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Dr. Sun Yat-sen and his views about Hawaiian sovereignty.

(c) Copyright May 18, 2011 and July 5, 2021 Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D. All rights reserved

EXTENDED TITLE: Dr. Sun Yat-sen and his views about Hawaiian sovereignty. Details about his adolescent years at Iolani and Punahou schools in Honolulu (1879 - 1883), factors in the formation of his character, and his five additional extended visits to Hawaii to found revolutionary societies, raise money, and recruit followers, ending in 1910. In 1911 the revolution he led was successful in toppling the 2000 year monarchy in China. Sun became President of the Provisional Government and then the first President of the Republic of China. In doing so he followed the same revolutionary career path as another Punahou student had followed 18 years previously. Sanford B. Dole, a native-born subject of the Hawaiian Kingdom, was a member of the Kingdom legislature and a Justice of the Kingdom's Supreme Court, but resigned before the Hawaiian revolution in order to become President of the Provisional Government and of the Republic of Hawaii. Sun was present in Hawaii, founding revolutionary societies, raising money, and gathering recruits, at the same time Dole was leading the Hawaiian revolution. It seems reasonable to guess that Sun was inspired by Dole.

[ Published in Hawaii Reporter, May 18, 2011 at
Hawaii Political Info, May 18, 2011 at ]

2011 is the centennial of the Chinese revolution led by Dr. Sun Yat-sen, which overthrew two thousand years of monarchial rule and established the Republic of China. The Wuchang Uprising of October 10, 1911 began a rapid period of revolutionary success after numerous failed attempts.

Sun served briefly as the first President of the Provisional Government and the Republic of China. He continued a turbulent and controversial political career in and out of office until his death in 1925. In 1949 the Chinese civil war resulted in the Communist takeover of mainland China by Mao Tse-tung, and exile of the Republic leadership to Taiwan under Chiang Kai-shek. But all political factions have profound respect for Sun Yat-sen and continue to treat him as a national hero -- the "George Washington of China."

Hawaii played a very important role in forming Sun's character for five years as an adolescent schoolboy and also during five additional visits to Hawaii when Sun was recruiting zealous followers and money to support his revolution. He arrived in Hawaii at age 13 in June 1878, attending Iolani School from 1879 through 1882 and Oahu College (Punahou School) in 1883. He was also in Hawaii November 1884 to April 1885; October 1894 through January 1895; January to June 1896; September 1903 to March 1904; and March to May 1910.

There's a photography exhibit at Honolulu City Hall through May 27, focusing on Sun Yat-sen's Hawaii background, sponsored by the Republic of China (Taiwan) to celebrate the centennial of China's revolution. A crew from mainland China filmed a TV program there on the exhibit's May 11 opening day, even though the exhibit was sponsored by Taiwan and half the photos are about Taiwan rather than Sun Yat-sen!

What were Sun Yat-sen's views regarding the Hawaiian revolution of 1893 and annexation of 1898? I have done quite a bit of research and have spoken or exchanged messages with several experts on the history of the Chinese in Hawaii; but have been unable to find any answers. It appears Sun himself never wrote or spoke publicly about the Hawaiian revolution or annexation; and either he never discussed those events with his family or colleagues, or else they never mentioned what Sun had said. If anyone has information with documentation, I'd appreciate being contacted.

Sun Yat-sen was highly intelligent, as demonstrated by his record of achievement at Iolani and Punahou, his medical degree earned in Hong Kong at age 26, and his beginnings of a medical career in Macao and Canton. But after two years he gave up his medical career to pursue a political revolution.

Sun could not have been ignorant of the tumultuous events happening in Hawaii in 1887 (Bayonet Constitution), 1893 (revolution), 1895 (Wilcox attempted counter-revolution), and 1898 (Annexation). He had close relationships with leaders of the Hawaiian revolution and annexation, spanning several decades (1878 through 1910). He was present in Hawaii as a revolutionary activist in Fall 1894 when letters were arriving personally signed by Emperors, Kings, Queens, and Presidents of at least 20 nations on 4 continents giving formal diplomatic recognition de jure to the new Republic of Hawaii, including a letter signed by two Princes on behalf of the Emperor of China. Sun was still present when the attempted counter-revolution led by Robert Wilcox took place in early January 1895 resulting in one death and the imprisonment of about 190 men, including his Punahou classmate Prince Kuhio, plus ex-queen Liliuokalani.

One explanation for Sun's apparent silence on these topics is that he was so deeply immersed in the politics of China that he "tuned out" what was happening in Hawaii and either didn't pay attention or chose to ignore it. A more likely explanation is that he was well aware of the very strong feelings on both sides of the Hawaii issues, and he chose to remain silent to avoid offending any of his many friends on both sides and to keep collecting money and support from all of them for his revolutionary activities in China.

Following are two lengthy paragraphs, each providing a summary of reasons why Sun (a) probably approved of the Hawaiian revolution and annexation; or (b) might have disapproved of the Hawaiian revolution and annexation. These are only summaries, with no attempt to provide details. Some of the detailed facts supporting (a) or (b) are available on a webpage at

(a) Why Sun Yat-sen probably supported the Hawaiian revolution and annexation. He attended first Iolani and then Punahou school, where the teachers were Caucasian missionaries or their sons and most of the children (at Punahou) were from wealthy Caucasian families. He learned English fluently, because that was the language of instruction in both schools; but never bothered to learn Hawaiian even though many of the children at Iolani were Hawaiians. The teacher and mentor who was closest to him was Francis Williams Damon, who was a brother of Samuel Mills Damon, who became Vice President and Minister of Finance for the revolutionary Provisional Government under President Sanford B. Dole, and also Minister of Finance for the Republic of Hawaii. Sanford Dole was born on the grounds of Punahou two years after the school was founded by his father. As the decade of the 1890s unfolded, Sun probably observed what Dole was doing and envisioned himself following the same path as Dole, leading a revolution against a monarchy and becoming President of the successor Republic. The money and political support he got in Hawaii came almost entirely from Chinese and Caucasians, with neither financial nor political support from ethnic Hawaiians who were wealthy or were political leaders. Although he probably supported the Hawaiian revolution and annexation, Sun Yat-sen felt compelled to keep silent because many (perhaps most) Chinese men in Hawaii, both wealthy and poor, were married to native Hawaiian women or kept them as mistresses and made babies with them. Sun wanted to collect money from wealthy Chinese landowners and merchants and to recruit as many ethnic Chinese peasants as possible to return to China as soldiers.

