Sun Yatsen (Career to 1912)
1. Early influences
Taipings: Sun was born in 1866 near Canton (in the part of China
were the West had been present the longest). This was just after the
final defeat of the Taipings. Hsu suggests that the Taiping Rebellion
was an inspiration to Sun.
The West and Christianity: In 1879 (aged 13) Sun went to Honolulu
to join his brother. He entered a missionary school, and later went
on to Hong Kong. He thus had elements of a Western education, and
also became a Christian.
Both Honolulu and Hong Kong brought home to Sun the contrast
between their prosperity and orderliness and China’s poverty and
backwardness. Honolulu also brought the idea of democracy and the
need for a strong sense of nationalism.
Qing weakness: Hsu says it was China’s defeat by France in 1885
which first turned Sun towards revolution. Sun graduated as a
doctor and began practising in 1892. But his revolutionary activities
had already begun.
Sun had still not turned his back completely on the prospect of
reform rather than revolution. In 1894 he sought an interview with Li
Hongzhang, who didn’t want to see him. This, together with China's
defeat by Japan decided Sun finally for revolution.
2.Early Revolutionary Attempts.
Revive China Society: In 1894 Sun established the “Revive China
Society”. In 1895 Sun attempted an uprising in Canton, even though
his society did not have many members. The plot was discovered by
the police, 48 rebels lost their lives and Sun fled to Hong Kong, and
then to Japan.
Wandering: In the next 5 years Sun struggled to gain much support.
Sun travelled to Honolulu, London and then returned to Japan. In
London in 1896, Sun was “kidnapped” inside the Chinese Embassy.
The British Government insisted upon his release. The episode
brought Sun some welcome publicity. Sun spent most of this period
in Japan, seeking support from overseas Chinese. Sun found it
difficult to make much headway. He also had a rival in Kang Youwei
who, after he fled China in 1898, also sought support for his idea of
a reformed monarchy.
Nevertheless, during these difficult years, Sun began to develop his
philosophy of the “Three People’s Principles” : Democracy,
Nationalism and People’s Livelihood.
Boxer Rebellion: The Boxer Rebellion was something of a turning
point for Sun. It caused considerable disillusionment with the Qing
Dynasty and Sun began to receive more support. Others also began
to organize revolutionary societies. Sun travelled widely, gaining
support amongst overseas Chinese, especially students. 3.To the Revolution
a) In 1905 Sun and others established the “Chinese United League”
or Tong Menghui. The purpose of this organization was to co-
ordinate the activities of the various revolutionary groups. The
Three People’s Principles were (at least in theory) the philosophy
of the Tong Menghui. Branches of the organization were
established in China, as well as around the world.
b) Hsu describes the founding of the Tong Menghui as “a milestone
in the Chinese revolution”. It won greater support for the
revolution, for it was “multiprovincial and multiclass”.
c) Revolutionary uprisings became more frequent. There were 8
uprisings between 1906 and 1911. The last, in April 1911, in
Canton produced the “seventy-two martyrs” – many being
recently returned students from Japan.
d) When the revolution broke out, following the “Double Tenth” Sun
was in the USA. In December 1911, in Shanghai, Sun was elected
by provincial delegates to be provisional President of the
Republic of China.
e) However, Yuan Shikai had played a key role in the revolution and
had significant military power, whereas Sun