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Sun Yat-Sen

1911 Encyclopedia Britannica

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"SUN YAT-SEN (1867-), Chinese leader of the revolutionary movement which ended in the abdication of the Manchu dynasty in Feb. 1912, was born in Kuangtung province, the son of a native Christian. He studied at the College of Medicine in Hong-Kong from 1887 to 1892, and there took his degree in medicine and surgery. He practised his profession first at Macao and then at Canton, but from the outset of his career displayed more interest in politics than in medicine, being by temperament an iconoclast, an organizer of secret societies and a leader of conspiracies against the established order of things. Inspired by his semi-European training, with bitter resentment against the Manchus, whom he regarded as responsible for China's humiliation at the hands of Japan, he first raised the standard of rebellion and of Cantonese independence in 1895; but the coup failed and Dr. Sun was compelled to seek safety in exile. Henceforward all his energies were directed towards stimulating the anti-dynastic movement, first by the collection of funds from the Chinese communities in the United States, Hawaii and the Straits Settlements, and then by organized propaganda work conducted by secret agents throughout the Empire. He received considerable assistance and encouragement in Japan, where he founded a society known as the Tung Men-hui, which played a prominent part in Chinese politics after the establishment of the Republic. Although an exile, he was generally regarded by the " Western-learning " section of Young China as its leader, especially after the Chinese Government's attempt to kidnap him in London, in 1896. In 1911, when the revolution broke out prematurely at Wuchang, Dr. Sun was in England; but he hurried back to China and arrived at Shanghai on Christmas Eve, in time to be acclaimed as the originator of the Republican programme and elected Provisional President by the delegates to the National Convention assembled at Nanking. On Jan. 5, after having taken the oath of office, he issued a Manifesto (countersigned by Wu Ting-fang as Minister for Foreign Affairs) in which the purposes and policy of the Republican Government were proclaimed. On Feb. 12 an Imperial edict announced the abdication of the Emperor; it surrendered the reins of government to the representatives of the sovereign people and declared that henceforth the constitution should be Republican; at the same time, the organization of the new form of government was entrusted, " with full powers," to Yuan Shih-k'ai. On the 14th, Sun Yat-sen resigned the Presidency and in the name of the Nanking Assembly invited Yuan to accept the position of Provisional President. His action was applauded by Young China at the time as evidence of patriotic self-abnegation, but events proved that it was chiefly inspired by recognition of the fact that he and the Cantonese group of politicians who had joined him as leaders of the Republican movement, did not yet carry sufficient weight to justify them in attempting to form a national government.

Relations between Sun Yat-sen and Yuan Shih-k'ai were never cordial, but until the ejection from Peking of the Kuo Min-tang Radicals by the President Dictator in 1913, they preserved the appearance of goodwill, and towards the end of 1912 Sun accepted a highly paid appointment as Director of National Railways at Shanghai. After the failure of the Kuo Min-tang's " war to punish Yuan," Sun wandered again in a wilderness of conspiracies. Eventually, after the death of the Dictator (1916) he became one of the Cantonese group of politicians which waged continual warfare against the party in power at Peking. Because of the futility and sordid intrigues which characterized the independent Military Government at Canton, he, whose reputation in 1912 had stood high at home and abroad, came gradually to be regarded as an irreconcilable conspirator, whose personal ambitions were largely responsible for the continuance of the senseless civil strife between the North and the South. By the vehemence of his rhetoric, by the fervour of his grandiose schemes for the remaking of China at the time of the revolution, he captured the imagination of considerable sections of the public, especially in the United States; but his subsequent career failed to justify his own belief in himself as a heaven-sent reformer. In April 1921, a special session of the Southern (Canton) Parliament elected him to be President of the Chinese Republic, his supporters declaring the Canton " Military Government " to be the only lawfully constituted government in the country; but the influence of these Cantonese " Constitutionalists " over the other southern provinces had then become almost insignificant, and the " Military Government," prohibited by the Foreign Powers from interfering with the revenues of the Maritime Customs, was confronted by financial problems of a kind which threatened not only its reforming activities but its continued existence.

Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Sun Yat-Sen'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica.​encyclopedias/​eng/​bri/​s/sun-yat-sen.html. 1910.