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To what extent was Sun Yat-sen responsible for the 1911 Revolution?. L/O – To evaluate the claim that Sun Yat -sen’s revolutionary movement was the primary cause of the 1911 Revolution. Dr. Sun Yat-sen. What was the ‘Double Ten’ Revolution?.

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to what extent was sun yat sen responsible for the 1911 revolution

To what extent was Sun Yat-sen responsible for the 1911 Revolution?

L/O – To evaluate the claim that Sun Yat-sen’s revolutionary movement was the primary cause of the 1911 Revolution

Dr. Sun Yat-sen

what was the double ten revolution
What was the ‘Double Ten’ Revolution?
  • On 10th October 1911 there was an uprising against the Qing government by soldiers in the city of Wuchangin Hubei province.
  • They were led by members of the Tongmenhuior ‘Chinese United League’, a revolutionary political party created by Dr. Sun Yat-sen.
  • The protests soon spread to other provinces, and by December almost 2/3 of China had declared independence. Sun Yat-sen was then declared Provisional President of the Republic of China on 29th December 1911.

Q. Why do you think other provinces were so ready to declare independence? Why might they be upset with the Qing Court?

what was the double ten revolution1
What was the ‘Double Ten’ Revolution?
  • The Qing Court failed to put down the revolts and was blackmailed by Yuan Shikaiinto appointing him as premier in full charge of the army and navy.
  • Yuan could have used his modernised Beiyang Army to crush the revolutionaries but instead he negotiated with the rebels.
  • Sun Yat-sen had no choice but to appoint Yuan as President. In return, Yuan agreed to force Emperor Puyi to abdicate. On 12th February 1912, the Qing Dynasty and 2,000 years of imperial rule ended.

Yuan Shikai

Emperor Puyi

sun yat sen s early life
Sun Yat-sen’s Early Life
  • Sun Yat-sen (1866-1925) was born 12th November in Hsiang-shan, near Canton. He was one of four children and he studied a traditional Confucian education up until the age of 12.
  • In 1879, Sun went to Honolulu (Hawaii) to live with his brother. He graduated from Oahu College in 1883 aged 17.
  • He married in 1885 and returned to Hong Kong in time to witness China’s defeat in the Sino-French War of 1884-85, becoming disgusted by the weakness of the Qing dynasty.
radicalisation in hong kong
Radicalisation in Hong Kong
  • In 1887 he studied Medicine at the College for Medicine for Chinese in Hong Kong. He used the school as a HQ for his growing revolutionary activities.
  • The efficiency of British colonial administration and orderliness in Hong Kong impressed Sun, in contrast to his birthplace. He began to realise that China needed drastic change.
  • He moved to Macao in 1892, then Canton in 1893 where he made contacts with members of Secret Societies through his friend Cheng Shih-liang.

Cheng Shih-liang

rejecting the path of reform
Rejecting the Path of Reform
  • By 1894, Sun was tempted to join other reformists and modernisers in China, writing a series of letters to Li Hongzhang, offering him his services and advice.
  • He even travelled to Beijing, hoping to get an interview with Li but was unable to get an audience.
  • This rejection and the decadence of Beijing strengthened his determination to overthrow the dynasty.

