Sun Yat-Sen and Hawaii

By William M. Zanella



When the Wuchang revolt of Oct. 10, 1911, the military launching of the Xinhai Revolution, broke out, Sun Yat-Sen was in America. He learned of these portentous events by reading about them in a newspaper while traveling by train from Denver to Kansas City. That the “Father of the Chinese Revolution” was abroad for one of the most momentous events in modern Chinese history is one of the many ironies of his revolutionary career. Titular leader of a revolution begun in his absence, Sun was destined to be forced to live outside of China for 16 years after the failed 1895 Canton uprising made him a criminal with a price placed on his head by the Qing authorities he was trying to overthrow.

But far from being a mere accident of history, Sun’s foreign sojourn was tied in with his destiny as a participant in the overseas Chinese diaspora. Born in southern China, Sun, like millions of Chinese before and after him, had his life intertwined with the historical forces attracting Chinese to foreign shores with hopes for prosperity, education, freedom, and all the other lures prompting often desperate people to “temporarily” forsake the homeland for a better life elsewhere. America has and continues to play an important role in this history of overseas Chinese (huaqiao), and we in Hawaii particularly celebrate the unique role our islands have weaved into the story of San Yat-sen and his relationship with America. In terms of time alone, Sun, before he was 46 years old at the time of the Revolution, had spent, on and off, over nine years in the United States and the kingdom, republic, and territory of Hawaii. These stays involved seven visits, the earliest and most formative having been spent exclusively in Hawaii (1878-83, 1884-85, 1894-95, followed by stopovers in 1896, 1903-04 and 1910).

As is well-known, the Sun family’s connection with Hawaii is through his older brother Dezhang, generally known as Sun Mei (1854-1914). He was 12 years older than Yat-sen (the Cantonese pronunciation of the name he took at his 1884 baptism) and at 17, following his father’s urging, he went off to Hawaii – to escape from the local poverty and poor agrarian conditions of Cuiheng. He was not the first family member to go to America. Two uncles, Sun Xue-cheng and Sun Guancheng, had gone earlier to seek their fortune in the California goldfields. Xuecheng died at sea near Shanghai in 1864 and Guancheng died in 1867 at 39 in Calffornia. Despite their untimely deaths, the attraction of a better life was kept alive for the Sun brothers by their uncles’ mothers who told stories of their sons while living in the Sun household. Yang Wenna, brother of Sun’s mother (nee Yang), had a business in Honolulu and he took Sun Mei back to Hawaii with him in 1871.

The first verifiable Chinese resident in Hawaii was here in 1794, although the Chinese community uses 1789 as a commemorative date, when perhaps the first Chinese crewmen came through (conversely, the first Hawaiian to vist China was Kauai chief Kaiana, taken there in 1787 as a guest on a British ship). The early Chinese came in first on ships plying the sandalwood trade routes between the islands (Tanxiangshan, the “Sandalwood Mountains”) and China. About a century later, long after the sandalwood forests had been exhausted, there would be about 46,000 living here, mostly brought in initially as contract laborers (beginning in 1852) arranged by the Board of Immigration to work the Caucasian-owned sugar plantations. Thanks to the Civil War and favorable terms of the revised Reciprocity Treaty, sugar was a lucrative business and agents were both legally and surreptitiously bringing in thousands of Chinese coolie (“hard work”) laborers. When Sun Mei arrived with his uncle immigration had become unregulated and uncontrolled, and there were more Chinese males than Caucasian males, due to the large influx of Chinese, starting in the early 1870s and lasting into the next decade.


(Courtesy of Iolani School Archives)

Sun and his family In front of his residence in Cuiheng, May 27, 1912. From Commemorating Sun Zhongshan.


Besides working the sugar plantations, Chinese were involved in rice cultivation, using swampy areas and abandoned taro fields left fallow by the declining number of Hawaiians succumbing to Western-introduced diseases. Young Sun Mei first worked on an Oahu vegetable farm for 11 months and then labored on a ranch, jobs arranged by his uncle. With new knowledge and some saved funds, he got permission from the Hawaii government to try planting rice near Waipahu. Rice cultivation through most of the rest of the, nineteenth century was the second most important aspect of the local economy. Whereas it was mostly a subsistence crop in China, in Hawaii it could be grown for profit. Sun Mei evidently made enough to be able to open a small store on Nuuanu Avenue and three years later he was ready to expand to Maui.

“American has and continues to play an important role in this history of overseas Chinese (huaqiao) and we in Hawaii particularly celebrate the unique role our islands have weaved into the story of Sun Yat-sen and his relationship with America.”

Most non-contract Chinese eschewed agriculture for commercial pursuits. Sun Mel was in this mold. He rented over a thousand acres on Maui to engage in ranching, farming, lumbering, animal husbandry and brewing. With his growing wealth, he became known as the “King of Maui” and his Kahului general store was his main enterprise. He employed numerous Hawaiians and Chinese and by 1885 he had a 6,000 acre ranch. A prosperous trade merchant, Sun was an important commercial middleman, primarily between Caucasians and Hawaiians, but serving the Chinese community too. He could prosper as one of the growing number of Chinese entrepreneurs (by this time at least half of the retail licenses issued by the government were held by Chinese), yet he could be culturally and ethnically impersonal. Sun Mei would remain Chinese in custom, dress and mindframe since he needed to acquire only a little bit (e.g., pidgin English, understanding of local customs) of the culture of the clientele he was serving in order to succeed in late nineteenth century Hawaii.

Most immigrant Chinese in Hawaii were unwed males or men whose wives remained in the old country. The 1898 census shows a little .1 over a thousand married Chinese women. Initial employment contracts importing laborers forbade bringing wives, a stance condoned by the government. There was a high rate of “outmarriage” among Hawaii Chinese who often opted for Hawaiian or part-Hawaiian wives, irrespective of whether there was a wife and children in China. As the number of Chinese grew in Hawaii and as Chinese businessmen became perceived as an economic threat, Caucasian commercial interests who felt pinched by foreigners willing to work in “their” trades for lower wages frequently complained that Chinese men married native women, giving them a local advantage. Eventually, resentment of Chinese economic successes would result in the government later turning to importing Japanese contract laborers to cut off the need for more Chinese.

The norm, however, was for a Chinese male to return home to an arranged marriage planned by his parents. Sun Mei, following his father’s dictate, returned to Cuiheng in 1877 to get married at age 24. Since the Hawaii government was still encouraging the overseas recruitment of laborers, he used this trip home to also recruit villagers to go to Hawaii. He had enough funds to obtain a ship to bring several hundred workers back with him. His brother, impressed by accounts of Sun Mei’s accomplishments in letters sent home, wanted to go to Hawaii, but the voyage was considered to risky.

After Sun Mei returned to Hawaii 1878 he wrote his parents to come to Hawaii. The father declined, but his mother and twelve year old brother set out on the 20 day voyage from Macao in May. What Sun Yat-sen thought about this trip and his stay in Hawaii is related in the 1925 biography, Sun Yat-sen and the Chinese Republic, by Paul Linebarger, an American circuit judge who became interested in Sun and his cause while hearing about it from the Chinese servant in his employ when he was assigned to the Philippines (1901-1907). Linebarger was a committed Sun partisan and he was actively involved in many of the events surrounding Sun’s post-1911 political career. Though his work is based on interviews Sun gave the author in 1919, Linebarger, embellishing and eulogizing, uncritically portrays Sun as a precocious, politically-sensitive youth whose revolutionary stirrings were ignited during his teenage sojourn in Hawaii. The “real” Sun of his Hawaii period is obscurely buried deep in this hagiographic account of his early life, aided and abetted by Sun’s own often misleading autobiographical statements (e.g., his 1897 Kidnapped in London) concocted to gain the support of Western readers.

What we do know for sure about Sun’s initial stay in Hawaii is that it had a major impact on his understanding of and appreciation for Western ideas and institutions gained through his education at Iolani and Oahu College (see accompanying article,”Educating a Revolutinary”). Vignettes in Lineberger depict Sun as believing that Hawaiians approved of growing U.S. political and economic domination over the islands because there was prosperity due to the presence of American law and order. He would become a patient tactician and keen observer of men, having learned by dealing with school yard bullies who pulled on his braided queue and laughed at his Chinese clothes. Cutting off the queue would not be possible, Lineberger had Sun saying, until all Chinese stood up against the hated Manchus. Military drills on the school grounds would assist him in later becoming a master military strategist. Linebarger admitted that much of this first Hawaiian stay was “now gone from his (Sun’s) memory” (p.121) by 1919, but Linebarger’s inflated version has now entered the realm of cultist lore. The few extant accounts by Sun’s Hawaii Chinese friends, notably Zhong Gongyu (Chung Kun Ai, also known as C. K. Ai), share in this reverential treatment. On the opposite side of the coin, Bishop Alfred Willis of the Honolulu Episcopal diocese declared in 1896, when Sun gained international notoriety, that Iolani had in no way contributed to Sun’s shocking anti-authoritarian revolutionary ways.

Sun Mei thought enough of his brother’s acumen to formally arrange with a Honolulu lawyer to give Sun Yat-sen half of his wealth. But soon thereafter San Mei ended Sun Yat-sen’s studies at Oahu College because the younger Sun expressed an interest in getting baptized. In July 1883, the 18 year old Sun was sent back to China to prevent his final capitulation to Westernization. The older brother, prosperous in a foreign land yet clinging to his culturebound traditionalism, was at loggerheads with his younger brother, now fairly fluent in English (but not too proficient in classical China”) and enraptured with the Western world revealed to him through his missionary education.

Ordering Sun home was no cure for his emerging rebelliousness. Emboldened by his Westernized ways and inspired by the local heroic traditions of the pseudo-Christian, anti-Qing Taiping rebels of earlier decades, Sun and his friend Lu Haodong shocked the Cuiheng villagers by destroying idols in the local temple. After his family paid restitution for his sacrilegious rampage, Sun, a misfit among his peers, went to Hong Kong to study at the Anglican Diocesan and the Government Central School. In 1884 he was finally baptized by an American Congregationalist missionary, sealing his rejection of traditional Chinese ways. He was still obedient enough to agree to wed a village girl in a marriage arranged by his parents, but on this trip home he destroyed another temple diety. Alarmed, Sun Mei, at their father’s urging, ordered Sun Yat-sen back to Hawaii, hoping to dissuade him from his foreign ways by retracting his right to San Mei’s wealth.

Sun’s second Hawaii stay lasted from November 1884, to April 1895, a return only a year and a half since his leaving. Sun Mei required his brother to legally relinquish the half-share in his Hawaii holdings arranged earlier. Sun readily agreed, hoping that his personal disinterest in money would assuage his brother’s fears that his considerable wealth might be squandered by this unreliable kid brother. Sun went back to his former clerk and bookkeeper position at the Kahului store on Maui.

Of his intention to finish his Hong Kong education, he was torn by his desire to be respectful to his brother yet wanting to be free to follow his own destiny, now that he was no longer beholden to his brother and his wealth. He was quarrelsome with his fellow workers and finally he wrote to Uncle Yang on Oahu that be was leaving Maui. In Honolulu he was assisted by his Iolani classmate Zhong Gongyu and took up residence in Chinatown at the Zhonghe Tang. He often ate at a nearby Western restaurant run by Song Juren. Over meals they would discuss China’s political predicament and how concerned Chinese like they could foment change. Sun Mei, learning of his brother’s attempt to return to China, tracked Sun down in Honolulu and tried to force him to stay by refusing money for a ship’s passage.

By now Sun was forced to contemplate his alternatives. He flirted with following careers in the military or in law, but these were professions to which he lacked access in China, the only place to which he could escape. Finally he decided on medicine, a choice that was encouraged by a former Oahu College teacher, Frank Damon, superintendent of the Congregational Chinese mission in Hawaii. Damon had visited China as a missionary, spoke Cantonese, and often preached at the Fort Street Chinese Christian Church. He gave Sun confidence in his desire to pursue medicine and bolstered his resolve to stick to his Western religious beliefs. With Zhong giving him clothes from his tailor shop and Damon raising about $300 from friends for a ticket, Sun was finally able to leave Hawaii.

He entered the Canton Hospital Medical School, run by Anglo-American missionaries. He transferred in 1987 to Hong Kong College of Medicine for Chinese. Sun Mei had come to realize that he was too recalcitrant with his younger brother and sent money for his education through their father. Their rapprochement was sealed in 1898 when Sun Mei and Sun Yat-sen returned to their native village to care for their dying father. Sun Mei was now entirely supportive of his brother’s goals and generously fundad his medical studies for six and a half years (1886-1892).

While studying medicine Sun became increasingly sensitive to China’s internal political inertia in the face of Western imperialism. He claimed that his political awakening matured with the outbreak of the Sino-French War (1884-85) and the Qing government’s inability to take advantage of initial French weakness to protect Annam, its suzerain state. Whether he was really any more concerned than were most politically sensitized Chinese at that time is as debatable as his 1889 claim to his friend You Lie that he had tried to promote rebellion against the Manchus among Hawaii Chinese during his 1884-95 visit, but that his calls for activism went unheeded due to the low political consciousness of the Chinese there. Nonetheless, there was occurring a conversion of earlier impulses – his personal identification with the anti-Manchu heroism of Hung Xiuquan, leader of the Taiping rebels; attraction to the roles and ideals of Napoleon and George Washington; disgust with the corrupt Manchu bureaucracy first experienced when he was fleeced by customs agent on returning from Hawaii in 1883; admiration for what Chinese could accomplish under unenlightened foreign rule in Hawaii and Hong Kong; interest in Darwin’s theories of adaptation as a condition for survival-with new inspiration.

From reformist Chinese in Canton and Hong Kong he learned of efforts to change China from within through calls for military, political, economic, agrarian, educational and other reforms. From old friends and classmates he learned of secret society support for anti-Manchu activities, their personal frustrations to change the system and their willingness to join him in sedition. Medicine could cure a few people, Sun thought, but politics could cure a whole people. Working within the system, he tried to get the attention in 1894 of a leading Qing official to discuss his vague plan for educational and agricultural modernization. Unsuccessful in China, Sun decided to return to Hawaii to raise funds for an agricultural association to carry out his reforms at home.


(Courtesy of Iolani School Archives)

Sun In Willamette, Oregon, after a fund-raising lecture in July 1911. From Commemorating Sun Zhonghan.


He came back to Hawaii September 1984. Not sure of his brother’s political leanings, he did not contact Sun Mei, opting to stay in Honolulu to mobilize Chinese there to raise money and to form a Revive China Society (Xingzhonghui), first proposed in Canton a year earlier by Sun and eight friends. Sun need not have doubted his brother’s sympathies because Sun Mei, following the slow response to his brother’s organizational efforts, wrote a letter supporting Sun and attracting Hawaii Chinese to his cause. Perhaps Sun Mei’s enthusiasm for a radical political agenda is traceable to the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy a year earlier, but if this were the case it did not mean that others were equally willing to join an organization to raise money and manpower to violently displace the Chinese government. Sun was able to convince only about 20 (there were about 5,000 adult Chinese males in Honolulu at the time) to meet at the home of a former clasamoste on November 24 to form the Society.

“What we do know for sure about Sun’s initial stay in Hawaii is that it had a major impact on his understanding of and appreciation for Western ideas and institutions …”

Crossing ethnic and regional lines, members were a mix of Hakka and Punti, the former perhaps induced to join out of identification with Sun’s own possibly Hakka origins. Only a quarter were ordinary workers, and most were merchants and Hawaii government employees, some with Western educations, Christian beliefs and English language ability. A few were Triad secret society members, but since Son was not yet a member (he would join in 1903) this may have inhibited greater Triad participation. That even this number of people could be recruited from a fairly apolitical Chinese community was due not only to Sun’s efforts but to the local prestige of friends like Zhong Gongyu, now a wealthy lumber yard merchant; He Kuan (Ho Fon), Chinese account manager at Bishop’s Bank; and Li Chang (Li Cheung), an English translater for the Hawaii government whose grandfather participated in the Taiping rebellion. From membership dues, bond sales, and contributions from the sale of property, under ten thousand dollars was raised. Branches were established in Kahului and Paia on Maui, and membership increased to about 120. Sun originally planned to go to the U.S. mainland to establish branch societies, but the Sino-Japanese War (1894-95) was worsening the situation at home, so, China’s first revolutionary political party successfully established, he left Honolulu in May 1895, with six Hawaii friends who were willing to join him in antimonarchical armed revolt.


