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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Father of modern China: Dr Sun Yat Sen's historic Penang conference, Untold Tales

Dr Sun Yat Sen's historic Penang conference


IN November 1910, the Chinese revolutionary Dr Sun Yat Sen was in many ways a disappointed and desperate man – a persona non grata, banned from Japan and in exile from China for 15 years.

He had relied much on raising funds successfully in the United States, but factional infighting within the Tongmengui caused him to turn to the overseas Chinese in Malaya (Nanyang).

He came to Singapore in July, but found that his support there was weak. He decided to move to Penang on July 19, where his key supporters, Wu Shirong (Goh Say Eng) and Huang Jingqing (Ng Kim Kheng) enthusiastically welcomed him.

In the five months in Penang, before he was expelled from the Straits Settlement by the British colonial government in December 1910, Dr Sun gathered his key supporters together, including his brother Sun Mei, Huang Xin, Hu Hanming and Wang Jingwei, to raise funds for his revolutionary work, change the Tongmenhui constitution and also founded the oldest Chinese newspaper overseas, the Kwong Wah Yit Poh.

He needed at least 100,000 Straits dollars, and in the end he raised nearly one-third from Canada, one-quarter from British Malaya and Singapore and the rest from Dutch East Indies, Siam and Indochina. Only one-eighth of the funding came from the United States.

On Sunday, Nov 12, 1910, his birthday, he convened the famous Penang Conference to plan the Second Guangzhou Uprising. Before that, he was almost in despair.
"I have written so many letters and have gotten no support. I have failed in all eight uprisings. There appears to be little hope for the Revolution. But the people of Penang provided me with protection and collected money for the ninth and successful uprising."

Most people do not realise that Qing Dynasty reformers found support and help from overseas Chinese in British Malaya. For example, after the failure of the Hundred Days' Reform Movement in 1898, Kang Youwei escaped and stayed in Penang from Aug 9, 1900 to Dec 7, 1901.

He left behind a four-character epigraph carved in stone at Kek Lok Si Temple in Penang, which stated "don't forget the motherland" dated June 29, 1903.

There were two reasons why there was such overseas support for reforms in China. First, the overseas Chinese who found their fame and fortune in Malaya and South-East Asia (Nanyang) were mostly refugees who escaped poverty and corruption in China.They welcomed change in China.

Second, the British government was interested in helping reform in China to further its trade interests. Dr Sun came to Penang probably five times – the first in 1906, shortly after he founded the Singapore branch of the Tongmenhui.

By 1910, the revolutionary cause was on a knife's edge. Dr Sun had out run of friends, barred from nearly all countries in the region, pursued by the Qing government and his family was forced to leave Hong Kong by the British administration.

In Burma, the Tungmenghui had been declared illegal. When he arrived in Singapore, his wealthy supporters were tired of pressure from the growing influence of the Manchu government overseas and some doubted his ability to overthrow the Manchu regime.

Because Dr Sun's ideas appealed mostly to the petty traders and the working class, the conservative Chinese lobbied the British to outlaw the Tungmenghui.

Finally in 1910, pressure was so intense in Singapore that Dr Sun decided to move the Tungmenghui Nanyang headquarters to Penang. Thus, it was Penang that offered the Tungmenghui and the Sun family both sanctuary and respite during the darkest period of the Revolution.

The Sun family had the opportunity to re-unite when Sun Mei, Dr Sun's older brother, arrived bringing Dr Sun's second wife, Chen Bijun and his daughters.

Although Penang was not as rich as Singapore, her Chinese community comprised both the wealthy elite who were co-opted into the Manchu bureaucracy (such as Chang Bishi), or those who supported reformists such as a parliamentary monarchy like Kang Youwei.

But Dr Sun's oratory and revolutionary zeal was able to gain his most ardent supporters in Wu Shirong (Goh Say Eng), son of a wealthy Straits-Chinese businessman, and founding chairman of the Penang Tungmenghui.
Described as a "pillar of the revolutionary movement in Malaya", Wu also founded the Penang Philomatic Union, a reading club that was the front for the Tungmenghui. Wu even sold his wife's heritage house to finance Dr Sun's cause.

