In this cogent and insightful reading of China’s twentieth-century political culture, David Strand argues that the Chinese Revolution of 1911 engendered a new political life—one that began to free men and women from the inequality and hierarchy that formed the spine of China’s social and cultural order. Chinese citizens confronted their leaders and each other face-to-face in a stance familiar to republics worldwide. This shift in political posture was accompanied by considerable trepidation as well as excitement. Profiling three prominent political actors of the time—suffragist Tang Qunying, diplomat Lu Zhengxiang, and revolutionary Sun Yatsen—Strand demonstrates how a sea change in political performance left leaders dependent on popular support and citizens enmeshed in a political process productive of both authority and dissent.
List of Figures
Introduction: Republican China
1. Slapping Song Jiaoren
2. Speaking Parts in Chinese History
3. A Woman’s Republic
4. Seeing Like a Citizen
5. Losing a Speech
6. Sun Yat-sen’s Last Words
Conclusion: Leading and Being Led
David Strand teaches politics and history at Dickinson College and is the author of Rickshaw Beijing: City People and Politics in the 1920s (UC Press).
“Strand eloquently joins political theories to historical reinterpretation, offering a cogent and multifaceted re-reading of China’s political culture in the twentieth century. An Unfinished Republic is a stunning book of scholarly imagination, diligence, and sophistication.”—Wen-hsin Yeh, Richard H. & Laurie C. Morrison Professor in History, Walter & Elise Haas Professor in Asian Studies, Director, Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, Berkeley
“An Unfinished Republic proposes a compelling new interpretation of early twentieth century Chinese history. It opens up unvisited avenues of inquiry into the uniquely Chinese mode and meaning of Republicanism and remaps the trajectory of Chinese politics over the course of the century. Strand is a particularly thoughtful and well-read scholar, who commands knowledge of a range of literatures including political science, cultural history, women’s history and political philosophy. He adeptly uses tools from all of these fields to support fresh insight into how Chinese Republicanism was understood, and more importantly, into how it was practiced.”—Joan Judge, author of The Precious Raft of History: The Past, the West, and the Woman Question in China
Slapping Song Jiaoren
Political Travelers in a Long Revolution
The Chinese Revolution was remarkable for lasting so long and covering so much territory in and out of China. Conventionally thought to commence with the Opium War (1839-42) and end with the death of Mao Zedong in 1976, the revolution has few rivals as a protracted conflict. Among them might be the French Revolution, with its five Republics to 1958, and the American Revolution, understood as extending through the Civil War of 1861-65 to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Even a more restrictive bracketing of events requires at least four or five decades to tell the story of the collapse of an empire and the building of a new Chinese nation. This was a revolution revolutionaries, if they were lucky, grew old in. Tang Qunying was born in 1871, joined Sun Yat-sen's revolution against the Qing dynasty in 1905 in Japan as a young widow and student, and struggled for women's rights and suffrage throughout the 1910s and 1920s. By the mid-1930s, and in her sixties, as Mao Zedong and the Communists on their Long March yet again eluded annihilation by Chiang Kai-shek and the Nationalists, Tang was living in Nanjing on a meager sinecure provided by the Nationalist government to her as a retired revolutionary. She grew annoyed when an elite visitor would drop by solely to have a photograph taken with her as a heroine of the now-long-past 1911 Revolution. After all, the goal of women's suffrage, like many other revolutionary objectives, had not been reached. As she remarked to her adopted son's wife with a deep sigh, "These people are so different. The nation and people, and the liberation of women, are all now forgotten. All they think and talk about are their own creature comforts. They fritter away their days at the card table and then suddenly turn up in front of me showing off their high positions. This is really too shameful and sad."
As a woman who had led an active political life as terrorist, secret agent, propagandist, soldier, editor, educator, and organizer, Tang was understandably vexed by what appeared to be a lull in the revolution, if not its end. Tang Qunying died in June 1937, a month before the Japanese invasion of North China that would eventually help propel the Communists to power and continue the revolution and a year after the Nanjing government included universal male and female suffrage in its draft constitution.
The Chinese Revolution also traversed a geographic expanse to rival in magnitude its longevity as a historical process. The landscape of its politics was vast not only because Qing conquests in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries doubled the size of the preceding Ming dynasty, bequeathing a gigantism only a few nations exhibit, but also because critical sites of the revolution extended far beyond China's borders, to East and Southeast Asia, America and Europe. As political lives unfolded in a long revolution, they also crossed boundaries of hometown or village, province, country, and continent. The history of revolutionary thought and action winds through exile and immigrant communities in cities like Tokyo and San Francisco, work, study, and training experiences in Lyon, New York, and Moscow, and diplomatic postings in Paris and St. Petersburg. Seeds of revolutionary thinking about rights and social justice were sown in China by returning officials, students, workers, and merchants, with the help of foreign visitors like globe-trotting suffragists and Comintern agents.
An inveterate traveler by force of circumstance as a political refugee twice, from 1895 to 1911 and from 1913 to 1916, and also by choice and conviction as a political campaigner, Sun Yat-sen eventually found travel so vital to his purposes that he declared it a "necessity" for everyone along with "food, clothing and shelter." Sun would have been lost without steamships and trains. He traveled to raise money and plot revolution but also to collect slogans and insights for the struggle back home. Returning to China in 1911, Sun continued to journey around the country by train, boat, and the occasional sedan chair. Sun was not alone in embracing what Marie-Claire Bergère has termed in his case "extreme geographic mobility" as a political response to the vastness of China itself, the expanse of "Greater China" in Diaspora, and the pressing fact of a global context for national and even local events. The accelerated opening up of China to the world brought change in every area of life. A 1918 essay titled "The Woman Problem" in the progressive journal New Youth noted that because of the "dense networks of transportation and communication" that now bound the world as one, "what is happening in European societies today will happen in our society tomorrow." With transoceanic telegraph lines in operation, tomorrow might actually mean the next day if not week, month, or year. By the 1880s Shanghai was served by most international steamship lines. The reciprocal opening up of the world to Chinese with the means and motivation to travel made geographic mobility a stimulus to political thought and a credential that might induce others less traveled to agree with you. Leaving home, and returning changed, helped make the case for a New China.
Upon his return to his home province of Hunan in 1913 after ten years of study in Japan, Britain, and Germany, the scholar Yang Changji, Mao's college teacher and the father of his future wife, Yang Kaihui, wrote an article for the local Changsha magazine Public Word titled "My Opinions on Reforming Society." Yang noted that as a result of the political revolution that took place while he was away in Tokyo, Aberdeen, and Berlin, "China has experienced tremendous change in the transformation of its political system into a republic, the profound nature of which can hardly be expressed." He cited the end of the imperial examination system, cutting of Manchu-style queues on men and boys, banning of foot binding for girls, and suppression of opium. Yang still retained powerful attachments to Confucian thought and criticized what he saw as excessive Western reliance on self-interest in ethical matters. Yang also embraced the urgent need for social change and attacked customs like arranged marriage and concubinage. Pressing ahead on these fronts "loudly" was needed in order to "reach the ears of those who are still deaf." "Recently," Yang wrote, "I have lived and traveled in several countries both East and West, asking after customs and examining how customs change. There is a great benefit in doing so since the way change actually takes place is through international communication. By comparing customs, the good and the bad become visible." The good in the West for Yang included fundamentals like free speech and small pleasures like not having family members read your mail. The bad in China ranged from poor public hygiene to fellow scholars failing to return borrowed books.
In Changsha one can visit the teacher's college where Yang Changji held forth as the "Confucius of First Normal" and Mao Zedong was his student. There are also less prominent historical sites like a small museum in a turn-of-the-century house dedicated to another Hunan native, Li Fuchun. One of the architects of the new socialist economy of the 1950s, Li spent 1919 to 1924 in France where he joined the Chinese Communist Party and, briefly, in the Soviet Union studying revolution. Among the exhibits in the museum are postcards Li sent from Paris, a leather document case from his post-1949 party service, eyeglasses, and a large map titled "The Tracks of Li Fuchun's Life." On the map one can follow Li from his birth in Changsha to journeys throughout China, including a visit to Beijing to study French, his participation in the Long March, and battles in Northeast China during the final civil war with the Nationalists in the late 1940s. Once he took his place in the central bureaucracy in the 1950s, aside from a diplomatic visit to Moscow in 1952, plotting out Li's life becomes a matter of tracking his ascent through ministries in Beijing rather than charting domestic and international travels.
Li's early sojourns in Paris and Moscow are represented by a small inset map. Such cartographic devices typically show a detail of a larger map, like the city plan of Changsha on a map of Hunan Province. Here, instead, geographic details of places once remote and unfamiliar, like France and Russia, find their way onto a map of China. Even Mao Zedong, whose "tracks" did not lead out of China until his 1950 mission to Moscow to meet Stalin, as a young man began a walk through five counties of Hunan after he read about two other students who journeyed on foot all the way to Tibet. Later Mao traveled widely in China not only on revolutionary business but also for more personal reasons, to visit the hometown of Confucius in Shandong Province as a tourist and to Beijing to woo Yang Kaihui.
As Sun Yat-sen intuited early in his career, China's gigantic size and poorly defended borders represented challenges to national governance but also opportunities for individual growth and political careers. Documenting and interpreting the movement of early-twentieth-century politicians and activists requires attention to these global details. As a recent study of the Republic's place in the world suggests, this was, for many, especially men and women of ambition, an "age of openness." In Republican China, "everything important had an international dimension."
This moving and globalized picture of revolutionary politics-in-the-making is at odds with the by now discredited stereotype of Chinese as "earthbound tillers." In a revolutionary era one expects individuals, ideas, and organizations to be set in motion as tradition is uprooted. In fact, late imperial China was already moving according to its own rhythms. Scholars traveled to attend school, take the official examination, and assume office in the capital or a distant province. Merchants journeyed far in search of profits. Though ordinary people might wish to remain on ancestral lands, they were often forced to move by war, natural disaster, or economic distress. Even relatively earthbound farmers moved around quite a bit within the circuits of the market towns that surrounded them.
