This year marks the centenary of the 1911 Revolution, an epoch-making event that had far-reaching consequences for the Chinese people, including the end of imperial rule and the birth of Asia's first republic. To commemorate this remarkable event, an exhibition titled "Centenary of China's 1911 Revolution" will be held at the Hong Kong Museum of History from tomorrow (March 2) until May 16.
The exhibition was officially opened today (March 1) by the Chief Executive, Mr Donald Tsang. Other officiating guests included the Director of the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), Mr Peng Qinghua; the Vice-Governor of Hubei Province, Mr Zhang Tong; the Deputy Commissioner of the Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China in the HKSAR, Mr Zhan Yongxin; the Director of Hubei Provincial Department of Culture, Mr Du Jianguo; the Secretary for Home Affairs, Mr Tsang Tak-sing; the Chairman of the History Museum Advisory Panel, Dr Philip Wu Po-him; and the Director of Leisure and Cultural Services, Mrs Betty Fung.
Jointly presented by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) and the Hubei Provincial Museum, and organised by the Hong Kong Museum of History, the exhibition features about 400 invaluable artefacts, historical pictures, videos and maps to illustrate the significance of this event in China's modern history and the immense contributions that Hong Kong made to the revolution.
At the turn of the 20th century China was a country in the midst of an unprecedented national crisis, partly triggered by clashes between Chinese and Western values and failure of subsequent reforms. The 1911 Revolution was to change all that, also bringing to an end the monarchy that had held power in China for more than 2,000 years.
The late 19th century was a period of great unrest in China when, in the face of continuing national crisis, the Qing court made three attempts at reform. Paradoxically however, these measures exposed the Qing court's incompetence. People living in Hong Kong and China's trading ports were distressed by the plight of the nation and sought ways to strengthen it.
At the cultural crossroads between East and the West, Hong Kong nurtured many exceptional leaders, providing a refuge for them to plan their political movements. As there were no restrictions on travel between Hong Kong and other parts of the world, the city was convenient for the transport of weaponry and supplies, as well as a base for activists. The Furen Wenshe (Chinese Patriotic Mutual Improvement Association), modern China's first reform organisation, was founded in Hong Kong in 1892. Before the Republic of China was founded, Dr Sun Yat-sen and his fellow revolutionaries were able to form political partnerships, recruit members, raise funds and organise insurrections in Hong Kong.
After the Hundred Days' Reform, Kang Youwei, Liang Qichao and others founded the Bao Huang Hui (Chinese Empire Reform Association) in various "overseas" Chinese towns with the aim of defending the Guangxu Emperor and saving the nation. Meanwhile, the revolutionary camp was also preparing to overthrow the Qing dynasty by force and replace imperial rule with republican democracy. Following the failure of the Guangzhou uprising of 1895, Dr Sun Yat-sen went into an exile that lasted for 16 years. During this time, revolutionary groups such as the Xing Zhong Hui (Revive China Society) and the Tong Meng Hui launched 10 uprisings in south China with the support of a collection of overseas Chinese, local gangs and civilian groups, soldiers in the New Army and foreign-educated students, efforts that helped lay the foundation for the 1911 Revolution.
The Late Qing Reform failed to turn the dynasty's fortunes around, and the death of the Guangxu Emperor in 1908 and the establishment of the imperial cabinet in 1911 crushed the hopes of many. Successive mistakes in the implementation of the Late Qing Reform drove even its supporters to abandon the monarchy. Rising nationalism also demanded the return of the railways to the people from foreign hands. The Qing court was determined, however, to nationalise the country's railroads by issuing bonds to attract foreign investors. To suppress the unrest among outraged civilians in Sichuan province, the New Army of Hubei province was mobilised. One consequence of this was that Wuhan's defences were weakened - creating a favourable condition for the Wuchang Uprising.
After the Wuchang Uprising broke out, provinces across China responded to the calls for change, and the revolution soon swept across the entire nation. It is notable that the leadership in the provinces' struggle for independence comprised not only revolutionaries but also the local gentry (who were members of the provincial assemblies) and troops commanded by provincial military governors. The Qing court had lost all its friends and supporters - its demise was just a matter of time. As 1911 was the year of Xinhai in the Chinese calendar, the revolution is known as the "Xinhai Revolution".
