|Known in English as:||Sun Yat-sen|
|Hanyu Pinyin:||Sūn Yìxiān|
|Known to Chinese as:||孫中山|
|Hanyu Pinyin:||Sūn Zhōngshān|
|Register name :||Démíng (德明)|
|Milk name :||Dìxiàng (帝象)|
|School name :||Wén (文)|
|Courtesy name :||Zaizhi (載之)|
|Pseudonym :||Rìxīn (日新), later|
in Cantonese (Yat
San, Yat Sin, resp.)
|Alias :||Zhōngshān (中山)|
|Alias in Japan:||Nakayama Shō (中山樵)|
|Styled:||Gúofù (國父), i.e.|
|“Father of the Nation”|
Dr. Sun Yat-sen (Traditional Chinese: 孫中山 or 孫逸仙; Pinyin: Sūn Zhōngshān; or "Sun Yixian") (November 12, 1866 – March 12, 1925) was a Chinese revolutionary and political leader often referred to as the "father of modern China." He played an instrumental role in the eventual collapse of the Qing Dynasty in 1911. He was the first provisional president when the Republic of China (ROC) was founded in 1912, and later co-founded the Kuomintang (KMT) and served as its first leader. Sun Yat-sen was a unifying figure in post-Imperial China, and remains unique among twentieth century Chinese politicians for being widely revered in both Mainland China and in the Republic of China Taiwan.
Although Sun Yat-sen is considered one of the greatest leaders of modern China, his political life was one of constant struggle and frequent exile. After the success of the revolution, he quickly fell out of power in the newly-founded Republic of China, and led successive revolutionary governments as a challenge to the warlords who controlled much of the nation. Sun Yat-sen did not live to see his party bring about consolidation of power over the country. His party, which formed a fragile alliance with the Communists, split into two factions after his death. Sun Yat-sen's chief legacy resides in his developing a political philosophy known as the Three Principles of the People (nationalism, democracy, and the people's livelihood/welfare, 三民主義).
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On November 12, 1866, Sun Yat-sen was born to a peasant family in the village of Cuiheng (翠亨村), Xiangshan county (香山縣), Guangzhou prefecture (廣州市), Guangdong province(廣東省) (26 km, or 16 miles, north of Macau). When Sun Yat-sen died in 1925, the name of Xiangshan was changed to Zhongshan (中山縣) in his honor.
After studying for a few years at a local school, at age thirteen, Sun Yat-sen went to live with his elder brother, Sun Mei, in Honolulu. Sun Mei, who was fifteen years Sun Yat-sen's senior, had emigrated to Hawaii as a laborer and had become a prosperous merchant. Though Sun Mei was not always supportive of Sun Yat-sen's later revolutionary activities, he supported his brother financially, allowing him to give up his professional career. Sun Yat-sen studied at the prestigious Iolani School, located at 563 Kamoku Street in Honolulu, where he learned English, mathematics, and science. Originally unable to speak the English language, He picked up the language so quickly that he received a prize for outstanding achievement in English from King David Kalakaua. He became a citizen of the United States and was issued an American passport. It is unclear whether or not he maintained his original citizenship as a subject of the Qing empire. After graduation from Iolani School in 1882, Sun Yat-sen enrolled in Oahu College (now Punahou School) for further studies for one semester. He was soon sent home to China because his brother was becoming afraid that Sun Yat-sen was about to embrace Christianity. While at Iolani, he befriended Tong Phong, who later founded the First Chinese-American Bank.
When he returned home in 1883, he became greatly troubled by what he saw as a backward China that demanded exorbitant taxes and levies from its people. The people were conservative and superstitious, and the schools maintained their ancient methods, leaving no opportunity for expression of thought or opinion. Under the influence of Christian missionaries in Hawaii, he had developed a disdain for traditional Chinese religious beliefs. One day, Sun Yat-sen and his childhood friend, Lu Hao-tung, passed by Beijidian, a temple in Cuiheng Village, where they saw many villagers worshiping the Beiji (literally North Pole) Emperor-God in the temple. They broke off the hand of the statue, incurring the wrath of fellow villagers, and escaped to Hong Kong.