(b) Why Sun Yat-sen might have opposed the Hawaiian revolution and annexation. Sun Yat-sen's lifelong ambition was to get rid of foreign domination, exploitation, and colonialism in China; all of which were done under the influence of Christian missionaries and Caucasian-run foreign businesses. Several European nations, and the U.S., had divided up China into spheres of influence after defeating the Chinese in the Opium War, and had imposed unequal treaties on the government of China. Perhaps overthrowing the Emperor was only a secondary goal for Sun, made necessary in the fight against Western colonialism because the Emperor was a lackey under the thumb of European and American imperialists. The situation in Hawaii was similar. Hawaii was under the influence of Caucasian-run businesses. King Kalakaua had been forced to lease Pearl Harbor to the U.S. under an unequal treaty forced on Kalakaua under pressure from U.S. owners of Hawaii sugar plantations. So perhaps Sun Yat-sen saw a Hawaiian monarchy trying to resist U.S. imperialism and perhaps he saw the Hawaiian revolution and annexation as further implementation of the sort of foreign imperialism he was fighting against in China. Perhaps his heart was with his fellow Chinamen in Hawaii, most of whom had native Hawaiians as wives or mistresses. But he could not afford to speak out against the Hawaiian revolution or annexation, because he needed money and political support from the wealthy Caucasians, most of whom were Americans. He also needed the approval of Americans in Hawaii to be able to travel to the U.S. mainland where he could recruit lots more money from sympathetic Caucasians and wealthy Chinamen who had businesses in California, or where he might recruit Chinamen who were working as servants or "coolies" to join his army in China. Following annexation and the Chinese Exclusion Act he was able to travel to America only because Hawaii people of American origin condoned and assisted the issuance of a Territory of Hawaii birth certificate falsely showing him to have been born in Hawaii and therefore a native-born U.S. citizen under terms of the Treaty of Annexation and Organic Act; so if he wanted to travel to the U.S. mainland he needed to avoid offending the Americans in Hawaii.

The more likely analysis is paragraph (a); but paragraph (b) might be plausibly argued by today's Hawaiian sovereignty activists. For further details, some supporting (a) and some supporting (b), see the extended webpage



There are two major monuments to Sun Yat-sen in Honolulu -- one at each end of Chinatown.


In 2007 Honolulu's Chinatown Gateway Plaza was officially renamed the Dr. Sun Yat-sen Memorial Park. It's located at the corner of Hotel and Bethel streets, between the Hawaiian Theatre and Indigo Restaurant. The plaza itself is an artificial pond with rocks, and a small lava rock hill with artificial waterfalls operated by a motor hidden inside the hill. In a quiet back corner of the Plaza, near the entrance to Indigo Restaurant, is a small bronze statue portraying Sun Yat-sen at the age of 13, carrying two books. This photo was taken from

A plaque on the foot-high lava rock pedestal says:
A school boy in Hawaii
Dr. Sun Yat-sen
Age 13
Chu Tat Shing
Gift of the Dr. Sun Yat-sen Hawaii Foundation

On the ground next to the pedestal and statue is another short lava rock base with a plaque in English, followed by Chinese, which provides in both languages, first a quote and then a comment.

[Quote marks included on the plaque]
"This is my Hawaii ... here I was brought up and educated; and it was here that I came to know what modern civilized governments are like and what they mean." Dr. Sun Yat-sen
In 1879, at the age of thirteen, Sun Yat-sen came to Hawaii from Zhongshan, China. It was here in Honolulu, that he spent many of his teenage years growing up and being educated. China's first revolutionary society the Xing Zhong Hui (Revive China Society) was organized in Hawaii in 1894. Sun Yat-sen went on to overthrow the Qing Dynasty and establish a democratic China in 1911. The dedication of this statue recognizes the sacrifice and support of the people of Hawaii in nurturing the roots of "Modern China" and its Founding Father.
The Dr. Sun Yat-sen Hawaii Foundation
November 12, 2007


A much older monument -- a gift from a town in Taiwan in 1976, was renovated and rededicated in November 2007, the same month the Gateway Plaza was renamed. It's at the corner of Beretania and River streets, just outside the Chinatown Cultural Plaza. Here's an article about the rededication in Midweek weekly newspaper of November 7, 2007:

Since appearing on MidWeek‘s cover in August 1989, Lily Sun, granddaughter of Sun Yat-sen, the founder of modern China, has kept busy honoring her grandfather's legacy. She has written two books about his history, dedicated several statues of him in China and lectures about him all over the world.

Lily also is founding president of the Sun Yat-sen Foundation for Peace and Education, which is honoring Sun Yat-sen's birthday (Nov. 12) with a special ceremony on Nov. 11. Along with her son Charles Wong, vice president of the foundation, they are rededicating the statue of Sun Yat-sen that stands on the corner of North Beretania and River Street. (Lily also has a second son, Alexander, who lives on the island.)

"We are going to have the Royal Hawaiian Band starting at 8:30 a.m., with ceremonies to begin at 9 with the dedication of lei. We're inviting the public to participate in the festivities and dedicate double-length lei to Dr. Sun's statue," says Charles Wong. "We're going to have firecrackers and lion dances. I've spoken with the organizers for Miss Chinatown and the Narcissus Queen, and they also want to participate."

