Tongmenghui (Revolutionary Alliance) was the organization largely responsible for leading the 1911 revolution against the Qing dynasty in China. It was founded by Sun Yat-sen in Tokyo in 1905. Its formation came out of the merging of several existing organizations like the Xingzhonghui (Regenerate China Society), the Guangfuhui (Restoration Society), the Huaxinghui (Prosper China Society), and other splinter groups. In contrast to the other previous groups, Tongmenghui had a clear organization set-up. It included a general headquarters, located in Tokyo, and eighteen “shadow branches,” one for each of the seventeen provinces in China, in addition to one for the city of Shanghai. The branch heads were elected from among those in Tokyo. Sun Yat-sen was the chairman (zhongli). Under him, there were executive, judiciary, and legislature branches. Huang Xing was the General Affairs Officer under the executive branch. Song Jiaoren was the Attorney General.
The official publication of Tongmenghui was Minbao (the citizen journal). Hu Hanmin was the editor. From 1905 to 1907, Minbao served an important role in carrying out a great debate with the royalists, headed by Kang Youwei and Liang Qichao, who supported the emperor and championed a constitutional monarchy. In a long article serialized in the first two issues of Minbao, Wang Jingwei, one of the editors, emphasized the importance of overthrowing the Qing court, extending the rights of the people, and curtailing the absolute authority of the government. In his view, the chief reason why some people who welcomed consitutional monarchy in China was their unwillingness to see the difference between democracy and nationalism. The debate helped to shape the ideological view of the Tongmenghui.
At its inception, the Tongmenghui made clear its objectives to overthrow of the Qing dynasty and establish a Republic which exemplified in its four slogans: “to expel the Tartar barbarians, to revive Zhonghua (Chinese nation), to establish a Republic, and to distribute land equally among the people.” In the political field, the Tongmenghui advocated the importance of nationalism and republicanism. These two ideas were the backbone of Sun’s famous three principles: the principle of minzu(nationalism), principle of minquan (democracy), and principle of minsheng (people’s livelihood). Nationalism, interpreted by Sun, was in essence anti-imperialist and anti-Manchu. As for republicanism, Sun regarded it as the only path to modernize China and make it strong. In the economic field, Tongmenghui supported moderate socialism and advocated “equalizing land ownership.” The land policy was obviously influenced by socialism. However, Tongmenghui was not regarded as a radical socialist group because it never sought outright nationalization of land. What it sought was a taxation system to check monopoly of land and channel the unearned increments to the government for public welfare purposes.
After its formation in 1905, the Tongmenghui expanded rapidly via different methods. They actively adapted to local conditions and organized branches. They also made contact with overseas Chinese leaders and allied with secret societies inside China. The overseas members played an important role in providing financial support, while the members at home planned and participated in uprisings.
The Tongmenghui was unquestionably the mainstay of the revolutionary movement in China. Before the birth of the Republic of China, there were around ten uprisings, though not all were successful. Eight of them were under the direct leadership of the Tongmenghui which provided political and ideological guidance. Some scholars argue that the formation of Tongmenghui in 1905 represents an important turning point in the revolutionary movement against the Qing government for “by this time the revolution was no longer a few individuals plotting against the established government, but a big movement that began to snowball.”
Lee, Ta-Ling, Foundations of The Chinese Revolution, 1905-1912: An Historical Record of T'ung-Meng Hui. New York: St. Johns's University Press, 1970.