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Sun Yat-sen

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Sun Yat-sen
Provisional President of the Republic of China
In office
1 January 1912 – 10 March 1912
Vice President Li Yuanhong
Succeeded by Yuan Shikai
Premier of the Kuomintang of China
In office
10 October 1919 – 12 March 1925
Preceded by Himself (as Premier of Chinese Revolutionary Party)
Succeeded by Zhang Renjie (as chairman)
Personal details
Born (1866-11-12)12 November 1866
Xiangshan, Guangdong, China
Died 12 March 1925(1925-03-12) (aged 58)
Resting place Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum, Nanjing, People's Republic of China
Nationality Chinese
Political party Kuomintang
Other political
Chinese Revolutionary Party
Spouse(s) Lu Muzhen (1885–1915)
Kaoru Otsuki (1903–1906)
Soong Ching-ling (1915–1925)
Chen Cui-fen (1892-1925)
Children Sun Fo
Sun Yan
Sun Wan
Fumiko Miyagawa (b. 1906)
Alma mater Hong Kong College of Medicine for Chinese
Occupation Physician
Religion Congregationalist

Sun Yat-sen (12 November 1866 – 12 March 1925) was a Chinese revolutionary, first president and founding father of the Republic of China ("Nationalist China"). As the foremost pioneer of Republic of China, Sun is referred to as the " Father of the Nation" in the Republic of China (ROC), and the "forerunner of democratic revolution" in the People's Republic of China. Sun played an instrumental role in the overthrow of the Qing dynasty during the Double Ten Revolution. Although he was in St. Louis, Missouri at the time, he was appointed to serve as president of the Provisional Republic of China, when it was founded in 1912. He later co-founded the Kuomintang (KMT), serving as its first leader. Sun was a uniting figure in post-Imperial China, and remains unique among 20th-century Chinese politicians for being widely revered amongst the people from both sides of the Taiwan Strait.

Although Sun is considered one of the greatest leaders of modern China, his political life was one of constant struggle and frequent exile. After the success of the revolution, he quickly fell out of power in the newly founded Republic of China, and led successive revolutionary governments as a challenge to the warlords who controlled much of the nation. Sun did not live to see his party consolidate its power over the country during the Northern Expedition. His party, which formed a fragile alliance with the Communists, split into two factions after his death. Sun's chief legacy resides in his developing of the political philosophy known as the Three Principles of the People: nationalism, democracy, and the people's livelihood.


The original name of Sun Yatsen was Sun Wen (孫文) and his genealogical name was Sun Deming (孫德明). As a child, his "milk name" was Dixiang (帝象). The courtesy name of Sun Yat-sen was Zaizhi (載之), and his baptized name was Rixin (日新). While at school in Hong Kong he got the name Yat Sen (逸仙; Hanyu pinyin: Yìxiān). Sun Zhongshan (孫中山), the most popular of his Chinese names, came from the "Nakayama" (中山) of Nakayama Shō (中山樵), the Japanese name given to him by Miyazaki Touten.

Early years

Sun Yat-sen (back row, fifth from left) and his family.

Birthplace and early life

Sun Yat-sen was born on 12 November 1866. His birthplace was the village of Cuiheng, Xiangshan County, (later Zhongshan County) Guangdong Province. He had a cultural background of Hakka and Cantonese. After finishing primary education, he moved to Honolulu, where he lived a comfortable life of modest wealth supported by his elder brother Sun Mei.

Education years

Statue of Sun Yat-sen as a school boy in Honolulu, Hawaii, age 13
Statue of Sun Yat-sen as a school boy in Honolulu, Hawaii, age 13

At age 10, Sun Yat-sen began seeking schooling. It is also at this point where he met childhood friend Lu Hao-tung. By age 13 in 1878 after receiving a few years of local schooling, Sun went to live with his elder brother, Sun Mei (孫眉) in Honolulu.

Sun Yat-sen then studied at ʻ Iolani School where he learned English, British history, mathematics, science, and Christianity. Originally unable to speak the English language, Sun Yat-sen picked up the language so quickly that he received a prize for outstanding achievement from King David Kalākaua. Sun graduated from Iolani in 1882. Then attended Oahu College (now known as Punahou School), for one semester. In 1883 he was soon sent home to China as his brother was becoming afraid that Sun Yat-sen would embrace Christianity.

