Sun Yat-sen

United States - Scott #906 (1942)
United States – Scott #906 (1942)

On November 12, 1866, Chinese physician and politician Sun Yat-sen was born in the village of Cuiheng, Xiangshan County (now Zhongshan City), Guangdong. He was the founding father of the Republic of China. The first provisional president of the Republic of China, Sun was a Chinese medical doctor, writer, philosopher, Georgist, calligrapher and revolutionary. As the foremost pioneer and first leader of a Republican China, Sun is referred to as the “Father of the Nation” in the Republic of China (ROC) and the “forerunner of democratic revolution” in the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Sun played an instrumental role in the overthrow of the Qing dynasty (the last imperial dynasty of China) during the years leading up to the Xinhai Revolution. He was appointed to serve as Provisional President of the Republic of China when it was founded in 1912. He later co-founded the Kuomintang (Nationalist Party of China), serving as its first leader. Sun was a uniting figure in post-Imperial China, and he remains unique among 20th-century Chinese politicians for being widely revered amongst the people from both sides of the Taiwan Strait.

Although Sun is considered to be one of the greatest leaders of modern China, his political life was one of constant struggle and frequent exile. After the success of the revolution and the Han Chinese regaining power after 268 years of living under Manchurian rule (Qing dynasty), he quickly resigned from his post as President of the newly founded Republic of China to Yuan Shikai, and led successive revolutionary governments as a challenge to the warlords who controlled much of the nation. Sun did not live to see his party consolidate its power over the country during the Northern Expedition. His party, which formed a fragile alliance with the Chinese Communist Party, split into two factions after his death.

Portrait of Sun Yat-Sen in the 1910s
Portrait of Sun Yat-Sen in the 1910s

Sun’s chief legacy resides in his developing of the political philosophy known as the Three Principles of the People: nationalism (Han Chinese nationalism: independence from imperialist domination — taking back power from the Manchurian Qing dynasty), “rights of the people,” sometimes translated as “democracy,” and the people’s livelihood (just society).

Sun was born as Sun Wen (Cantonese: Syūn Màhn; 孫文), and his genealogical name was Sun Deming (Syūn Dāk-mìhng; 孫德明). As a child, his pet name was Tai Tseung (Dai-jeuhng; 帝象). Sun’s courtesy name was Zaizhi (Jai-jī; 載之), and his baptized name was Rixin (Yaht-sān; 日新). While at school in Hong Kong he got the art name Yat-sen (Chinese: 逸仙; pinyin: Yìxiān). Sūn Zhōngshān (孫中山), the most popular of his Chinese names, is derived from his Japanese name Nakayama Shō (中山樵), the pseudonym given to him by Tōten Miyazaki while in hiding in Japan.

United States - Scott #906 (1942) used
United States – Scott #906 (1942) used

As a tribute to China’s efforts to preserve a free government, on July 7, 1942, the United States Post Office Department issued Scott #906 — a 5-cent blue stamp commemorating the fifth anniversary of Chinese resistance to Japanese aggression. The stamp’s central design displays a map of China with a stylized sun, the national symbol of China, superimposed on the map. Portraits of Abraham Lincoln and Sun Yat-sen flank the map. Lincoln’s “Of the people . . . .” quote appears under his portrait, with the Chinese equivalent below Sun Yat-sen’s portrait. The Chinese inscription within the sun translates as “Fight the war and build the country.” Sun Yat-sen’s Three Principles (nationalism, democracy, and people’s livelihood) were inspired by the last portion of Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, “Of the people, by the people, for the people.” 

Scott #906 was printed by the Bureau of Engraving  and Printing using the rotary press, perforated 11 x 10½, in a total quantity of 21,272,800. The stamp was issued in Denver, Colorado, because Sun was visiting that city in 1911, when he received word China was free from the Qing Empire. He immediately returned to China to become the president.

Flag of the Republic of China, 1912-1928
Flag of the Republic of China, 1912-1928
Flag of the Republic of China, 1928-1949
Flag of the Republic of China, 1928-1949


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.