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© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

Sun Yat-sen : Selected full-text books and articles

Sun Yat-Sen and the French, 1900-1908 By Jeffrey G. Barlow Institute of East Asian Studies, 1979
Sun Yat-Sen, His Political and Social Ideals By Leonard Shihlien Hsü University of Southern California Press, 1933
Sun Yat-Sen: A Portrait By Stephen Chen; Robert Payne John Day, 1946
FREE! Sun Yat Sen and the Awakening of China By James Cantlie; C. Sheridan Jones Fleming H. Revell, 1912
San Min Chu I: The Three Principles of the People By Sun Yat-Sen; L. T. Chen; Frank W. Price China Committee, Institute of Pacific Relations, 1927
The International Development of China By 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 By Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger The Johns Hopkins Press, 1937
Sun Yat-Sen and Communism By Shao Chuan Leng; Norman D. Palmer Frederick A. Praeger, 1960
China in Revolution: An Analysis of Politics and Militarism under the Republic By 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 By 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 By Emily Hahn Doubleday, 1963
Librarian's tip: Discussion of Sun Yat-sen begins on p. 295
The Political History of China, 1840-1928 By 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
Documents on Communism, Nationalism, and Soviet Advisers in China, 1918-1927: Papers Seized in the 1927 Peking Raid By 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"
A primary source is a work that is being studied, or that provides first-hand or direct evidence on a topic. Common types of primary sources include works of literature, historical documents, original philosophical writings, and religious texts.
Looking for a topic idea? Use Questia's Topic Generator
Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.