The 1911 Revolution successfully overthrew an imperial dictatorship and replaced it with democratic republicanism, involving in particular the separation of administrative, legislative and judicial power. Accompanying these political changes, a new system of social values was also built up. The New Culture Movement reached its peak in 1919, inspiring Chinese people to reflect more deeply on Chinese culture and history. The 1911 Revolution can therefore be viewed as the beginning of a series of modernising changes in China in the 20th century, bearing witness to a spirit of triumph and self-strengthening among the Chinese people.
Divided into seven sections, the exhibition showcases this historical event by illustrative panel text, historical pictures and artefacts.
To tie in with the exhibition, an international conference will be held on May 6 and 7, providing a platform for local and overseas scholars to discuss and reinterpret the political, social and historical significance of the 1911 Revolution from a global perspective. Details will be available on the Museum of History website (www.hk.history.museum), or call 2724 9025.
Building on the success of the "Creativity x Science x Art = ∞" exhibition series launched last year, the LCSD's museums will launch another exhibition series entitled "A Century of Changes", starting in March. The exhibition series comprises the "Centenary of China's 1911 Revolution", the "Pixar: 25 Years of Animation" exhibition by the Hong Kong Heritage Museum and the "Albert Einstein (1879-1955)" exhibition by the Hong Kong Science Museum.
To encourage the public to visit these spectacular exhibitions, LCSD's museums will continue to offer the Visitor Reward Scheme, whereby visitors will get a specially designed souvenir umbrella by presenting a total of three standard full-price admission tickets for the three exhibitions. The offer is on a first-come, first-served basis while stock lasts. Members of the public can find details on the Museum of History's website.
The Museum of History is located at 100 Chatham Road South, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon. It opens from 10am to 6pm Mondays to Saturdays and from 10am to 7pm on Sundays and public holidays. It is closed on Tuesdays (except public holidays). Admission for the museum is $10 and a half-price concession is available to full-time students, senior citizens and people with disabilities. Admission is free on Wednesdays.
For details of the exhibition, please visit the Museum of History's website or call 2724 9042.
Ends/Tuesday, March 1, 2011
"The True Record" was founded in Shanghai in 1912 by the brothers Gao Jianfu and Gao Qifeng of the Lingnan school of painting. After the Republic of China was founded, Gao Jianfu obtained from the archives of Nanhai county in Guangdong province a statement made by the revolutionary Shi Jianru after his failed bomb attack on the governor of Guangdong's office and subsequent arrest in 1900. To demonstrate Shi's selfless devotion to the revolutionary cause but fearing that inaccuracies in the statement would damage the reputation of the revolutionaries, Gao Jianfu splashed ink on the statement before the printing plate was produced, which led later generations to believe that it was stained with Shi Jianru's blood. The picture shows the statement published in "The True Record" which is in the collection of the Hong Kong Museum of History.
After the Wuchang Uprising, the provinces that had declared independence called the Conference of Military Governors' Representatives in Shanghai and chose Nanjing as the seat of the provisional central government. Upon Dr Sun Yat-sen's return to China on December 25, 1911, provincial representatives met in Nanjing to elect the provisional president. The representatives of 17 provinces cast secret ballots for the three candidates, Dr Sun, Li Yuanhong and Huang Xing. Dr Sun was elected with 16 votes (the other vote went to Huang Xing). The original copy of this public notice on candidates for the provisional presidency of the Republic of China was written by Yuan Xiluo, a Jiangsu representative who served as secretary and ballot recorder at the election. This notice is now in the collection of the Shanghai History Museum.
Dr Sun Yat-sen and fellow revolutionaries, including Hu Hanmin and Chen Shaobai on Dr Sun's left and right respectively, on board a passenger ship when Dr Sun passed through Hong Kong on his way back to China from abroad on December 21, 1911. This photo is provided by the Kuomintang Party Archives.
This picture was taken on February 20, 1923, when Dr Sun Yat-sen passed through Hong Kong on his way back to Guangzhou. He delivered a speech at the University of Hong Kong in which he mentioned that his thoughts on revolution had originated in the territory. This picture is provided by the Fung Ping Shan Library, University of Hong Kong .
Pictured is "The Illustrated London News" from England on February 17, 1912. With the headline "The Most Wonderful Change in History: China becomes a Republic", it shows China's last emperor Puyi and his father Zai Feng, and the emperor's living quarters in Beijing before the revolution. It is provided by the Old-print.com Limited.
This picture shows Beijing's Forbidden City in the early Republican period. Hung on the city wall is a pair of five-colour flags, China's national flag between 1912 and 1927. It is provided by Sidney D. Gamble Photographs, Archive of Documentary Arts, Duke University.