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Sun Yat-sen

Sun Yat-sen (孫逸仙 pinyin: Sūn Yxiān; Cantonese Yale: Syn Yaht-sn) (November 12, 1866 - March 12, 1925) was a Chinese revolutionary leader and statesman, the founder of the Kuomintang and the first provisional president of the Republic of China. In the 1930s he was posthumously given the title "Father of the Nation" (國父 Guf), which is currently used in Taiwan. In the mainland, he is commonly referred to as the "forthgoer" (革命的先行者) and is mentioned by name in the preamble to the Constitution of the People's Republic of China.

He developed a political philosophy known as the Three Principles of the People.

Table of contents
1 Names
2 Biography
3 Legacy
4 External Link


Full name: Sun Wen (孫文 Sūn Wn)
Family name: Sun (孫 Sūn)
Given name: Wen (文 Wn)
Courtesy names:
  • Yixian (逸仙 Yxīan)
Deming (德明 Dmng)
  • Rixin (日新 Rxīn)
Nakayama Shou (中山樵 a name used in Japan while in exile; meaning 'The Woodcutter of the Middle Mountain'; Zhōngshān Qio)
Known most commonly in China as: Sun Zhongshan (孫中山 Sūn Zhōngshān)
  • In the Republic of China, his name is officially written as "National Father (space) Mr. Sun Zhongshan" (國父 孫中山先生), where the one-character space is a traditional homage symbol.


He was born to a peasant family in Cuiheng Village, Xiangshan County (香山县) of Guangdong Province, in southern China. The county has been renamed Zhongshan in his honor.

At age 13 he went to live with an older brother, who had immigrated there as a laborer and become a prosperous merchant, in Honolulu, Hawaii. Sun studied at the Iolani School in Honolulu (1879-1882) and ultimately earned a medical degree in the Hong Kong College of Medicine for Chinese (1892), of which he was one of the first two graduates. He subsequently practiced medicine in that city. His years in the west induced in him a dissatisfaction with the Qing government of China and he began his political career by attempting to organize reform groups of Chinese exiles in Hong Kong. In October 1894 he founded the Xing Zhong Society to unveil the goal of prospering China and as the platform for future revolutionary activities.

In 1895 a coup he plotted failed, and for the next 16 years Sun was an exile in Europe, the United States, Canada, and Japan, raising money for his revolutionary party and bankrolling uprisings in China. In Japan he joined dissident Chinese groups (later became the Tongmenghui) and soon became their leader. He was expelled from Japan to the United States.

On October 10 1911, a military uprising at Wuchang in which Sun had no direct involvement, began a process that ended five thousand years of imperial rule in China. When he learned of the successful rebellion against the Qing emperor from press reports, Sun immediately returned to China from the United States.

On December 29 at Nanking, a meeting of representatives from provinces elected Sun as the provisional President of the Republic of China and set the New Year's Day of 1912 as the first day of the First Year of the Republic.

The official history of the Kuomintang emphasizes Sun's role as the first provisional President, but many historians now question the importance of Sun'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, his naming as the first provisional President was precisely because he was a respected but rather unimportant figure and therefore served as an ideal compromise candidate between the revolutionaries and the conservative gentry.

After the swearing in, Sun Yat-sen telexed all provinces to elect and send new senators to establish the National Assembly of the Republic of China. Then the provisional government organizational guidelines and the provisional law of the Republic were declared as the basic law of the country by the Assembly.

The provisional government declared by Sun was in a very weak position. The provinces of southern China had declared independence from the Qing dynasty, but most of the northern provinces had not done so. 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, and there were still significant forces which had not declared against the Qing.

The major issue before the provisional government was to seek the support of Yuan Shikai who controlled the Beiyang Army, the military of northern China. After promising Yuan the presidency of the new Republic, Yuan sided with the revolution and forced the emperor to abdicate.

Opposition developed to Yuan's dictatorial methods. In 1913 Sun led an unsuccessful revolt against Yuan, and he 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, after divorcing his first wife Lu Muzhen.

He returned to China in 1917, and in 1921 he was elected president of a self-proclaimed national government at Guangzhou in southern China. In 1923, he 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.

To develop the military power needed for the Northern Expedition against the militarists at Beijing, he established the Whampoa Military Academy (now Huangpu Military Academy) near Guangzhou, with Chiang Kai-shek as its commandant and with such party leaders as Wang Ching-wei and Hu Han-min as political instructors.

In the early 1920s Sun received help from the Comintern for his reorganization of the Kuomintang as a Leninist Democratic-Centrist Party and negotiated the First CPC-KMT 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 Sun 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.

On November 10 1924, Sun traveled north and delivered another speech to suggest gathering a conference for the Chinese people and the abolition of all unfair treaties with the Western powers. Two days later, he yet again traveled to Beijing to discuss the future of the country, despite his deteriorating health and the ongoing civil war of the warlords.

In March 1925 he died of liver cancer in Beijing at the age of 59.


His Political philosophy, known as the Three Principles of the People (三民主義) was proclaimed in August 1905 and was based strongly on American progressivism.

In his Methods and Strategies of Establishing the Country completed in 1919, he suggested using his Three People's Principles to establish ultimate peace, freedom and equality in the country.

After Sun's death, a power struggle between his young protg 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 Yat-sens ambiguous legacy. 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. In addition, during World War II, both the anti-Japanese government of Chiang Kai-shek and the pro-Japanese puppet government of Wang Jingwei claimed to be the rightful heirs of Sun's legacy.

The official veneration of Sun's memory (especially in the Kuomintang) was a virtual cult, which centered around his tomb in Nanjing. His widow, the former Soong Ching-ling, sided with the communists during the Chinese Civil War and served from 1949 to 1981 and Vice President (or Vice Chairwoman) of the Communist China and as Honorary President shortly before her death in 1981.

Sun Yat-sen remains unique among 20th-century Chinese leaders for having a high reputation both in mainland China and in Taiwan. In Taiwan, he is seen as the Father of the Republic of China, and his picture is still always almost found in ceremonial locations such as in front of legislatures and classrooms of public schools (from elementary to senior high school). Unlike figures such as Chiang Kai-shek, Sun Yat-sen played no role in governing Taiwan, so invoking Sun Yat-sen produces much less of a negative reaction among supporters of Taiwan independence than invoking other figures of the Kuomintang.

On the Mainland, Sun is also seen as a Chinese nationalist and proto-socialist, and is thus highly regarded. In recent years, the leadership of the Communist Party of China has been increasingly invoking Sun Yat-sen, partly as a way of improving relations with supports of Chinese reunification on Taiwan. Significantly, a massive picture of Sun now appears in Tiananmen Square for May Day while pictures of Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin no longer appear.

See also: History of the Republic of China

External Link