When he returned home in 1883 at age 17, Sun met up with his childhood friend Lu Hao-tung at Beijidian (北極殿), a temple in Cuiheng Village. They saw many villagers worshipping the Beiji (literally North Pole) Emperor-God in the temple, and were dissatisfied with their ancient healing methods. They broke the statue, incurring the wrath of fellow villagers, and escaped to Hong Kong. While in Hong Kong in 1883 he studied at the Diocesan Boys' School and from 1884 to 1886 he was at the government Central school.

In 1886 Sun studied medicine at the Guangzhou Boji Hospital under the Christian missionary John G. Kerr. Ultimately, he earned the license of Christian practice as a medical doctor from the Hong Kong College of Medicine for Chinese (the forerunner of The University of Hong Kong) in 1892. Notably, of his class of 12 students, Sun was one of only two who graduated.

Christian baptism

Sun was later baptized in Hong Kong by an American missionary of the Congregational Church of the United States to his brother's disdain. The minister would also develop a friendship with Sun. Sun attended To Tsai Church (道濟會堂, founded by the London Missionary Society in 1888) while he studied Western Medicine in Hong Kong College of Medicine for Chinese (香港華人西醫書院). Sun pictured a revolution as similar to the salvation mission of the Christian church. His conversion to Christianity was related to his revolutionary ideals and push for advancement. Sun later became the godfather of Paul Linebarger, a science-fiction writer.

Sun Yat-sen was married to Soong Ching-Ling. Soong Ching-Ling's sister, Soong May-Ling, was married to Chiang Kai-shek, and thus the two leaders were brothers-in-law through marriage to the Soong sisters. Soong Ching-Ling's father was an American-educated Methodist minister Charlie Soong, who made a fortune in banking and printing; though he had been a personal friend of Sun's, he was enraged when Sun announced his intention to marry Ching-ling because, as Sun was himself a Christian and already married with three children, Charlie viewed Sun's actions as running directly against their shared religion. Their mother was Ni Kwei-tseng (倪桂珍 Ní Guìzhēn).

Transformation into a revolutionary

Photograph of Sun Yat-sen (seated, second from left) and his revolutionary friends, the Four Bandits, including Yeung Hok-ling (left), Chan Siu-bak (seated, second from right), Yau Lit (right), and Guan Jingliang (關景良) (standing) at the Hong Kong College of Medicine for Chinese.

Four Bandits

During the Qing Dynasty rebellion around 1888 Sun was in Hong Kong with a group of revolutionary thinkers that was nicknamed the Four Bandits at the Hong Kong College of Medicine for Chinese. Sun, who had grown increasingly frustrated by the conservative Qing government and its refusal to adopt knowledge from the more technologically advanced Western nations, quit his medical practice in order to devote his time to transforming China.

Furen and Revive China Society

In 1891 Sun met revolutionary friends in Hong Kong including Yeung Kui-wan who was the leader and founder of the Furen Literary Society. The group was spreading the idea of overthrowing the Qing. In 1894, Sun wrote an 8,000 character petition to Qing Viceroy Li Hongzhang presenting his ideas for modernizing China. He traveled to Tianjin to personally present the petition to Li but was not granted an audience. After this experience, Sun turned irrevocably toward revolution. He left China for Hawaii and founded the Revive China Society, which was committed to revolutionize China’s prosperity. Members were drawn mainly from Chinese expatriates, especially the lower social classes. The same month in 1894 the Furen Literary Society was merged with the Hong Kong chapter of the Revive China Society. Sun became the secretary of the newly merged Revive China society, which Yeung Kui-wan headed as president. They disguised their activities in Hong Kong under the running of a "Qianheng Company" (乾亨行).