Political activists in the modern era did blaze some new trails-to Moscow, for example, for training in Marxism-but they also followed the well-worn tracks of officials and their agents, merchants, laborers, and mendicants of the imperial era while acquiring, refining, and delivering their political message at an ever-accelerating pace. Wen-hsin Yeh has shown how young people from provincial backwaters were radicalized in their journeys as students from conservative rural communities to provincial capitals like Hangzhou, then on to Beijing and Shanghai to study and work in the epicenters of intellectual and political upheaval. The resulting juxtaposition of remembered landscapes and new vistas encouraged a complex rethinking of values. Some youths took up avant-garde ideas like anarchism, liberalism, and communism not only for novelty's sake but also, like Yang Changji, "out of a fundamentalist ardor to salvage the ethical intent of the Confucianism they had imbibed in their family and village schools."
New uses for older travel routes and social expectations as to who would be out and about on them led to artful dodges and comic missteps. During one of her pre-1911 revolutionary missions in rural Hunan Tang Qunying disguised herself as an itinerant tea picker in order to misdirect Qing troops. Not shedding the clothes and demeanor of her feminist persona would have been a giveaway to officials on the lookout for revolutionaries. By contrast, when the Communist revolutionary Peng Pai set out one day in 1921 full of more hope than guile to organize the peasants of his home province of Guangdong, "wearing a student-style Western white suit and solid white cap," he was mistaken for a tax collector by a vigilant, and world-wise, farmer. The dynamic landscapes of old and new China invited one to blend in, or stand out. Courtesy of railways and steamboats, political cadre often moved more quickly and farther than had been possible in the past, and so did their counterparts in business and other fields. Any moment, large or small, in the long and expansive Chinese Revolution forms a knot of influences and consequences that leads in many directions: backward and forward in time and to and from a given point on the map.
The event chosen to anchor this book is a brief but dramatic moment in the early history of the Chinese Republic: a public fight over women's rights during the founding of the Nationalist Party (Guomindang) in Beijing on August 25, 1912. The political convention is important enough to merit a small stone monument in the now-restored Huguang Native-Place Lodge (Huguang huiguan) where it took place and brief mention in histories of the period. The larger significance of the encounter arises from the very ordinariness of the participants' efforts to grasp and guide an unfinished revolution over cultural ground at once familiar and strikingly new. The knotted influences of history and geography meant there was more than a little London, Tokyo, Shanghai, and rural Hunan in the hall that day, as well as echoes of Rousseau, Mencius, Mencius's mother, Mulan the Woman Warrior, and Robert's Rules of Order.
Chapters 2 and 4 survey the evolving political culture of early-twentieth-century China as a pattern of old and new and Chinese and foreign ideas and feelings about power and authority that together made political navigation from empire to nation, and monarchy to republic, so challenging. The three individuals chosen to represent Republican politics in summer 1912 are profiled in chapters 3, 5, and 6. The suffragist Tang Qunying fought hard for rights for women with the support of thousands of women and not a few men who believed the Chinese Republic ought to include both sexes as full citizens. Classically educated and politically radical, she was gifted in areas as diverse as bomb making, poetry, battlefield tactics, and public speaking. Tang Qunying had imperfectly bound feet, a quick temper, and a fierce loyalty to comrades and revolutionary ideals. The Qing diplomat Lu Zhengxiang as a prime minister of the young Republic held the kind of high official position denied Tang. Lu's experiences as civil servant and politician in the early Republic were as typical in their turbulent course as he was unusual in his deep Catholic faith, fastidious professionalism, and cosmopolitan sensibility. He lost the post of prime minister, the highest office he held in his long career, as a result of the corrosive and contentious nature of public life and his own surprising missteps. As one of the most important political figures of China's twentieth century, Sun Yat-sen is a tricky subject for the biographer on account of his mercurial behavior, seemingly facile approach to politics, and ability to influence nearly all aspects of modern Chinese politics both despite and because of his slight record as actual ruler of China. Being the "good father" figure of a Republic he never really commanded contrasted with the records of his more violent and powerful successors and imitators Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Zedong.
Sun Yat-sen knew Tang Qunying well as a loyal revolutionary comrade and political thorn in his and his party's side on the subject of women rights. Sun and Tang were much alike in their rhetorical styles of leadership and ability to attract public attention. Together, their lives as political equals, who were attached by bonds of loyalty and common cause but not by romance or marriage, offer an opportunity to examine shared and separate experiences of men and women in the Chinese Revolution. Sun and Lu Zhengxiang met in late August 1912 in the aftermath of the Nationalist Party convention and in the midst of Lu's political ordeal. Sun knew Lu well enough as a fellow political actor on the national stage to upbraid him personally during that encounter for a lack of toughness and fortitude as a leader. Both men exemplified geographic mobility and political flexibility, and each built a career on the political and cultural fault lines that ran between China and the outside world.
Fighting a long revolution took levels of courage, cunning, and endurance on the part of men and women like Tang, Lu, and Sun that made wavering and faltering an occupational hazard and stubborn determination in defiance of reason a sometimes unwelcome and uncomfortable virtue. And so, on a warm summer morning, August 25, 1912, in the first year of the Chinese Republic, and also the thirteenth day of the seventh lunar month of the Renzi year of the water rat that began on February 18, in the forty-ninth year in the sixty-year cycle of heavenly stems and earthly branches that commenced in 1864 and would be completed in 1924, three women-Tang Qunying, Shen Peizhen, and Wang Changguo-rushed the stage of the Huguang Lodge ceremonial hall in Beijing where Sun Yat-sen had just spoken and threw the inaugural convention of the Nationalist Party into turmoil. August 25 was also a Sunday according to the Western calendar, a day of rest for government officials and foreigners and a convenient time for the new political classes of the capital to assemble.
By their disruptive actions and angry words, the women, members in good standing of the about-to-be-declared Nationalist Party and its immediate predecessor, the Revolutionary Alliance (Tongmenghui), made it clear they felt betrayed by their comrades. The new Nationalists, led by the young and charismatic male politician Song Jiaoren, had abandoned an earlier commitment to equal rights for women in a bid to win the support of conservative allies in the Senate. Shen Peizhen and Tang Qunying slapped Song, who happened to be onstage at the time, hard in the face with their fans. The women denounced Song's and their party's actions before an audience of a thousand party members, dignitaries, reporters, and other spectators. Unable to restore order, Zhang Ji, a fellow veteran revolutionary and the convention chair, adjourned the meeting until the afternoon. Even with this respite, the war of words, and fans, continued. The day's business concluded with votes that confirmed the defeat of women's rights as a party principle and with a long oration by Sun Yat-sen announcing support for the change in policy that so angered Tang Qunying and her fellow suffragists. Sun also promised that one day women in China would have the right to vote.
Women played a surprisingly important role in the early stages of the revolution. Their profile was high partly because political women stood out as a striking and controversial manifestation of revolutionary politics. Press accounts of the period "were obsessed with the mere sight of women in public spaces and their personal styles and behavior." Women were carefully counted at such events ("40 to 50" out of 1,000 participants in the Nationalist convention according to one newspaper). The length of their hair and style of clothes was noted. Short hair (jianfa) signaled radicalism in Beijing just as it might in New York, Tokyo, or London. In the aftermath of the 1911 Revolution young women organized Women's Haircutting Societies (Funü jianfa hui) to the consternation of government officials like Republican governor of Hunan, Liu Renxi, who was so affronted by this "weird thing, neither Chinese nor Western, neither male nor female," that he ordered one young woman in Changsha who founded such a society to grow her hair back.
The demand by women for full political rights and personal freedoms met resistance both from those who believed giving the vote to women was going too far and from those, like Sun Yat-sen, who were planning for a revolution long enough to eventually accommodate ever more radical ends. Women finally were able to vote at the national level and serve in the national legislature only in 1947. By that time a Chinese citizen's ballot had ceased to have much value. For Nationalist Party members, constitutional democracy and meaningful voting for men and women arrived only in 1996, an octogenarian life span later, with the election of the Nationalist leader Lee Teng-hui as president of the Republic of China on Taiwan, forty-seven years after the defeated Nationalists were driven from the mainland by the Communists. In 1912 radical ideas like democracy, social justice, and China becoming a great power loomed large against a horizon for their realization that receded as revolutionaries moved toward it. Being a revolutionary meant carrying on in the face of work that might not be finished in your lifetime.
A Liquid Age
What happened in Beijing on August 25, 1912, marked one of many revolutionary beginnings and also the culmination of a complex set of inherited pressures and influences. The past in different forms and guises was very much present among Chinese bent on change. Just as 1912 was still the Renzi year to most Chinese with water element associations that portended turbulence, so the disastrous Second Opium War was Gengshen 1860-61, the calamitous Sino-French War Jiashen 1884-85, the humiliating Sino-Japanese War Jiawu 1894-95, and the bloody and disorienting Boxer Uprising Gengzi 1900-1901. As Luke Kwong notes, "Almost inexplicably, events in recent memory had begun to stack up or accumulate, gathering a forward thrust toward the future." The past was an enemy for some except by way of negative example and an ally for others who were convinced that only culturally Chinese solutions would work to solve the country's crises. Yang Changji condemned certain traditions he found oppressive and held on to Confucian commitments to a politics of virtue. In effect, Yang proposed a coalition of past and present of a kind that made sense to many reformers and revolutionaries alike. Even so, "a new emphasis on the present moment" gained over the past as authority and mandate. As Kwong suggests, the future also became ever more vivid and compelling as a new awareness of "linear time" opened up wider possibilities for reform leading to progress. The mirroring and distorting effects of these temporal fields made for uncertain boundaries between past, present, and future. The past might stretch back thousands of years. Present time depended to a degree on which calendar one consulted. The future materialized out of elements of the past and present assembled as a projection of what one found good and bad about them both.
Admittedly, the 1911 Revolution, together with the founding of the Chinese Republic in winter 1911-12, was one of those turning points in history that quickly seemed to many no real departure at all. A few months of violent conflict and the defection of key Qing officials to the revolutionary side put an end to a two-thousand-year-old imperial tradition. This ending was widely acknowledged to be a great and unprecedented act. The Republic that followed failed to match this grand collapse with a convincing entrance of its own. In his influential fictional account of the 1911 Revolution, Lu Xun has his hapless hero Ah Q complain, "This whole revolution business was a big disappointment.... [T]here ought to be more to it than this."