The statue, which was donated in 1976 by the city of Kaohsiung, Taiwan, Republic of China, features Sun Yat-sen holding a book, "teaching the people." The base of the statue was falling apart and was on the verge of being taken down by the city as a safety hazard when Lily's foundation stepped in and built a new solid granite octagonal pedestal. Her grandfather's teachings of morality and virtue are inscribed on the pedestal.

"I'm very busy," says Lily, the youngest of Sun Yat-sen's six grandchildren. "I have given lectures of grandfather's teachings I think almost a thousand times. This month and last month I went to California twice to give lectures. On Nov. 11, after we rededicate grandfather's bronze statue, right away Charles and I have to rush to the airport to go to New York. (Chinese community leaders in) New York invited me to give two lectures, one on Nov. 12. I'm always that busy, but I have to slow down because I'm 71."

This photo was taken from
A different photo, including Lily Sun standing next to the statue, accompanied the Midweek article.



The literature on Sun Yat-sen is massive. This webpage explores only those topics directly related to why Sun might have supported the Hawaiian revolution and annexation, or why he might have opposed them; as identified in paragraphs (a) and (b) at the end of the summary.


A short but well written biography is R. Bruce, "Sun Yat-sen" (Oxford University Press, 1969, 62 pages).

A much more detailed and heavily documented biography is C. Martin Wilbur, "Sun Yat-sen: Frustrated Patriot" (Columbia University Press [The East Asian Institute], 1976, 290 pages of narrative plus 177 pages of detailed explanatory and referential endnotes plus 20 pages of bibliography plus 20 page index).

Here's a timeline taken from pp. 61-62 of the book by R. Bruce:


1866 Sun Yat-sen born at Choyhang village, Kwangtung province on I2 November.

1879 Sun goes to Honolulu to work in his brother's store.

1882 Withdrawn from Honolulu school and sent back to China. [** Note from Ken Conklin: That date is a typographical error. Sun was at Iolani School through July of 1882 and then at Punahou into 1883, from where his family withdrew him and sent him back to China in 1883]

1884 Admitted to Queen's College, Hong Kong in April.

1884-5 Sino-French War.

1886 Sun enters the Anglo-American Medical College at Canton.

1887 Enters Hong Kong Medical Sohool.

1892 Qualifies as doctor and starts practice in Macao.

1893 Sun goes to practice in Canton, joins secret society.

1894 Outbreak of Sino-Japanese War over Korea in July. Sun abandons his medical practice and embarks on a political career.

1896 Sun travels in the United States and goes to England in September. Detained in Chinese Legation in London.

1898 Sun leaves London for Japan in July. The Hundred Days Reform by the Emperor Kwang Hsu. Coup d'etat by the Empress Dowager.

1900 The Boxer Rebellion. Sun's Second Revolutionary Attempt.

1903 Sun on second world tour, Hawaii, the United States, and Europe.

1904-5 Russo-lapanese War, ending with Treaty of Portsmouth, September I905. Sun returns to Iapan in Iuly I905. Organizes new revolutionary party, the T'ung Meng Hui.

1906 Death of Empress Dowager and Emperor Kwang Hsu on 15 November. P'u Yi, the last Manchu Emperor, enthroned.

1909-11 Sun on his third and last world tour.

1911 The October Tenth Revolution at Wuchang. Sun returns to Shanghai on 24 December, elected first Provisional President of China on 29 December.

1912 Inauguration of the Chinese Republic on 1 January. Abdication of the Emperor on I2 February. Sun resigns as President in favour of Yuan Shih-kai on I4 February. The Kuomintang inaugurated on 25 August.

1913 Yuan Shih-kai plans the destruction of the Republic. Sun flees to Iapan. Civil war.

1914 Sun forms new party in Iapan, the Chinese Revolutionary Party. He marries Soong Ching-ling in October.

1915-16 Yuan Shih-kai prepares to become Emperor. Dies on 6 ]une,1916.

1917 Sun sets up military government in Canton.

1918-20 Sun unable to hold Canton, retires to Shanghai to write.

1920 Sun returns to Canton with support of local warlord.

1921 Founding of the Chinese Communist Party in July.

1922 Revolt in Canton; Sun again takes refuge in Shanghai.

1923 Sun has talks with Adolf Joffe in Shanghai. Beginning of the Kuomintang-Soviet and KMT-Chinese Communist alliance. Sun returns to Canton and sets up government. General Chiang Kai-shek goes to Russia. Mikhail Borodin sent to Canton in September to help reorganize Kuomintang.

1924 First National Congress of the Kuomintang held in Ianuary in Canton. The Whampoa Military Academy opened in June. Close Communist~Kuomintang co-operation. Soviet arms arrive at Canton in October. Sun goes to North to negotiate with Peking Government in December.

1925 Sun dies in Peking on 12 March.


111 N KING ST, STE 410
HONOLULU, HI 96817-5025
(808) 521-5948
Office hours on Wednesdays 10-12; otherwise by appointment.
President Douglas Chong has been with them for 41 years.

Sun Yat-sen Hawaii Foundation
45 North King Street
Honolulu, HI 96817


An article was published in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser of May 8, 2011 by Audrey McAvoy of the Associated Press describing the Honolulu city hall exhibit and providing several photos. What makes this article especially interesting is a lengthy discussion in the online comments, in which someone using the name "hinalea" claims to be a great-grandchild of Sun Ahmi (also known as Sun Ah Fook, Sun Mei, and other aliases), the very wealthy older brother of Sun Yat-sen who came to Hawaii in 1875 and established large plantation and ranching operations whose profits were used to sponsor Sun Yat-sen's education, worldwide travel, and revolutionary activities. Sun Ahmi ended up spending all his vast wealth to support the Chinese revolution, and declared bankruptcy. Hinalea claims that Sun Ahmi became a naturalized subject of the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1881. Hinalea clearly expressed the view that the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy was "illegal", but described in a fairly neutral way many details about the family, including Sun Ahmi's many wives and mistresses as well as his business and political activities. In response to my question about Sun Yat-sen's views on the Hawaiian revolution and annexation, hinalea took the view that Sun was too busy promoting the Chinese revolution and dodging the Emperor's assassins to pay much attention to similar revolutionary events in Hawaii.