In July 1910, Dr Sun had founded the Zhonghua Geming Dang (Chinese Revolutionary Party), to supercede the banned Tongmenghui.

Despite opposition from the conservative businessmen, Dr Sun's Penang supporters raised 11,000 Strait dollars and many volunteered for the "Last Battle."

In April 1911, the Guangzhou Huang Hua uprising failed when 72 martyrs were executed. Out of the 72, nearly a quarter came from Nanyang, including four from Penang. But in August, the sacrifice inspired the WuChang rebellion on Oct 10, which led to the fall of the Manchu dynasty. On Dec 29, 1911, Dr Sun was elected Republican China's first president.

The 100th anniversary of the historic Penang Conference will be celebrated by the Penang Heritage Trust with the 22nd Joint Conference of Sun Yat Sen and Soong Ching Ling Memorials.

An exhibition celebrating Dr Sun and Soong Ching Ling will also be organised at 57, Macalister Road, next to the Penang Philomatic Union. This exhibition brings to Penang a collection of Dr Sun's letters and other documents related to Penang's contribution to the making of modern China. Perhaps, most significant of all, the Sun family will be having a reunion in Penang.

Visitors to Penang will be able to see the schools and newspaper that Dr Sun helped founded and the buildings where the historic revolutionary plans were hatched.

Penang is where I now live, because it has its history immersed in China, India, the Middle East and trade in the old Malacca empire.

Today, Penang has been awarded the Unesco World Heritage site and is also a growing reputation as the best hidden gourmet secrets in Asia, hosted in historic buildings. I welcome you to visit on this historic occasion.

Tan Sri Andrew Sheng is adjunct professor at Universiti Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, and Tsinghua University, Beijing. He has served in key positions at Bank Negara, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority and the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission, and is currently a member of Malaysia's National Economic Advisory Council. He is the author of the book From Asian to Global Financial Crisis.

Thursday November 18, 2010

The Penang factor in China’s revolution


DESPITE having no obvious ties, tiny Penang played a role in shaping the history of the world’s most populous and second largest country, China.

For it was on the island, exactly 100 years ago, that Dr Sun Yat Sen convened the Penang Conference to plan the Second Guangzhou Uprising, a key event that eventually led towards the China Revolution of 1911.

Among the events organised to commemorate the centennial of that pivotal moment in history is an exhibition entitled Sun Yat Sen and Soong Ching Ling Memorials: Their Life and Legacy, at 57 Macalister Road from now until Feb 17.

Organised by Min Sin Seah and supported by the Penang Heritage Trust, Sun Yat Sen Penang Base and Penang Zhongsan Association, it will highlight the significance of Dr Sun’s movement in the histories of Penang and Malaysia, as well as the contributions in Chinese education, press and socio-political movements.

State Town and Country Planning, Housing and Arts Committee chairman Wong Hon Wai said Dr Sun was not only a revolutionist, but also a towering global figure.

“This exhibit provides an important channel for Malaysians to learn more about his contributions,” he said at the exhibition’s opening on Saturday.

Min Sin Seah president and event organising chairman Datuk Dr Yee Thiam Sun said Dr Sun’s struggles epitomised the willingness of the Chinese community’s forefathers to sacrifice their time and efforts in contributing to their homeland.

“China’s history would have been very different had Dr Sun not been successful in the revolution.
“Penang played an important role in China’s history, and we would like to carry on his spirit and perseverance,” he said.

Among the other events held in conjunction with the international centennial celebrations are the 22nd Joint Conference of Sun Yat Sen and Soong Ching Ling Memorials from tomorrow to Monday at City Bayview Hotel and the International Symposium on Sun Yat Sen, Soong Ching Ling and Southeast Asia on Sunday at Wawasan Open University.

Perak's former tin mining towns linked to Sun Yat-sen


Dr Sun Yat-sen’s numerous supporters in Malaya played a role in the revolution that changed the history of China.

THE many former tin mining towns in the Kinta Valley hide a wealth of stories – of unsung heroes whose sacrifices helped Dr Sun Yat-sen change the history of China.

Perak may not have been Dr Sun’s base, like Singapore and Penang, but its thousands of tin mine and rubber estate workers were instrumental in raising funds for the revolutionary’s activities.