About the same time in the 1930s that Tang Qunying was having her morose thoughts about what happened to the revolution, the writer Lin Yutang concluded that 1911 had succeeded only as a "racial revolution" against the Manchus. The upheaval "blew an empire into powder," leaving only "some ruins and debris and choking dust behind." Hu Shi left China in 1910 for the United States and returned in 1917 with a B.A. from Cornell and a Ph.D. from Columbia. His reaction upon returning to China so changed himself was very different from that of Yang Changji. Hu had "left an imperial China and returned to a republican one"; but when he disembarked in Shanghai "he found to his dismay that his motherland was almost exactly the same as he had left it in 1910." As the scholar and political reformer Liang Qichao summed up in one of the lively metaphors he was known for: "It [the 1911 Revolution] was like when you open a bottle of cold beer-the foam quickly bubbles up to the surface and appears awfully busy. But when the moment is over and the foam dissipates, it is still a cold bottle of beer."
In fact, the political energy Liang feared would evaporate survived by dispersing and pooling in the provinces or by finding a place in party politics, social life, and the state itself. The returns from abroad of individuals like Yang Changji, Hu Shi, Lin Yutang, Sun Yat-sen, and Liang Qichao, no matter what their mood or degree of excitement or skepticism, contributed to this energy. So did the charged atmosphere they came home to. Upon returning to China in 1912 after fourteen years of exile to the public acclaim he expected and deserved, Liang Qichao confessed privately that being a public figure was more taxing than he had bargained for: "The misery of socializing is absolutely beyond words. If one has to live such a life constantly, I wonder where the pleasures of life could be.... People here in the capital welcome me as if they were crazy. Every day I have to go to some three different gatherings." Liang had long called for such politically excited social interaction as a pathway to citizenship. He attributed the failures of 1911 to the inability of the revolutionaries to forge strong enough ties with the people as citizens. However, even he had not fully anticipated the public demands of being Liang Qichao in Republican China.
The Republic was failing in ways that made going back through the rubble impossible and going forward through dust and confusion a matter of continuous discussion and pressure. Political failure at the center paradoxically succeeded in widening and deepening a public life that stretched from the political elite to millions of citizens. The Chinese Republic, as a "series of inspirations, improvised upon a complete but tremendously vital confusion of ideas," resisted coherent ordering. Some kind of Republic was here to stay even if what it meant to be a republican remained a work in progress, a kind of sprawling political bricolage, or "making do."
Winston Churchill, Liang Qichao's contemporary and equal in the use of vivid political language, offered in writings on European and his own family history a metaphor that extends Liang's fluid and foam conceit in a helpful direction. Like many Chinese, Churchill thought and spoke of the past and present in coalitional terms. As a conservative, he was less enamored of a future that promised radical change. Churchill contrasted the position of his ambitious and capable ancestor Marlborough with that of Napoleon a century later as a difference between Marlborough being "only a servant in a liquid age, instead of a sovereign in a molten one." "Napoleon could order, but Marlborough could never do more than persuade or cajole." The two decades and more that surround 1912 in China were in this sense liquid rather than molten but trending toward a warmer brand of politics congenial to Napoleonic or Maoist ambitions and nation building, or what Sun Yat-sen called "construction" or "reconstruction" (jianshe). For the moment, as Liang Qichao put it in elegant, naturalistic terms, "The form of historical movement is like an excited body of water, in which the initial ripple is always followed by innumerable others."
The 1911 Revolution in China and its aftermath stimulated the reflections of scholars and writers and also produced popular summations like one simply picturing "the emperor overthrown and the queues cut." The peaceful abdication in Beijing of Puyi brought the Qing dynasty to an end. The cutting of men's queues all over China, some by choice and some at the point of a gun or the edge of a sword, symbolically severed the bond of loyalty between the Manchu Son of Heaven and his male subjects and their families. Some men escaped the scissors and kept their queues for years to come. Citizens not only cut their hair but also stopped kowtowing to political authority. Conveniently, and unlike the queue, kowtowing was a socially detachable practice that one could reject in public and maintain at home or in other nonpolitical settings like weddings or funerals.
Despite delays in bringing customs up-to-date and the ability to compartmentalize some changes, 1911-12 represented the end of an era in a deep and hard to plumb sense. Ancient institutions and time-honored customs began to disappear. A new political world opened up, though its dimensions and nature were less than clear as the weeks, months, and years passed. As Mary Rankin has observed, the revolution "gave old frameworks and integrative systems a sharp jolt from which they did not recover." This was the intention of Sun Yat-sen, who supported replacing the monarchy with a republic precisely because he believed Chinese needed a "psychological jolt" in order to join the modern world.
The founding of the Chinese Republic in Nanjing on January 1, 1912, the thirteenth day of the eleventh month by the old calendar and less than three months after the October 10, 1911, troop mutiny in Wuchang that triggered the revolution, was meant to signal a decisive political transformation. The place and the date of the founding were no accidents. A capital in Nanjing would break with the Qing use of Beijing as imperial center and align the launch of the Republic with the Ming founding of the last ethnically Han Chinese dynasty at Nanjing in 1368 (in 1421 the third Ming emperor moved the capital north to Beijing). To underline its hope for a new era, the revolutionary government in Nanjing also adopted the Western calendar on the last day of December 1911 and set the first year of the Republic to begin on the first day of January, designated now as China's new New Year's Day and the year 4,609 since the reign of the Yellow Emperor. Thus 1912 would be the "First Year of the Republic" (Minguo yuan), 1913 Year Two, and so on. The people and their Republic would now reign and number the years as emperors had done within each dynasty.
Of all the bold proposals broached in 1912, deciding a new date and meaning for "Chinese New Year" just as Chinese families began to make traditional end of the lunar year preparations was among the most ambitious and overreaching. In their haste to be seen as victorious, the revolutionaries in Nanjing also declared China a republic before the Qing court accepted final defeat. As a result China for nearly a month and a half had both an emperor and a president, a state of dual sovereignty indicative of confusion that reigned more securely than any single ruler or chief executive.
Most Chinese did not even know the year in question was "1912." World travelers like Liang Qichao of course did. Liang began using the Western dating system during a voyage to Hawaii in 1899 in a conscious embrace of cosmopolitanism. The revolutionary Zhang Binglin knew it was 1912 too but adamantly opposed adopting the new calendar as part of his fierce defense of Chinese traditions. Any republic Zhang would support had to run on Chinese time. According to the old calendar, the first weeks of the Republic still lay within the third year of Emperor Puyi's Xuantong reign, the Xinhai year by heavenly stem and earthly branch. Accordingly, the more accurate, inclusive name for the "1911 Revolution" is the Chinese one: Xinhai Revolution (Xinhai geming). Xinhai was supposed to be the year of triumph that Gengshen, Jiashen, Jiawu, and Gengzi had not been.
Not surprisingly, New Year's Day in the first year of the Republic for all but the most observant republicans still took place on regular schedule and according to the traditional dating system on February 18, 1912. The inertial force of Chinese time made itself felt. A week after announcement of the switch in calendars, Nanjing notified government agencies that merchants would be allowed to keep to the old calendar until the end of the Xinhai year. Commerce and manufacturing, planting and harvesting, the settling of debts, and selecting auspicious days for travel, business deals, and household activities all relied on the lunar calendar and almanacs. Faced with new political pressures and enthusiasms on the one hand and custom and convenience on the other, many people did the practical thing and celebrated both holidays. Changsha held New Year festivities on January 1, 1912, with a military parade accompanied by waving of the five-color striped flag of the Republic that signified China's multiethnic identity (red for Han, yellow for Manchu, blue for Mongol, white for Tibetan, and black for Muslim), trumpet blowing, and mass singing by troops. However, the ceremonies in Changsha were inspired more by Sun Yat-sen's inauguration as president in Nanjing and news of battlefield victories than dedication to the new calendar. In his diary of his first year living in Beijing beginning in May 1912, Lu Xun recorded being among the celebrants on October 10, 1912, the first anniversary of the Wuchang Uprising, joining crowds on the grounds of the Altar of Agriculture on January 1, 1913, in honor of Republic Commemoration Day, taking a stroll on "Old Calendar New Year's Day" on February 6, and noting the passage of Unity Commemoration Day on February 12, established by Yuan Shikai to mark the anniversary of Puyi's abdication and the Qing dynasty's demise.
Chinese would keep two kinds of time: the lunar calendar of festivals and agricultural rhythms and the Western calendar of the global, common era. For the remainder of the 1910s Lu Xun occasionally neglected to note the arrival of October's Double Ten Day and usually ignored mention of the January 1 and February 12 holidays except as days off from his work as a Ministry of Education employee. He never failed to note the arrival of the lunar New Year. Two decades later the Nationalists would still be trying, with mixed success, to supersede what the government hopefully termed the "abolished calendar."
The options one now had for thinking and speaking about time had lasting political implications. In his memoir the Communist revolutionary Zhang Guotao recalled the upset he caused among striking workers he was trying to help at a cigarette factory in Shanghai a decade after the revolution when he casually referred to the year as "1921" rather than "Year Ten of the Republic."
They had concluded that I would surely have used the Republican dating system if Sun Yat-sen had sent me. I was clearly not Sun Yat-sen's man, and I came from Peking. Who in Peking could possibly be interested in the workers unless it was the Manchu dynasty, which would no doubt like to utilize the workers to overthrow the "Republic."
The workers were secret society "good fellows," and this explained to an amused Zhang why they were so keen to decode nuances of numbers and dating systems. As Henrietta Harrison explains, the new Republican China, "as it was lived," was "layered" with seasonal, religious, civic, and political meanings. Although revolutions can radically simplify the world, the Chinese Revolution in general seemed destined first to add layers of complexity. The longer the revolution, the greater this stratified complexity and the stronger the pressure for bold and simplifying strokes and measures that were, however, often blunted by the inertial force of personal and local habit and conviction.
