Dr. Sun Yat-sen
He is revered by Communists in Chinaand by
Nationalists on Taiwan. His name is Dr. Sun Yat-sen and he's considered
the Father of Modern China. Sun played a leading role in the overthrow
of the oppressive Ch'ing dynasty (the famous Manchus) in 1911 and
was the first president of the Republic of China.
That revolution was financed by Chinese living outside China, many
of them right here in Vancouver.
One Vancouverite who made one of those small, but valuable contributions
to Sun's struggle was Yun Ho Chang. He was 24 then. Yun, born in
the tiny southern China village of Shek-ki in Kwangtung province
in 1887, clearly recalls a 1911 visit to Vancouver by the famous
revolutionary. Yun is interviewed in a book titled Opening Doors:
Vancouver's East End. (Daphne Marlatt and Carole Itter conducted
the interview, with the help of interpreter Charles Mow. This has
been one of my favorite local books for many years; its crammed
with interesting stories.)
Dr. Sun Yat-sen came to Victoria and spoke to the Chinese
Benevolent Association there, Yun recalls, and then
came to Vancouver and spoke at the CBA here. He spoke the same dialect
I do and so he spoke Cantonese with a Shek-ki accent. Most people
here were from Sze-Yup and didn't understand him. They said if Dr.
Sun couldn't make them understand his speech, how was he going to
get China back from the Manchus?
They were swearing in the background while he was talking.
His talk lasted for two or three hours and then he asked for suggestions.
People asked him questions about his plans. He would answer in a
very calm, confident tone.
Some people contributed money on the spot. I did, too, and
Dr. Sun wrote out a receipt to each person who contributed. After
the overthrow, if you went back to China with the receipt, he would
refund your money.
When I went back that was just before the revolution and
there was a regulation that anybody caught with this sort of receipt
would be executed immediately. So I burned mine. But some of my
friends were given their money back. And one man who donated $100
was later given a life pension.
But there was a difference of opinion among people here,
Those people from Chungshan were very enthusiastic about supporting
him but the Sze-Yup people were doubtful. They would ask embarrassing
questions like, 'You don't even have a ship or a gun. How are you
going to overthrow a whole dynasty?' And, 'You don't have any money,
all you have is talk.' But he said support would come from the people
if the overseas Chinese worked hard and, when the time came, plans
and cannons would be available.
The time did come, eventually, and so did the cannons . . . but
the struggle cost Sun a great deal of effort. Still, 1911 marked
the end for him of a 16-year exile from China. That exile had begun
in 1895 when he failed in an attempt to begin a popular uprising
in Canton, the capital of his native Kwangtung province.
Between 1895 and 1911, Sun, from abroad, masterminded no fewer
than 10 more uprisings . . . all but the last unsuccessful. A nice
ironic touch: The successful revolt started without Sun's direct
guidancehe read about it in a newspaper in Denver, Coloradobut
he returned quickly to China and in 1912 was appointed provisional
president by revolutionary delegates meeting in Nanking.
His career from that point is crowded and turbulent (he had to
go into exile again, as competing factions got the upper hand) and
includes a period when he established a military academy administered
by an ambitious 36-year-old officer named Chiang Kai-shek.)
Meanwhile, for Yun Ho Chang life also was . . . interesting.
I went back to China in 1911, just before the revolution,
and was still wearing a pigtail. This was in September. When the
revolt spread to Shek-ki, we cut off our pigtails. I spent six months
in my home village and during that time got married and spent three
months with my wife. Then I came back to Canada. She didn't come
until 1949. I went back several times but I couldn't bring her over
without paying the $500 head tax which all Chinese had to pay. And
then after 1923 she wasn't allowed to come at all.
In 1923, Ottawa passed the Oriental Exclusion Act, effectively
prohibiting immigration to all Chinese except consuls, merchants
and students. Those men, like Yun, with families still in Chinathe
vast majoritywere unable to bring their wives or children
over until 1947 when the act was rescinded.
In 1949, some 38 years after they were married, Mrs. Yun was finally
able to come to Vancouver and settle down with her husband.
The entire interview with Yun, and with dozens of other old time
Vancouver East Enders, can be read in the Marlatt-Itter book.
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