100 Years Ago Today

A History Of Events And Happenings From Exactly One Hundred Years Ago

New Political Force In China

Sun Yat-sen was born in the village of Cuiheng, Guangdong province, China in November 1866 into a Hakka family of farmers. He started school at age 10 and at 13 went to live with a brother in Honolulu, Hawaii. Sun learned English quickly and attended one semester at Oahu College before returning to China in 1883. In 1886 Sun went to Hong Kong to study medicine at the Guangzhou Boji Hospital under the Christian missionary John G. Kerr. Ultimately, he earned the license of a medical doctor from the Hong Kong College of Medicine for Chinese (the forerunner of The University of Hong Kong) in 1892.

Sun Yat Sen

As a doctor, Sun had grown increasingly frustrated by the conservative Qing government and its refusal to adopt knowledge from the more technologically advanced Western nations. Around 1888 Sun was with a group of revolutionary thinkers that were nicknamed the Four Bandits at the Hong Kong College of Medicine for Chinese. He quit his medical practice in order to devote his time to transforming China. He left China for Hawaii and founded the Revive China Society, which was committed to revolution to restore China’s prosperity. Members were drawn mainly from Chinese expatriates, especially the lower social classes. After a failed uprising, Sun went into exile in Japan in August 1905 where he joined forces with revolutionary Chinese students studying in Tokyo to form the Tongmenhui (United League). Sun created his political philosophy of the Three Principles of the People: the principle of nationalism, of democracy and of welfare.

Sun Yat Sen was travelling through the Western democracies garnering support when the Chinese Revolution broke out in October 1911. He returned to China in December 1911 and was elected provisional president by receiving votes from 16 of the 17 delegates meeting in Nanjing. He is to take office as the first president of the Republic of China January 1, 1912. An ex Imperial general, Yuan Shi Kai has become a major power broker, controlling China’s Army and negotiating for the Imperial throne. In February 1912 the Emperor abdicated and the Qing dynasty ended its 268 year Manchu domination of China. Sun, who controlled China from the South by leading the revolutionary councils, had agreed that if the Emperor abdicated he would resign as President of the Republic and let Yuan Shi Kai, who controlled China from the North by way of the Army, become president. Yuan Shi Kai is not an enlightened leader and many pro-democracy activists fear he will establish a constitutional monarchy restoring the Imperial throne. Sun and his followers wants a constitutional parliamentary democracy.

Yuan Shi Kai

On August 25, 1912 Sun Yat Sen’s Revolutionary Alliance and other pro-revolution groups establish the political party the  Kuomintang in Peking.  They hope to challenge Yuan Shi Kai in the legislature and check his power over the Republic.

Flag of the Kuomintang


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