First Sino-Japanese War

In 1895 China suffered a serious defeat during the First Sino-Japanese War. There were two types of response. One group of intellectuals contended that the Manchu Qing government could restore its legitimacy by successfully modernizing. Stressing that overthrowing the Manchu would result in chaos and would lead to China being carved up by imperialists, intellectuals like Kang Youwei and Liang Qichao supported responding with initiatives like the Hundred Days' Reform. In another faction, Sun Yat-sen and others like Zou Rong wanted a revolution to replace the dynastic system with a modern nation-state in the form of a republic. The Hundred Day's reform turned out to be a failure by 1898.

From uprising to exile

Plaque in London marking the site of a house where Sun Yat-sen lived while in exile
Letter from Sun Yat-sen to James Cantlie announcing to him that he has assumed the Presidency of the Provisional Republican Government of China. Dated 21 January 1912.

First Guangzhou uprising

In the second year of the establishment of the Revive China society on 26 October 1895, the group planned and launched the First Guangzhou uprising against the Qing in Guangzhou. Yeung Kui-wan directed the uprising starting from Hong Kong. However, plans were leaked out and more than 70 members, including Lu Hao-tung, were captured by the Qing government. The uprising was a failure.

Exile in Japan

Sun Yat-sen spent time living in Japan while in exile. He befriended and was financially aided by a democratic revolutionary named Miyazaki Toten. Most Japanese who actively worked with Sun were motivated by a pan-Asian fear of encroaching Western imperialism. While in Japan, Sun also met and befriended Mariano Ponce, then a diplomat of the First Philippine Republic. During the Philippine Revolution and the Philippine-American War, Sun helped Ponce procure weapons salvaged from the Imperial Japanese Army and ship the weapons to the Philippines. By helping the Philippine Republic, Sun hoped that the Filipinos would win their independence so that he could use the archipelago as a staging point of another revolution. However, as the war ended in July 1902, America emerged victorious from a bitter 3-year war against the Republic. Therefore, the Filipino dream of independence vanished with Sun's hopes of collaborating with the Philippines in his revolution in China.

Huizhou uprising

On 22 October 1900 Sun launched the Huizhou uprising to attack Huizhou and provincial authorities in Guangdong. This came five years after the failed Guangzhou uprising. This time Sun appealed to the triads for help. This uprising was also a failure. Miyazaki who participated in the revolt with Sun wrote an account of this revolutionary effort under the title "33-year dream" (三十三年之夢) in 1902.

Further exile

Sun was in exile not only in Japan, but also in Europe, the United States, and Canada. He raised money for his revolutionary party and to support uprisings in China. In 1896 he was detained at the Chinese Legation in London, where the Chinese Imperial secret service planned to kill him. He was released after 12 days through the efforts of James Cantlie, The Times, and the Foreign Office, leaving Sun a hero in Britain. James Cantlie, Sun's former teacher at the Hong Kong College of Medicine for Chinese, maintained a lifelong friendship with Sun and would later write an early biography of Sun.

Heaven and earth society, overseas travel

A "Heaven and Earth Society" sect known as Tiandihui has been around for a long time. The group has also been referred to as the "three cooperating organizations" as well as the triads. Sun Yat-sen mainly used this group to leverage his overseas travels to gain further financial and resource support for his revolution.

According to Lee Yun-ping, chairman of the Chinese historical society, Sun needed a certificate to enter the United States at a time when the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 would have otherwise blocked him. However, on Sun's first attempt to enter the US, he was still arrested. He was later bailed out after 17 days. In March 1904, while residing in Kula, Maui, Sun Yat-sen obtained a Certificate of Hawaiian Birth, issued by the Territory of Hawaii, stating that "he was born in the Hawaiian Islands on the 24th day of November, A.D. 1870." He renounced it after it served its purpose to circumvent the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Official files of the United States show that Sun had United States nationality, moved to China with his family at age 4, and returned to Hawaii 10 years later.


A letter with Sun's seal commencing the Tongmenghui in HK


In 1904 Sun Yat-sen came about with the goal "to expel the Tatar barbarians, to revive Zhonghua, to establish a Republic, and to distribute land equally among the people." (驅除韃虜, 恢復中華, 創立民國, 平均地權). One of Sun's major legacies was the creation of his political philosophy of the Three Principles of the People. These Principles included the principle of nationalism (minzu, 民族), of democracy (minquan, 民權), and of welfare (minsheng, 民生).