Sun Yat-sen studied English at the Anglican Diocesan Home and Orphanage (currently Diocesan Boys' School) in Hong Kong. In April 1884, Sun was transferred to the Central School of Hong Kong (later renamed Queen's College). He was later baptized in Hong Kong by an American missionary of the Congregational Church of the United States, to his brother's dismay. Sun Yat-sen envisioned a revolution in China as something like the salvation mission of the Christian church. His conversion to Christianity was related to his revolutionary ideals and his desire for advancement. His baptismal name, Rixin (日新), literally means "daily renewal."
Sun Yat-sen studied medicine at the Guangzhou Boji Hospital under the medical missionary John G. Kerr. He earned a license to practice as a medical doctor from the Hong Kong College of Medicine for Chinese (the forerunner of The University of Hong Kong) of which he was one of the first two graduates in 1892. He subsequently practiced medicine in that city briefly in 1893. At the age of twenty, he entered into an arranged marriage with fellow villager Lu Muzhen; the couple had a son Sun Fo, who would grow up to become a high ranking official in the Republican government, and two daughters, Sun Yan and Sun Wan.
During and after the Qing Dynasty rebellion, Dr. Sun was a leader within Tiandihui, a social and political society which was a precursor to modern triad groups, and which provided much of Sun's funding. His protégé, Chiang Kai Shek( 蔣介石), was also a member of Tiandihui.
Dr. Sun Yat-sen became increasingly troubled by the conservative Qing government and its refusal to adopt knowledge from the more technologically advanced Western nations and quit his medical practice in order to devote his time to transforming China. At first, Sun Yat-sen aligned himself with the reformists Kang Youwei (康有為) and Liang Qichao (梁啟超), who sought to transform China into a Western-style constitutional monarchy. In 1894, he wrote a long letter to Li Hongzhang (李鴻章), the governor-general of Zhili and a reformer in the court, with suggestions on how to strengthen China, but he was refused an interview. Because he had not trained in the classics, the gentry did not accept Sun Yat-sen into their circles. This incident turned him against the Qing dynasty; from then on, he began to call for the abolition of the monarchy and the establishment of a republic.
Sun Yat-sen travelled to Hawaii, in October 1894, and founded the Revive China Society (興中會; Hsing-chung hui) to promote the goal of a prospering China, and as the platform for future revolutionary activities. Members of the society were drawn mainly from fellow Cantonese expatriates and from the lower social classes.
Sun Yat-sen returned to Hong Kong and set up a similar society under the leadership of Yang Ch'ü-yün. In 1895, after an attempt to capture Canton failed, he sailed for England. For the next sixteen years he was an exile in Europe, the United States, Canada, and Japan, raising money for his revolutionary party and bankrolling uprisings in china against the Qing dynasty. In 1897 he went to Japan, where he was known as Nakayama Shō (Kanji: 中山樵, The Woodcutter of Middle Mountain). He joined dissident Chinese groups (which later became the Tongmenghui 同盟會) and soon became their leader. After the collapse of the Hundred Days of Reform in September 1898, Kang Youwei and Liang Qichao also fled to Japan. A division developed between the revolutionaries and the reformists. The latter received more support from the expatriate Chinese and the Japanese. Sun Yat-sen was regarded as a secret society gang member and a ruffian, and was eventually obliged to leave Japan and go to the United States. Before leaving Japan, he met and befriended Mariano Ponce, then a diplomat for the First Philippine Republic. Realizing a common bond, Sun Yat-sen also supported the cause for Philippine Independence.
In 1899, Kang Youwei's followers organized the Tzu-li chün (Independence Army) at Hankou and planned an uprising, but the scheme ended unsuccessfully. Early in 1900, revolutionaries of the Revive China Society formed a kind of alliance with the Brothers and Elders, also known as the Revive Han Association. This new organization nominated Sun Yat-sen as its leader, giving him, for the first time, the leadership of the Revive China Society. The Revive Han Association started an uprising at Hui-chou, in Gwangdung, in October 1900, which failed after two weeks' fighting against the Imperial forces.