The Star-Advertiser article with online comments is at

A much longer version of the same Associated Press article was published in The Maui News on May 10, 2001, at


Irma Tam Soong, "Sun Yat-sen's Christian Schooling in Hawai'i" (The Hawaiian Journal of History, Vol. 31 (1997): 151-178).

A footnote says [in 1997] "Irma Tam Soong is executive director emerita of the Hawaii Chinese History Center in Honolulu" This outstanding article is available on the internet at
where it is included among numerous very valuable materials on the website of the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Hawaii Foundation at

Some sources say that Sun was baptized as a Christian in Hawaii, but they add that there are no records of it. It is generally accepted that Sun was (later, perhaps additionally) baptized in China, although his father disapproved. Indeed, all sources agree that the reason why the father pulled Sun out of Punahou and made him go back to China was to stop the Christian influence in the shaping of his character. Many of the Chinese who came to Hawaii had already become Christians on account of Lutheran missionaries from Germany who were preaching in China. Everyone agrees that Sun did become a Christian and remained a Christian throughout his travels around the U.S. and Europe and his throughout his activities in China after the revolution.


"Sun Yat-sen at Punahou" Punahou alumni association 2-page pdf includes photo of him and of the school back then, list of several different names he used, description of the curriculum, photo of a ledger from 1883 showing some of his expenses, etc.

It's interesting to note that Punahou is probably the only institution below the college level where the Presidents of three nations have attended school: Sanford B. Dole (Hawaii), Sun Yat-sen (China), and Barack Obama (USA).


Dr. Sun Yat Sen (1866 - 1925) is known as the Father of Modern China. He was born in Choy Hang Village, Chun Shan District, Kwangtung Province (now Guangdong Province).

He is also 'Iolani's most famous alumnus, known as Tai Cheong or Tai Chu when he enrolled at 'Iolani as a boarding student at age 13 in 1879 then later graduated in 1882. When he first came to Hawaii, he spoke no English. His teacher Solomon Meheula asked him to first observe classes for ten days. But Tai Cheog was a fast learner. When he graduated from 'Iolani, he won an award in grammar that was presented by King Kalakaua. After 'Iolani, he attended Punahou School for one semester in 1883 before returning to China. His travels eventually brought him back to Hawaii five more times.

The early years at 'Iolani had an important influence on Dr. Sun. He has said that his ideas came from three main sources: "Chinese traditional culture, Western ideas, and his own thoughts; but that Western ideas prevailed."

"During his years at 'Iolani and Punahou, he was exposed to Western culture, was strongly influenced by it, and in his young mind, the seeds of Western democracy were planted," according to the book Sun Yat-Sen in Hawaii, Activities and Supporters.

While at 'Iolani, Dr. Sun met classmate Chung Kun Ai, who would become one of his lifelong friends and supporters.

Another one of Dr. Sun's trusted allies was Chang Chau who attended 'Iolani in the late 1870s.


The Pacific Commercial Advertiser, Volume 1, No. 79, Monday July 31, 1882, page 2. [transcribed by Ken Conklin from microfilm in the Kaneohe public library]

or Iolani College as its native schollars [sic] prefer to call it, broke up for the long vacation on Thursday last. There was a large attendance of those interested in the school and in the boys, including His Majesty the King, Her Majesty the Queen Dowager [Emma], H.R. Highness Princess Liliuokalani, the British and French Commissioners and Mrs. Wodehouse [British Commissioner's wife] and madame Feer [French Commissioner's wife], Mr. Baldwin, the Inspector of Schools, and many leading members of the Anglican Church in Honolulu. The boys receive His Majesty on his arrival in open rank carrying the school banners, and sang the national anthem. ... The exercises were followed by the distribution of prizes at which His Majesty the King presided. These were given as follows: ... Mathematics, Meheula; Arithmetic (especially mental arithmetic) Leloa; Music Meheula; Latin, M. Manuia; English Grammar, 1st, D. Nutley; 2nd, Tai Cheu [The name Sun Yat Sen used at Iolani]; ..."


In 1911 the revolution inspired and financed by Sun Yat-sen was successful in toppling the 2000 year monarchy in China. Sun became President of the Provisional Government and then the first President of the Republic of China, in 1911. In doing so he followed the same revolutionary career path as another Punahou alumnus had followed 18 years previously, in 1893.

Sanford B. Dole was a member of the Kingdom legislature and a Justice of the Kingdom's Supreme Court, but resigned the night before the Hawaiian revolution in order to become President of the Provisional Government and of the Republic of Hawaii.

Dole was a native-born subject of the Hawaiian Kingdom, born on the campus of Punahou School two years after Punahou was founded by his father, the Christian missionary Daniel Dole. Sanford was 21 years older than Sun Yat-sen, so although they both attended Punahou, they were not students in the same classes. Nevertheless, Sun had probably been introduced to Dole and talked with him on many occasions. That's because the teacher and mentor who was closest to Sun was the missionary son Francis Williams Damon, who was a brother of Samuel Mills Damon, who became Vice President and Minister of Finance for the revolutionary Provisional Government under President Sanford B. Dole, and also Minister of Finance for the Republic of Hawaii under Dole.