In step with overlapping regimes and competing calendars, for several months the Chinese Republic also had two presidents: Sun Yat-sen, who accepted the position on January 1 after a vote of the Nanjing revolutionary assembly, and former Qing loyalist Yuan Shikai in Beijing, whom Sun almost immediately acknowledged as the Republic's logical choice to replace him as president. Sun Yat-sen publicly offered to resign in favor of Yuan Shikai the day after the emperor's abdication and two days after Yuan declared that he was, after all, a republican. Yuan then conceded in a telegram to the Nanjing government that a "republic is universally recognized to be the best political system in the world." Four days after Puyi's abdication Yuan snipped off his own queue in private. The Republican flag was raised at his official residence in Beijing. The former Qing official now at least looked and sounded republican. Yuan's office announced that all official documents would be dated according to the new calendar but with lunar month and day indicated alongside.
Bowing to Sun's wishes for peace and to Yuan's military might, on February 15 the Senate in Nanjing voted Yuan in as the Republic's second "provisional" president. On the same day Sun also organized an elaborate ceremony in honor of the first Ming dynasty emperor at Zhu Yuanzhang's tomb outside Nanjing, accompanied by a multitude of soldiers, officials, and onlookers. In a courtyard open to the sky, Sun faced a vintage life-sized painting of the emperor and, leading the crowd behind him, bowed three times. An aide read a pronouncement written by Sun dedicated to the spirit of the Ming founder "as a great Chinese hero." Sun then turned to face the audience. He gave an emotional speech proclaiming that after more than 260 years of Manchu domination, China had recovered her freedom. The crowd responded with three cheers raised for President Sun, repeated and passed on through the mass of participants and spectators in a rising crescendo. Before electronic amplification or radio and film recordings, cascading voices like these conveyed imperial orders from the throne during such rituals. Ray Huang describes an impressively ritualized late-Ming use of the technique as the emperor gave the order from his Forbidden City throne that prisoners of war be taken out and executed.
The reply from the throne-"take them there; be it so ordered"-could not have been heard by all present. The order, however, was repeated by the two nobles standing immediately next to the sovereign and then echoed in succession by four, eight, sixteen, and thirty-two guardsmen, until it touched off a thunderous shout of the same order by the entire battalion of soldiers, their chests inflated.
Even as he celebrated the overthrow of the monarchy and his own role in the event, Sun confected a "flamboyant" homage to imperial heroes and antique spectacle.
Sun continued to preside over the Republican government while Yuan resisted the revolutionaries' demand that he take up his duties in Nanjing, a location Yuan judged too distant from his military and bureaucratic base in the north. Yuan had considerable political support for his desire to keep the capital in Beijing, including initially a majority in the Revolutionary Alliance-dominated Nanjing Senate. After all, there was something to be gained by pairing the energy of the young Republic with the prestige of the old capital, not to mention the proximity to foreign legations quartered in Beijing who had diplomatic recognition and much-needed loans in their gift. This same juxtaposition was anathema to revolutionaries who viewed Beijing as a den of Manchu iniquity.
Sun Yat-sen and his supporters had hoped to restrain Yuan's power as president by keeping the capital in the south and tweaking the provisional constitution to make President Yuan more accountable to parliament. The revolutionaries held to their demand to keep Nanjing as the capital until Yuan staged a troop riot in Beijing on February 29 to demonstrate his willingness to use force if necessary to resolve the question. In the end Yuan Shikai succeeded in remaining close to his northern armies and a healthy distance from the revolutionary heartland of central and southern China. In spring 1912, instead of Yuan making the journey south to Nanjing, the Republic, including the Senate but not initially Sun Yat-sen, came north to him and joined surviving elements of the Qing government in Beijing in a decidedly hybrid political construction. The Senate, an itinerant and growing body composed of provincial delegates variously appointed and elected, had begun as an ad hoc revolutionary assembly in Hankou in November 1911, moved downriver to Shanghai in December, back upriver to Nanjing at the end of the year, and north to Beijing in April 1912. Institutions as well as individuals would be well traveled in Republican China.
Yuan waited to formally accept the office of president until early March, and Sun did not actually relinquish his presidential powers until April 1. On March 10 Yuan took the oath of office in a ceremonial hall at the new, "very spacious and handsomely furnished" Ministry of Foreign Affairs building on Shidaren Alley east of the Forbidden and Imperial Cities. With an audience of political delegates from Nanjing, civilian and military officials from the capital and the provinces, representative Manchus, Mongols, and Tibetans, and the local Beijing chamber of commerce, Yuan "entered by a side door, stood facing the throng, a sturdy soldier-like figure" in uniform. Yuan then read a declaration promising "faithfully to develop the Republic" and abolish "absolute monarchy." As Henrietta Harrison points out, Yuan did not depict the Republic as the reverse of Manchu tyranny but instead confirmed the multiracial composition of China as a modern nation-state. The sequence of ceremonies from the Ming tombs in Nanjing to the Foreign Ministry in Beijing suggests the complexity of the moment. In Nanjing Sun drew on the republican trope of freedom against slavery. He played on popular anti-Manchu sentiments he would soon downplay in other settings in order to mute a racial republicanism at odds with China's multicultural reality. Meanwhile, Yuan Shikai put the Republic, like he did himself, in the service of China as a modern nation-state and in a venue that represented China's demand to be treated equally by other nations. His matter-of-fact use of the new machinery of state contrasted with Sun's emotional claim that the Republic was heir to hundreds of years of patriotic struggle. Sun's atavism, in pushing hard against monarchy with the help of his favorite Chinese emperor, made for a more muscular and radical form of republicanism than Yuan's embrace of national strength unrestrained by details of political form or the emotions those details aroused.
Meanwhile, and well into March, Sun in Nanjing continued to issue executive decrees, including one that required that all queues be cut within twenty days so that any man still wearing one might "cleanse the ancient stain and become a citizen of the new nation." Most Republican officials left Nanjing on April 7, a few days after Sun departed on a speaking tour of central and southern China. Sun's protracted surrender of the presidency to Yuan-viewed variously as noble, foolish, or simply inevitable-spared the country an immediate civil war and Sun's weaker military forces likely defeat.
The 1911 Revolution as a struggle to overthrow the Qing was over in a few months, but the Republic it produced left unresolved the question of what kind of political system it was and whether or not the revolution had really ended. The Republic as a "people's state or dynasty" (minguo) was radically different by design from the monarchy that preceded it. The Chinese Republic also included powerful personal and institutional elements of the old regime, Yuan Shikai and his bureaucratic and military allies and units foremost among them. Beyond the death and destruction caused by political and military conflict, the revolution encompassed change in areas as remote from most people's lives as the as-yet-to-be-enforced legal language of the provisional constitution promulgated on March 3 and as immediate and intimate as the arrangement of the hair on your head and the choice of calendar you used to measure the years, months, and days of your life. Expectations were high among politically conscious Chinese that the Republic in all of its dimensions would solve the country's many problems. Where the Qing was weak, the Republic would be strong, like the newest and most powerful locomotive in Sun's famous metaphor. Imperialist affronts would then be answered. Local needs would be met. Those who had risked something or everything in the revolution would be rewarded. Instead, the new regime only managed to survive rather than thrive, and on a diet of real but meager accomplishments. These included slowly gaining diplomatic recognition for the Republic and regularizing as Republican the patchwork of provincial and local governments left by the revolution. For many, small victories, including thwarting a return to monarchy in 1916 and giving political life a new look and language, amounted to very little indeed.
Mr. Sun Comes to Beijing
Later that summer Sun Yat-sen, now living in Shanghai, traveled north to pay a visit to the new Republican capital, seated somewhat incongruously now in a Beijing where six-year-old Puyi still resided in a portion of the Forbidden City. Some revolutionaries continued to refuse to accept Beijing as a fit capital for a modern republic. This had been Sun's position as well but one he put aside in the interest of national unity. Sun had visited Beijing only once before, in summer 1894, during a failed attempt to interest prominent Qing officials in his reform ideas and just before embarking on a lifelong career as a revolutionary. He later recalled that his main impression at the time was that the city was "filthy," a condition he blamed on "Manchu-Qing rule." Certainly the Hong Kong or Honolulu he was familiar with was more sanitary and orderly by modern standards. Sun was then an obscure, poorly credentialed provincial. Now, in summer 1912, as a result of the revolution he helped lead, there was no one in political China more prominent than he. Many regarded Sun Yat-sen as "China's Greatest Man" (Zhongguo diyi weiren). The fragile premise of Sun's 1912 visit to Beijing was that he and Yuan as former and current provisional presidents would negotiate the future of China.
Each had qualities the other lacked. While Sun's military and organizational resources were limited in comparison to Yuan's, Sun's vision of a new China was attractive if not fully persuasive to many. Within the framework of his "Three Principles of the People" (Sanmin zhuyi), Sun imagined a China that was nationalistic, enshrined in the principle of "nationalism" or "race" (minzu), participatory, stipulated by the principle of "democracy" or "people's power" (minquan), and materially advanced in ways that met the needs of all citizens and not just the elite, imagined in the principle of "people's livelihood" (minsheng). Sun Yat-sen was the first Chinese political figure to fully articulate and propagandize the demand for a powerful, democratic, and wealthy China, a signal ideological contribution that buoyed him up through his many political trials and tribulations. The idea of "wealth and power" (fuqiang) predated Sun Yat-sen in the writings of Yan Fu and others. Kang Youwei offered a more radical and sophisticated utopian vision of China's place in the world and in world history. Liang Qichao had long stressed the importance of a mobilized citizenry. Sun brought these social, economic, and political elements together in a set of resonant principles that carried an aura of historical inevitability and his personal stamp. Sun Yat-sen was never able to take possession of China as descriptive conceits like "Mao's China," "Deng's China," or even Chiang Kai-shek's "Lost China" would later have it for his successors. Sun did pioneer the idea that the words and will of a single leader might imprint themselves on the new age.
