi.
After Suns death, a power struggle between his young protégé ChiangKai-shek and his old revolutionary comrade Wang Jingwei split theKMT. At stake in this struggle was the right to lay claim to Sunsambiguous legacy. In 1927 Chiang Kai-shek married Soong May-ling, asister of Suns widow Soong Ching-ling, and subsequently he could claimto be a brother-in-law of Sun. When the Communists and theKuomintang split in 1927, marking the start of the Chinese CivilWar, each group claimed to be his true heirs, a conflict that continuedthrough World War II. His widow, Soong Ching-ling, sided with theCommunists during the Chinese Civil War and served from 1949 to 1981as Vice President (or Vice Chairwoman) of the Peoples Republic of Chinaand as Honorary President shortly before her death in 1981.
A personality cult in the Republic of China was centered on Sun and hissuccessor, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. Chinese Muslim Generalsand Imams participated in this cult of personality and one partystate, with Muslim General Ma Bufang making people bow to Sunsportrait and listen to the national anthem during a Tibetan and Mongolreligious ceremony for the Qinghai Lake God. Quotes from the Quranand Hadith were used by Muslims to justify Chiang Kai-sheks rule overChina. Statue in the Mausoleum, Kuomintang flag on the ceiling
Sun Yat-sen remains unique among 20th century Chinese leaders forhaving a high reputation both in mainland China and in Taiwan. InTaiwan, he is seen as the Father of the Republic of China, and is knownby the posthumous name Father of the Nation, Mr. Sun Zhongshan(Chinese: 國父 孫中山先生, where the one-character space is atraditional homage symbol). His likeness is still almost always found inceremonial locations such as in front of legislatures and classrooms ofpublic schools, from elementary to senior high school, and he continuesto appear in new coinage and currency.
On the mainland, Sun is also seen as a Chinese nationalist and proto-socialist, and is highly regarded as the Forerunner of the Revolution (革命先行者). He is even mentioned by name in the preamble to the Constitutionof the Peoples Republic of China. In recent years, the leadership of theCommunist Party of China has increasingly invoked Sun, partly as a wayof bolstering Chinese nationalism in light of Chinese economic reform andpartly to increase connections with supporters of the Kuomintang onTaiwan which the PRC sees as allies against Taiwan independence. Sunstomb was one of the first stops made by the leaders of both theKuomintang and the People First Party on their pan-blue visit to mainlandChina in 2005. A massive portrait of Sun continues to appear inTiananmen Square for May Day and National Day.