As the decade of the 1890s unfolded, Sun probably observed what Dole was doing and envisioned himself following the same path as Dole, leading a revolution against a monarchy and becoming President of the successor Republic. For example, Sun organized China's first revolutionary society, the Xing Zhong Hui (Revive China Society), in Hawaii in 1894, the year after the Hawaiian revolution when Dole was serving as President of the Provisional Government and creating the Republic of Hawaii (founded July 4, 1894). Surely that's not entirely a coincidence!

See the webpage "Sanford Ballard Dole -- Elected Legislator and Appointed Supreme Court Justice of the Kingdom of Hawai'i; President of the Provisional Government and of the Republic of Hawai'i; Governor of the Territory of Hawai'i, and Presiding Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Territory of Hawai'i" at


During the Fall of 1894, when Sun Yat-sen was present in Hawaii for several months, letters were arriving personally signed by Emperors, Kings, Queens, and Presidents of at least 20 nations on 4 continents giving formal diplomatic recognition de jure to the new Republic of Hawaii, including a letter signed by two Princes on behalf of the Emperor of China.

The five-panel fanfold letter in Mandarin with numerous red chops official stamps) can be seen here:

Recognition of the Republic of Hawaii - China
which is one of 20 nations included in the larger collection of formal letters of recognition:
Recognition of the Republic of Hawaii

Click on a photo once to enlarge it; or twice to MAKE IT HUGE.


One reason why today's Hawaiian sovereignty activists think Sun Yat-sen personally disapproved of the Hawaiian revolution of 1893 and annexation of 1898 is because today's activists imagine Sun would have been "politically correct" in the way today's activists demand all people with no native blood should be. The concept is that everyone with no native blood is morally obligated to kowtow to ethnic Hawaiians -- to subordinate themselves to ethnic Hawaiians because they are Hawaii's indigenous people -- and to support efforts to push the United States out of Hawaii. A book was published a few years ago specifically focused on Hawaii's people of Asian ancestry, saying that unless they enlist in Hawaiians' struggle for liberation, they are aiding and abetting American colonialism and the oppression of ethnic Hawaiians. The book's title is "Asian Settler Colonialism." A major book review is at

Just as Hawaii a century ago made major contributions to the liberation of China from Euro-American colonialism, so China today might help Hawaii liberate itself from the U.S. Some Hawaiian sovereignty activists hopefully speculate that China might retaliate against U.S. complaints about China's activities in Tibet by making public complaints about U.S. activities in Hawaii. Some activists also envision possible cooperation with China in getting international recognition for Hawaii independence, perhaps in return for local Hawaiian spying or even sabotage on Hawaii's military bases. See webpage: "Diplomatic, military, and economic threats to Hawaii security -- Foreign enemies of the U.S. are increasing their involvement in Pacific island affairs while local Hawaiian sovereignty activists are undermining the U.S. military and seeking international support for secession." (The nation most aggressive about pushing its influence in Pacific island nations is China).


Allen F Damon, "Financing Revolution: Sun Yat-sen and the Overthrow of the Ch'ing Dynasty" (The Hawaiian Journal of History, Vol. 25 (1991): 161-186).

A footnote says Allen F Damon's paper on Sun Yat-sen was his senior thesis at Yale University. A former Hawai'i resident, Damon now [1991] resides in Corona del Mar, California.

Available at
where it is included among numerous very valuable materials on the website of the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Hawaii Foundation at


Yansheng Ma Lum and Raymond Mun Kong Lum, "Sun Yat-Sen in Hawai'i: Activities and Supporters" (University of Hawaii Press, 1999), 125 pages.

A scanned pdf copy including color cover and numerous interesting documents is on the internet. The English language version is at
while the Chinese language version is at
and both are included among numerous very valuable materials on the website of the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Hawaii Foundation at

Among the items in the book are membership lists of several Hawaii Chinese revolutionary groups and scanned copies from the Honolulu Pacific Commercial Advertiser:
October 7, 1903: "Noted Reformer Sun Arrives Here Quietly"
December 14, 1903: "Dr. Sun Advocates A Revolt In China"


Readers of this webpage might be shocked to learn that Dr. Sun Yat-sen, who led the overthrow of the monarchy in China and founding of the Republic of China, was born in Hawaii. WHAT!!! Yes, he had a birth certificate to prove it!!

Of course his Hawaiian birth was a falsehood documented by a very real, official birth certificate signed on March 14, 1904 by Mr. A. L. C. Atkinson, the Secretary of the Territory of Hawaii -- the highest civil servant after the Governor of Hawaii. It showed Dr. Sun had been born in Hawaii on March 24, 1870; and therefore, under terms of the 1896 Constitution of the Republic of Hawaii and the 1898 Treaty of Annexation Dr. Sun was a U.S. citizen entitled to enter the U.S. despite the Chinese Exclusion Act. Sun's friends in Hawaii persuaded the Territorial government to issue the birth certificate so that Dr. Sun would be able to enter the mainland U.S. to raise money and recruit Chinese men for his revolution to overthrow the Emperor. See detailed research "A Re-Investigation of the Mystery of Sun Yatsen’s Hawaiian Birth Certificate" by Patrick Anderson, Hawaiian Journal of History, University of Hawai'i Press, Volume 52, 2018 pp. 57-87.
A photo of the birth certificate is at
and accompanying documents enabling Dr. Sun to enter the U.S., are at
To see those very interesting accompanying documents, scroll down below the birth certificate.


Lu Chan, "The Sun Yat-sen I Knew" 43 pages.
Text entirely in Chinese, no English translation, but some interesting photographs and a handwritten dedication near the beginning.


Mark Calney, "Sun Yat-sen and the American Roots of China's Republican Movement"

"Note: this is the basic text draft, excluding photographs and illustrations, of a series of articles that were published on January 19, 1990 and January 26, 1990 in the American national newspaper New Federalist."