Yuan Shikai was pleased that Sun had accepted his call to visit the capital in a fashion that supported rather than directly challenged his government. Technically, Sun accepted not Yuan's invitation but that of his junior colleague Song Jiaoren to attend the founding of the Nationalist Party. Yuan Shikai, however, played host to the hilt. Yuan put Sun up at the temporary presidential residence he had requisitioned in the posh guest house quarters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Though to many an unconvincing republican, Yuan's credentials as a reformer were as strong as anyone's, and these formed the basis of his claim to represent the modern Chinese nation. He had been the key national figure in the flurry of last-minute reforms undertaken by the monarchy beginning in 1901 as the New Policies (Xinzheng). Might not these reforms continue as Sun's construction projects? As a result of his three-and-a-half-week stay in Beijing and many meetings with Yuan, Sun agreed to highlight the task of economic development by becoming the Republic's railway czar. Sun would temporarily leave the gritty world of parties, parliament, and cabinets to leaders like Yuan Shikai and Song Jiaoren. Men of power would pull China together by political means. Sun would build a transportation system worthy of a modern country.
One might dismiss Sun's railway-building proposals as those of a dreamer undisciplined by political realities. A number of historians, including some sympathetic to Sun's overall vision for China, have done so.The early general criticism of the Republic as a "signboard" could be fairly applied to some of Sun Yat-sen's proposals that have the air of empty sloganeering to the point of fantasy. In his "International Development of China" plan published in 1922 Sun not only proposed new ports, industries, and the Three Gorges Dam but also separate "bedroom," "kitchen," "bathroom," "toilet," "parlour," and "library" factories capable of replacing all traditional Chinese furniture in every home with modern styles. However, lacking Yuan's large armies and bureaucratic and foreign allies, Sun's nonpartisan developmental gambit made political sense in 1912. Railway building and ownership had been a popular rallying cry for revolutionaries and reformers in the period immediately prior to the 1911 Revolution. Calling for the construction of rail lines to make China strong was viewed as a good thing in tune with the public interest. Even Sun's seemingly outlandish furniture factories were in step with visionary contemporaries like the architect Frank Lloyd Wright whose "American System-Built Houses" relied on factory precut components and pioneering businesses like Sears, Roebuck and Co. and its "mail-order-house" venture. Sun's political thinking drew heavily and creatively on machine-age novelties like these.
Meanwhile, the new crowd of Republican politicians, including now Yuan Shikai, risked becoming damaged or unwanted goods. In the evolving political culture of the day, even necessary political competition could be condemned as a selfish scramble for office at odds with a widely shared desire for national unity. Immediately after his resignation of the presidency some Chinese compared Sun to George Washington, a national leader who refused to become king and declined a third presidential term. The move was possible in Washington's case by dint of "the paradox of leadership in a legal system" in which he "wielded power by giving it up." Sun's situation in 1912 was closer to the Machiavellian quip that the Prince should only give away things that belong to other people. What Sun had in his possession in 1912 were the seeds of a new kind of power, not the thing itself. Sun's chosen arena, national politics, was still a "rather special and detached realm" compared to the provinces where revolution had recently raged. George Washington also served two terms as president before he left political life, perhaps, in part, because there had been no American Yuan Shikai in Boston demanding that the new national government come to him, or else. Sun understood that ordinary political maneuvers directed against Yuan were bound to fail in the near term. Sun observed at the time, "For maintaining the present situation, I am not a match for Yuan. For planning the future, Yuan is no match for me." The Republic by its nature was pitched toward the future, and Sun was playing for time.
As his ability to spin inspiring republican dreams from unpromising materials like unlaid railway track suggests, Sun brought unusual and compelling qualities to the role of leader. He was armed with new ideas, a belief in history as a progressive and global force, and an affinity for novel political techniques like speech making and whistle-stop and riverboat campaigning. At age forty-six he was already the grand old man of the anti-Qing Revolutionary Alliance he had created only seven years before as an exile in Tokyo. If China was changing only slowly in terms of economy, society and culture, its politics in 1912 seemed to be rocketing along like the locomotives Sun so admired as engines and symbols of change. Sun was not an experienced official like Yuan Shikai. Nor was he a celebrated scholar like Liang Qichao or Liang's mentor and reformer Kang Youwei. Sun had written and spoken volumes about his plans for China. But despite an education that included time in a missionary school in Hawaii and a medical degree, Sun lacked the literati background of China's best and brightest. This lack contributed to denying him in 1894 the political access he sought. However, for many contemporaries Sun in 1912 surpassed men like Kang and Liang because he was the face and voice of progress.
In middle age Sun Yat-sen still cut a figure dashing enough to rivet the eyes of spectators who had read about him or seen his photograph. One witness to Sun's celebrity, Chen Xiying, recalled going to the train station in Nanjing in April 1912 to be part of the crowd of ten thousand seeing Sun off on his lecture tour. As a military band played and the train pulled away, in the front car Chen suddenly saw "a man wearing a tidy western-style suit, his demeanor cultivated and erect, hair a lustrous sheen, mustache slanting. One look and I knew it was Sun Yat-sen. He was [also] wearing a high silk hat."In the unsettled public culture of Republican China, appearances mattered. The popularity of the great Beijing opera star Mei Lanfang similarly hinged on the magnetic power of his "look," recognizable instantly to any fan. Lu Xun recalled that his visits to photography shops in Beijing were notable for the way decorative portraits of great men "vanished in a flash of light" with every change in who held power in the capital. Only Mei Lanfang's photograph endured from year to year. Despite the ups and downs of his career, or perhaps because of his gift for the self-narration of a turbulent life, Sun had that kind of star power on the political stage. The shared ability to imagine a polity or society in one's mind's eye with the help of symbols and images is a critical dimension of any political culture. Louis Wirth observed that "a society is possible in the last analysis because individuals in it carry around in their heads some sort of picture of that society." For many Chinese seeking to visualize the New China, Sun Yat-sen helped fill in that picture, just as he centered the innumerable group photographs he was part of. In a photograph taken in 1912 Sun stands hatless and alone (figure 1).
Sun Yat-sen was greeted as a great man when he arrived in Beijing by special train, pulled by a "gaily-decorated locomotive," in the late afternoon of August 24. As a sign of the volatility of the moment, a few hours after Sun's train rolled through Tongzhou, a transportation hub located just east of the capital, soldiers stationed there mutinied, looting and burning much of the town. As a Beijing editorial writer called "Cold Eye" (Leng Yan) observed, with Yuan's earlier, February troop riot no doubt in mind, "Today Sun Yat-sen arrived in the capital and the same day there is a troop riot in Tongzhou. A mere coincidence?" No match for Sun's eloquent words, Yuan Shikai was adept at communicating with carefully targeted acts of violence.
Since resigning as president Sun had been traveling around China speaking to large crowds who welcomed him as a revolutionary hero. Like dynastic founders of old, Yuan Shikai took up a fixed and well-defended position in Beijing as a sign of his authority. He offered China stability. Sun Yat-sen's power was better expressed by a patented mobility that resonated with the fluidity of the moment and rolling appeals for change. Sun was not discomfited by capitals or parliaments that moved around the map. He was confident, sometimes to the point of overconfidence; he could command as easily from a train station platform as from a presidential palace.
True to form, when Sun stepped onto the platform in the capital's central station, he wore a blue, Western-style suit and top hat. A ceremonial archway had been erected in his honor. Several hundred representatives of official, political, and civic Beijing were there to welcome him, having begun to "pour into the station" and assemble an hour earlier. They included senators, ministerial officials, military and police officers, political party leaders, and representatives of charities, a railway association, a Manchu and Banner welfare advocacy organization (with the end of the Qing the Manchus were naturally anxious about their status), representatives of the city's Guangdong provincial lodge who shared Sun's home province identity, "political discussion groups," journalists from seventy newspapers, a hundred foreign guests (including a contingent of diplomats from the Legation Quarter located a short walk from the train station), merchants, and women's groups.Many of the women present pinned their hopes on Sun as an outspoken defender of their rights as citizens. Special passes were required to join the welcoming party, and each group was assigned a specific area to "avoid disorder" and to keep "brigands from mixing in" with the crowd. Area numbers 1 and 2 were for foreign guests and senators, and 10, the last, was reserved for women. To reach their preeminent position foreign dignitaries could use privileged access to the train station from the Legation Quarter through a special "Water Gate" opened as a post-Boxer Uprising security measure through the wall separating the Inner and Outer Cities. To find their way to the platform women had to negotiate the overwhelming male public space of central Beijing.
With revolutionary violence subsiding, the only "brigand" Sun probably needed to worry about in summer 1912 was Yuan Shikai himself. Many of Sun's supporters feared Yuan was luring their leader to Beijing in order to kill him. One warned that "Bandit Yuan negotiates at a distance and attacks when near." The story is also told that on August 18 in Shanghai, as Sun waited in his ship cabin to sail north for Tianjin and train connections to Beijing, a beautiful young woman burst in, put a knife to her throat, and threatened to kill herself if Sun insisted on placing himself in the "tiger's lair" of Yuan Shikai-controlled Beijing. An initially flustered Sun managed to disarm the girl and calm her down. She undoubtedly had read Shanghai newspaper accounts linking Yuan to the murder in Beijing three days earlier of two Nationalist military officers, Zhang Zhenwu and Fang Wei. Sun Yat-sen's professed lack of interest at the moment in Yuan's job likely was his best protection, and there was no violence or serious disturbance during his stay in Beijing.
Upon arrival at the station on August 24, a military band played and well-wishers removed their hats to Sun in the new republican gesture of respect. The doffing of hats signaled both citizen equality and respect for republican authority. The popularity of band music in China had been partly Yuan Shikai's doing. Following the musical lead of foreign brass instrument enthusiasts like Inspector General of Maritime Customs Robert Hart, Yuan opened a school for the purpose in Tianjin in 1903. That and a study delegation to Germany led to the creation of a twenty-member brass band as part of a broader music education movement. The tubaand trombone would sound the music of martial citizenship rather than the drums, gongs, and pipes customarily used in public rituals. Outside the station a crowd of several thousand more people stretched south and west into the city's commercial district and onto Dazhalan Street, with its fancy silk and medicine shops. Photographs show police and troops clearing a broad path for Sun and his entourage as they exited the station amid crowds massed in the streets and leaning from the galleries of adjacent shops.