On 20 August 1905 Sun joined forces with revolutionary Chinese students studying in Tokyo, Japan to form the unified group Tongmenghui (United League), which sponsored uprisings in China. By 1906 the number of Tongmenghui members reached 963 people.

Interior of the Wan Qing Yuan featuring Sun's items and photos

Malaya support

Sun's notability and popularity extends beyond the Greater China region, particularly to Nanyang (Southeast Asia) where a large concentration of overseas Chinese reside in Malaya (Malaysia and Singapore). While in Singapore he met local Chinese merchants Teo Eng Hock, Tan Chor Nam and Lim Nee Soon, which mark the commencement of direct support from the Nanyang Chinese. The Singapore chapter of the Tongmenghui was established on 6 April 1906. Though some records claim the founding date to be end of 1905. The villa used by Sun was known as Wan Qing Yuan. At this point Singapore was the headquarter of the Tongmenghui.

Zhennanguan uprising

On 1 December 1907 Sun led the Zhennanguan uprising against the Qing at Friendship Pass, which is the border between Guangxi and Vietnam. The uprising failed after seven days of fighting. In 1907 there were a total of four uprisings that failed including Huanggang uprising, Huizhou seven women lake uprising and Qinzhou uprising. In 1908 two more uprisings failed one after another including Qin-lian uprising and Hekou uprising.

Anti-Sun movements

Because of these failures Sun's leadership was beginning to be challenged by elements from within the Tongmenghui who wished to remove him as leader. In Tokyo 1907–1908 members from the recently merged Restoration society raised doubts about Sun's credentials. Tao Chengzhang (陶成章) and Zhang Binglin publicly denounced Sun with an open leaflet called "A declaration of Sun Yat-sen's criminal acts by the revolutionaries in Southeast Asia". This was printed and distributed in reformist newspapers like Nanyang Zonghui Bao. Their goal was to target Sun as a leader leading a revolt for profiteering gains.

The revolutionaries were polarized and split between pro-Sun and anti-Sun camps. Sun publicly fought off comments about how he had something to gain financially from the revolution. In 1910 Sun took the time to establish the United Chinese Library in Singapore. But by 19 July 1910 the Tongmenghui headquarter had to relocate from Singapore to Penang to reduce the anti-Sun activities. It is also in Penang that Sun and his supporters would launch the first Chinese "daily" newspaper, the Kwong Wah Yit Poh on December 1910.

Soldiers of the Wuchang uprising

1911 revolution

To sponsor more uprisings, Sun made a personal plea for financial aid at the Penang conference held on 13 November 1910 in Malaya. The leaders launched a major drive for donations across the Malay Peninsula. They raised HK$187,000.

On 27 April 1911 revolutionary Huang Xing led a second Guangzhou uprising known as the Yellow Flower Mound revolt against the Qing. The revolt failed and ended in disaster; only the bodies of 72 revolutionaries were found. The revolutionaries are remembered as martyrs.

On 10 October 1911 a military uprising at Wuchang took place led again by Huang Xing. At the time Sun had no direct involvement as he was still in exile. Huang was in charge of the revolution that ended over 2000 years of imperial rule in China. When Sun learned of the successful rebellion against the Qing emperor from press reports, he immediately returned to China from the United States accompanied by General Homer Lea on 21 December 1911. The uprising expanded to the Xinhai Revolution also known as the "Chinese Revolution" to overthrow the last Emperor Puyi. After this event 10 October became known as the commemoration of Double Ten Day.

Republic of China with many governments

Provisional government

On 29 December 1911 a meeting of representatives from provinces in Nanking elected Sun Yat-sen as the " provisional president" (臨時大總統). January 1, 1912 was set as the first day of the First Year of the Republic. Li Yuanhong was made provisional vice-president and Huang Xing became the minister of the army. The new Provisional Government of the Republic of China was created along with the Provisional Constitution of the Republic of China. Sun is credited for the funding of the revolutions and for keeping the spirit of revolution alive, even after a series of failed uprisings. His successful merger of minor revolutionary groups to a single larger party provided a better base for all those who shared the same ideals. A number of things were introduced such as the republic calendar system and new fashion like Zhongshan suits.

