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Overview

2011 marks the 100th anniversary of China's 1911 Revolution, also known as Xinhai Revolution. The name "Xinhai" comes from the sexagenary cycle of the Chinese lunar calendar.  An uprising in the central Chinese city of Wuhan on October 10, 1911 triggered the country-wide revolution which eventually overthrew the last imperial dynasty, put an end to the centuries-old feudal system, and established the Republic of China.

The revolutionaries fought against the Qing army.

Revolutionaries fought against the Qing army in Hankou.

Following China’s loss of the Sino-Japanese War and the continued decline of the Qing Government, on October 26, 1895, Sun Yat-sen, founder of the Revive China Society, led his followers to Guangzhou, preparing to capture the city in one strike. The details of their plans were leaked; however, and the Qing Government began to arrest the revolutionaries. Under the pressure from Qing Government, British controlled Hong Kong barred Sun from entering the territory for five years. Sun thus went into exile, promoting the Chinese revolution and raising funds in Japan, the United States, Canada and Britain on behalf of the revolution.  Sun would not return to China for 16 years. 

Satire to encourage people to stand up and oppose the Qing dynasty

Satire to encourage people to stand up and oppose the Qing dynasty.

On October 10, 1911, a mutiny broke out among troops in Wuchang, a city in Hubei province.  The mutineers soon captured the Wuchang mint and arsenal, and city after city declared its independence from the Qing Government. The regent, panic-stricken, granted the assembly’s demand for the immediate adoption of a constitution and urged a former viceroy, Yuan Shikai, to come out of retirement and save the dynasty.   In November he was made premier, representing the Qing Court against the revolutionaries.

Revolution's fight against the Qing army

Cartoon to depict the fight between the revolutionaries and the Qing army.

By the end of the year, 14 provinces had declared their independence from the Qing Government.  At this time, Yuan Shikai agreed to an armistice and entered upon negotiations with the republicans. Sun Yat-sen returned to Shanghai and was elected provisional president on December 29, 1911 by delegates meeting in Nanjing. In order to ensure the complete overthrow of dynastic rule and unify the country, Sun made a deal with Yuan Shikai.  On Feb. 12, 1912, the six year old emperor was forced to abdicate; the next day Sun resigned, and on the 14th Yuan was elected his successor.

First cabinet meeting held by Sun Yatsen.

First cabinet meeting held by Sun Yatsen.

As much as Mainland China and Taiwan differ on a wide array of political issues, both sides acknowledge the watershed moment of the 1911 Revolution. In Beijing, a giant portrait of Sun Yat-sen was erected on October 1st 2011 in Tianmen square, opposite that of Mao Zedong. Taiwan celebrated the anniversary with a parade, including a display of air power on October 10 2011.  Both sides also honor Sun Yat-sen as the “Father of the Country” and credit him to bring an end to four thousand years of dynastic rule.

Some Qing officials tried to escape from Beijing by train.

Escape of the Qing officials after the revolution.

Overview