Chinatown park, statue honor Sun Yat-sen
By Johnny Brannon
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Johnny Brannon
A small but prominent park at the edge of Chinatown was renamed yesterday to honor a man with strong Hawai'i ties who helped change the course of China's history.
Dr. Sun Yat-sen received much of his early education on O'ahu and later founded a revolutionary group here. He became an early leader of the Nationalist movement that overthrew China's imperial Manchu rulers in 1911 and ended the Qing Dynasty.
Sun was named the first provisional president of the new Republic of China the following year, and is widely regarded today as "the Father of Modern China."
A bronze statue of Sun as a 13-year-old boy will soon be placed in the former Chinatown Gateway Park, at the corner of Hotel and Bethel streets. The City Council agreed yesterday to rename the site Dr. Sun Yat-sen Memorial Park.
The $150,000 statue was commissioned by the Dr. Sun Yat-sen Hawai'i Foundation and is being cast in China, said foundation chairman Warren Luke. The statue will stand on a mound on the mauka side of the park, near the Hawai'i Theatre.
"We want to highlight Hawai'i's contribution to China," Luke said. "A lot of people in Hawai'i don't realize the role Hawai'i played in the revolution."
The foundation and city are planning events to mark the 10th anniversary of a sister-city relationship between Honolulu and Zhongshan, where Sun was born on Nov. 12, 1866. Many of Hawai'i's early Chinese immigrants came from the area.
Sun made six trips to Hawai'i during his lifetime, and spent a total of seven years here. In 1894, he founded the Hsing Chung Hui (Revive China Society) in Honolulu, and it became a key financial force behind the revolution.
Sun first came to O'ahu in 1879, at age 13, to join an older brother and uncle. Sun graduated from Iolani School in 1882, then attended Oahu College — now known as Punahou School — for one semester.
Many historians believe an appreciation for Western-style government Sun gained during these years helped drive his revolutionary spirit.
"Sun admired Hawai'i, and on one occasion he said that although Hawai'i was a small island kingdom, it had law and order, and the people were happy and prosperous," according to the 1999 book "Sun Yat-sen in Hawai'i," by Yansheng Ma Lum and Raymond Mun Kong Lum.
Sun trained as a medical doctor in Hong Kong, and became a revolutionary after his appeals to reform and strengthen China were rebuffed amid growing threats from other nations.
During a 1903 visit, Sun told The Advertiser that "I think the outlook for the revolutionary movement is very hopeful, as the Chinese people are awakening, and I am strong of the opinion it will end the Manchu dynasty.
"It is only a question of time for this to be accomplished — and I don't think it will be far distant."
He said in a 1910 interview here that "This is my Hawai'i. ... here I was brought up and educated; and it was here that I came to know what modern, civilized governments are like and what they mean."
Though the Xinhai Revolution overthrew the Manchus the next year, China remained divided. Sun died in 1925, still working to unify his nation and forge a democracy.
Reach Johnny Brannon at email@example.com.