Beiyang government

Yuan Shikai was in charge of the Beiyang Army, the military of northern China. He was promised the position of President of the Republic of China if he could get the Qing court to abdicate. On 12 February 1912 Emperor Puyi did abdicate the throne. Sun Yat-sen stepped down as President, and Yuan became the new provisional president in Beijing on 10 March 1912. The provisional government did not have any military forces of its own, its control over elements of the New Army that had mutinied was limited and there were still significant forces which still had not declared against the Qing.

Sun Yat-sen sent telegrams to the leaders of all provinces, requesting them to elect and to establish the National Assembly of the Republic of China in 1912. In May 1912 the legislative assembly moved from Nanjing to Beijing with its 120 members divided between members of Tongmenghui and a Republican party that supported Yuan Shikai. Many revolutionary members were already alarmed by Yuan's ambitions and the northern based Beiyang government.

Nationalist party and Second Revolution

Tongmenghui member Song Jiaoren quickly tried to control the parliament. He mobilized the old Tungmenghui at the core with the merger of a number of new small parties to form a new political party called the Guomindang (Chinese nationalist party) on 25 August 1912 at Huguang Guild Hall Beijing. The 1912–1913 National assembly election was considered a huge success for the KMT winning 269 of the 596 seats in the lower house and 123 of the 274 senate seats. The Second Revolution took place where Sun and KMT military forces tried to overthrow Yuan's forces of about 80,000 men in an armed conflict in July 1913. The revolt against Yuan was unsuccessful. Sun was forced to seek asylum in Japan. In retaliation the national party leader Song Jiaoren was assassinated, almost certainly by a secret order of Yuan, on 20 March 1913.

Political chaos

In 1915 Yuan Shikai proclaimed the Empire of China (1915–1916) with himself as Emperor of China. Sun took part in the Anti-Monarchy war of the Constitutional Protection Movement, while also supporting bandit leaders like Bai Lang during the Bai Lang Rebellion. This marked the beginning of the Warlord Era. In 1915 Sun wrote to the Second International, an socialist-based organization in Paris, asking it to send a team of specialists to help China set up the world's first socialist republic. At the time there were many theories and proposals of what China could be. In the political mess, even when Sun Yat-sen was announced as President, Xu Shichang was also announced as President of the Republic of China.

Path to Northern Expedition

Sun Yat-sen (middle, dressed in white) and Chiang Kai-shek (on stage in uniform) at the founding of the Whampoa Military Academy in 1924.

Guangzhou militarist government

China had become divided between different military leaders without a proper central government. Sun saw the danger of this and returned to China in 1917 to advocate Chinese reunification. In 1921 he started a self-proclaimed military government in Guangzhou and was elected Grand Marshal. Between 1912 and 1927 three governments had been set up in South China: the Provisional government in Nanjing (1912), the Military government in Guangzhou (1921–1925), and the National government in Guangzhou and later Wuhan (1925–1927). The southern separatist government in the South was established to rival the Beiyang government in the north. Yuan Shikai had banned the KMT. The short lived Chinese Revolutionary Party was a temporary replacement for the KMT. On 10 October 1919 Sun resurrected the KMT with the new name Chung-kuo Kuomintang, basically "Chinese Nationalist party".

KMT CPC cooperation

By this time Sun had become 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. In order to hasten the conquest of China, he began a policy of active cooperation with the Communist Party of China (CPC). Sun and the Soviet Union's Adolph Joffe signed the Sun-Joffe Manifesto in January 1923. Sun received help from the Comintern for his acceptance of communist members into his KMT. Revolutionary and socialist leader Vladimir Lenin praised Sun and the KMT for their ideology and principles. Lenin praised Sun and his attempts at social reformation, and also congratulated him for fighting foreign Imperialism. Sun also returned the praise, calling him a "great man", and sent his congratulations on the revolution in Russia.

With the Soviet's help, Sun was able to develop the military power needed for the Northern Expedition against the military at the north. He established the Whampoa Military Academy near Guangzhou with Chiang Kai-shek as the commandant of the National Revolutionary Army (NRA). Other Whampoa leaders include Wang Jingwei and Hu Hanmin as political instructors. This full collaboration was called the First United Front.

Finance concerns

In 1924 Sun appointed TV Soong to set up the first Chinese Central bank called the Canton Central Bank. To establish national capitalism and a banking system was a major objective for the KMT. However Sun was not without some opposition as there was the Canton volunteers corps uprising against him.

Sun (seated, right) and his wife Soong Ching-ling (宋慶齡) (seated, centre) in Kobe, Japan in 1924

Final speeches

In February 1923 Sun made a presentation to the Students' Union in Hong Kong University and declared that it was the corruption of China and the peace, order and good government of Hong Kong that turned him into a revolutionary. This same year, 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. Part of the speech was made into the National Anthem of the Republic of China.

On 10 November 1924, Sun traveled north to Tianjin and delivered a speech to suggest a gathering for a "National conference" for the Chinese people. It called for the end of warlord rules and the abolition of all unequal treaties with the Western powers. Two days later, he traveled to Beijing to discuss the future of the country, despite his deteriorating health and the ongoing civil war of the warlords. On 28 November 1924 Sun traveled to Japan and gave a speech on Pan-Asianism at Kobe, Japan.


Sun died of liver cancer on 12 March 1925 at the age of 58 at the Rockefeller financed Peking Union Medical College. In keeping with common Chinese practice, his remains were placed in the Temple of Azure Clouds, a Buddhist shrine in the Western Hills a few miles outside of Beijing.

A mausoleum was built and completed in 1929. On 1 June 1929, Sun's remains were relocated from Beijing and buried in Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum in Nanjing.


Chinese Generals pay tribute to the Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum in Beijing in 1928 after the success of the Northern Expedition. From right to left, are Generals Cheng Jin (何成浚), Zhang Zuobao (張作寶), Chen Diaoyuan (陳調元), Chiang Kai-shek, Woo Tsin-hang, Yan Xishan, Ma Fuxiang, Ma Sida (馬四達), and Bai Chongxi.

Power struggle

After Sun's death, a power struggle between his young protégé 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's ambiguous legacy. In 1927 Chiang Kai-shek married Soong May-ling, a sister of Sun's widow Soong Ching-ling, and subsequently he could claim to be a brother-in-law of Sun. 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, a conflict that continued through World War II. Sun's widow, Soong Ching-ling, sided with the Communists during the Chinese Civil War and served from 1949 to 1981 as Vice President (or Vice Chairwoman) of the People's Republic of China and as Honorary President shortly before her demise in 1981.

Cult of Personality

A personality cult in the Republic of China was centered on Sun and his successor, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. Chinese Muslim Generals and Imams participated in this cult of personality and one party state, with Muslim General Ma Bufang making people bow to Sun's portrait and listen to the national anthem during a Tibetan and Mongol religious ceremony for the Qinghai Lake God. Quotes from the Quran and Hadith were used by Muslims to justify Chiang Kai-shek's rule over China.

The Kuomintang's constitution designated Sun as party president. After his death, the Kuomintang opted to keep that language in its constitution to honour his memory forever. The party has since been headed by a director-general (1927-1975) and a chairman (since 1975), which discharge the functions of the president.

Statue in the Mausoleum, Kuomintang flag on the ceiling

Father of the Nation

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 is known by the posthumous name Father of the Nation, Mr. Sun Zhongshan (Chinese: 國父 孫中山先生, where the one-character space is a traditional homage symbol). His likeness is still almost always found in ceremonial locations such as in front of legislatures and classrooms of public schools, from elementary to senior high school, and he continues to appear in new coinage and currency.

Forerunner of the revolution

On the mainland, Sun is also seen as a Chinese nationalist and proto-socialist, and is highly regarded as the Forerunner of the Revolution (革命先行者). He is even mentioned by name in the preamble to the Constitution of the People's Republic of China. In recent years, the leadership of the Communist Party of China has increasingly invoked Sun, partly as a way of bolstering Chinese nationalism in light of Chinese economic reform and partly to increase connections with supporters of the Kuomintang on Taiwan which the PRC sees as allies against Taiwan independence. Sun's tomb was one of the first stops made by the leaders of both the Kuomintang and the People First Party on their pan-blue visit to mainland China in 2005. A massive portrait of Sun continues to appear in Tiananmen Square for May Day and National Day.