Li Hongzhang

the revive china society
The Revive China Society
  • Sun went back to Hawaii in 1894, creating the ‘Revive China Society’. He hoped to recruit other overseas Chinese, secret societies and Christian converts.
  • When the Sino-Japanese War broke out, he returned to Hong Kong and established a new HQ in February 1895.
  • Members of the group took an oath: ‘expel the Manchus, restore the Chinese rule, and establish a federal republic’.
first attempt at revolution
First Attempt at Revolution
  • In October 1895, Sun organised an uprising in Canton but it was discovered and 48 members died. He fled to Hong Kong but was banned from entering by the British, therefore he fled to Japan.
  • At Yokohama he established a branch of the Revive China Society, making connections with Japanese sympathisers.
  • He then went on to London in October 1896, hoping to recruit more overseas Chinese to his revolutionary cause.
a lucky kidnap
A Lucky Kidnap!
  • In London he was kidnapped by the Chinese Legation and held captive. The Qing government wanted him returned to China for execution.
  • However the British government found out and the legation was forced to release him.
  • It was a turning point for Sun. The story was all over the newspapers and Sun became an overnight celebrity, raising his profile amongst overseas Chinese.
the three principles of the people
The Three Principles of the People
  • He remained in England for 9 months, studying and developing his revolutionary theories. Here he developed his famous ‘Three Principles of the People’. China needed:
    • People’s National Consciousness (Nationalism)
    • People’s Rights (Democracy)
    • People’s Livelihood (Socialism)
  • Nationalism was needed to overthrow the Manchu and Imperialist yoke; Democracy to ensure rights for the people; and Socialism to regulate Capital and equalise land.
clashes with the moderate reformers
Clashes with the Moderate Reformers
  • Sun then went to Japan but was dismayed by the growth of his movement.
  • Sun and his ‘Revive China Society’ clashed with Kang Youwei and Liang Qichaowho had fled to Japan after the failed 1898 ‘100 Days Reform’. They set-up the ‘Emperor Protection Society’, a rival to Sun’s movement.
  • Kang Youwei represented the movement for Constitutional change in China. He wanted China to be a Constitutional Monarchy however Sun’s supporters wanted to destroy the Qing dynasty completely and create a federal republic.

Kang Youwei

Liang Qichao

second attempt at revolution
Second Attempt at Revolution
  • Despite the lack of widespread interest in his movement, Sun took advantage of the Boxer Rebellion to organise another uprising in Waichow, north of Hong Kong.
  • Again, the plot was discovered and Sun was forced to flee to Taiwan. Here he befriended the Japanese governor, extending his connections further.
  • Despite his plots failing, Sun’s popularity was rising and would soon sky-rocket due to one major event.
growing revolutionary sentiment
Growing Revolutionary Sentiment
  • The Boxer Rebellion (1900-01) completely discredited the Qing Court in the eyes of its people. Cixi and the Court was blamed personally for the disaster.
  • Many Chinese realised that only complete removal of the Qing would ensure reforms. Young intellectuals like Tsou Jung who published the widely read ‘Revolutionary Army’ in 1903, called for revolution.
  • Sun now became viewed as a patriotic, devoted revolutionary. Between 1902-05 he travelled constantly, growing his membership.

Tsou Jung

the chinese united league
The Chinese United League
  • Other revolutionary societies sprung up in China like the ‘Recovery Society’ of Ts’ai Yuan-p’ei in Shanghai and the ‘China Revival Society’ of Huang Hsingin Changsha.
  • In 1905 Sun returned to Japan and persuaded other revolutionaries like Huang Hsingto unite, creating the ‘Chinese United League’ or Tongmenhui.
  • The Tongmenhui accepted Sun’s ‘3 Principles’ as the philosophy of the Party and a 3-Stage Revolution was planned.