Simultaneously in November 1899, an anti-foreign, anti-imperialist, peasant-based movement in northern China began the Boxer Movement (Traditional Chinese: 義和團運動; Simplified Chinese: 义和团运动; pinyin: Yìhétuán Yùndòng; literally "The Righteous and Harmonious Society Movement") or Boxer Rebellion (義和團之亂 or 義和團匪亂), against foreign influence in areas such as trade, politics, religion and technology. They attacked foreigners, who were building railroads and violating feng shui, as well as Christians, who were held responsible for the foreign domination of China. The rebellion was suppressed on September 7, 1901.
After the Boxer disaster, Empress Dowager Cixi (Tz'u-his慈禧太后. 西太后) issued a series of reforms reluctantly. These reforms included abolishing the civil service examination, establishing modern schools, and sending students abroad. But these measures could not restore the status of the throne. Among the population, Anti-Manchu feelings increased. A growing number of journals and pamphlets published in Tokyo, Shanghai, and Hong Kong diffused revolutionary ideas, and the young students returning from abroad brought new concepts, such as social Darwinism introduced by Yen Fu after the Sino-Japanese War. Nationalists and revolutionists were enthusiastically supported by the Chinese students in Japan, whose numbers increased rapidly between 1900 and 1906.
On October 10, 1911, a military uprising at Wuchang to which Sun Yat-sen had no direct involvement. At that moment he was still in exile and Huang Xing was in charge of the revolution), began a process that ended more than two thousand years of imperial rule in China. When he learned of the successful rebellion against the Qing emperor from foreign press reports, Sun Yat-sen immediately returned to China from the United States. On December 29, 1911, a meeting of representatives from provinces in Nanjing elected Sun Yat-sen as the provisional President of the Republic of China and set January 1, 1912, as the first day of the First Year of the Republic. This republic calendar system is still used in the Republic of China also known as Taiwan today.
After taking the oath of office as the provisional President of the Republic of China, Sun Yat-sen sent telegrams to the leaders of all provinces, requesting them to elect and send new senators to establish the National Assembly of the Republic of China. Once gathered, the Assembly then declared the provisional government organizational guidelines and the provisional law of the Republic as the basic law of the nation.
The provisional government was in a very weak position, initially. The southern provinces of China had declared independence from the Qing dynasty, but most of the northern provinces had not. Moreover, the provisional government did not have military forces of its own, and its control over elements of the New Army that had mutinied was limited; there were still significant forces which had not declared against the Emperor.
The major issue before the provisional government was gaining the support of Yuan Shikai, who commanded the Beiyang Army, the military of northern China. After Sun Yat-sen promised Yuan Shikai the presidency of the new Republic, Yuan sided with the revolution and forced the emperor to abdicate. Eventually, Yuan proclaimed himself emperor. Afterwards, opposition to Yuan's dictatorial methods escalated, leading him to renounce the his leadership shortly before his death. In 1913, Sun Yat-sen led an unsuccessful revolt against Yuan Shikai, and was forced to seek asylum in Japan, where he reorganized the Kuomintang. He married Soong Ching-ling, one of the Soong sisters, in Japan, on October 25, 1915, without divorcing his first wife Lu Muzhen, due to opposition from the Chinese community. Soong Ching-ling's parents greatly opposed the match, as Dr. Sun was 26 years her senior. Although Lu pleaded with him not to abandon her and to take Soong as a concubine, he declared that such would be unacceptable to his Christian ethics.
In the late 1910s, China was deeply divided by different military leaders without a proper central government. Sun Yat-sen recognized the danger of this, and returned to China in 1917 to advocate unification. He started a self-proclaimed military government in Guangzhou (Canton), Guangdong Province, southern China, in 1921, and was elected as president and generalissimo.
In a February 1923, speech presented to the Students' Union at Hong Kong University, he declared that it was the corruption of China and the peace, order, and good government of Hong Kong that turned him into a revolutionary. That same year, Sun Yat-sen delivered a speech in which he proclaimed his Three Principles of the People as the foundation of the country and the Five-Yuan Constitution as the guideline for the political system and bureaucracy. Part of his speech was made into the National Anthem of the Republic of China.
