Unifying China through Hawaii’s Sun Yat-sen
IN November, an extraordinary celebration occurred in China that received no coverage in the Western media. On Nov.12, the People's Republic of China celebrated the 140th birthday of Sun Yat-sen, the Father of Modern China. Guests came from around the world -- the United States, Canada, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, Germany and England. Most of Sun's descendants, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, were there. Along with them were guests from Hawaii: Yen Chun and her husband Dick Ching, Warren and Carolyn Luke, Ray Lum and his wife, Ma Yansheng, who authored "Dr. Sun Yat-sen in Hawaii, Activities and Supporters," and myself.
Significantly, a dozen or more of the celebrants, guests of China, were from Taiwan, including members of the Kuomintang -- the political party that fought the communists for the past 80 years. Now they, along with representatives from Taiwan's First Party and New Party, were official guests of the mainland government.
After 80 years of violent history contending for the control of China, former political enemies hosted and embraced each other to celebrate the revolutionary and unifying life of Sun. After nine days together through Beijing, Nanjing, Shanghai and Guangzhou -- on chartered aircraft and with traffic stopped on freeways for the entourage -- we were bonded, all 115 of us. By the closing luncheon, delegates from Taiwan were singing karaoke along with their mainland hosts. One of the songs selected was "One World."
In 1910, Sun Yat-sen said, "This is my Hawaii. 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."
Hawaii is connected to Sun Yat-sen so closely that he sometimes swore that he was born here, in Ewa Beach. In Hawaii, he was among relatives who spoke the same dialect; he received his early education here, and could secretly rely on supporters later in his life when there was a price on his head.
Sun is affectionately known as Sun Zhong Shan, "the man from Zhong Shan," the central mountains, the county in China from which most of Hawaii's Chinese came more than 100 years ago. Hawaii was a base where Sun started his first revolutionary party to overthrow the Manchu dynasty ruling China. His brother, Sun Mei, was a rancher in Kula, Maui. Many thousands of Hawaii citizens supported Sun in his effort to bring democracy to and then unify China. Carolyn Ching Luke's grand-uncle was among those who died in the first failed revolution. When my maternal grandfather, kamaaina Young Sen-Yet, died at the age of 31, Sun eulogized him as the "father of Chinese aviation." These are only two of the many from Hawaii who sacrificed their lives or fortunes to create a modern China.
Sun attended Iolani School and Punahou School, and his son, Sun Fo, went to St. Louis School. Sun's great-grandson married a Kauai girl of Japanese descent. About one-third of our group of 115 were direct descendants of Sun, and they recognize the Hawaii connection.
Honolulu has always been a great gathering place, welcoming people from all backgrounds and political beliefs, a great meeting place where they find common ground, fresh air and sandy beaches. As the onetime home of Sun Yat-sen, Hawaii has a uniquely special role to facilitate the close relations of Taiwan as a province of the People's Republic of China. That would relieve one of the sensitive issues with which the United States struggles in Asia, and bring greater peace in the Pacific.
Leigh-Wai Doo, a former Honolulu City Councilman, was the founding president of the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Hawaii Foundation.