Huang Hsing

further attempts at revolution
Further Attempts at Revolution
  • By 1906, the Tongmenhui had 963 members with branches established all over China and internationally.
  • The Party provided a unified central organisation and rallying point for all revolutionary forces in and outside of China.
  • Between 1906-1911, a further nine uprisings were attempted, all ending in failure. The April 1911 Canton Uprising ended with the deaths of 72 members.
planning the wuchang uprising
Planning the Wuchang Uprising
  • After the failed Canton Uprising, the Tongmenhuire-focused on the central provinces of Hubei and Hunan.
  • In Hubei, they persuaded the ‘Common Advancement Society’ of returned students and the ‘Literary Society’ of Qing army soldiers to join with the Tongmenhuion 1st June 1911.
  • Together they planned an uprising for October 1911, what would become known as the successful Wuchang Uprising.
debate over causes of the revolution
Debate over Causes of the Revolution
  • The successful revolution was finally triggered by the Wuchang Uprising, led by members of Sun’s ‘Chinese United League’.
  • Sun was seen as the father of the revolutionary movement and as such, has been given the credit for the successful revolution.
  • However the actions of the Tongmenhui were only one cause amongst many for the Revolution. Any historical analysis of the Revolution needs to take into account other contributing, and maybe more significant, factors.
long term causes of revolution
Long-term Causes of Revolution
  • Failure of Qing Leadership – Since mid-19th century, Chinese history was a record of national humiliation: Treaty of Nanjing 1842, Loss of Tributary States in 1880s/1890s, Boxer Protocol 1901 etc… The inability of the Qing to defend China led to rising calls for reform. Inability of the Dynasty to reform itself (1898, Late Qing) led to calls for revolution.
  • Anti-Manchu Tradition – Anti-Qing feeling had never disappeared completely amongst Han Chinese who viewed the Qing as foreigners. The ‘Anti-Qing, Revive Ming’ feeling was kept alive by Secret Societieswho inspired rebellions throughout the 19th century, including support for Sun Yat-sen.
long term causes of revolution1
Long-term Causes of Revolution
  • De-centralisation of Power– Since at least the Taiping Rebellion of 1850/60, the Qing Court began relying on provincial officials to uphold the power of the state. This dynamic drew power away from Peking and would disrupt Qing attempts to reform the country.
  • Impact of Foreigners – Since 1840s, Foreign imperialism dominated China and disrupted the economy, undermining the Qing Court. Foreign political and religious ideas like Christianity, revolution, democracy, independence, human rights, freedom and equality disrupted Qing society and made the desire for change inevitable.
medium term causes of revolution
Medium-term Causes of Revolution
  • Sino-Japanese War 1894-95 – The defeat to Japan was a real catalyst for change. It embarrassed the Qing in the eyes of its own people and led to calls for more dramatic change, even amongst conservatives.
  • Boxer Rebellion 1900-01 – Cixi and Qing Court blamed entirely for the disaster and completely discredited the dynasty. Made many reformers now consider revolutionaries like Sun. Indemnity put economic pressure on dynasty and many Southern & Central provinces had disobey the Qing Court, furthering the division between the Court and its provinces.
medium term causes of revolution1
Medium-term Causes of Revolution
  • Resistance to Reform – One of the biggest problems was the resistance to reform. Self-Strengthening in 1860s-1895, the 1898 100 Days Reform and even the Late Qing Reforms all suffered opposition from elements within the Qing Dynasty.
  • Cixi, the Imperial Court, Confucian Gentry, Scholars, Intellectuals and even the people failed to see the need for radical reform until it was too late. The failure to reform itself meant that radical Chinese reformers saw no alternative but revolution.
short term causes of revolution
Short-term Causes of Revolution
  • Failure of Late Qing Reforms 1901-1911 – The Late Qing Reforms and Constitutional Movement of 1905-1911 increased the desire and anticipation for reform amongst the whole of society.
  • When the reforms turned out to be insincere and discriminatory to Chinese, even conservative-minded Chinese scholars turned against the Qing.
  • The creation of Provincial Assemblies in 1909 served as a catalyst for these frustrations, allowing independent-minded officials to challenge the Imperial Court without fear.
trigger cause of revolution
Trigger-Cause of Revolution
  • The Railway Protection Movement – Since 1895, many provinces in China had been constructing railways as a way to boost economic growth.
  • Provinces had spent huge amounts of capital and foreign loans in order to benefit from this boom in transportation.
  • In Spring 1911, the Qing government suddenly tried to ‘nationalise’ the main railway lines in order to centralise control.
trigger cause of revolution1
Trigger-Cause of Revolution
  • Huge foreign loans were signed by the government in order to compensate provinces for this nationalisation. The provinces were against nationalisation – they had invested huge amountsand would lose all profits.
  • However in June 1911, Guangdong only received 60% in compensation and Szechwan received hardly anything. The provinces were incensed!
  • Gentry and merchants in Hubei, Hunan, Guangdong and Szechwan organised ‘Railway Protection Clubs’ and mobilised their Provincial Assemblies to protest to the Court.

Pu Dianjun

trigger cause of revolution2
Trigger-Cause of Revolution

“Domestic politics is useless, and the government does not care for the people. To save the country there is no other way but revolution. We Szechwanese have already made proper preparation and would co-ordinate with other provinces for joint action!”

  • In Szechwan, over 10,000 people staged a rally in Chengdu on 24th August 1911.
  • The new governor, Chao Erh-feng, ordered the arrest of protest leaders and 32 died in the ensuing violence.
  • Fighting broke out between the government and the people with one leader commenting:
trigger cause of revolution3
Trigger-Cause of Revolution
  • The Imperial Court immediately ordered part of the Hubei New Army to Szechwan to put down this revolt.
  • This left the city of Wuchang vulnerable. Huang Hsingof the Tongmenhui realised this was the perfect time for revolution.
  • A plan was made for an uprising in Wuchang at the end of October but a bomb went off on the 9th, alerting authorities. The uprising would finally begin on 10/10/11.