To develop the military power needed for the Northern Expedition against the militarists at Beijing, he established the Whampoa Military Academy near Guangzhou, with Chiang Kai-shek as its commandant, and with party leaders such as Wang Ching-wei and Hu Han-min as political instructors. The Academy was the most eminent military school of the Republic of China and trained graduates who later fought in the Second Sino-Japanese War and on both sides of the Chinese Civil War.
However, as soon as he established his government in Guangzhou, Sun Yat-sen came into conflict with entrenched local power. His militarist government was not based on the Provisional Constitution of 1912, which the anti-Beiyang forces vowed to defend in the Constitutional Protection War. In addition, he was elected president by a parliament that did not meet the rules for a quorum following its move from Beijing. Thus, many politicians and warlords alike challenged the legitimacy of his militarist government. Sun Yat-sen's use of heavy taxes to fund the Northern Expedition to militarily unify China was at odds with the ideas of reformers such as Chen Jiongming, who advocated establishing Guangdong as a "model province" before launching a costly military campaign. In sum, the military government was opposed by the internationally recognized Beiyang government in the north, Chen's Guangdong provincial government in the south, and other provincial powers that shifted alliances according to their own benefit.
In the early 1920s, Sun Yat-sen received help from the communist International Comintern for his reorganization of the Kuomintang as a Leninist Democratic-Centrist Party and negotiated the First Chinese Communist Party-Kuomintang United Front. In 1924, in order to hasten the conquest of China, he began a policy of active cooperation with the Chinese Communists.
By this time, he was convinced that the only hope for a unified China lay in a military conquest from his base in the south, followed by a period of political tutelage that would culminate in the transition to democracy. He then prepared for the later Northern Expedition, with help from foreign powers, until his death.
On November 10, 1924, Sun Yat-sen traveled north and delivered another speech to suggest gathering a conference for the Chinese people and the abolition of all unequal treaties with the Western powers. Two days later, he again traveled to Peking (Beijing) to discuss the future of the country, despite his deteriorating health and the ongoing civil war of the warlords. Although ill at the time, he was still head of the southern government. On November 28, 1924, he went to Japan and gave a remarkable speech on Pan-Asianism at Kobe, Japan. He left Guangzhou to hold peace talks with the northern regional leaders on the unification of China. Sun Yat-sen was un able to see this through. He died of liver cancer on March 12, 1925, at the age of 58, in Beijing.
One of Sun Yat-sen's major legacies was his political philosophy, the Three Principles of the People (sanmin zhuyi, 三民主義). These Principles included the principle of nationalism (minzu, 民族), democracy (minquan, 民權) and the people's livelihood (minsheng, 民生). The Principles retained a place in the rhetoric of both the KMT and the Chinese Communist Party, with completely different interpretations. This difference in interpretation is due partly to the fact that Sun seemed to hold an ambiguous attitude to both capitalist and communist methods of development, and partly to his untimely death, in 1925, before he had finished his now-famous lecture series on the Three Principles of the People.
After Sun Yat-sen's death, a power struggle between his young protégé Chiang Kai-shek and his old revolutionary comrade Wang Jingwei split the KMT. At stake in this struggle was the right to lay claim to Sun's ambiguous legacy. In 1927, Chiang Kai-shek married Soong May-ling, a sister of Sun's widow Soong Ching-ling, and subsequently he could claim to be a brother-in-law of Sun. When the Communists and the Kuomintang split in 1927, marking the start of the Chinese Civil War, each group claimed to be his true heirs, a conflict that continued through the course of World War II.
The official veneration of Sun's memory, especially in the Kuomintang, was a virtual cult, which centered around his tomb in Nanking. His widow, Soong Ching-ling, sided with the Communists during the Chinese Civil War and served from 1949 to 1981, as Vice President (or Vice Chairwoman) of the People's Republic of China and as Honorary President shortly before her death in 1981.
Sun Yat-sen remains unique among twentieth-century Chinese leaders for being highly esteemed both in mainland China and in Taiwan. In Taiwan, he is seen as the Father of the Republic of China, and is known by the posthumous name Father of the Nation, Mr. Sun Chungshan (Chinese: 國父 孫中山先生, where the one-character space is a traditional homage symbol). His likeness is still almost always found in ceremonial locations such as in front of the legislatures and in classrooms of public schools, from elementary to senior high school, and he continues to appear in new coinage and currency.