Beijing's main train station was located just south and east of Front Gate (Qianmen), the central passage through the wall separating the capital's Inner and Outer Cities. The square Inner City enclosed the more official areas of Beijing centered on the Imperial and Forbidden Cities. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Education, and the Senate were located there. The roughly rectangular Outer City was home to a more heterogeneous mix of business, literati, and ritual centers that included the Huguang Lodge and the Temples of Heaven and Agriculture.
The original railway station building with clock tower and curved platform roof still stands, preserved now as an arcade of shops and offices. In its early-twentieth-century prime the central station, like the city's post and telegraph offices, connected the capital to the rest of urban China and the world. If railway engines symbolized modern power for Sun Yat-sen and his contemporaries, the Chinese railway system functioned in a very material way to integrate the nation by shuttling people and goods from city to city. Telegraph lines did the same for government orders, personal messages, and the news of the day. A famous photograph of Yuan Shikai shows him in rustic repose in straw hat and raingear fishing on his estate. Yuan also took care to equip his country home, located south of Beijing in northern Henan along the north-south rail line, with a private telegraph office. Beijing, with its walls, palaces, temples, courtyard residences, and narrow alleyways, still looked very much like the old capital as revolutionary critics charged. Like Yuan Shikai's estate and many other parts of "traditional" China, Beijing was wired for national and international communication. When Sun walked out of the train station on August 24 he did so in full view of a welcoming crowd and, courtesy of telegraph dispatches and print media, in the presence of a national public of newspaper readers imagining Sun and the scene hours or days later.
Many of Sun's supporters had been waiting outside the station for the former president's train since early morning. The crowd added a friendly political demonstration to the normal bustle and congestion of Beijing's merchant quarter. President Yuan Shikai was conspicuous by his absence, but he sent his powerful deputy Liang Shiyi as well as the military band to represent him, along with an ornate carriage that once belonged to a Manchu prince to transport Sun to the Foreign Ministry guest house, "elaborately prepared for his reception." Also absent from the welcome party was Lu Zhengxiang, Yuan's handpicked prime minister. Lu was currently in seclusion from the press and public nearby in the Legation Quarter's French Hospital following his disastrous speech to the Senate five weeks before. Prime Minister Lu did leave his hospital room two days later to pay his respects to Sun Yat-sen and discuss foreign policy matters and then ran into Sun again for a public scolding. As Lu's sudden reversal of fortune from second in command of the government to political outcast demonstrated, acclamation of the sort that Sun received at the Beijing train station might be fleeting in the new Chinese Republic.
The carriage Yuan Shikai sent was upholstered in imperial yellow satin, equipped with bright red wheels, drawn by white horses, and accompanied by thirty mounted escorts.Sun accepted the royal trappings at first but later in his visit made a point of demurring that he was simply a "commoner" (pingmin) and not even a "former president." Commoner was one of many terms, along with other conventional euphemisms like "hundreds of names" and "cotton clothes" and new ones like citizen and the "people" (renmin), used to describe all those who were "not officials." Defining the people based on what they lacked-name recognition, decent clothes, and official position-rather than the authority of citizenship they now supposedly had was at odds with the republican notion that power flowed from the people to the government rather than the other way around. Sun's show of standing with the citizenry advertised his republicanism.
Sun politely refused Yuan's continued offer of imperial coaches.The lavishing of courtly courtesies by Yuan gave Sun the chance to duel a bit with Yuan on the question of whose republican commitments were genuine. Sun also asked Yuan to withdraw the tight security cordon he drew around the residence they shared. Sun had noticed that when he left his guest house there was not a soul in sight. His request for lighter security subtly spotlighted Yuan's own, well-founded, fear of assassination, anxieties that contrasted sharply with Sun's love of crowds that normally returned the affection. Sun broadcast to the public his ties to the people, impartiality, and devotion to the national interest. He insisted that he had no interest in the "world of political office" and wished instead to be a "free citizen."Yuan Shikai also made a habit of declaring his impartiality, but the claim was harder to assert convincingly since, unlike Sun, he had chosen to seize and hold onto political power.
Slapping Song Jiaoren
Though he professed a lack of interest in politics, Sun did have important political business to do while in Beijing besides meeting with Yuan Shikai, including the next day's Nationalist Party inaugural convention. Despite protestations about leaving the world of political office, Sun never in his thirty-year career as a revolutionary really took himself out of political competition. However, in line with Sun's personal commitment to the economic reconstruction of China, the actual running of the Revolutionary Alliance was now in the hands of other party leaders, especially Song Jiaoren. Over the summer Song reorganized and renamed the Alliance as the new and expanded Nationalist Party. This turned out to be a fateful change in nomenclature. Except for a switch to "Chinese Revolutionary Party" (Zhonghua geming dang) lasting from 1914 to 1919, Sun's party would carry the name "Nationalist" into its complicated future as a political organization that by turns served as loyal opposition to Yuan's government, a revolutionary insurgency against Yuan and his warlord successors, the ruling party in China after 1927, a leader of wartime resistance against the Japanese, the fleeing remnants of a defeated mainland regime by 1949, and a dictatorial and, later, democratic actor on Taiwan.
As the site for the August 25, 1912, renaming and reorganizing of the old Alliance, party leaders selected the Huguang Native-Place Lodge. A large hostel opened in the nineteenth century for visitors from Hunan and Hubei Provinces, the Huguang Lodge was located southwest of the central train station on the western edge of the Outer City commercial district. The lodge stood in the midst of Beijing's old literati quarter south of Xuanwu Gate, Front Gate's western companion passageway between the Inner and Outer Cities. Beijing lodges, numbering over four hundred, were originally built as homes-away-from-home for scholars from the provinces who came to sit for the imperial examinations. While they gathered their wits for the great literati rite of passage, they could be comforted by familiar foods and dialects and share the company of men in the same boat. The examination system ended in 1905, but provincials continued to find reasons for visiting Beijing: attending university, working in the government, or participating in political and civic events like party conventions. That a bastion of literati privilege could be a base for republican politics was no mystery to the extent that literati politicized by late Qing crises had supported both reform and revolution. The Huguang Lodge stands today in the same location largely intact and restored as an opera house, a fitting rebirth since lodges were venues for theatrical performances in their literati heyday. The stele recording the events of August 25,1912, commemorates a role for the Huguang Lodge comparable in effect if not in historical notoriety to the rented monastery refectory in Paris that gave the French revolutionary Jacobins their name and the "faintly rakish" Willis's Rooms in London where the Liberal Party was organized in 1859. The Huguang Lodge certainly offered a likelier setting for a public and political event than a dining hall for monks. And unlike a drinking club, there was little rakish or outré about a native-place lodge even with its male-sojourner traditions.
As for the day's event at the Huguang Lodge, Song Jiaoren was intent on transforming the Revolutionary Alliance from a violent, conspiratorial organization dedicated to overthrowing the now-defunct monarchy into an open parliamentary party suitable for a new and democratic republic. A native of Hunan, Song was a brilliant publicist and had been a frontline revolutionary fighter against the Qing dynasty. As Song explained, past political struggles had been conducted "in a spirit of blood and iron." Now the time had come to "employ political opinion." Words rather than bullets and bombs would, he hoped, cut a new path to power.
Sun Yat-sen's appearance at the convention was crucially important for Song Jiaoren and his supporters. Song's reorganization of the Revolutionary Alliance included a merger with four other parties and a watering-down of positions associated with Sun's Three Principles of the People. He needed Sun's blessing for the political maneuver. The Unified Republican Party (Tongyi gonghe dang) led by Wu Jinglian, currently speaker of the Senate in Beijing, represented a pivotal bloc of parliamentary votes. To close the deal with Song, the Unified Republicans insisted on elimination of Sun's Principle of People's Livelihood, which they viewed as too radical.In addition, the Citizens' Party (Guomin gongdang), based in Shanghai and led by Cen Chunxuan, a former Qing official and bitter rival of Yuan Shikai, added the demand that the Revolutionary Alliance's male-female equality clause be removed from the party platform. As governor of Sichuan, Cen in 1903 had played a leading role in implementing the dynasty's anti-foot-binding edict by having it translated into vernacular Chinese for mass distribution. At the time he supported the policy on the basis of "human feeling" for the suffering of women and a need to strengthen China by addressing the physical fitness of the female half of China's Four Hundred Million. Now, like many other reformers and revolutionaries, Cen drew a line between improving the condition of women and fully including them in public life as voters and officials. In early August a compromise joint manifesto was drafted, and two more parties, the Citizens Progress Society (Guomin gongjin hui) and the Republican Progress Society (Gonghe shijin hui), agreed to join the merger. As the prominent use of "republic" and "citizen" in political party names suggests, the signboard dimension of the new regime at least was well entrenched. Yuan Shikai's close supporters, who were not part of Song's merger, predictably called themselves simply "Republicans" (Gonghe dang).
In the interest of unity Song accepted the demands of the smaller parties with a few modifications. Alliance members were willing to quiet the socialist overtones of "people's livelihood" but refused to remove the term altogether. The resulting party charter represented a more conservative agenda. In addition to excising women's rights, the People's Livelihood "principle" became a "policy" and the party's anti-imperialist demand for "international equality" for China became the less provocative commitment to "international peace."Song also agreed to a collective "board of directors" approach to leadership of the party that would presumably preclude him from exercising strong personal leadership. Song's innovative proposal to create a "Department of Electioneering" was "rejected on the grounds that electioneering by political parties was held in low esteem in Chinese tradition." This must have been a particularly bitter pill for Song, handed to him as it was by former Qing officials only dimly aware of, if not outright hostile to, the close connection between a republic and elections. Wu Jinglian was pleased enough with the outcome to telegraph Cen Chenxuan that "the Revolutionary Alliance sacrificed everything."Backpedaling on People's Livelihood earned Song Jiaoren the derisive nickname "Believer in the Two [rather than three] Principles of the People."
