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Historical Impact

There are two sharp views about the historical impact that the 1911 revolution had in the Chinese society. There is skepticism on whether or not the revolution of 1911 had really succeeded or indeed whether or not it should be called a revolution at all. O. Edmund Clubb pointed out the fact that Yuan Shikai took over the control of the government only months after the establishment of the Republic, that Yuan plotted for the restoration of the monarchy by installing himself as emperor, and that Yuan’s death in 1917 was followed by a decade of warlordism. He suggests that the revolution of 1911 was actually a failure. Some people supported his view by arguing that ordinary people’s life didn’t get improved after the Qing’s collapse since the country was again plunged into chaos with warlords fighting each other.

Cartoon to depict that Yuan Shikai controlled the power after the revolution.

Cartoon to depict that Yuan Shikai controlled the power after the revolution.

However, there are some historians who consider the 1911 revolution is one of the most important milestones, if not the most important, in modern Chinese history.  First of all, it brought an end to the imperial system, gave birth to a republican country, and inaugurated a new historical era. Before 1911 Revolution, for the period of sixty years after the Opium War, there were numerous attempts and revolts against the Qing Court, but none of them were successful. The 1911 revolution constituted a major breakthrough in China’s modern history.

People celebrated the establishment of the Republic of China in Hanzhou.

People celebrated the establishment of the Republic of China in Hanzhou.

The revolution also has lasting social impact on the Chinese society. Edward J.M. Rhoads feels that the revolution actually encompassed two kinds of revolution: the narrow, political revolution of 1911-12 that overthrew the system of monarchical rule, and the broader cultural revolution (1895-1913) that destroyed the Confucian value system. After the revolution, men started to dress in modern apparel and cut hair short.  Women started to abandon foot binding practice that started in the Song dynasty (960-1279). Mary Backus Rankin summarized that the revolution was the open phase of a prolonged period of change.

Poem written by Zhu De to praise for the 1911 Revolution

Poem written by Zhu De to praise for the 1911 Revolution.

References:
1. O. Edmund Clubb, 20th Century China. New York: Columbia University Press, 1978.
2. Sheng Hu, "Anti-imperialism, democarcy and industrialization in the 1911 Revolution," in The 1911 Revolution: A Retrospective After 70 years, 9-25. Beijing: New World Press, 1983.
3. Edward J.M. Rhoads,  China's Republican Revolution: the Case of Kwangtung, 1895-1913. Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1975.
4. Mary Backus Rankin, Early Chinese Revolutionaries: Radical Intellecturals in Shanghai and Chekiang, 1902-1911. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1971.

Historical Impact