The official history of the Kuomintang and for the Communist Party of China) emphasizes Sun's role as the first provisional President. However, many historians now question the importance of Sun Yat-sen's role in the 1911 revolution and point out that he had no direct role in the Wuchang uprising and was in fact out of the country at the time. In this interpretation, the choice of Sun Yat-sen, is that of a respected but unimportant figure, as the first provisional President who served as an ideal compromise between the revolutionaries and the conservative gentry.
Alternately, Sun Yat-sen is credited for the funding of the revolutions and for keeping the spirit of revolution alive, even after a series of failed uprisings. Also, he successfully merged minor revolutionary groups into a single larger party, providing an organized political better base for all those who shared the same ideals.
Sun Yat-sen is highly regarded as the National Father of modern China. His political philosophy, known as the Three Principles of the People,, was proclaimed in August 1905. In his Methods and Strategies of Establishing the Country completed in 1919, he suggested using his Principles to establish ultimate peace, freedom, and equality in the country. He devoted all his effort throughout his lifetime for a strong and prosperous China and the well-being of its people.
On the mainland, Sun Yat-sen is viewed as a Chinese nationalist and proto-socialist, and is highly regarded as the Forerunner of the Revolution. He is mentioned by name in the preamble to the Constitution of the People's Republic of China; this is a unique honor, as even Mao Zedong is only mentioned indirectly in connection with "Mao Zedong thought." In most major Chinese cities, one of the main streets is named "Zhongshan" (中山) to memorialize him, a name even more commonly used than other popular choices such as "Renmin Lu" (人民路), or The People's Road, and "Jiefang Lu" (解放路), or Liberation Road. There are also numerous parks, schools, and geographical features named after him. The city of Zhongshan in Guangdong, where Sun Yat-sen was born, is named after him, and there is a hall dedicated to his memory at the Temple of Azure Clouds in Beijing.
In recent years, the leadership of the Communist Party of China has been increasingly invoking Sun Yat-sen, partly as a way of bolstering Chinese nationalism in light of Chinese economic reform and partly to increase connections with supporters of the Kuomintang on Taiwan, which the People's Republic of China sees as allies against the Republic of China's independence. Sun yat-sen's tomb was one of the first stops made by the leaders of both the Kuomintang and the People First Party on their trips to mainland China in 2005. A massive portrait of Sun Yat-sen continues to appear in Tiananmen Square for May Day and the National Day.
Sun Yat-sen's notability and popularity extends beyond the Greater China region, particularly to Nanyang, where a large concentration of overseas Chinese reside in Singapore. He recognized the contributions that the large number of overseas Chinese could make, beyond the sending of remittances to their ancestral homeland. He therefore made multiple visits to spread his revolutionary message to these communities around the world.
Sun Yat-sen made a total of eight visits to Singapore between 1900 and 1911. His first visit made on September 7, 1900, was to rescue Miyazaki Toten, an ardent Japanese supporter and friend of his, who had been arrested there, which resulted in his own arrest and a ban from visiting the island for five years. Upon his next visit in June 1905, he met local Chinese merchants Teo Eng Hock, Tan Chor Nam and Lim Nee Soon in a meeting which was to mark the commencement of direct support from the Nanyang Chinese. Upon hearing their reports on overseas Chinese revolutionists organizing themselves in Europe and Japan, Sun Yat-sen urged them to establish the Singapore chapter of the Tongmenghui, which came officially into being on April 6, 1906, the following year, during his next visit.
The chapter was housed in a villa known as Wan Qing Yuan (晚晴園) and donated for the use of revolutionists by Teo Eng Hock. In 1906, the chapter grew in membership to 400, and in 1908, when Sun was in Singapore to escape the Qing government in the wake of the failed Zhennanguan Uprising, the chapter had become the regional headquarters for Tongmenghui branches in Southeast Asia. Sun Yat-sen and his followers traveled from Singapore to Malaya and Indonesia to spread their revolutionary message, by which time the alliance already had over twenty branches with over 3,000 members around the world.
