Sun Yat-sen: If only a Revolution -were- like a dinner party

Livebloging 1911

Someone once said “A revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery; it cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle, so temperate, kind, courteous, restrained and magnanimous. A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another.”

That is a pretty radical statement. Also a somewhat analytical one. Very few have ever accused Sun Yat-sen, father of the 1911 Revolution of being either a radical or overly analytical. He was however, great at dinner parties. On March 19th he was not in Canton, where the April uprising would be happening, nor in Hong Kong, where it was mostly being planned. He was in Vancouver, 1 talking to audiences of Overseas Chinese. He raised $7,000 HK, which was the largest total raised for the April uprising anywhere in the world. If Huang Xing was the organizer of the revolution Sun was the publicist and fund-raiser. Having been abducted in London in 1896 and briefly imprisoned in the Chinese legation made him by far the best-known Chinese revolutionary overseas, and his tireless fund-raising and organizing in Southeast Asia, North America, Japan and elsewhere made him the best known spokesman for the overthrow of the Qing and establishment of a Republic. So although he played a pretty limited role in the actual 1911 revolution it is worth thinking about him for a bit. They also serve who only wrangle invitations to banquets and give speeches.

Although the bulk of his uprisings were failures, a revolution costs a lot of money, and while giving speeches all over the world on the Overseas Chinese rubber chicken circuit must have been a drag he kept at it, and had a rare ability to convince everyone from wealthy Cantonese merchants to railroad laborers to part with their cash.  Sun’s personal ability to persuade people to support the cause was a major asset, even if it was not clear what all these resources, both money and recruits, were best used for. So today is a fine day to remember Sun Yat-sen, who among his many other achievements, was the after-dinner speaker who financed the 1911 Revolution.

  1. Or somewhere in Canada. The nianpu I have is not very detailed, but in was in Vancouver about the 19th.  

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