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

By Lyon Sharman | Go to book overview

AUTHOR'S PREFACE,
The Lacquered Image and the Biographer

THE Sun Yat-sen Cult was encroaching upon Peking along with the Kuomintang armies when, on a certain day, late in 1927, a sheaf of manuscript was laid upon my table. A Chinese friend was making the request that I revise its English. Replenished from week to week, the manuscript turned out to be a translation of some of Sun Yatsen's more important writings. Because the rendering was made by a Chinese, no urbanity of phrasing stood between me and Sun Yatsen's militant utterances. I could feel something of the Chinese idiom, and I got Sun Yat-sen's ideas unmediated and without selection. Since I am a passionate admirer of China, I was surprised and not a little regretful to find that I could not look with more admiration into Sun Yat-sen's mind. It was not reassuring to be told that his thinking represented the best that had been contributed to China's modern problem. I recall tapping the manuscript and remarking in my disappointment: This thinking is not great enough to save China. But my friend was not free to discuss Sun Yat-sen's inadequacy, if, indeed, he felt it; even then the Cult was inhibiting criticism.

If I had been indifferent toward China, Sun Yat-sen would not have mattered; I could have forgotten him. Instead, I came to realize that I must either draw off from China or come to a reckoning with Sun Yat-sen. To draw off from China seemed like closing a part of myself, as one would close a house on moving out. Rather than do that I had to make an effort to understand Sun Yat-sen. The present book is a product of that effort.

At first I did not find a real man; I found a hero already stiffened

-xi-

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