Sun Yat-sen's foresight in tapping in to the help and resources of the overseas Chinese population was to bear fruit in his subsequent revolutionary efforts. In one particular instance, his personal plea for financial assistance at the Penang Conference held on November 13, 1910, in Malaya, launched a major drive for donations across the Malay Peninsula, an effort which helped finance the Second Guangzhou Uprising (also commonly known as the Yellow Flower Mound revolt) in 1911.
The role that overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia played during the 1911 Revolution was so significant that Sun Yat-sen himself recognized "Overseas Chinese as the Mother of the Revolution."
Today, his legacy is remembered in Nanyang at Wan Qing Yuan, which has since been preserved and renamed the Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall, and was gazetted as a national monument of Singapore on October 28, 1994.
In Penang, the Penang Philomatic Union which was founded by Sun in 1908, has embarked on a heritage project to turn its premises at 65 Macalister Road into Dr. Sun Yat-sen Museum. The project is expected to be completed in late 2006.
According to one study, Sun Yat-sen used at least thirty different names, courtesy names and aliases during his lifetime. The name inscribed in the genealogical records of his family, is Sūn Démíng (孫德明). The first Chinese character of the given name, dé (德), is the generation character which he shared with his brother and his relatives on the same generation line. Many Chinese people wrongly assume that Deming was his courtesy name (字, zì).
The name that Sun Yat-sen received at birth was Sun Dìxiàng (孫帝象). When he was ten years old, he entered the village Confucian school, and he received a "school name," Wén (文, meaning "literary"). When he became known by Chinese authorities for his revolutionary activities, he was listed as "Sun Wen," and this is how he was known by Chinese authorities until his death. After attaining public office, he consistently used this name, Sun Wen, to sign official documents.
On the occasion, of his Christian baptism, he chose a pseudonym (號): Rìxīn (日新, meaning "renew oneself daily"). This is the name he used while a student in Hong Kong. Later, his professor of Chinese literature changed this pseudonym into Yìxiān (逸仙). Unlike Standard Mandarin, both pseudonyms are pronounced similarly in the local Cantonese: Yat-sen. As this was the name that he used in his frequent contacts with Westerners at the time, he has become known under this name (with Cantonese pronunciation) in the West. In the Chinese world, however, almost nobody uses the Mandarin version Sun Yixian, nor the Cantonese version Sun Yat-sen.
Later, Sun Yat-sen chose a courtesy name (字) which was Zàizhī (載之, meaning "conveying it"). In 1897, Sun Yat-sen arrived in Japan, and when he went to a hotel he had to register his name. Desiring to remain hidden from Japanese authorities, his friend wrote down the Japanese family name Nakayama on the register for him, and Sun Yat-sen chose the given name Shō. For the most part of his stay in Japan, he was known as Nakayama Shō. The kanji for Nakayama can be read in Chinese as Zhōngshān in pinyin. After his return to China in 1911, this alias (only the family name Nakayama/Zhongshan, not the given name Shō) became popular among Chinese republican circles, and so a Japanese family name became his new Chinese given name. Nakayama/Zhongshan literally means "central mountain" (and can even be interpreted as meaning "China's mountain"), which holds very positive and dignified connotations in Chinese. Today, the overwhelming majority of Chinese people know Sun Yat-sen under the name Sun Zhongshan (Sun Chung-shan). Often, it is shortened to Zhongshan (Chung-shan).
In 1940, the Kuomintang party officially conferred on the late Sun Yat-sen, the title Kuo Fu (國父), meaning "Father of the Nation." This title is still frequently used in the Republic of China on Taiwan and Hong Kong. In mainland China, the title "Forerunner of the Revolution" is sometimes used instead.
All links retrieved January 5, 2020.
|Provisional President of the Republic of China
none (Military Government established)
|Generalissimo of the Military Government
Governing Committee of the Military Government
none (position established)
none (position abolished)
none (National Government established)
|Generalissimo of the National Government
Hu Hanmin (acting)
(President of the KMT)
|Premier of the Kuomintang
(party abolished 1915–1918)
|Main events (1916-1920)||Main events (1920-1930)||Northern Factions||Southern Factions|
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