Dr Sun, who played a key role in inspiring the 1911 Revolution which brought an end to the Qing Dynasty, the last imperial dynasty of China, is best remembered as the founding father of Republican China. But not much is known about his activities in then Malaya.

The words of Dr Sun Yat-sen are inscribed on a wall of the Sun Yat-sen Gallery in the Perak Cave Temple.
Stories from small, old towns are normally carried down the generations by word of mouth. Much information may have been lost along the way, and even the descendants of Dr Sun’s supporters have little to tell.

So it is not surprising that few have heard stories like Dr Sun’s romantic link with his bodyguard’s sister, Chen Cuifen, while in Nanyang (South-East Asia).

Chen from Fujian met Dr Sun when she was 17. Extremely dedicated to Dr Sun and his cause, Chen was his constant companion in Nanyang. She washed, cooked for many of Dr Sun’s comrades, delivered important documents, and even smuggled dangerous explosives.

Chen and Dr Sun’s first wife, Lu Muzhen, treated each other like sisters. Although not officially married, she was known as Dr Sun’s Nanyang wife to his descendants.

Family photos: A picture of Chen Cuifen and Dr Sun Yat-sen at the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Museum in Guangzhou. 
On her death, she was allowed to be buried in the Sun’s family cemetery in Cuiheng village, Guangdong, China.

Chen adopted a daughter, Su Zhongying, from a rubber estate worker in Perak. Su later married Sun Qian, a grandson of Sun Mei who was Dr Sun’s elder brother.

Renowned historian Prof Yen Ching-hwang said in his doctoral thesis, Chinese Revolutionary Movement In Malaya 1900-1911, that Dr Sun’s first trip to Ipoh in 1906 ended abruptly when he was threatened by well-known tin miner Foo Choo Choon who was backing a different political camp in China. Dr Sun returned to Kuala Lumpur the following day.

According to the late Foong Choon Hon, a director of the Sun Yat-sen Nanyang Memorial Hall in Singapore, on one occasion, stones and cow dung were hurled at the car carrying Dr Sun in Menglembu near Ipoh.
Foong said Dr Sun had also stayed in a shop belonging to his supporter Lee Guan Swee in Old Town, Ipoh. He would only leave the shop at night using the back lane for fear of assassins.

Chen Cuifen’s adopted daughter Su Zhongying was from Perak.
Dr Sun’s bad experiences with rich merchants made him realise that his core support came from the middle and lower social groups of overseas Chinese communities. His supporters organised themselves into small groups and were active in propaganda activities in the Perak towns of Lahat, Papan and Tronoh.

One of Dr Sun’s most loyal supporters was entrepreneur Teh Lay Seng from Ipoh.

When Teh passed away in Nanjing, China, in 1940, the Chinese Republican Government posthumously decorated him with words of praise: Benevolence and Loyalty, Honour and Peace were inscribed on his tombstone at the Hokkien Cemetery in Tambun. His sundry shop Keat Seng Leong is still being run by his descendants in Jalan Bijeh Timah, Ipoh

Lee Guan Swee, also from Ipoh, was another prominent supporter. The English-educated Lee was one of Dr Sun’s most trusted aides in South-East Asia. He spared no effort in raising funds for the revolution. Other supporters from Ipoh included Ke Shuijin, Ou Shengang, Li Xiaozhang, Tang Boling, Liu Yexing, Huang Yiyi and Liang Shennan.

Dr Sun also had the backing of Lu Wenhui and Chen Zhian from Taiping, and Yang Chaodong from Kampar.

The Perak Cave Temple with a gallery on Sun Yat-sen in Ipoh.
Together they formed the Tung Meng Hui (the revolutionary Union League) in towns in the Kinta Valley, clubs and drama troupes, to spread their propaganda. One such drama troupe in Ipoh was the Perak Chisin Seah which later became the Perak Chinese Amateur Dramatic Association.

Dr Sun’s supporters addressed the general public at street corners, along roadsides and parks, and attacked the Qing government and Qing reformists, besides preaching revolutionary doctrines.

Dr Sun’s political career was marked by a series of failed uprisings. Between 1907 and 1910, several revolts at the Sino-Vietnamese border and Guangdong in China failed because of insufficient financial support and military supplies.

