ROC Yearbook

Sun Yat-sen

Sun Yat-sen 孫逸仙, also known as Sun Chung-shan 孫中山 and Sun Wen 孫文, was born in 1866 in a coastal village of Xiangshan County 香山縣, Guangdong Province 廣東省. After receiving his early education in both Chinese and Western schools, he moved to Hawaii in 1879, where he attended Iolani School and Oahu College. In 1883, he returned to China to continue his studies, concentrating on the Chinese classics and history. He later moved to Hong Kong to attend Queen’s College and in 1892 graduated from the Hong Kong College of Medicine for Chinese.


Deeply concerned at the Qing 清 dynasty government’s oppression, corruption and submissiveness toward foreign powers, Sun gave up his medical career to pursue political reform. In 1894, together with a group of young overseas Chinese, Sun established his first revolutionary organization, the Revive China Society 興中會, in Honolulu. His political ideals are summarized in a set of doctrines called the Three Principles of the People 三民主義, comprising solidarity of the people, power to the people and prosperity of the people.


Over the next 16 years, Sun and his followers launched 10 futile attempts to topple the Qing government. Finally, on October 10, 1911, forces loyal to Sun took over Wuchang 武昌, the capital of Hubei Province 湖北省. Thereafter, other provinces and important cities joined the revolutionary camp and declared independence from the Qing government. On December 29, 1911, Sun was elected provisional president of the new Republic by delegates from across China gathered in Nanjing. He was inaugurated on January 1, 1912, the founding day of the Republic of China (ROC).


To preserve national unity, Sun relinquished the presidency on April 1, 1912 to military strongman Yuan Shi-kai 袁世凱, who declared himself emperor in 1915. Sun and other leaders relocated to Japan to continue the revolutionary struggle until Yuan’s death in 1916. Thereafter, they organized a new government in Guangzhou 廣州, and in 1921 Sun became its president. He devoted the rest of his life to uniting China’s feuding factions.


Sun denied the inevitability of communism in China. He believed that class struggle, an intrinsic element of communism, was not an inevitable stage in human progress. He reiterated this point in a joint declaration issued with Soviet envoy Adolf Joffe in 1923, which stated that communism was not suitable for China. Sun also believed that cooperation rather than class struggle was the driving force behind social development.


Sun died of cancer on March 12, 1925, at the age of 59 in Beijing. In 1940, he was posthumously declared the founding father of the ROC for his lifelong contributions to the revolution.