Sun Yat-sen was 59 years old when he passed away in Beijing (北京) at 9:30 am on 12 March 1925.
On 23 October 1924, warlord Feng Yuxiang (馮玉祥) staged a coup in Beijing to overthrew Cao Kun (曹錕), the warlord who was elected president by bribery. Feng swiftly worked with Duan Qirui (段祺瑞) and Zhang Zuolin (張作霖) to invite Sun for national affairs discussion in the North. At that time, Sun already fell ill from a lifetime of overworking to promote revolution. For the country’s sake, he nevertheless undertook the journey without hesitation and arrived in Beijing in December that year.
In January 1925, Sun’s health deteriorated and was diagnosed with liver cancer. He underwent a surgery at the Peking Union Medical College Hospital (協和醫院) and later took Chinese medicine. On 11 March, realising that he would not survive his illness, Sun had his wife Soong Ching-ling (宋慶齡) hold his hand so that he could sign what later became known as the Premier’s Testament (《總理遺囑》), the Valedictory to the Soviet Union (《致蘇聯遺書》), and a private will to his family. The first two were drafted by Wang Jingwei (汪精衛) and he penned the third himself as he lay on his deathbed. He passed away the following day.
On 19 March, Sun’s coffin was moved to the Shejitan Temple (社稷壇) inside the Central Park of Beijing. From the 24th to the end of March, some 768,900 people paid their respects there. His funeral was held on 2 April, and the coffin was placed temporarily in a stone pagoda in the Temple of Azure Clouds (碧雲寺) in the Western Hills (西山). Around 300,000 members of the public joined the funeral procession until it reached Beijing’s Xizhimen Gate (西直門), while 20,000 continued to walk after the coffin on foot to the Western Hills. Sun’s coffin was transferred to Nanjing (南京) and interred on the Purple Mountain (紫金山) on 26 May and 1 June of 1929 respectively.
After launching the Beijing Coup (北京政變) on 23 October 1924, Feng Yuxiang immediately telegrammed Sun Yat-sen to invite him to discuss the national affairs in Beijing. Although Sun was ill at that time, he nevertheless accepted the invitation and made his way north. In his Manifesto of the Northwards Journey (《北上宣言》) issued on 10 November 1924, Sun declared his intention to end warlordism and imperialism and abolish all unequal treaties. On 13 November, he left Guangzhou (廣州) and made his way to Hong Kong, where he boarded the northbound steamship Shunyou Maru. On the left: a part of Sun’s manuscript of the Manifesto of the Northwards Journey; on the right: a photo of the Sun couple on the Shunyou Maru.
A crowd of more than 20,000 welcomed Sun Yat-sen as his steamship arrived in Tianjin (天津) on 4 December 1924. Pictured is the welcoming crowd at the pier that day. Sun arrived in Beijing on 31 December.
The Premier’s Testament that Sun Yat-sen signed on his deathbed.
On his deathbed, Sun Yat-sen signed the Valedictory to the Soviet Union and personally penned a will to his family members.
Sun Yat-sen passed away at the age of 59 in Beijing at 9:30 am on 12 March 1925.
News of Sun Yat-sen’s death reverberated through China and the world. Pictured above, from left to right: obituary of Sun Yat-sen issued by the Kuomintang Central Executive Committee’s Shanghai (上海) branch; a special edition of Shuntian Times (《順天時報》) on Sun Yat-sen’s death; a report in the Soviet newspaper Pravda.
A funeral hall was set up inside Shejitan Temple of the Central Park of Beijing after Sun Yat-sen’s death. The hall was adorned with the couplet “the Revolution has not yet succeeded; comrades, you must strive on” – Sun’s final entreaty to his comrades to strive to complete the revolution.
Hundreds of thousands of Beijing residents visited Central Park to pay tribute to Sun Yat-sen after his death. On 2 April 1925, Sun’s funeral was held. His coffin was temporarily moved to the Temple of Azure Clouds in the Western Hills.
There were memorial events dedicated to Sun Yat-sen in different parts of the world. Pictured is one of them held in London, Britain. The figure standing closest to the altar is James Cantlie, Sun’s mentor during his studies at the College of Medicine for Chinese, Hongkong (香港西醫書院). Cantlie rescued Sun when he was kidnapped in London in 1896.
On the left: Chiang Kai-shek standing before a banner inscribed with the words of the Premier’s Testament and the couplet “the Revolution has not yet succeeded; comrades, you must strive on”; on the right: an article titled The Chinese Communist Party’s Announcement to the People of China of the Death of Sun Yat-sen (〈中國共產黨為孫中山之死告中國民眾〉) published in The Guide Weekly (《嚮導》). After Sun Yat-sen’s death, Chiang began to assume more power while the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) also expanded swiftly. The KMT-CCP cooperation would soon face severe tests.
Sources of most photos used in this feature piece: Fotoe and misc. photo sources.