Sun Yat-Sen His Life and Its Meaning: A Critical Biography

Sun Yat-Sen His Life and Its Meaning: A Critical Biography

Sun Yat-Sen His Life and Its Meaning: A Critical Biography

Sun Yat-Sen His Life and Its Meaning: A Critical Biography

Excerpt

Lyon Sharman's purpose in writing this "critical biography" was not primarily to belittle Sun Yat-sen but to inveigh against the deadening effects of the cult that had grown up in his name. She saw that by casting Sun and his theories into bronze -- by creating what she called a "lacquered image" of an all too human and fallible man -- the Kuomintang was trying to impose an unchallengeable orthodoxy on the Chinese mind, an orthodoxy defined less by Sun himself than by the leaders and ideologues who claimed to be his sole heirs and interpreters. These last were Sharman's real targets, but instead of attacking them directly (Chiang Kai-shek, for example, is mentioned only four times in passing), she attacked the cult they were creating as the source of their own legitimacy.

As Sharman makes clear, Sun Yat-sen was far from being the prophet and demigod that his successors made him out to be. Like Hong Kong, near which he was born, Sun belonged partly to two worlds and fully to neither; both the West and China he knew at the surface but not at the core. Perhaps for this reason he was almost entirely unaware of the organic nature of society, and of the vastly different ways in which different societies function. Plans hatched from Western ideas he only half understood inevitably failed in a China he understood no better. From Western thought he would take an idea here, a doctrine there, unaware that he was detaching them from the setting that gave them meaning and that they were often in-

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