12 November marks the day that Sun Yat-Sen was born in the south of the Pearl River Delta in Guangdong province, China, in 1866. His steadfast determination to modernize China and free it from dynastic and warlord rule earned him the honorific titles of ‘Father of the Nation’ and ‘Forerunner of the Revolution’.
He would begin his education in Hawaii, where he lived with his oldest brother. He learned English, returned to China at 17, and continued his studies in Hong Kong. He became a Medical Doctor in 1892. He would also be Baptized by Missionaries of the American Congregational Church.
He and some of his fellow students were frustrated by the failure of the Qing dynasty in China to show any interest or progress in adopting the technology or thinking of more advanced nations. He founded the ‘Revive China Society’ and set off on the path of a Revolutionary. The ruling government arrested many members of the Society, and Sun Yat-Sen went into exile abroad. A revolt in October of 1900 would be met with defeat. Undeterred, he continued to raise money for future rebellion and sought new adherents from the Chinese diaspora. Sun had many close brushes with disaster in this period, including being detained by Chinese Imperial Agents in London.
Revolutionary success came at last in 1911 and a Provisional Government was established, but a nation of its size would prove difficult to unify, and regional military commanders would soon set up rival power bases. By 1924, some semblance of order had been restored and Sun delivered his famous, ‘Three Principles of the People’ speech, those principles being identified as Nationalism, Democracy, and the livelihood of the people. Sun died of cancer at the age of 58 in 1925, having dedicated nearly every waking hour of his adult life to the betterment of China and its people.
Sun is honored throughout Asia with various memorials. Sun is also recognized in other parts of the world, including historical markers installed in places where he lived in exile, and tributes are often found in communities with large Chinese populations. Visitors to Tiananmen Square in Beijing are greeted by a large color portrait of Sun.