The Nationalist Party positioned itself in summer 1912 to become the dominant political party in China by sacrificing a significant measure of the ideological distinctiveness Sun Yat-sen's revolutionary ideas had provided.The Nationalist message rewritten by Song offered instead the generic appeal of a catchall party hoping to gain and hold a parliamentary majority. In retrospect, pinning hopes on a legislative institution and elections as the foundation for the new Republic seems as naive as Sun Yat-sen's willingness to trade the presidency for national director of railway development. However, in the unsettled conditions of the Republic's first year, who could say with certainty whether Yuan's armies, Sun's national rail network, or Song's parliamentary maneuvers and electoral strategies would provide the means of securing the country's future? Nationalism remained a powerful force, even though international conflict was largely limited to diplomatic sparring over territory and spheres of influence with encroaching powers like Russia, Britain, and Japan. The public did care about Russian designs on Mongolia and British moves in Tibet, but there were no mass protests at the moment or in the offing. Demands for social and economic justice remained vague despite the emergence of a fledgling Socialist Party that was, however, not in position to threaten the Nationalists from the left. There were plenty of signs of local and popular unrest over issues like taxes and rents, but social turmoil and economic conflict had not yet found their way to national-level politics.
Women's rights had arrived. The issue that proved to be the lightning rod of the bundle was the demand for male-female equality and especially political suffrage for women. Given China's patriarchal past and mostly male political elite both before and after 1911, the prominence given to women's suffrage in 1912 is surprising. However, these same conservative cultural and social facts and the frustration they engendered made women's rights a revolutionary issue for a revolutionary moment. As one female participant in the debate about women's rights put it that summer, "Speaking of male-female equal rights, though we hear about this on a daily basis, it is nowhere to be seen in reality." A confusing political landscape offers at least temporary advantages to those who are clear about what they stand for and envision. The question of male-female equality vividly brought into focus the Republic as it was written on paper and the Republic as it was experienced in both public and private arenas.
When the about-to-be-renamed Revolutionary Alliance convened on the morning of August 25 in the ornate central hall of Beijing's Huguang Lodge to the ringing of the chairman's bell and the strains of a military band, the first order of business was a speech by Sun Yat-sen. Speech making was one of Sun's great strengths as a public figure. His skills in this area earned him the title "Sun the Cannon" (Sun Dapao) for the power of his oratory and as a sly dig at his tendency toward bombast. Sun's strong and well-received address on this occasion to the large crowd of party members, spectators, and the press fully endorsed Song Jiaoren's plans to transform the party in order to compete effectively in national elections scheduled for winter 1912-13.Sun omitted any mention of the compromises made to achieve Song's merger. He did stress the importance of abandoning the habit of treating outsiders as enemies. Sun's remarks were greeted by thunderous applause, though one suspects it was as much the man as the message earning the ovation.
The next speaker was Song Jiaoren, an accomplished orator in his own right. He in turn was followed by the meeting's chairman, Zhang Ji. Before Zhang could complete his report on the party merger, Shen Peizhen, Wang Changguo, and Tang Qunying forcibly took the stage. During the melee that followed, Shen and Tang slapped Song Jiaoren. Senator Lin Sen, standing next to Song, tried to mediate, and Tang struck him as well. Wang grabbed Song by the throat and threatened to shoot him. All three women were Revolutionary Alliance members and leaders of the Chinese suffragist movement. Their dramatic intervention left many in the audience "tongue-tied and staring in anger." So much for party unity!
The women addressed the packed hall and denounced the newly adopted Nationalist Party constitution as a betrayal of party principles and of female party members.Tang Qunying had joined the Revolutionary Alliance at its founding, and Shen Peizhen and Wang Changguo became members shortly after. Each had participated in the revolution in every phase of its operations both civil and military. They were incensed that their male comrades in arms had reneged on promises to support women's rights in order to win the backing of conservatives like Cen Chunxuan who, like Yuan Shikai, had switched to the Republican side only when it was clear the Qing dynasty was doomed. Eliminating the original clause guaranteeing women's rights proved Song Jiaoren and his supporters had "no regard for the Revolutionary Alliance and no regard for the Chinese Republic."
For these women, male-female equal rights were essential to republicanism. If, to follow Sun's favorite analogy, choosing a republic was like picking the newest and most powerful locomotive, the republic they wanted was not a patriarchal late-eighteenth or mid-nineteenth-century vintage model but one in which political equality of men and women was built into the machinery of government. After attempts to mediate the dispute onstage failed, convention chairman Zhang Ji declared that the morning's meeting was not after all a plenary session and therefore not an appropriate setting for this kind of constitutional discussion. Shouting "Long live the Republic!" three times, Zhang adjourned the convention until the afternoon.
The afternoon session opened with Zhang again in the chair. He gave a speech that not surprisingly appealed for unity, declaring that "in one nation there can only be one center" and the same held true for a nation's political parties. Zhang's appeal for party-based unity implied that just as a familial logic had governed the empire from Court out to every humble household and back again, so the Republic needed its own center to lead China, based on the new unifying principle of a mobilized citizenry. Zhang's words and the context in which he spoke them suggested that despite the momentary surrender to patriarchy he and Song had signed on to, republicanism in China would challenge the centrality of family as the dominant metaphor for statecraft in favor of the organized body of citizens. The shift from the individual as a social self embedded in family or family-like networks to the individual as a social self who is an integral part of an organization like a political party was a subtle and fateful development. The ideal center with its fatherlike emperor and his servants who in turn acted as parents of the people would now be occupied by a martial or otherwise commanding leader and his subordinates.
In both visions of an orderly world the individual was socially defined, as son or wife or subject on the one hand or comrade, member, or citizen on the other. However, the nature and composition of one's social world would be substantially different. From Zhang Ji's point of view, with the formation of the Nationalist Party many parties would become "one great political party." The Nationalists could hardly claim to govern China if they could not govern themselves. The original, deep-dyed family model of political life would not disappear, any more than the lunar New Year could be replaced with a new national holiday or every queue cut in twenty days. Political comrades sometimes acted like, or were seen as, fractious siblings or filial children. Sun Yat-sen, as father of the Republic, would try to parent younger politicians.
The first item of business in the afternoon was a debate about the name "Nationalist Party." Some members expressed a preference for "Democratic Party." Zhang settled the question rather informally by asserting that most people liked the name already chosen. He took the loud applause that greeted this assertion as sufficient justification for keeping "Nationalist."Then several women again made speeches on the question of rights and equality, this time by prearrangement. In an affirmation, however grudging, of rules transgressed in the morning, instead of storming the stage the women took their turns to speak in good order.Recognition of the right to speak may well have been part of what the women aimed to achieve with their earlier demonstration. Zhang Ji also permitted a formal resolution to restore the male-female equality clause to be brought before the convention.The angry tone of the meeting did not change, however. Wang Changguo harshly attacked the party's retreat from women's rights. Zhang Ji and other speakers responded by arguing that "inasmuch as even members of the Revolutionary Alliance are not equal, it was only natural that voting rights for men and women not be equal."Not surprisingly, assignment to second-class party membership to go with second-class citizenship served to further inflame women's rights advocates. "As a result, the order of the meeting became chaos."
As Zhang Ji attempted to restore order, a woman shouted from the gallery, "You are abolishing equal rights for men and women. Which of you was not born of [both] a father and a mother?" The heckler's comment concisely conveyed the politically contingent and culturally rooted nature of women's rights in China. The Revolutionary Alliance had been on record since at least the spring supporting the expansion of "male-female equal rights." Sun Yat-sen himself had publicly promised his personal support. When he arrived in Beijing on August 24 and announced his "aims and opinions," male-female equality was at the top of his list, followed by his cherished railway project, respect for legislative institutions, unifying North and South China, responsible journalism (he was annoyed by critical press coverage), and his own decision to remain a "free citizen" rather than join the political class.
Women also believed that rights were a matter of entitlement, both in the borrowed natural rights justifications they took from Western philosophy and in the long-standing Chinese view and commonsense observation that women were, after all, indispensable in any human group or community. Female reformers drew on traditions that accorded special respect to "worthy ladies" and "women of talent" . In the late imperial period the assumption that "men were not ritually complete without wives" had "softened" the subordination of women. Women completed the act of nationhood or comradeship just as they helped to effect the practical and ritual completion of family life. At the same time, in a break with the past, radicals like Tang Qunying believed that the exercise of citizenship by women must take place in the public realm of parliaments, the press, and the street and not be confined to the inner quarters of home and family. Moderates in the women's movement by contrast sought to carve out a more enlightened family or "private" sphere in the spirit of Japanese reformers and their advocacy of "good wives and wise mothers" and defer entry into public life until they and society were ready.
Seeing Song Jiaoren onstage, Tang Qunying attempted to strike him again with her fan but was prevented from doing so by Zhang Ji.Tang declared in her remarks that abandoning the equal rights clause "showed contempt for women." While she spoke, sixteen-year-old Fu Wenyu stood at her side, her youth and bobbed hair making a visual statement as potent in its own way as a queue-less man. Fu would achieve fame the following year as a leader of an anti-Yuan Shikai "female assassination squad." At this point those in favor of women's rights began clapping, but they were drowned out, as if on cue, by "snorts of contempt" from the overwhelmingly male audience. Only 3 or 4 percent of the thousand people in attendance were women, and not all the female delegates present could be expected to share Tang's more radical position on the need for immediate action on suffrage and allied political rights.
Women could expect dismissive or rough treatment in such settings. They might be free to join a political party, but they were still banned from many public places such as teahouses and theaters. These customs were being contested and not just by suffragists, a fact reflected in a September 11, 1912, Beijing police announcement that prohibited men and women from watching opera together. Gardner Harding, arriving in China from Japan in 1913, noticed that with the notable exception of women in factories, the urban economy seemed overwhelmingly male: "There were no Chinese typists, no Chinese shopgirls, no Chinese ticket takers, not any women at all, except Eurasian and foreign girls, in the endless business employments that they occupy in the Western and the Japanese worlds." Sex work that placed prostitutes by the thousand in urban brothels was an exception. Acceptance of women in public did vary by region and community. In Shanghai elite women had for decades been making inroads as teahouse and even opium parlor customers, as well as patrons of "open air dramas and events like tea-tasting, flower-gazing, billiard-playing, kite-flying, and dining at Western restaurants." Politics as an open-air, teahouse, and theatrical event beckoned many women already out and about in public. The decades immediately before and after the 1911 Revolution were marked by the "growing public visibility of women" as students, workers, consumers, and activists, becoming "one of the most striking social and cultural changes of the period." This visibility encouraged radical women and alarmed many men.
Most of the men assembled in the Huguang Lodge that day plainly did not want a completed republic to include women as voters and elected officials. An editorial cartoon from fall 1912 took one of the stock phrases associated with debate over the suffrage movement, "obstacles to women's suffrage," to caption a drawing of a woman with bobbed hair delivering an impassioned speech while nursing a baby at her breast (figure 2). A woman at the podium was both a logical extension of republican politics and a picture of the New China likely to elicit snorts of male contempt, an image that proved far more contentious than Sun Yat-sen in a top hat.
Zhang Ji remained cool under fire as the convention whipsawed from order to turmoil and back again and had showed considerable presence of mindin the morning when he sought to save the moment for Song Jiaoren with his double appeal to parliamentary rules and patriotism. That Zhang had anarchist sympathies in addition to more institution-bound roles as party member and leader may have helped to prepare him for this kind of challenge. Earlier in the year Zhang Ji had joined the new Society to Advance Morality. The group, dedicated to an anarchist agenda, exhorted members to progressively give up prostitutes, smoking, meat, and the quest for government office. Though Zhang had lapsed at least in the political area by summer, he was well positioned to appreciate competing claims of order and protest, radicalism and compromise. A few years earlier, when many revolutionaries, and their rivals in the constitutional reform camp, were still in exile in Japan, Zhang had helped to disrupt at least one meeting himself. The occasion was a speech by Liang Qichao to the Chinese exile community in Tokyo in October 1907. Liang spoke for about two hours to a thousand students, about four hundred of whom were members of the Revolutionary Alliance armed with walking sticks and intent on turning Liang's reform meeting into a revolutionary event. Near the end of Liang's address about twenty of the revolutionaries led by Zhang Ji and Song Jiaoren rushed the podium, with Zhang shouting that Liang was a "horse's fart." Liang Qichao tried in vain to quiet the crowd with his "sage-like appearance and his non-stop oratory." Once the radicals succeeded in seizing the rostrum, Song Jiaoren gave his own counterspeech advocating revolutionary struggle. In 1902 in another show of radicalism Zhang Ji and the famous militant Zou Rong invaded the Tokyo residence of Yao Wenfu, the Qing official in charge of Chinese military students in Japan. Zhang stood by as Zou forcibly severed Yao's queue.
The role reversals that took place on August 25, with hecklers and invaders now the heckled and invaded and troublemakers turned into order keepers, suggest the open and experimental nature of the new republican politics. The tenor and course of the day's events also underlined the unpredictability that resulted from the heavy reliance politicians and civic activists now placed on holding meetings that could in a moment turn against organizers and on a rhetoric of citizenship that could be wielded against anyone who sought to speak on behalf of the people. A convention dedicated to party unity offered the disgruntled a golden opportunity to showcase their dissent.
To quiet the crowd Zhang rang a bell, the continental European signal for parliamentary order, and called for a show of hands on the question, the precise nature of which he underlined by holding up a sign in big characters reading "Male-Female Equality." Supporters of the equal rights motion managed to muster only thirty or forty votes to hundreds against. Tang Qunying and other women condemned the outcome. When Sun arrived for the afternoon session, Tang was still visibly "full of anger." Another delegate, in a gesture perhaps intended to mollify her and chasten his colleagues, declared that though the attempt to reinsert the equal rights clause had failed he intended to vote for Tang for an official position in the party leadership. He then took out a ballot and wrote her name on it. Not enough delegates followed suit, and Tang did not make the list of officers. The raucous atmosphere of the convention continued during a dispute over balloting procedures. Even Zhang Ji's composure began to wear thin. In "agonized words" Zhang appealed to the audience for calm: "If you gentlemen wish to establish a Nationalist Party, please cast aside your personal feelings and your abstract arguments." For women like Tang, Shen, and Wang, the issues were both personal and political. By their lights they had been personally and politically betrayed.
Finally, Sun Yat-sen reentered the hall to huge applause, and the audience again removed their hats in respect. Sun had this effect on most audiences and, despite vigorous and sometimes nasty attacks in print media, was rarely heckled. One of the few exceptions to his acknowledged power to move and control a crowd took place later during his visit to Beijing. At a banquet given by Yuan Shikai in Sun's honor at the Foreign Ministry and attended by four hundred or five hundred people, including cabinet officials and military officers, a group of military men began cursing the Revolutionary Alliance as "thugs and trouble-makers" and Sun as a "swindler." The soldiers also taunted him as "Sun Dapao." This verbal sparring and abuse escalated to a great uproar in which military men banged their ceremonial swords on the floor and individuals on both sides shouted and cursed. During the commotion Sun had remained "composed as usual," not unlike Liang Qichao during the 1907 Tokyo melee. After half an hour of continuous disturbances Sun and Yuan retired to another room.
In the wake of hours of rancor at the Huguang Lodge among convention delegates, Sun got up and gave his second, and now far more important, speech of the day. His remarks lasted a marathon two hours and squarely addressed, among other issues, the question of women's rights. In order to achieve party unification, if not unity, Sun made an abrupt switch from his pro-equality statement of the day before to open support for leaving out the women's rights clause. This was the kind of 180-degree turn that gave him a reputation for both flexibility and opportunism. Sun at his core was a politician willing to balance values like patriotism or rights against political reality, including the need to care for his own career. That he presented himself as an idealist, and certainly was a man of principle in his own mind and in the hearts of many followers, exposed him to the charge of being not only a "cannon" but a hypocrite as well. Under pressure Sun now declared that while equal rights were "still something very much to be hoped for, not even foreign countries had been able to reach this goal." Since three countries-New Zealand, Australia, and Finland-had already granted the vote to women Sun was wrong on this count. That none of these was a great power was probably more to the point. Alluding to "what foreigners thought" was a common rhetorical device. The turn of phrase was normally used to spur Chinese forward, as Yang Changji had done on his return from Europe, toward bolder, more radical acts.Sun might have taken the lead from Chinese suffragists who reasoned that the vote for women would strike a blow for national pride by making China a leader in something other than poverty and weakness. However, on this occasion Sun drew a different lesson convenient to the balance of power in the audience he faced. Sun used the fact of global resistance to women's suffrage as a reason to delay action. He did promise that "one day" these rights would be secured. After all, how could men demand freedom for themselves and not accept equality with women? Sun's mastery of the future permitted him to use it either to inspire measures in the here and now or to defer action by putting current demands off to some later date. If women's rights were to be part of the revolution, the struggle would need to be long indeed. Sun's faith in the future had a perverse implication for at least some of his supporters. Without a date certain for the revolution's end, goals like women's rights could be indefinitely postponed.
A reassuring rejoinder to principled opposition can be infuriating. An unconvinced Tang Qunying, with a parting verbal shot, walked out in protest. The next day Shen Peizhen and Tang Qunying went to see Sun at his residence. According to a newspaper account, Tang wept so loudly that the sound "shook the room." The women "stuck fiercely to their position" and cited the many women who had risked or lost their lives for the revolution. Sun attempted to console them and was said to be "much moved." Shen and Tang left the meeting unsatisfied and furious.Sun later published a letter to a group of suffragists in Nanjing declaring his personal support for women's equality and blaming the removal of the original rights plank on "the opinions of a majority of men" at the convention. He noted in his own defense that he had made a special point of including women as guests at public events he had been attending in the capital. He advised women to organize themselves more effectively so that "when you begin to scramble for power with men you will be able to achieve victory." He also wrote Tang Qunying a personal letter of explanation with many of the same sentiments that she reportedly treasured to the end of her life. The letter to Tang concluded with a hint of self-criticism: "Never depend on men to act on your own behalf and never let yourself be used by men."
Despite this reasonably amicable if emotional conclusion and dénouement, the course events took on August 25, 1912, was at odds with Sun Yat-sen's appeal for unity and his admonition not to treat outsiders as enemies. Even worse, the dispute pitted comrade against comrade with party insiders as bitter foes. Some of the conflict was an artifact of Song Jiaoren's bold style of leadership. This was not the first time he was attacked at the podium in 1912. His flair for controversy and political drama made him an attractive target. Only a few months earlier Song had received a black eye from a delegate during a session of the Senate in Nanjing when Song opposed sending troops to Beijing in what would likely have been a hopeless attempt to force Yuan Shikai to cooperate with the Nanjing government.In mid-July a meeting of Revolutionary Alliance members in Beijing about the transformation of the Alliance into the Nationalist Party also included a pummeling of Song. Tang Qunying and Wang Changguo were both present, as were other female members of the Alliance. Wang strode to the podium where Song was presiding as chair and hit him. She shouted at Song, "You heap scorn on women! For what has happened this day, two hundred million female compatriots will be avenged!" Song, said to have reddened in anger or embarrassment, replied, "This was a decision reached by the whole body, not one made by the chair on his own." Tang replied that his actions were dictatorial and that women would not recognize them. Wang roundly cursed Song and reminded him of the blood shed by female comrades. His actions, she concluded, were "insane."
Song undoubtedly saw trouble coming when his female comrades took the stage later in August. This public and well-rehearsed statement of anger and opposition suggests that despite growing disappointment among many revolutionaries, the taste and substance of the revolution was not as "flat" and uninspired as Liang Qichao asserted. Hope and disappointment felt by activists continued to roil the political waters. The very public way in which women failed to win the vote in 1912 expanded the republican polity in directions that defied tradition and continued the revolution. The three women who seized center stage at the Huguang Lodge acted more like angry workers in a teahouse scrap over wages or literati throwing ink pots and chairs at a despised scholar-official than women in the patriarchal grip of fathers, husbands, or male political leaders. They defied conventional rules of propriety that discouraged childbearing-age women from attending this kind of public event, much less behaving in a vocal and aggressive manner. In impact and influence if not votes Tang and her sisters were the equals that day of Song Jiaoren, Zhang Ji, and even Sun Yat-sen. Perhaps the 1911 Revolution was a revolution after all.
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