Lu Muzhen (1867–1952), Sun's first wife from 1885 to 1915

Sun Yat-sen was born to father Sun Dacheng (孫達成) and mother lady Yang (楊氏) on 12 November 1866. At the time his father was age 53, while his mother was 38 years old. By the time he was born, he already had an older brother Sun Dezhang (孫德彰), an older sister Sun Jinxing (孫金星) who died at the early age of 4. Another older brother Sun Deyou (孫德祐) also died at the age of 6. He had two other sisters Sun Miaoxi (孫妙茜), who was older and Sun Qiuqi (孫秋綺) who was younger.

Sun had an arranged marriage with fellow villager Lu Muzhen at the age of 20. She bore him a son Sun Fo and two daughters, Sun Jinyuan (孫金媛) and Sun Jinwan (孫金婉). Sun subsequently married Soong Ching-ling, one of the Soong sisters. They were married in Japan on 25 October 1915, though he did not divorce his first wife, Lu Muzhen, due to opposition from the Chinese community. The relation with the sisters' father Charles Soong would play a role in political affairs. Among Sun's descendants was Leland Sun, who spent 37 years working in Hollywood as an actor and stuntman.

In popular culture

TV series, films

The life of Sun is portrayed in various films, mainly The Soong Sisters and Road to Dawn. A fictionalized assassination attempt on his life was featured in Bodyguards and Assassins. He is also portrayed during his struggle to overthrow the Qing dynasty in Once Upon a Time in China II. The TV series Towards the Republic features Ma Shaohua as Sun Yat-sen. In the 100th anniversary tribute of the film 1911, Winston Chao played Sun.

Sun Yat-sen tribute in Tiananmen Square, 2005.


In 2010 a theatrical play "Yellow Flower on slopes" (斜路黃花) was made. In 2011 there is also a mandopop group called "Zhongsan road 100" (中山路100號) known for singing the song "Our father of the nation" (我們國父). In 2011 a three-act opera, Dr. Sun Yat-Sen was announced by the Hong Kong Leisure and Cultural Services Department.


The 1992 novel China Mountain Zhang has a protagonist named Zhongsan of Chinese and Puerto Rican ancestry in a world dominated by the Communist party.


New Three Principles of the People

At one time CPC General secretary and PRC president Jiang Zemin claimed Sun Yat-sen had a "New Three Principles of the People" (新三民主義) which consisted of "working with the soviets, working with the communists and helping the farmers" (聯俄, 聯共, 扶助工農). Lily Sun said the CPC was distorting Sun's legacy in 2001. She then voiced her displeasure in 2002 in a private letter to Jiang about the distortion of history. In 2008 Jiang Zemin was willing to offer US$10 million to sponsor a Xinhai Revolution anniversary celebration event. According to Ming Pao she could not take the money because she would no longer have the freedom to communicate the revolution. This concept is still currently available on Baike Baidu.

KMT emblem disappearance case

In 1981 Lily Sun took a trip to Sun Yat-sen mausoleum in Nanjing, People's Republic of China. The emblem of the KMT had disappeared from the top of his tomb. On another visit in May 2011, she was surprised to find the four characters "General Rules of Meetings" (會議通則), a document that Sun wrote in reference to Robert's Rules of Order had disappeared from a stone carving.

Father of Independent Taiwan issue

Portrait of Sun Yat-sen on a Taiwan banknote of 1960.

Dr Sun Yat-sen on 1960 ND Banknote of Taiwan

In November 2004 the Taiwan Ministry of Education proposed that Sun Yat-sen was not the father of their independent country, Taiwan. Instead Sun was a foreigner from China. Taiwanese Education minister Tu Cheng-sheng and Examination Yuan member Lin Yu-ti (林玉体) were then attacked with eggs. At a Sun Yat-sen statue in Kaohsiung, a 70 year old ROC retired soldier slit his own throat to commit suicide as a way to protest the ministry proposal on the anniversary of Sun's birthday 12 November.

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