The closing paragraphs say "... there had been a direct lineage of republicans from America's Founding Fathers to the 1911 Chinese Revolution of Sun Yat-sen who have fought for the ideas of 1776. Those ideas echoed through Tiananmen Square last June and continue to shake the very foundations of China. And all the lies about history and policy over the last 80 years by the Anglo-America elites, who employ so-called Sino-experts such as Henry Kissinger, can not stop these ideas. Not since 1776 has every corner of the world, from the Soviet East Bloc to Latin America, been swept with revolts which demand the Inalienable Rights of all Mankind.
An ABCFM missionary wrote in 1845 that "America is God's last dispensation towards the world." The recent events in China and elsewhere have illustrated that the American Revolution is not concluded, and it will not be concluded until all men and women are free."

Honolulu Advertiser, Sunday, May 29, 2005

East/West reflections

By Al Castle [Descendant of the Castle family who were active in the Kingdom and the Hawaiian revolution, and were founders of Castle and Cooke]

The East-West Philosophers' Conference, which brings to Hawai'i internationally respected thinkers on man's condition, reminds us of the University of Hawai'i's historic strengths in bringing Asia and the Pacific together with Western intellectual thought.

The University of Hawai'i is more than the intellectual driver of Hawai'i's economic development. It is a respected scholarly resource for those seeking to understand the human condition and how that condition has been manifested and reflected upon by some of the world's best thinkers.

One of the many sessions to be held starting today is hosted by the venerable Dr. Sun Yat-sen Hawai'i Foundation. Comprised of many leaders in Hawai'i's academic and business world, the society has done yeoman work preserving the important record of Sun Yat-sen, a founder of modern China.

The foundation has had a special interest in understanding how Sun Yat-sen's experiences and education in 19th- and early 20th-century Hawai'i helped shape the thought of one of the most important figures in Chinese history.

As Hawai'i begins to look to China for future tourism and possible economic investment, all scholars of Hawai'i's long relationship with that burgeoning country can profit by revisiting the more than 200 years of Chinese experience in our state.

One of the fascinating connections between Hawai'i and China is the influence the Hawaiian kingdom had on the young Sun Yat-sen in the 1880s. Born in 1866 to a farming family in southeast China, not far from Hong Kong, Sun received a few years of local schooling in traditional Chinese texts.

At 13, he was invited to join his brother in Hawai'i. His brother had migrated as a laborer but moved up quickly under the free-market economy of the constitutional monarchy headed by King David Kalakaua. By the time Ah Mi, Sun's brother, had established a successful rice farm near Honolulu, Hawai'i was widely revered in southern China for the rapid upward mobility of Chinese immigrants, the lack of barriers to opportunity, and a stable constitutional democracy with strong property rights.

With a flood of Chinese labor to the sugar plantations after the passage of the 1875 Reciprocity Act with the United States, Ah Mi felt that the best chances for his brother lay in obtaining an intensive English instruction at an Anglican boarding school called Iolani. Enrolling in 1879, Iolani would provide him his first cultural, political and religious education and establish a basis for much of his later revolutionary activity in China.

With only seven Chinese students in 1879, Iolani was an Anglican school intended primarily for Hawaiian and part-Hawaiian boys. Kamehameha V (reigned 1863-1872), who was sympathetic to the Anglican Church because of his brother's (Kamehameha IV) devotion to it, named the school.

The school was then run by the Anglican bishop Alfred Willis. In the 1870s, Iolani was, like the rest of the Anglican Church in Hawai'i, a bastion of anti-American, anti-annexationist and pro-monarchy thinking. All teachers save one were British, and it was under their guidance that Sun received his first exposure to western literary and philosophical classics as well as a lesson in cultural resistance to imperialism.

Indeed, it is reasonable to speculate that at least some of Sun's anti-imperialism and sensitivity to foreign influence in China came from his awareness of foreign influence in Hawai'i and its sometimes untoward influence over the kingdom's domestic affairs.

Certainly his education had no hint of his later revolutionary activity.

If Iolani did not supply Sun with all his anti-monarchial views, it did expose him to English and American ideals of constitutional government, and to the history of the English people's long struggle against autocracy and arbitrary government. Certainly, in studying constitutional government, which Hawai'i had since 1839, he would have had practical and specific examples of how American and British governmental advisers had introduced limited government.

He also would have heard from his instructors, as well as his brother, of the administration of justice through a complex Western-style judiciary. Hawai'i's Chinese community benefited from a country where life and property were safe from arbitrary confiscation, and where the protection of the law extended, even if imperfectly, to those who questioned and challenged the existing political order.

At Iolani, he became bilingual, as immersion in English was required of all students. The Hawaiians who were Sun's fellow students studied English as a passport to employment in government service. Indeed, on July 27, 1882, Sun's English speaking and writing skills received second prize at Iolani.

He was awarded his prize by King Kalakaua, who was escorted by his sister, Princess Lili'uokalani, and the dowager Queen Emma.

An important part of Sun's instruction at Iolani was his religious instruction in Christian principles. The boys at Iolani were obliged to attend daily and evening prayers in the school's chapel, and on Sundays, all students were taken to St. Andrew's Cathedral. Classes were taught in Christian doctrine by Bishop Willis, and Sun saw ample evidence of the kindness and fairness which Christian doctrine called for.

Through Sun's daily contact with Christianity, he came to believe that much of the backwardness of China was because of its traditional superstition and dread of evil spirits. In Christianity, he found a positive statement of man's redemption and God's love for each human, no matter how poor or disadvantaged.

In the eyes of Christ, all people were equal, and no ultimate difference was due any person because of birth of station. In Christ, further, he found a symbol of a revolutionary who dared to deny the authority of even the most established authoritarian government while upholding the equal dignity of all.

After graduation from Iolani in 1882, Sun decided to seek additional Western education before assisting in his brother's store. With Hawai'i lacking a full-scale college or university, he enrolled in O'ahu College (Punahou School), then the highest center of learning in the Islands.

