Sun Yat-sen

Sun Yat-sen

Sun Yat-sen (sōōn yät-sĕn), Mandarin Sun Wen, 1866–1925, Chinese revolutionary. He was born near Guangzhou into a farm-owning family. He attended (1879–82) an Anglican boys school in Honolulu, where he came under Western influence, particularly that of Christianity. In 1892 he received a diploma from a Hong Kong medical school, and he subsequently practiced medicine in that city. Thereafter all his activities were devoted to overthrowing the Ch'ing dynasty and establishing a stable Chinese republic.

Sun fled China in 1895, after an abortive revolt, and then toured the world several times to enlist the aid of overseas Chinese in financing his activities. In that period he made an intensive study of Western political and social theory and was deeply impressed with the writings of Karl Marx and Henry George. Sun organized (1905) a revolutionary league, the T'ung Meng Hui, in Japan and gradually perfected his political conceptions, which were based on the Three People's Principles: nationalism, democracy, and the people's livelihood. Revolution erupted in China, and Sun was elected provisional president of the Chinese republic in Dec., 1911, but two months later he resigned in favor of Yüan Shih-kai. Later, when Sung Chiao-jen transformed the T'ung Meng Hui into a federated political party called the Kuomintang, Sun served as its director.

Meanwhile, opposition developed to Yüan's dictatorial methods; in 1913 Sun led an unsuccessful revolt against Yüan, and he was forced to seek asylum in Japan, where he reorganized the Kuomintang. He returned to China in 1917, and in 1921 he was elected president of a self-proclaimed national government at Guangzhou in S China. To develop the military power needed for the Northern Expedition against the militarists at Beijing, he established the Whampoa Military Academy (now Huangpu Military Academy), with Chiang Kai-shek as its commandant and with such party leaders as Wang Ching-wei and Hu Han-min as political instructors. In 1924, to hasten the conquest of China, he began a policy of active cooperation with the Chinese Communists and he accepted the help of the USSR in reorganizing the Kuomintang.

After Sun's death, when the Communists and the Kuomintang split (1927), each group claimed to be his true heirs. The official veneration of Sun's memory (especially in the Kuomintang) was a virtual cult, which centered around his tomb in Nanjing. His widow, the former Soong Ch'ing-ling (see Soong, family), whom he married in 1914, rose to a high position in the government of Communist China. He wrote San Min Chu I (tr. 1928), Memoirs of a Chinese Revolutionary (1927, repr. 1970), and Fundamentals of National Reconstruction (tr. 1953).

See biographies by L. Sharman (1934) and B. D. Martin (1952); L. S. Hsu, Sun Yat-sen, His Political and Social Ideals: A Sourcebook (1933); S. C. Leng and N. D. Palmer, Sun Yat-sen and Communism (1960); H. Z. Schiffrin, Sun Yat-sen and the Origins of the Chinese Revolution (1970); M. Wilbur, Sun Yat-sen (1977).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Sun Yat-Sen and the French, 1900-1908
Jeffrey G. Barlow.
Institute of East Asian Studies, 1979
Sun Yat-Sen, His Life and Its Meaning: A Critical Biography
Lyon Sharman.
John Day, 1934
Sun Yat-Sen, His Political and Social Ideals
Leonard Shihlien Hsü.
University of Southern California Press, 1933
Sun Yat-Sen: A Portrait
Stephen Chen; Robert Payne.
John Day, 1946
FREE! Sun Yat Sen and the Awakening of China
James Cantlie; C. Sheridan Jones.
Fleming H. Revell, 1912
San Min Chu I: The Three Principles of the People
Sun Yat-Sen; Frank W. Price; L. T. Chen.
China Committee, Institute of Pacific Relations, 1927
The International Development of China
Yat-Sen Sun.
G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1929 (2nd edition)
The Political Doctrines of Sun Yat-Sen: An Exposition of the San Min Chu I
Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger.
The Johns Hopkins Press, 1937
Sun Yat-Sen and Communism
Shao Chuan Leng; Norman D. Palmer.
Frederick A. Praeger, 1960
A Place in the Sun: Marxism and Fascism in China's Long Revolution
A. James Gregor.
Westview Press, 2000
Librarian’s tip: Includes discussion of Sun Yat-sen in multiple chapters
China in Revolution: An Analysis of Politics and Militarism under the Republic
Harley Farnsworth Macnair.
The University of Chicago Press, 1931
Librarian’s tip: Includes discussion of Sun Yat-sen in multiple chapters
The Third Force in China
Carsun Chang.
Bookman Associates, 1952
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 2 "Sun Yat-sen and the Trend towards Totalitarianism"
China Only Yesterday, 1850-1950: A Century of Change
Emily Hahn.
Doubleday, 1963
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of Sun Yat-sen begins on p. 295
The Political History of China, 1840-1928
Li Chien-Nung; Ssu-Yu Teng; Jeremy Ingalls.
D. Van Nostrand, 1956
Librarian’s tip: "Two Reform Leaders -- Sun Yat-sen and K'ang Yu-wei" begins on p. 144
Government in Republican China
Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger.
McGraw-Hill, 1938
Librarian’s tip: "The Political Doctrines of Sun Yat-sen" begins on p. 41, "The Presidency of Sun Yat-sen and the Republican Revolution" begins on p. 145, and "The Governments of Sun Yat-sen in Canton" begins on p. 160
Documents on Communism, Nationalism, and Soviet Advisers in China, 1918-1927: Papers Seized in the 1927 Peking Raid
C. Martin Wilbur; Julie Lien-Ying How.
Columbia University Press, 1956
Librarian’s tip: Part III "Consolidation of the Revolutionary Base in Kwangtung, 1921-1925"
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