(Courtesy of Iolani School Archives)

Sun, Provisional President of the Republic of China, 1912. Chinese Revolution Museum Collection.

A small Revive China Society branch was set up in Hong Kong, in preparation for launching an uprising in the Canton area. Scheduled for October 26, a holiday, the coup was expected to be brought off by a coalition of hired mercenaries, disaffected local gentry, Triad agents, Revive China Society members, Hawaii volunteers, and foreign sympathizers who would attack the provincial government. The plot was prematurely discovered and the anticipated establishment of a provisional government instead turned into a rout, as Sm and his followers were hunted by the authorities. Escaping to Kobe from Hong Kong, Sun, bolstered by Japanese press reports recognizing him as a leader of China’s revolutionary party, tried to set up a Japanese branch in Yokohama, but met with little success. A fugitive aware of Qing agents on his tail, he then decided to go to Hawaii in late 1895 under cover of a Japanese disguise.

Hawaii was now under U.S. jurisdiction and the terms of the 1882 Exclusion Act prohibiting Chinese from entering America were in force. Sm reportedly convinced the Yokohama American consul to issue him an American passport by claiming he was born in Hawaii. Fearing for their safety, Sun earlier had arranged for his widowed mother, his wife Lu Muzhen, four year old son Sun Ke and newly born daughter Sun Jinyan to be under his brother’s care in Kahului. After a family reunion on Maui, he proceeded to Honolulu, to reinvigorate the Revive China Society.

The failed Canton uprising and the fear of reprisals had dimmed interest in the now inactive Society. Arriving in Honolulu Sun was met by a delegation from the Smo-Western Discussion Society (Zhong-Xi Taolun Hui), formed in 1893 by some friends who were also Xingzhonghui members. They invited him to speak about the Canton uprising at a banquet. Sun decided that it was better to use this organization to pursue his political agenda (raising money and popular support) given disinterest in the Revive China Society, because of what had happened in China. The Discussion Society was headquartered at the office of the Longji Xin Bao (Long Kee Sun Bo), founded in 1881 by his relative Cheng Weinan and now run by his friends. This also became the headquarters of what was left of the Revive China Society. Sun visited the outer islands and raised about $6,000.

During this half year stay he also set up a military drill group made up of sympathizers willing to undergo preliminary training for a second coup attempt against the government. They were trained by Victor Bache, a Danish officer who left his position as a drill officer for the Qing Nanyang army because he sympathized with the revolutionary cause. They practiced twice a week with dummy guns on the schoolgrounds of Mills School (now Mid-Pacific Institute), run by his friend the Rev. Damon. Sun could not return to Hong Kong or China and he wanted to go to the Mainland to set up Revive China Society branches. Before he left, he unexpectedly ran into Dr. James Cantlie, his Scottish medical professor-mentor in Hong Kong, and Mrs. Cantlie, who were in Honolulu on their way back to England. Sun told Cantlie he would be going to London, and Cantlie, fortuitously, considering later events, gave Sun his address and told him to contact him.

Sun left Hawaii on June 18 for San Francisco, his first visit to the Mainland. Hawaii’s small Chinese population and limited potential for fund raising could not sustain a revolutionary movement of the size envisaged by Sun. There were about four times as many Chinese in North America as there were in Hawaii, and their socio-economic status, less sanguine then that of Hawaii’s Chinese who enjoyed economic mobility and social assimilation, should make for a receptive audience. Discriminated against as a minority and no longer needed to work in the gold mines or build the transcontinental railways, they clustered in West and East coast Chinatowns and they looked more to China for inspiration, given their relative isolation from American social and political processes. Denied citizenship, most residents in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Boston and other Chinese communities focused their hope on eventually returning to China to share what they hoped would be new wealth with waiting relatives. The Exclusion Laws prevented any new influx of Chinese into America between 1893 and 1911 (the same applied to Hawaii after 1898) and the Qing minister to Washington was ineffective in dealing with any of these racial injustices. What was happening in China was of immediate interest to Chinese in America since it impacted on their present and future.

