Exile in Japan and Around the Globe

Like so many other leaders of his generation–Liang Qichao, Chen Duxiu, Chiang Kai-shek–Sun fled arrest in China for sixteen years of exile in Japan. Sun severed his Qing queue, donned Western dress, and began studying Japan’s successful response to the West. During these sixteen years, Sun traveled broadly raising funds and awareness for his revolutionary cause. Sun’s connection with the foreign world complicated his relationship to other Chinese reformers:

The fact that Sun had so many foreign associations and was so much a product of foreign-occupied treaty ports and the overseas Chinese diaspora left many other reformers alienated from him…However, Sun’s long periods overseas had given him one incomparable advantage over the others: a powerful sense of just how backward China was when compared to Japan and the West. (Wealth and Power, page 121)

The contrast between Japan’s wealth and China’s weakness unsettled Sun, who expressed a sympathy with a sentiment common among Chinese exiles: “knowing the shame of not being Japanese.”

Sun, at right, with Japanese friends in 1900