Sun Yat-sen was the son of a farmer from southern China, a region that had the most contact with Westerners. In 1879 he went to Hawaii with his successful elder brother and studied in a Christian missionary school. Later he received a medical degree in British Hong Kong, where he came into contact with anti-Manchu secret societies.
Dr. Sun soon abandoned his medical practice for politics. He first sought out Li Hongzhang (Li Hung-chang), the leading reformer in the Qing (Ch'ing) government, with a detailed letter outlining his ideas.
Because Li was too busy with international problems to respond, Sun was discouraged and became a revolutionary, forming the Xingzong hui (Hsing-chung hui), or Revive China Society, in Honolulu in 1895; it quickly expanded among overseas Chinese worldwide and secretly in China.
The society's declared goal was to "expel the Manchus, restore Chinese rule, and establish a federal republic." Its uprising in 1895 failed miserably, and Sun fled to England with a price on his head.
In London he was lured into the grounds of the Chinese legation and arrested, but he escaped shipment to China and execution when his teacher, Dr. Cantlie, alerted the British authorities, who forced the Chinese authorities to free him.
A wanted man in China, Sun traveled widely in Japan, Southeast Asia, and the United States to recruit followers and raise funds. Japan had become a magnet for Chinese students, many on government scholarships. It also gave refuge to opponents of the Qing dynasty.
There Sun formed the Tungmeng hui (T'ungmeng hui), or League of Common Alliance, in 1905. His ideology crystallized as the Three People's Principles— nationalism (overthrow of the Manchus and international equality for China), democracy (a republic where the people enjoyed the same rights as in Western democracies), and livelihood (land to the tiller and industrialization)—that became the goal of his organization.
The Tungmeng hui propagated its ideas in a paper called the Min Bao (Min Pao), or People's Report, and competed with Kang Youwei (K'ang Yu-wei) and members of his Emperor Protection Society, which advocated a constitutional monarchy for China. Sun Yat-sen agreed to step down as provisional president; the following period was marred by warlords in China.
Sun's followers staged 10 failed uprisings against the Qing dynasty. Then on October 10, 1911, army officers who were secret members of the Tungmeng hui rose up in revolt in Wuchang, the capital of Hubei (Hupei) Province on the lower Yangzi (Yangtze) River.
|Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall|
The revolution spread quickly through southern and central Chinese provinces. Sun was in Denver, Colorado, on a fundraising tour when the revolution happened, and he hastened homeward. He arrived in Shanghai on Christmas Day to hear that the provisional national assembly meeting in Nanjing (Nanking) had elected him provisional president of the Chinese Republic.
He took his oath of office on January 1, 1912. Meanwhile, the Qing court had appointed Yuan Shikai (Yuan Shih-k'ai) commander of its best divisions to defeat the revolutionists. Yuan, however, negotiated with both sides to ensure the abdication of the Qing dynasty, on the condition that he would become president of the republic. Sun agreed to step down because the revolutionaries could not win militarily against Yuan.
Yuan, however, betrayed the republic because he wanted to be emperor. He outlawed the Kuomintang (KMT, the name adopted by the Tungmeng hui in 1912), which opposed his ambitions, failed to win acceptance for himself as emperor, and was forced to resign.
Warlords divided China after Yuan's death in 1916. Sun suffered frustration until 1923, when he made an agreement with Adolf Joffe, agent of the Comintern in China, whereby in return for Russian Communist assistance he would accept members of the infant Chinese Communist Party into the KMT.
This agreement began the first United Front. Sun was able to establish an opposition government in Canton, where Russian advisers helped him to reorganize the KMT on the Soviet model. He died in 1925 during a trip to Beijing (Peking), where he made a failed attempt to negotiate with the warlords to unify China.
Sun was a revolutionary and a visionary. He succeeded in overthrowing the Qing dynasty but died before his other ideals could be realized. He is honored as the father of the Chinese Republic.
|Sun Yat-sen's Mausoleum|