O'ahu College was, unlike Iolani, a school influenced by the American Protestant missionaries. As an extension of Punahou School, it offered instruction on the college level but never became a full-fledged college. As a student at O'ahu College, Sun developed academic interest in both government and medicine while at the same time enriching his understanding of the Christian doctrine of the power of individuals to effect change in earthly institutions.

Most of the founders of Punahou had experienced conversions to Christianity during the Second Great Awakening. Begun in Connecticut during the 1790s, the broad movement set ablaze one section of the nation after another during the first half of the 19th century.

The important theological theme of this social and religious movement was the rejection of the Calvinist belief that humans have a natural and inevitable inclination to sin (the doctrine of human depravity). Rather, the leaders of the Awakening, such as Charles G. Finney, affirmed that sin was purely a voluntary act; no one was drawn irresistibly to sin and the consequent rejection of the Lord's will.

This theology, which had energized the early missionaries, gave Sun the empowering sense that human will could be changed for the better. Neither individuals nor societies were predestined to suffer under corruption.

Individuals, he was taught, were, with God's help, capable of self-rule, democracy, social justice and disinterested benevolence. Though there was reason to feel that perfect governmental institutions were impossible to achieve, he found a religious basis for social progressivism, which would last him a lifetime.

Furthermore, Punahou was co-educational and encouraged students to argue, challenge their teachers and to rely on themselves for answers to difficult social questions. The curriculum, with its emphasis on logic, speech, the liberal arts and rhetoric, gave Sun additional confidence in the efficacy of the liberal mind.

At Punahou, he thrilled to the social, political and economic thought of Alexander Hamilton, Abraham Lincoln and Henry George. There he would also be introduced to the early stirrings of pragmatism, the energizing notion that ideas were powerful institutions of change, rather than frozen in a Platonic timeless transcendence.

Punahou also was alive with the breathtaking and intoxicating thought of Darwin, Lyell and Wallace, as the intellectual implications of evolution became apparent.

Asked to leave Punahou by Ah Mi, who feared Punahou's "radicalized" curriculum, he returned to China having absorbed enough learning to help formulate his "Three Principles of the People." First developed in 1905, these included nationalism, democracy and democratic socialism. These became his plan for ending the repressive Manchu dynasty and restoring economic and moral strength to China.

Thus, Sun Yat-sen's Hawai'i education would play a major role in shaping and defining his early faith in democratic institutions, social justice and his anti-imperialism.

These values would be further refined and qualified by his later experience in the United States, Europe, Japan and China. But the period 1879-1883, a period shaped by his Hawaii education, would be among the most important of his life. Hence, the history of China and some of the intellectual legacy of 19th-century Hawai'i are intertwined in the life of one of the great figures of 20th-century history.

Al Castle is executive director of the Samuel N. & Mary Castle Foundation and a speaker at the conference.

Maui News, December 21. 2010

Sun Yat-sen descendant's donations ‘priceless'
Chinese art, artifacts to enhance Maui sites recognizing immigrants

By ILIMA LOOMIS, Staff Writer

WAILUKU - Sites recognizing Chinese immigrants to Maui and the time Chinese revolutionary Sun Yat-sen spent on the Valley Isle are planned to get a major upgrade next year.

Charles Wong, a descendant of Sun, and the Sun Yat-sen Foundation for Peace & Education, have offered to donate a trove of Chinese art and decorative artifacts to the county Department of Parks and Recreation. The items would refurbish the Chinese pavilion at Kepaniwai Park in Iao Valley, as well as Sun Yat-sen Park in Keokea. The total value of the donation, which also covers shipping and installation costs, is estimated at $100,000. The Maui County Council approved accepting the donations last month.

"It's priceless," said county Office of Economic Development Administrator Deidre Tegarden, who helped coordinate the donation. "To have the great-grandson of such an icon and role model like Sun Yat-sen come and take the time to tour our parks and put all this money into perpetuating his great-grandfather's message - it's for the benefit of our community and for our youth to understand the great history that this brings."

The donations are being made in time for celebrations surrounding the centennial of the Chinese revolution in 2011. At least two film crews from China have contacted the county about their interest in coming to Maui to shoot footage for productions about Sun Yat-sen's early life.

Sun came to Hawaii at age 13 and lived for a time with an older brother, Sun Mei, who had become a prosperous merchant in Keokea. He later went on to study at Iolani School in Honolulu and attended college on Oahu.

As an adult, Sun became a modernizer and rebel in China and in exile abroad, helped organize the Chinese revolution against the imperial government and became the first president of the Republic of China. Today, Sun is known as "the father of modern China."

"He's like the George Washington of China," said Tom Liu of the Maui Economic Development Board, who helped Wong arrange the donation.

Liu said he was escorting Wong on a visit to Maui sites related to his famous great-grandfather when Wong hatched the idea for a major refurbishment.

"One thing led to another, and when we looked at the pavilion (in Kepaniwai Park), it was just an empty roof and walls," Liu said. "He said, 'Why don't we do this and this, make it more educational, and tell people about how important Maui was to the revolution?' ''

Some of the donated items will replace worn-out artifacts already at the sites, or upgrade them with objects of higher and more authentic quality. Others will be new additions to the parks.

Items being donated to the Chinese Heritage Garden at Kepaniwai Park include a pair of southern Chinese lions for the entrance of the pavilion; a 6-foot high bronze statue of Sun Yat-sen; granite panels depicting the history of the Chinese people and Sun Yat-sen on Maui, to be mounted inside the pavilion; a pair of "dragon phoenix" carvings to be mounted on panels at the back of the pavilion; a granite panel inscribed with a Chinese poem; a picnic table and stools carved from Fujian green granite; a 4-foot tall Kwan Yin statue to be placed in the pool; a granite peace obelisk; an 8-foot-long Chinese bridge carved from granite; and stone lanterns to replace damaged ones at the park.

