Sun Yat-sen (Sun Wen) 孫文

This article is excerpted from Biographies of Prominent Chinese, published in Shanghai in 1925.

sun yat sen portrait

His excellency Dr. Sun Yat-Sen (Sun Wen), the founder of the Chinese Republic, was born in Kwantung Province in 1866. He received his preliminary education in the Anglican Mission College of Kwantung, and then studied in Honolulu and, later, at the University of California. Upon returning to China, he entered Queen’s College, at Hongkong, and after completing a course of study there he studied medicine in Canton. Thereafter, he practice medicine, for a short time. He gave this up, however, in order to devote all of his time to various political societies, the purpose of which was to bring about the overthrow of the monarchy in China.

The path of the political agitator of those days was hazardous; and it was not long before most of Dr. Sun’s associates were arrested and beheaded. Dr. Sun himself escaped to the United States, where he continued his agitation among the overseas Chinese residing on the mainland and in the Hawaiian Islands.

From 1896 to 1907, he travelled about the world conducting active propaganda for democracy in China: and, soliciting funds for a revolution in 1907, in Tokio, he brought together leaders of the various revolutionary elements and planned the details of the revolution which took place in 1911.

Dr. Sun was in the United States when he received word that General Huang Hsung had launced the revolution, signalized by a rebellion which had taken place at Wuchang, the rebellion being precipitated by the execution of several revolutionaries by the Imperial authorities of that city.

Dr. Sun then went to London to induce the British Government to observe neutrality in China by not giving their support to the Manchus, who were then attempting to negotiate a loan from British bankers. He thereupon returned to China and immediately went to Nanking to attend the conference which was held there with the purpose of organizing a new government. At this conference Dr. Sun was elected Provisional President of the Republic. Shortly afterward, however, he retired in favour of General Yuan Shih-kai, who had control of the national armies at that time. Dr. Sun supported General Yuan as President until the latter attempted to establish himself as Emperor. He then started a new rebellion to counteract President Yuan’s move.

In 1917, after the Parliament was dissolved and war declared on Germany, Dr. Sun succeeded in inducing a sufficient number of parliamentarians to organise an oppositional government in Canton. Since that time, Dr. Sun’s political career has been checkered indeed. At one time he was in sole command of Canton, having dictatorial powers under the title of “Generalissimo”; and at another time has was forced to leave the city and make his residence in the foreign section of Shanghai.

During his later years, Dr. Sun leaned more and more toward radicalism; and in 1922, he issued a joint proclamation of cooperation with Soviet Russia. Early in 1924, he returned again to Canton; but conditions appeared chaotic in that city until, late that year, there occurred an open break between Dr. Sun’s forces and the Merchant Volunteer Corps, an organzation developed and financed by the merchants of Canton.

Shortly after this, Dr. Sun went to Shanghai, announcing upon his arrival there that he favored a course of action for China which would abolish all so-called foreign rights in China and bring about the revision of all existing treaties between China and foreign countries.

In the fall of 1924, at the invitation of Marshal Tuan Chi-jui, the Chief Executive of the Provisional Government, Dr. Sun started for the north to confer regarding government policies, stopping en route at Japan. Upon his arrival in Tientsin he became very ill. He was soon removed to Peking, where his condition gradually became worse until March, 12, 1925, on which day he passed away. He was given a State Funeral which was attended by many foreigners as well as a multitude of Chinese.

Although chiefly instrumental in the establishment of the Republic, and continually attempting to bring about National reconstruction, Dr. Sun was unfortunately unable to fully realize his aspirations due principally to the various political upheavals which took place throughout the country during his lifetime. He is without doubt the greatest modern politician China has yet produced.

sun yat-sen text


A.R. Burt, J.B. Powell and Carl Crow, editors, Biographies of Prominent Chinese (Shanghai: Biographical Publishing Company Inc., c.1925).