Sun Yat-sen led the 1911 Revolution in China that overthrew the last imperial
dynasty and founded the Chinese Republic. He also had a strong presence in the
history of Chinese Canadians. Born in 1866 in rural Xiangshan County, Guangdong
Province, Sun moved to Hawaii at age thirteen, where he attended high school,
and then to Hong Kong, where he received western medical training and began
practice as a physician. He soon abandoned the practice for full-time revolutionary
activity. Unable to promote revolution within China and realizing the potential
for support among Chinese outside China, Sun spent most of the period 1895-1911
travelling in Overseas Chinese communities around the world seeking political
and financial support.
three visits to Canada occurred in 1897, 1910, and 1911. The first visit was
limited to Victoria and Vancouver, where most Canadian Chinese then lived. The
latter two visits included eastern Canada as well. By the time of the third
visit, early 1911, political excitement was high among Vancouver's Chinese.
Sun's daily lectures at the Sing Kew Chinese Theatre in Shanghai Alley were
packed. He received major support from the Cheekungtong (Chinese Freemasons).
In Vancouver he stayed in the Cheekungtong building, across Pender Street from
the Canton and Shanghai Alley complex. The Vancouver, Victoria, other British
Columbia, and eastern Canadian branches of this organization contributed, often
by mortgaging their own buildings, a total of Cdn $35,000. This sum largely
financed an attempted revolution at Huang Hua Kang near the city of Guangzhou.
This abortive revolution, some six months before the successful one of October
1911, is commemorated in a monument at Huang Hua Kang on which the names of
Canadian Chinese communities are prominently inscribed.
the 1911 Revolution faltered after initial success, Dr. Sun Yat-sen again went
into exile for a time but soon returned to China, setting up a Southern Government
in Guangzhou in competition with the warlord-dominated Northern Government in
Beijing. By 1923 he had made a controversial strategic alliance with the Soviet
Union in pursuit of his revolutionary goal for China. The political division
and controversy in China during these years was reflected in the politics in
Chinatowns around the world, including Vancouver's. But after his death in 1925
it was Dr. Sun Yat-sen's ideals that continued to inspire Chinese everywhere,
both supporters of his Chinese Nationalist Party [Guomindang: Kuomintang] and
those who were not.
On April 9, an attempt is made to burn down Chinatown when a deliberately
set fire is located in the Sing Kew Theatre [Xingqiao Juyuan] on Shanghai
On September 7, an anti-Asian riot sweeps Chinatown. A mob marches into
Shanghai Alley to beat up Chinese, wreck stores and smash windows, causing
$26,000 in damages. During hearings to determine compensations, it is
estimated that there are now 6,000 Chinese in Vancouver, of whom 1,500
work in sawmills.
Vancouver's Cheekungtong [Zhigongtang], later known as Chinese Freemasons,
starts publishing the Chinese-language newspaper CHINESE TIMES [DAI
HON GONG BO: DA HAN GONG BAO] (lasted until 1993).
Dr. Sun Yat-Sen makes his second visit to Vancouver.
Dr. Sun Yat-Sen pays his third and last visit to Vancouver in January.
He lectures daily in Sing Kew Chinese Theatre. Support and attendance
are claimed to be unprecedented. In October, the Chinese Revolution
succeeds. The Qing Dynasty is overturned and a republic is established
in its place.
According to the CENSUS OF CANADA Vancouver has a Chinese population of 3,559.
Chang Toy, proprietor of Sam Kee Company, builds the world's narrowest
building at the southwest corner of Pender and Carrall after the City
expropriates his lot to widen Pender Street.
Susanne Yip (daughter of Yip Sang) is one of the Canadian-born Chinese
to enroll at the University of British Columbia. She later becomes Principal
of a girls' middle school in Guangzhou and Professor of English at Sun
First World War breaks out. China joins British alliance. Vancouver's
Chinese buy $100,000 in war bonds, despite unemployment rate estimated
at 70-80% in 1916. Some Chinese serve in the Canadian infantry.
Chinese Canadian Club is founded in Vancouver by a young generation
of local-born Chinese, immigrant Chinese and students from China.
Political disintegration plagues China as the Chinese Nationalist Party
[Guomindang: Kuomintang] under Dr. Sun Yat-Sen sets up government in
Guangdong in opposition to Beijing. Warlords control much of China.
A military brigade of Chinese from Canada embarks for China.
Thousands of coolies from Northern China are kept locked up in boxcars
on the railroad tracks alongside Canton Alley. They are being taken
across Canada and sent on to France to dig trenches during World War
I. More than 200,000 men pass through Canada this way in 1916-17. Residents
of Canton Alley talk to the frightened men and pass food into the boxcars.
Chinese Labour Association is formed. By 1918, there are 500-600 members.