Huang Hsing

review the role of sun yat sen
Review - The Role of Sun Yat-sen
  • Sun Yat-sen was just one amongst many reformers in the 1895-1911 period who wanted change in China.
  • However Sun was different in that he formulated a set of revolutionary ideas and policies that appealed to other groups, creating a mass vehicle for change in the Tongmenhui.
  • His connections amongst overseas Chinese, secret societies, Japanese sympathisers and Christian converts ensured that the Party was well funded and supported.
review the role of sun yat sen1
Review - The Role of Sun Yat-sen
  • His 3-principles of Nationalism, Democracy and Socialism appealed to many revolutionaries and made him the natural leader of the movement.
  • After the Boxer Rebellion and failed Late Qing Reforms, many intellectuals became persuaded by the need for revolution and naturally turned to Sun and the Tongmenhui.
  • It is fair to say that the revolutionary activities of Sun Yat-sen were a sufficient cause of the revolution but were they absolutely necessary? Would revolution have happened without Sun?
evaluating causes
Evaluating Causes
  • Explaining the causes of the 1911 Revolution is tricky as there are a number of contributing factors of varying importance including:
    • Role of Sun Yat-sen & Tongmenhui
    • Weaknesses of Qing Government
    • Role of Foreign Imperialism and Ideas
    • Boxer Protocol and its Consequencs
    • Resentment of Late Qing Reforms
    • Railway Recovery Movement
    • Other Revolutionary and Reform Groups
    • Accidential nature of the Revolution
    • Role of Yuan Shikai
  • You are now going to investigate these causes before writing an explanation of your own for the 1911 Revolution.
classifying causes
Classifying Causes

As historians, we try to organise and arrange causes into a hierarchy of importance in order to decide which was the ‘ultimate cause’ or reason for an event. We can use different sorting methods to do this:

1. Content Causes







Using the Cause Cards, organise the causes into a series of diagrams, based on each of the methods on this page.

3. Role Causes




4. Importance Causes

Necessary (Absolute/Relative)

Sufficient (Absolute/Relative)

2. Time Causes





paper 3 exam question 1 2011
Paper 3 - Exam Question 1 (2011)
  • To what extent was the 1911 ‘Double Ten’ Nationalist Revolution due to the revolutionary activities of Sun Yat-sen? (20 marks)

Candidates should identify what they consider to be Sun Yixian’s (Sun Yat-sen’s) role in bringing about the 1911 “Double Ten” Nationalist Revolution in China. This may include: his time in exile; his ideas, Sun’s ideas were called the Three Principles of the People; the organizations he formed – the Revive China Society in 1894 and the Tongmenghui(T’ung-mengHui) or Revolutionary Alliance in 1905 (other translations include United League or Combined League Society); various attempts at revolution which had his support, including Yellow Flower Hill in May 1911. Other factors which candidates may include: the weakness of the Qing government; the Boxer Protocol and its consequences; the Late Qing (Ch’ing) Reform Movement’s military, educational and constitutional reforms and growing resentment; the Railway Recovery Movement; the influence of other revolutionary groups in exile such as Kang Youwei (K’ang Yu-wei) and Liang Qichao (Liang Ch’i-ch’ao) and the Society to Protect the Emperor and the Society for Constitutional Reform, the Chinese Socialist Party and the New World Society and their publications; the accidental nature of how the 1911 “Double Ten” Nationalist Revolution actually started and gained support; and the role of Yuan Shikai (Yuan Shih-k’ai). Candidates will need to come to a conclusion that assesses the extent to which Sun’s activities contributed to the 1911 “Double Ten” Nationalist Revolution.

  • What were Sun Yat-sen’s biggest contributions to the Revolutionary Movement?
  • Which events were the most significant catalysts for change in China?
  • Which event led to the biggest growth for the revolutionary movement?
  • At what point did revolution seem inevitable?
  • What was the ‘trigger’ for the revolution?
  • Could the revolution have happened without Sun Yat-sen?

Did we meet our learning objective?

L/O – To evaluate the claim that Sun Yat-sen’s revolutionary movement was the primary cause of the 1911 Revolution