The now-defunct Straits Echo in Penang condemned Dr Sun and the revolutionary movement, saying that Dr Sun was all money talk and did not have anything to show for the stream of gold that flowed his way.

Dr Sun’s supporters also met with resistance from merchants who were sympathetic to calls for political change in China, but who were aligned to reformist Kang You-wei. Many of the rich were supporters of the Qing government which offered honorary titles and positions to them.
The house where Chen Cuifen and Dr Sun Yat Sen stayed when they were in Taiping which is now a coffee powder factory.
On Nov 13, 1910, Dr Sun held the important “Penang Conference” at Armenian Street in Penang. He made an emotional appeal for funds but many rich Chinese businessmen were reluctant to associate with revolutionary politics as they were under the watchful eyes of the British in the Straits Settlements. The Penang contribution only came up to $11,500 (Straits dollars).

After the conference, fundraising campaigns were carried out in Ipoh, Taiping and Kampar, and they managed to hit the targeted $50,000 – a princely sum then.

The tin mine workers in the Kinta Valley, who were driven out of their homeland in China by poverty and the corrupt Qing government, were all fired up by Dr Sun’s revolutionary call.

It was said that the workers alone contributed $10,000 following the Second Guangzhou Uprising in April, 1911.

This was no small sum as the workers earned an average $8 to $9 a month.

A certificate signed by Sun Wen, Dr Sun Yat-sen’s birth name, in 1912 presented to the Perak Chinese Amateur Dramatic Association in appreciation of raising funds during the Canton Floods and other charitable acts.
After deducting expenses for daily necessities, the worker could at the most save $4. He had to send money home to family members in China, after which he would be left with $1 to $2 a month. Going by the amount collected, the workers must have scrimped and saved every cent they could for the cause of the revolution.

A prominent revolutionary leader Hu Hanmin said: “These workers were so enthusiastic in donating funds. They often donated between $20 and $30 to the revolution. Some even wrote down their names first and tried to pay up later.”

Besides the tin mine workers, other members of the lower social group such as hawkers, rickshaw pullers and beggars also contributed to the cause of the revolution.

The success of the fundraising campaigns in Malaya served as an impetus for similar fund-raisers by the overseas Chinese in other parts of South-East Asia and America.

Some residents in the mining towns even sacrificed their lives for the sake of the revolution.

Gopeng Museum curator Phang See Kong said a Hakka tin mine worker, Wen Sheng-cai, from Kopisan near Gopeng, was so taken by a speech delivered by Dr Sun that he returned to China and tried to assassinate Qing official Admiral Li Zhun in Canton. His attempt failed and he was captured and killed.

Phang said three Gopeng residents, Eu Tong Hong, Wan Sang Choy and Kok King Mak, later took part in the Second Guangzhou Uprising and were killed. Their names are included in the list of 72 martyrs at the Huanghuagang Memorial Park in Guangzhou.

Revolutionary activities were again stirred up when news of the Wuchang Uprising reached the people.
On Oct 10, 1911, the New Army in Wuchang revolted and seized power, marking the start of the Xinhai Revolution or the Chinese Revolution, which eventually saw the end of more than 2,000 years of imperial rule in China.

Large-scale public meetings were held in Ipoh under the auspices of the Tung Meng Hui, the underground resistance movement organised by Dr Sun. As a result of the inflammatory speeches by supporter Teh Lay Seng, more than $8,000 was collected on the spot.

On Nov 3, 1911, mass meetings held to raise funds for the revolution were reported to have attracted some 4,000 to 5,000 sympathisers in Ipoh.

About 2,000 tin mine workers from Perak were said to have left for Guangzhou within a fortnight after the Oct 10 Revolution, to join in the uprising. Those that remained behind did all they could to raise funds for the cause.

Tin miner Foo Choo Choon, who by then had switched allegiance to Dr Sun, was appointed chief fund-raising officer in South-East Asia and $234,000 was remitted from Malaya and Singapore to help the revolutionaries secure Fujian Province.

Dr Sun termed the overseas Chinese as the “Mother of the Revolution” as their financial contribution was indispensable to the success of the revolution.

