Hong Kong and Sun Yat-Sen’s Revolutionary Thought

Dr. Sun Yat-sen.

In the Three Principles of the People, the founding father of the Republic of China, Dr. Sun Yat-sen, especially advocated these eight cardinal virtues and referred to them as the inherent morality of the Chinese nation. (Image: via The Epoch Times)

Hong Kong is a special city. It is the most important financial center and transportation hub in Asia. That said, few people know that Hong Kong was the place that inspired the founding father of the Republic of China, Sun Yat-sen.

In 1884, Sun Yat-sen graduated from the Government Central School in Hong Kong. Thereafter, he studied medicine at the Guangzhou Boji Hospital under the Christian missionary John G. Kerr, graduating with an excellent performance.

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A bamboo pole and lottery ticket

When Sun Yat-sen was in Hong Kong, he often walked around the streets and met a group of Chinese laborers (coolies). He would chat with them and learn about their lives. Once he heard a story about a laborer who was mentally ill.

This laborer worked hard every day. It was not easy for him, finally, to earn 5 dollars to buy a lottery ticket. He had to live on the street because he did not have any shelter. He memorized the ticket number and hid the lottery ticket in the bamboo pole that he used for hoisting and carrying heavy loads. When the winning number was drawn, he knew that he won.

Sun Yat-Sen in the 1910s.
Sun Yat-sen in the 1910s. (Image: via Wikimedia Commons)

At that moment he was extremely happy and thought he did not need to be a laborer anymore. So he went to the seaside and threw away the bamboo pole. After that, he went to claim the prize and was told to show the winning ticket.

In shock, he realized that the ticket was hidden in the bamboo pole. He rushed back to the seaside but the bamboo pole had already disappeared. This broke him down. He went mentally crazy and could not work anymore.

It was at the time when the ideologies of Cosmopolitanism and Communism entered China. Many young people admired the idea of Cosmopolitanism and opposed Nationalism. Sun Yat-sen, on the other hand, emphasized the importance of Nationalism by using the story of the laborer as an analogy.

He said: “If the lottery ticket is like Cosmopolitanism that might bring you great fortune, the bamboo pole is like Nationalism acting as a tool for making a living. Abandoning Nationalism is like throwing away the bamboo pole. Not only could we lose our position in the world but also not keep our original property.”

Sun Yat-sen’s inspiration

After Sun Yat-sen graduated, he could have been put forward by his professor to become an official. He decided to give up the opportunity and devoted himself to the political revolution to overthrow the corrupt Qing Dynasty.

Sun Yat-sen (seated on right) and Chiang Kai-shek.
Sun Yat-sen (seated on right) and Chiang Kai-shek. (Image: via Wikimedia Commons)

One of the reasons behind that decision was that while he was studying in Hong Kong (a colony of Great Britain at the time), he saw beautiful buildings and streets that were neat and clean, which were in great contrast to his hometown, Guangzhou. Besides, there was little crime in Hong Kong, whereas people in Guangzhou had to carry weapons around to protect themselves from robbers.

During the time of the Sino-French War, many Chinese people in Hong Kong stood up and protested by means of strikes, showing patriotic spirit and national unity, which was a huge contrast to the corrupt government of the time. So he was greatly inspired and held up the idea of revolution.

He understood that public media played a crucial role in spreading his revolutionary principles and ideals, so in 1899, he founded the China Daily newspaper with Chan Siu-bak. The newspaper became a powerful tool for the dissemination of the revolution. Meanwhile, he took Hong Kong as the base for raising funds and setting up the revolution organization, attempting to launch an uprising and take over Guangzhou.

Although the first few uprisings failed, people in Hong Kong donated a lot of money to support the revolution, laying down a great foundation for the final uprising that successfully overthrew the regime.

Translated by Sharon L and edited by Helen

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