Sun had meager initial success. As a bona fide revolutionary he was invited to talk at Triad lodges, where he appealed to their strong anti-Manchu sentiments. But he was the leader of a failed coup and as a Hakka and a non-Triad member, he was an outsider unable to inspire any commitment. Less than 15 joined the San Francisco branch of the Xingzhonghui and most of them were attracted as Christians. Membership would remain at this static level for the next eight years.

Going next to England, he unexpectedly garnered international publicity via the sensational bungled “kidnapping” at the Chinese Legation in London on October 11, 1896. Rashly seeking to recruit followers even at the Qing embassy, he was taken into custody and secretly held, awaiting furtive shipment back to China and sure death. Rescue came through a message smuggled out to Dr. Cantle, his London host, with whom he had had a chance encounter in Honolulu earlier. By the time he got to Japan in the middle of 1897 he had an international reputation as the leader of a nascent revolutionary movement.

Sun found many supporters among liberal pan-Asianist Japanese willing to use his politics for their own ends. Also, in Japan he came face to face with rival political forces competing for the allegiance of fellow Chinese. Literati reformers, shocked by China’s defeat at the hands of the Japanese and shackled with the ignominious terms of the Treaty of Shimonoseki, attempted a “Hundred Days Reform” in 1898 under the young Guangxu emperor. Led by Kang Youwei and Liang Qichao, activist Cantonese intellectuals working to save China internally through systemic reform, the reform movement collapsed when the Empress Dowager Cixi put her nephew, the emperor, in confinement, rescinded all of his decrees, executed those reformers who could be caught and put a price on the heads of Kang and Liang. They escaped to Japan and would follow the same circuit as Sun to win converts to their cause. Now there were two major competitors for the loyalties and wallets of overseas Chinese: Sun and his revolutionary party and Kang-Liang and their newly-formed (1899) Protect the Emperor Society (Baohuanghui), aiming to restore their reform program and the Guangxu emperor as a constitutional monarch.

Kang was an uncompromising monarchist, whereas Liang’s loyalism was tempered by reason and a sensitivity to new ideas. Liang met Sun and was impressed by him; Kang refused all overtures and went to North America to drum up support for a restoration. Sun told Liang about his Hawaii supporters and offered to introduce him. Meanwhile, Sun was planning his next military coup for Huizhou (Waichow), in the Canton delta. The revolt collapsed in October 1900, tarnishing Sun’s credibility. Liang went to Hawaii and had remarkable success in attracting Hawaii Chinese to the Protect the Emperor Society. Within six months about ninety percent had joined, despite efforts by Yang Weibin, the resident Chinese Consul, to get the society banned. The defection of Xingzhonghui members to the Baohuanghui was expecially noticeable. Even Sun Mei joined. His son Achang personally escorted Liang in Honolulu and later went to a Baohuanghui school in Japan. Sun later would attribute Liang’s success to his own letter of introduction, but obviously the reformers’ program had an attraction all its own, especially since it was formulated by well-known men-of-letters, degree holders commanding respect among politically unsophisticated and admiring ordinary people who were flattered to be invited to associate with China’s leading personalities of the day. Moreover, Liang’s visit came just after the bubonic plague quarantine and the great Chinatown fire had demoralized the Asian community. His presence at a critical time for Hawaii’s Chinese surely was a morale booster.

The Protect the Emperor Society also made enormous strides in North American Chinese communities. By its willingness to work with Zhigongtang Triad secret societies, in standing up for Chinese rights by opposing the Exclusion Act, in capitalizing on disgust over the zenophobic Boxer rebellion and the Empress Dowager’s role in it, the Society, despite its internal doctrinal inconsistencies and factionalism, was in the mainstream of Chinese-American interests. While the reformist cause was growing in America, Sun was preoccupied in Asia with promoting revolutionary ideas among the numerous Chinese students in Japan and organizing Xingzhonghui groups in Southeast Asia.

He returned to Hawaii to attack the pro-Manchu reformers in September 1903. The pro-reformerist Xin Zhongguo Bao (Sun Chung Kwock Bo; New China News) attacked Sun, and his old friends had mainly switched allegiances to his enemy’s camp. But Sun had a staunch follower in Hilo on the island of Hawaii. The Rev. Mao Wenming, a Revive China Society member, had participated in a plot with Shi Jianru to blow up the yamen headquarters in Canton in 1900. The effort failed and Shi was caught. Mao fled abroad and established himself in the Kilauea area’s Chinese Christian community. Mao and Li Xie, a wealthy Hawaii Island planter, invited Sun to speak at a Hilo theater. Several hundred attended the talks, Sun’s first ever public address to overseas Chinese. Some prominent Hawaii Island Chinese joined his Society, and Sun inducted them with an oath requiring them to work to expel the Manchus, restore China, establish a republic and equalize rights – ideas that would later be incorporated into his Three People’s Principle (Sanminzhuyi).

Towards the end of December he returned to Honolulu, this time receiving an enthusiastic welcome. The change in mood was due to the efforts of the Rev. Mao’s Honolulu friend, Huang Xunsheng. Huang arranged for Sun to give talks at the Hotel Street Theater and the Liliha Street Chinese Theater. Several thousand turned out to hear the lectures over a period of several days. Sun was now on the offensive and he was winning back his constituency. The Pacific Commercial Advertiser wrote about Sun’s oratorical powers and the enthusiastic reception he received. In the English and Chinese papers Sun articulated the difference between the Xingzhonghui and the Baohuanghui, contrasting the Kang-Liang group’s false patriotism for the Qing Manchus with his own group’s commitment to nationalistic, anti-Qing republicanism. At the See Dai Doo Association headquarters in Chinatown he recruited several new followers into a “revolutionary republican army” to be financed by bonds he was selling. Funds began to come in again, albeit slowly.

On this visit Suit returned to see his family for the first time in seven years. His mother wanted him to settle down and resume his medical practice, and family members debated the wisdom of following the dangerous path of revolution. Sun told them his course was firm and he had to cure the nation. Sun Mei, affected by the new territorial government’s challenge to old land leases, was involved in litigation to retain his land holdings. Now he could give Suit only meager financial assistance to support his impending trip to the mainland. This was the last time the brothers would see each other in Hawaii. In 1907 Sun Mei lost his leased land through an unfavorable court ruling. Financially broken, he took his family and left Hawaii for Hong Kong in the fall of that year. He rented a home in Kowloon and worked a farm. After the revolution succeeded some friends wanted him to be named governor of Canton, but Sun Yat-sen, serving as provisional president of the new republic, squelched this idea. After Yuan Shikai took over the government, Sun Mei moved to Macao, dying there in 1915 at the age of 62.

The remainder of Sun’s revolutionary career took him far beyond Hawaii. The islands, scene of his formative educational and political life, were now inconsequential in the greater scheme of sowing the seeds of revolution and soliciting funds in more important venues. His last visit was in 1910. The Tongmenghui (established in Tokyo in 1905), successor party to the Xingzhonghui, was established in Hawaii and Sun, attracting thousands to his rallies, recruited over 800 new members. He left for Tokyo thinking he could count on the largesse of his Hawaii comrades. He made two written requests for funds, but sceptical of how the money would be spent, the Hawaii Tongmenghui members generally ignored his plea. Very soon the organization dwindled and in the same year there were only some thirty members active in the party. As the 1911 Revolution drew near, Sun’s Hawaii followers had lost enthusiasm for the cause.


Recommended Readings

    Char, Tin-Yuke. Sandalwood Mountains: Readings and Stories of the Early Chinese in Hawaii. Honolulu: The University Press of Hawaii, 1975.

    Glick, Clarence E. Sojourners and Settlers: Chinese Migrants in Hawaii. Honolulu, Hawaii Chinese History Center and the University iPress of Hawaii, 1980.

    Xiang, Dingrong. Guofu qifang Mei-Tan kaoshu (A descriptive study of Sun Yat-sen’s seven trips to America and Hawaii). Taibei: Shibao wenhua chuban shiye youxian gongsi, 1982.

    Linebarger, Paul. Sun Yat Sen and the Chinese Republic. New York: AMS Press, 1969 (reprint of 1925 original).

    Ma, L. Eve Armentrout. Revolutionaries, Monarchists, and Chinatowns: Chinese Politics in the Americas and the 1911 Revolution. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1990.

    Young, Nancy Foon. The Chinese in Hawaii: An Annotated Bibliography. Honolulu: University Press of Hawaii, 1973.