When Dr Sun Yat-sen started his revolutionary campaign during the late Qing dynasty many people, including overseas Chinese, gave their unselfish support and contributed hugely to the success of the 1911 Revolution. Featuring more than 70 artefacts and historical photos, an exhibition entitled "Unsung Heroes - Dr Sun Yat-sen's Singapore Comrades" will enable the public to learn more about these little-known individuals, and especially the Singapore Chinese community who contributed so much to the revolution during the late Qing dynasty. The exhibition runs from tomorrow (October 26) until April 17, 2013 at the Dr Sun Yat-sen Museum.
Presented by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department and the Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall, and organised by the Dr Sun Yat-sen Museum, the exhibition emphasises the "Prominent Singapore Trio" of Teo Eng Hock, Tan Chor Lam and Lim Nee Soon and their Singapore comrades who supported Dr Sun and founded the Singapore Tong Meng Hui. They established newspapers with funds promoting the revolution and offering financial and material support to Dr Sun's uprising, as well as providing money to receive and support exiled revolutionaries. Teo even offered Wan Qing Yuan - a villa he had originally purchased for his mother's golden years - to Dr Sun as a base for planning his revolutionary uprisings.
Officiating at the exhibition opening today (October 25) were the Director of Heritage Institutions, National Heritage Board of Singapore, Mr Alvin Tan; the great-grandnephew of Dr Sun Yat-sen, Mr Peter Sun; board directors of the Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall, Dr Lee Peng-shu and Mr Wan Shung-ming; and Acting Chief Curator of the Hong Kong Museum of History, Ms Rosa Yau.
In 1898, the Hundred Days' Reform failed causing reformist leader Kang Youwei to go to Singapore. The Singapore Chinese were soon enlightened by Kang's speeches and he found support from locally born young Chinese individuals like Teo Eng Hock, Tan Chor Lam and Lim Nee Soon, who were deeply concerned about China's circumstances and often discussed current and political affairs at the Little Paradise Club.
Yau Lit, Dr Sun Yat-sen's friend and one of the "Four Desperados", went to Singapore after the failure of the Huizhou Uprising in 1900. He set up a medical hall in Chinatown to support the anti-Qing revolution through practising medicine, and founded the anti-Qing revolutionary organisation known as the Chung Wo Tong Society. Teo, Tan and Lim met Yau and they all got on extremely well. After associating with Yau, the Trio had the opportunity to read pro-revolutionary publications such as Shanghai's Su Bao (Kiangsu Tribune) and Geming Jun (Revolutionary Army). And finally they became acquainted with Dr Sun.
Following the founding of the Tong Meng Hui (Chinese Revolutionary Alliance) in Japan in 1905, Dr Sun began actively setting up branches outside China in order to expand the alliance and raise funds for staging uprisings. Nanyang (i.e. Southeast Asia) had the largest population of overseas Chinese and Singapore was the region's transportation hub. In 1906, Dr Sun founded the Singapore Tong Meng Hui in Teo's villa, Wan Qing Yuan. Tan was elected the branch's first chairman, Teo the vice chairman and Lim the head of the liaison unit.
The Singapore Tong Meng Hui became the centre of Dr Sun's revolutionary activities in Nanyang, serving the multiple functions of connecting overseas Chinese in Nanyang, promoting the revolution, organising anti-Qing organisations and planning uprisings. The Huanggang Uprising and Zhennanguan Uprising of 1907, as well as the Hekou Uprising of 1908, were secretly planned in Singapore.
Meanwhile, the Trio and others founded newspapers to promote the revolution through the printed word. They also established reading clubs to provide venues for public speeches and the dissemination of revolutionary ideas. Their work provided the impetus for revolutionary activities in Nanyang. Indeed, Singapore served as a base for the revolutionaries as they travelled across Nanyang to extend the reach of the Tong Meng Hui to various cities such as Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Hanoi. Singapore thus played a crucial role in a series of revolutionary activities instigated by Dr Sun in Nanyang.
After the success of the 1911 Revolution and the subsequent founding of the Republic of China, these Singapore Chinese did not attempt to use their immense contribution to the revolution to bargain for prominent positions in the republican government. Instead, whenever Dr Sun was in need, they continued to offer financial support to his political activities in China. Mao Zedong's "Ode to the Plum Blossom" praises this particular flower not only for announcing the arrival of spring but also for not competing for attention. Aptly, the line "Sweet and fair, she craves not spring for herself alone" has been used for the Chinese title of the exhibition in a bid to underscore the noble virtues of the Prominent Singapore Trio and their comrades who gave selflessly without asking for anything in return.
To tie in with the exhibition, a series of activities will be held during the exhibition period. A free lecture entitled "Prominent Singapore Trio: Teo Eng Hock, Tan Chor Lam and Lim Nee Soon" will be held on October 27 at the Dr Sun Yat-sen Museum from 3pm to 5pm. Conducted in Putonghua, the lecture will be given by Researcher of the Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall, Ms Ng Fooi-beng. Seating for 40 persons will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.
The Dr Sun Yat-sen Museum is located at 7 Castle Road, Mid-levels, Central, Hong Kong. It is open from 10am to 6pm on weekdays and from 10am to 7pm on weekends and public holidays. It is closed on Thursdays (except public holidays). Admission is $10 with a half-price concession for full-time students, people with disabilities and senior citizens aged 60 or above. Admission is free on Wednesdays.
For details, please visit the Dr Sun Yat-sen Museum's website at www.lcsd.gov.hk/CE/Museum/sysm/en/permanent_com_06092012.php or call 2367 6373.
Ends/Thursday, October 25, 2012
The Singapore Tong Meng Hui was founded at the Wan Qing Yuan villa in 1906. This picture shows Dr Sun Yat-sen (first row, fourth left), Yau Lit (first row, third right), and the "Prominent Singapore Trio" of Teo Eng Hock (first row, second left), Tan Chor Nam (first row, third left) and Lim Nee Soon (first row, first right), and members of the Singapore Tong Meng Hui at Wan Qing Yuan. The picture is provided by the Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall.
This picture, showing (from left) Teo, Dr Sun and Tan, was taken at Wan Qing Yuan in 1906. The picture is provided by the Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall.
During the period that Dr Sun stayed at Wan Qing Yuan in 1906 he discussed the design of the future national flag with members of the Singapore Tong Meng Hui. He created four designs based on the "White Sun in Blue Sky" emblem of the Xing Zhong Hui. Teo's wife, Tan Sok Jee, skilfully embroidered the four designs into this image of the flag (pictured) which was printed in the book "Nanyang and the Founding of the Republic". The picture is provided by the Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall.
The Wan Qing Yuan villa (pictured) was the hub of Dr Sun's revolutionary activities in Nanyang, and three of the uprisings instigated by Dr Sun were planned here. Wan Qing Yuan has now become the Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall. The picture is provided by the Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall.