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Sun Yat-sen

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Sun Yixian (孫逸仙 in pinyin: Sun1 Yi4 xian1; in Cantonese: Sun Yat-sen or Syun Yet-sin) or Sun Zhongshan (孫中山 sun1 zhong1 shan1) (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 China (国父 guo3 fu2, literal meaning: Father of the Nation), which is used both in Taiwan and Mainland China.

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

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Full name: Sun Wen (孫文 sun1 wen2)
Family name: Sun (孫 sun1)
Given name: Wen (文 wen2)
  • Yixian (逸仙 yi4 xian1)
  • Deming (德明 de2 ming2)
  • Rixing (日新 ri4 xing1)
  • The Woodcutter of Zhongshan (中山樵 zhong1 shan1)
Mostly known as: Sun Zhongshan (孫中山 sun1 zhong1 shan1)


He was born on in Xiangshan County (香山县) of Guangdong Province, in southern China. The county has been renamed Zhongshan (zhong1 shan1 中山) in his honor.

Born into a farm-owning family, he was brought to Hawaii by an older brother who had immigrated there as a laborer. Sun studied at a missionary school in Honolulu (1879-1882) and ultimately earned a medical degree in Hong Kong (1892). He subsequently practiced medicine in that city. His years in the west induced in him a dissatisfaction with the 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, and Japan. In Japan he joined dissident[?] Chinese groups and soon became their leader. He was expelled from Japan and was in America when he learned of the successful rebellion against the Qing emperor. Sun immediately returned to China.

After ten failed attempts, a military uprising at Wuchang on October 10, 1911 ended five thousand years of imperial rule in China. 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. 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 the Qing dynasty completely collapsed.

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.

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 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 Principles as the foundation of the country and the Five Rights 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 1924, in order to hasten the conquest of China, he began a policy of active cooperation with the Chinese Communists and he accepted the help of the USSR in reorganizing the Kuomintang.

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 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.

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, when the Communists and the Kuomintang split (1927), 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, one of the Soong sisters, whom he married in 1914, sided with the communists during the Chinese Civil War and rose to a high position in the government of Communist China.

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 found in ceremonial locations such as in front of legislatures and classrooms. Unlike figures such as Chiang Kai-shek, Sun Yat-sen played no direct role in the government, 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: Qing Dynasty -- History of China -- Republic of China

External Link

ROC Government Biography (http://www.president.gov.tw/1_roc_intro/e_xpresident/index)

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