A look at Sun Yat-sen’s life and legacy

“Sun Yat-sen: His Life and Legacy” is a rich exhibition celebrating  the 100th anniversary of the founding of  the Republic of China, on Oct. 11, 1911.

Sixteen large panels containing photographs, drawings, cartoons and text in the San Francisco Public Library’s Chinese Center illustrate in overwhelming detail major events of the struggle that led to the establishment of Asia’s first democratic republic.

The panels also describe the life of Sun Yat-sen, China’s legendary hero who dedicated his life to the struggle and is considered the republic’s founder.   

Photos also accent the variety of roles he played, including  traveling throughout  the world to raise funds as well as gathering weapons. On a diplomatic level, he lobbied the countries he visited, including the U.S., for political support and recognition.

The show’s setup contributes to its effectiveness. The panels are well integrated into the circular room, and their information seems particularly meaningful because they are surrounded by books devoted to Chinese culture.

What’s missing from the exhibit, however, is greater attention to the post-World War II-era, which saw the defeat of Sun’s successor Chiang Kai-shek and his party, the Koumintang; the move to Taiwan, and the establishment of the communist People’s Republic of China on the mainland.

With Taiwan’s political status today remaining one of deliberate ambiguity, could there be political reasons for the omission, such as promotion of the Taiwanese government, which refers to itself as the Republic of China? Or could it be to avoid addressing continued controversy surrounding an attempt to unite the territories controlled by each government?

In a related event, the Chinese Historical Society of America’s  History Alive! series presents “Sun Yat-sen and the Three People’s Principles,” which tells the unique story of Sun’s life in America before he returned to be the first provisional president of the Republic of China. Onstage at 2 p.m. Dec. 3 in the library’s Koret Auditorium, the presentation is by writer, historian and performer Charlie Chin.

 

IF YOU GO

Sun Yat-sen: His Life and Legacy

Where: San Francisco Public Library, 100 Larkin St., third floor, San Francisco
When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays and Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. most Tuesdays-Thursdays, noon to 6 p.m. Fridays, noon to 5 p.m. Sundays; closes Jan. 15
Admission: Free
Contact: (415) 557-4400, www.sfpl.org/exhibitions

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