Signed by Sun

A copy of an un­der­tak­ing signed by Sun Yat-sen and his wife is at the cen­ter of an on­go­ing Bei­jing ex­hi­bi­tion to mark the rev­o­lu­tion­ary leader’s birth. Lin Qi reports.

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A copy of an un­der­tak­ing signed by Sun Yat-sen and his wife is the fo­cus of a Bei­jing ex­hi­bi­tion mark­ing the 150th an­niver­sary of the leader’s birth.

The day af­ter they reg­is­tered their mar­riage in Tokyo on Oct 25, 1915, the great rev­o­lu­tion­ary Sun Yat-sen who died in 1925, and the late Soong Ching Ling signed a pledge.

In the doc­u­ment writ­ten in Ja­panese at a lawyer friend’s house, they promised to com­plete the Chi­nese le­gal pro­ce­dure for mar­riage as soon as pos­si­ble, try to keep each other happy and raise no ob­jec­tion to le­gal or so­cial pun­ish­ment for vi­o­lat­ing the pledge.

De­spite a 27-year gap in age be­tween them and strong op­po­si­tion from Soong’s fam­ily and Sun’s fel­low rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies, the wed­ding took place.

Sun, who had a di­vorce be­fore he mar­ried Soong, said that he wouldn’t re­gret it even if he died the day af­ter he mar­ried her. And, she in turn said noth­ing would bring her greater hap­pi­ness than ac­cept­ing his pro­posal. She be­lieved it was also a way to ded­i­cate her­self to the Chi­nese rev­o­lu­tion­ary cause.

The pledge was made in three copies, with the cou­ple keep­ing two. But the copies in their pos­ses­sion got lost when Soong had to leave Shang­hai be­fore it was oc­cu­pied by the in­vad­ing Ja­panese troops in 1937.

Four decades later, a copy of the doc­u­ment was found in the col­lec­tion of Na­tional Mu­seum of China, which was then called the Mu­seum of Chi­nese Rev­o­lu­tion­ary His­tory. It was pre­sented to Soong who con­firmed its au­then­tic­ity and signed her name in en­dorse­ment. She also wrote, “It is the real one.”

The copy, to­gether with Soong’s writ­ten au­then­ti­ca­tion on a sep­a­rate piece of pa­per, is be­ing shown at an ex­hi­bi­tion com­mem­o­rat­ing the 150th an­niver­sary of Sun’s birth, at the Na­tional Mu­seum of China in Bei­jing. It is dis­played with many pho­tos of the cou­ple, such as their fa­mous wed­ding photo taken by a Tokyo stu­dio and their last photo to­gether at a Kobe ho­tel on Nov 24, 1924.

The dis­play is a “tes­ti­mony to their bond as lov­ing and rev­o­lu­tion­ary part­ners” and it re­al­izes Soong’s long-cher­ished wish, says Li Liang, a cu­ra­tor at the mu­seum.

The ex­hi­bi­tion, ti­tled The Whole World as One Com­mu­nity, shows more than 300 doc­u­ments, pho­tos and relics from the mu­seum’s col­lec­tion that re­views Sun’s con­tri­bu­tion to the revo­lu­tion.

Lyu Zhang­shen, the mu­seum di­rec­tor, says 72 of the ex­hibits, in­clud­ing the vow, are on show for the first time.

Sun was an avid cal­lig­ra­pher who pas­sion­ately ex­pressed his thoughts with strokes of ink.

Af­ter the Re­pub­lic of China (1912-49) was founded, he be­came its first pres­i­dent but suf­fered many set­backs, with his life of­ten un­der risk. He wrote cal­lig­ra­phy works to en­cour­age both him­self and his sup­port­ers.

The con­tents fre­quently seen in Sun’s cal­lig­ra­phy are Tian Xia Wei Gong (“what’s un­der the heaven is for all”) and Bo Ai (“uni­ver­sal love”), which are also on show at the cur­rent ex­hi­bi­tion.

Sun wrote a cal­li­graphic piece of Bo Ai for Mei Pei, a Can­tonese who mi­grated to the United States around 1900.

When Sun was in the US seek­ing sup­port to over­throw the Qing Dy­nasty (1644-1911), he of­ten dined at Mei’s restau­rant and com­mu­ni­cated with him rev­o­lu­tion­ary ideas. Mei be­came one of his im­por­tant fol­low­ers in the US and a fi­nan­cial sup­porter.

Mei died in Hong Kong in 1940. The writ­ing was with his fam­ily un­til 1981 and then do­nated to the Na­tional Mu­seum of China.

“Sun’s kaishu (reg­u­lar script) re­veals his broader vi­sion and heroic spirit, while his xing­shu (run­ning script) presents an el­e­gant and re­fresh­ing side of his per­son­al­ity,” says Wang Yu­jie, a cu­ra­tor at the mu­seum.


A copy of a photo of Sun Yat-sen and Soong Ching Ling taken in Kobe in 1924 is one of the rare ex­hibits on dis­play at the Na­tional Mu­seum of China.

TianXi­aWeiGong (“what’s un­der the heaven is for all”) is one of Sun Yat-sen’s most fa­mous cal­li­graphic works.

GongHe (“re­pub­lic”), writ­ten by Sun.

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