Historic day that shook the world

Exhibition in Sun Yat-sen's former residence in Shanghai highlights his support for the May 4th Movement and the boost it gave to nationalism.
Ti Gong

Visitors look at exhibits about Dr Sun Yat-sen and the May 4th Movement.

An exhibition at the former Shanghai residence of revolutionist Sun Yat-sen, now his memorial, highlights his support for the May 4th Movement in 1919.

The movement was launched by young Chinese to fight imperialism and feudalism. It began with a series of demonstrations in Beijing by students on May 4, 1919, objecting to the government’s signing of the Treaty of Paris which decided to transfer the previous privileges in Shandong seized by Germany to Japan. It soon spread to other cities in China, including Shanghai, Nanjing and Guangzhou, and gave a boost to nationalism, drawing wide public participation.

At that time, Sun was living at 29 Rue de Moliere, now 7 Xiangshan Road. 

“Sun did not lead the movement directly, but as a revolutionist, he paid close attention to it and provided support and guidance for the students,” said Li Li, deputy director of the memorial and organizer of the exhibition.

Among the exhibits are copies of the Republic Daily newspaper which had widely reported on the movement in a supportive way under Sun’s guidance. It even launched supplements to discuss how to save the country, with those publications helping to boost the movement.

Copies of the Republic Daily which carried many articles supporting the May 4th Movement are on display.

In Shanghai, there were a number of activities in support of the movement, including a gathering of students and public on May 7, while 60,000 to 70,000 workers went onto the streets from June 5.

Sun asked Shao Lizi, editor-in-chief of Republic Daily, to deliver a speech at Fudan University on May 6 and urged students to establish a union to push forward the movement.

Sun attended a Shanghai student union ceremony when it was established on June 16, telling them: “If some people like you had participated in the revolution led by me, it should have succeeded.”

One of the exhibits is a list of goods imported from Japan, which was published by the student union in November 1919 during a campaign to boycott Japanese goods. It had been kept by Sun and his wife Soong Ching Ling at their home.

“Sun had just suffered from setbacks in his revolution at that time and was summarizing his revolution experiences and exploring new revolutionary paths,” said Li. “Through the movement, he saw the great power of the public, which played an important role in the change of his thoughts and adjustment of revolution plans in his later years.

“More importantly, the movement accelerated the establishment of the Communist Party of China. With the help of the Party and the Communist International, Sun reformed the Kuomintang and made the decision to join hands with Russia and the Communist Party of China and to assist the farmers and workers, realizing the first cooperation between the Kuomintang and the Communist Party of China.”

The exhibition is free to the public and will run through August 8. The memorial is open from 9am to 4:30pm, Tuesday to Sunday.

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