In later years, tycoons in Perak, including Datuk Seri Lau Pak Kuan, Leong Sin Nam and Foong Seong, who were Tung Meng Hui leaders, continued to support Dr Sun and his new Kuomintang government.

Perak once had the most number of Tung Meng Hui members in the country.

Ipoh Chinese Chin Woo Athletic Association vice-chairman Datuk Ooi Foh Sing recalls that students in Yit Ching Primary School in Pusing where he studied, used to raise the Kuomintang flag and sang patriotic songs with verses from Dr Sun’s San Ming Chu Yi (Three Principles of the People) every Monday during assembly.

“There was an arch with the image of the Kuomintang flag on one side and the British King on the other side during the Double 10 celebrations,” he says.

Today, many of the buildings in Lahat, Pusing, Gopeng, Papan, Tronoh and Kampar where Dr Sun and his supporters had visited, have been demolished.

Dr Sun and his supporters were said to have held meetings at the Oi Low Club in Gopeng, the Anglo-Chinese Club in Papan, the Wah Seong Kok literary association in Kampar, and Teh Lay Seng’s bungalow in Jalan Sungai Pari, Ipoh.

Today, only remnants of the foundation of the Oi Low Club are visible at the site, while a four-storey building stands where the Wah Seong Kok association once stood. Teh’s residence has also been demolished to make way for development.

Few residents in Lahat remember that a settlement opposite the town was once known as Kap Meng Chun (Revolution Village) because the residents were Dr Sun’s supporters.

A cinema named in memory of Dr Sun, The Sun in Ipoh which locals called Chung Shan theatre beside the Kinta River, has also been torn down.

Other buildings established in memory of Dr Sun, including SJKC Chung Shan school in Ipoh, SJKC Chung Sun in Tronoh and SJKC San Min school in Teluk Intan are still in existence.

The Kin Kwok Daily News building in Old Town, Ipoh, still stands. The now-defunct Chinese newspaper was started by a Kuomintang supporter before World War II. The original masthead of the paper was written by Yu Youren, a Kuomintang scholar.

Perak Cave Temple chairman Chong Yin Chat said Yu was a friend of his father Chong Seng Yee, who was the last batch of graduates of the prestigious Whampoa Military Academy in Guangzhou.

Yin Chat had set up a Sun Yat-sen Gallery at the temple in 1995 in honour of the Father of Modern China.
On display at the gallery are photographs of Dr Sun, a bust presented by the Sun Yat Sen memorial museum in Taiwan, calligraphy works and reproductions of letters by Dr Sun.

An oil painting of Dr Sun in official uniform, graces the hall of the Perak Chinese Amateur Dramatic Association.

A framed certificate with the autograph of Sun Wen (Dr Sun’s birth name) dated 1912, expressing appreciation to the association for its efforts in raising funds for the Canton floods and other charitable acts, hangs proudly from the wall.

In Assam Kumbang, Taiping, the Chang Chun Pu bungalow or Evergreen Mansion, where Dr Sun and Chen Cuifen once stayed, is now owned by Aun Tong Sdn Bhd, a coffee powder manufacturing factory.

As these relics from the past lay largely forgotten by the masses, the few who remember them cherish the rich legacy and their vital links with an indomitable man who eventually became known as the foremost pioneer of Nationalist China.

Several descendants of Dr Sun from all over the world are expected to be in Penang between Nov 19 and 22 to attend the 22nd joint conference of the Sun Yat-sen and Soong Ching-ling memorials in conjunction with the International Centennial Celebrations of Sun Yat-sen’s ‘Penang Conference’.

Related Story:
Mighty struggle

PM to launch Sun Yat Sen heritage trail

GEORGE TOWN: The Prime Minister will be in Penang on Nov 20 to launch the Sun Yat Sen Heritage Trail at the Bayview Hotel Georgetown.

Penang Heritage Trust (PHT) treasurer Lim Gaik Siang said Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak would launch the trail at 11am in the presence of more than 400 people, including representatives of museums from other countries.

The trail, which includes places that Dr Sun or his followers had visited here, is a PHT project which was made possible with a RM100,000 grant under the George Town Grants Programme.

Lim said the trail consisted of 16 sites and would be expanded when more information was gathered.

