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

By Lyon Sharman | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VI
The Fall into Obscurit

1. THE DROP FROM THE ZENITH

SUN YAT-SEN'S was not a personality that remained always the same. It was undoubtedly his education as an adolescent in Honolulu that bred skepticism about tradition and set him on the long pursuit of modernization. His acceptance of Christianity, first sympathetically at Honolulu and later openly in Hongkong, was in itself a cardinal rebellion against tradition and a commitment to a new order. This overturning of his own life gave him a strengthened moral urge and a decided altruistic bent. As a student he was eager, open-minded, ingenuous and adventurous. He was only a schoolboy in Queen's College at Hongkong when revolutionary ideas first took root in his mind. During his professional study he was a rebel in embryo; after graduation he began plotting in earnest. The shock of defeat and the flight from Canton in 1895 tightened his determination to play the rebel for a cause. On their heels came a psychological crisis in the harrowing days of detention in the Chinese Legation in London in 1896. From this peril he seems to have emerged with a profound sense of designation for a mission. The sensational publicity of the incident itself placed him in the world's eye as a rebel against the Chinese Empire. This would have been a stigma upon his whole life if he had not chosen to continue to be a rebel until the consummation of a revolution. Because he accepted rebellion as a distinction it became such, and his notoriety was serviceable in making entrée for his propaganda among his own people in overseas settlements. His brother's affluence, together with the

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