"Among the sites are 94, Datuk Keramat Road; 65, Macalister Road; the Penang Chinese Town Hall; 16, Malay Street; 18, Malay Street; 224, Beach Street; and 145, Acheen Street.

"Plaques displaying the background of the sites and their connections with the Chinese revolutionary leader will be placed in front of the buildings. The explanation will be in three languages," she told a press conference yesterday.

PHT president Khoo Salma Nasution said the trail was not only held for tourists but also to educate the local public.

The trail's launch is organised in conjunction with centennial celebrations to mark the 100th anniversary of the Penang Conference on Nov 13, 1910, when Dr Sun planned an uprising of a larger scale in Guangzhou.

Sun Yat Sen trail to open in Penang

By Phuah Ken Lin
Read more: Sun Yat Sen trail to open in Penang

GEORGE TOWN: A new Dr Sun Yat Sen heritage trail will be introduced to commemorate the international centennial celebrations of Sun's famous 1910 "Penang conference" here. The trail, the first of its kind outside Hong Kong, will showcase up to 13 historical sites associated with Sun and his staunch local supporters.

The sites identified will be prewar buildings visited by the late Sun and associates during the 1910 conference here to get financial support from Penangites.

Leading conservation non-governmental organisation Penang Heritage Trust (PHT) president Khoo Salma Nasution said the trail was to recognise Penangites' contribution to fund Sun's movement to topple the Qing dynasty.
She said the sites would be within and beyond the heritage enclave in the inner city.

Several of these prewar houses were in dilapidated condition and plans were afoot to restore them.

She also said the PHT had been given a grant to develop the trail, which would be incorporated as the latest tourism product in Penang.

Speaking at a press conference yesterday to announce a series of events to be held in conjunction with the centennial celebrations from next month to February, she said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak was expected to launch the trail on Nov 20.

The annual conference will be led by the Sun Yat Sen Penang Base, a private museum in No. 120, Lorong Armenian here, and jointly organised by PHT as well as 12 other associations, from Nov 19 to 22.

It will also mark the first time that the conference is held outside China.

Some 60 delegates, including Dr Sun's descendants from more than 30 Sun Yat Sen and Soong Ching Ling memorials around the world are expected to attend the conference.

Read more: Sun Yat Sen trail to open in Penang

Friday November 19, 2010

Sun Yat Sen Heritage Trail to be launched

Blazing the trail: Lim Gaik Siang outside the old Shih Chung Branch School at 11, Northam Road.
GEORGE TOWN: Little is known about the crucial time that Dr Sun Yat Sen spent in Penang although much has been chronicled about his journeys elsewhere.

The Penang Heritage Trust has embarked on an ambitious project to mark a trail of 17 historic and important buildings associated with Dr Sun, known as the Father of Modern China, and his followers.

The project, which started in 2002, will be realised this Saturday with the launch of the Sun Yat Sen Heritage Trail.

Treasurer Lim Gaik Siang said the sites included the bases for the Tongmenghui, Dr Sun’s secret society, the original site of Kwong Wah Jit Poh, which started out as the society’s organ, the Penang Chinese Town Hall, and the old Shih Chung Branch School at 11, Northam Road, a former bungalow sold off to finance revolutionary activities.

For details on what the trail has to offer, download the exclusive feature on The Star’s iPad application today.

1 comment:

Rightways said...

You got the messages of Chinese Revolution?

Dr. Sun Yat Sen is the father of modern China, who overthrown the last emperor, Puyi of decaying Qiang dynasty in 1910, and changed the old China monarchy system to new Republic form of government.

Chairman Mao Tze Tung is the founder of new China in 1949. Chairman Mao's communist party kicked out the corrupt Nationalist Gen. Chiang Khai Sek's (KMT-Kuomintang) government in 1949, and established new Peoples' Republic of China. In Oct 1, 1949, Chairman declared to the world that Chinese have stood up on this planet!

Both Nationalist Chiang Khai Sek and Chairman Mao are followers of the great founding father of modern China, Dr. Sun Yat Sen!

Dr. Sun Yat Sen' legacy in Penang is worthy for all Penangites to learn and know the meanings and significances of today's China rise to the world stage as superpower!