For Sun Yat-sen Park in Keokea, donations would include a granite Chinese stone gate; a pair of southern Chinese lions; a 3-foot-high granite pedestal for the existing Sun Yat-sen statue; a granite peace obelisk and a picnic table similar to the one being installed at Kepaniwai.

Liu said that during his tour of Maui, Wong expressed a wish to restore and upgrade the parks in honor of his great-grandfather.

In Keokea, "he noticed that the two lions sitting out by the entrance are hollow - which they should not be. It should be in stone. So he said, 'Why don't I donate some?' Then he started looking, and he had more ideas about how to make it complete."

Liu called Keokea, where Sun spent his formative years, the "place of birth" for the Chinese revolution.

"That's where he came up with the idea," Liu said.

Tegarden said the county and Wong were working with the local Chinese cultural society to make sure the donations were handled appropriately.

She said the centennial of the first Chinese revolution had sparked an interest in the sites.

"With the 100th anniversary next year, there's been a lot of interest, from Taiwan especially, in coming over to Maui," she said. "They're going to be doing a documentary about Sun Yat-sen's time here on Maui, and Charles Wong wanted to make sure his great-grandfather's legacy was all that it could be."

She said early meetings to discuss the donations had covered some questions about security and vandalism. Tegarden said some steps would be taken to protect the items, but she also hoped the community would respect the sites.

"It's so cultural and the message is so beautiful that we're hopeful," she said.

She said the donation and attention surrounding the anniversary of the revolution would help spread the word about the role Maui played in the life of a major historical figure.

"It just makes us realize that every day our global community becomes smaller," she said. "While we all might speak different languages, we all want what is best for future generations, and it truly is a small world."


Patrick W. Hanifin, "TO DWELL ON THE EARTH IN UNITY: RICE, ARAKAKI, AND THE GROWTH OF CITIZENSHIP AND VOTING RIGHTS IN HAWAI'I", Hawaii Bar Journal, Vol. V, No. 13, Spring 2002, pp. 15-44.

On page 22, in footnote 66, Mr. Hanifin noted that between 1844 and 1894, 3,239 foreigners became naturalized in Hawaii. This total included 1105 Americans; 763 Chinese; 596 British subjects; 242 Portuguese; 230 Germans; 47 French citizens; 68 other Europeans; 136 from Pacific Islands; 27 from South America; and 25 others. Three Japanese were naturalized. Hanifin cited a Historical note appended to Organic Act, § 4 in 15 MICHIE’S HAWAI`I REVISED STATUTES ANNOTATED at 30.

Ken Conklin's comment: An ethnic Chinese expert on the history of Chinese in Hawaii told me that one reason wealthy Chinese immigrant men in the Kingdom of Hawaii married native Hawaiian women was that it was necessary to do that in order for them to be able to buy land in fee simple. Other wealthy Chinese, who intended eventually to return to China, were content to lease land for farms, plantations, and houses. The expert also told me that until 1888 a Chinaman who wanted to bring his Chinese wife to Hawaii was required to pay a fee of $5,000 (an enormous amount back then); so most of them simply took a second Hawaiian wife, or kept Hawaiian mistress(es). The expert added as an aside that a reasonable estimate is that 80% of all ethnic Hawaiians today have Chinese as their largest percentage of ancestry, due to the mixing of unaccompanied Chinese male sojourners and immigrants with Hawaiian women during the Kingdom and early Territorial periods.


Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Thursday, March 16, 2000

Hawaii's World
Sun Yat-sen's strong links to Hawaii

By A.A. Smyser

COULD Sun Yat-sen, revered by both the People's Republic of China and the Nationalist government on Taiwan, be a son of Hawaii?

There's a birth certificate that says so, but even Sun renounced it in due course. It did, however, help him circumvent the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which became applicable when Hawaii was annexed to the United States in 1898.

The certificate, issued by the Territory of Hawaii in March 1904, declared he had been born in Kula, Maui, where his relatives lived. As a "citizen of Hawaii" he could travel to the U.S. mainland in the early 1900s to rally both support and funds for his revolutionary efforts. Some Chinese friends attested to the birth.

His Punahou teacher, Francis Damon, certified to his good character but did not swear on the issue of birth. Damon is the grandfather of attorney Frank Damon, a major present-day supporter of Punahou.

Sun spent only a semester at Punahou in 1883. He spoke no word of English when he arrived in Hawaii in 1879 at age 13, but four years later received an English grammar prize at Iolani School, personally presented by King Kalakaua.

Sun was a notable first among Asian revolutionaries who used Hawaii to gather strength for their challenges to tyranny back home. Korea's Syngman Rhee was one, too.

THE Sun story will be offered as a short slide show next Monday at the opening sessions here of the Pacific Basin Economic Council, which is attracting top business and political leaders from 20 Asia-Pacific economies including China and Taiwan. The U.S. ambassador to China and China's ambassador to the United States will speak jointly that day.

The Sun story is based on the book, "Sun Yat-sen in Hawaii," published last year by the Hawaii Chinese History Center and the Dr. Sun Yat-sen Hawaii Foundation. The authors are Yansheng Ma Lum and Raymond Mun Kong Lum.

They detail Sun's six visits to Hawaii -- 1879-83, 1884-85, 1894-95, 1896, 1903-04 and 1910. Sun was born in 1866 in Zhong Shan, China. He died in China in 1923.

The authors say in Sun's studies at Iolani and Punahou "he was exposed to Western culture, was strongly influenced by it, and in his young mind the seeds of Western democracy were planted.

Sun himself said in 1910: "It was here (Hawaii) that I came to understand what modern civilized governments are like and what they mean." He formed his first revolutionary party in Honolulu in 1894.

A coordinator of the book and author of a foreword is Leigh-wai Doo, a former member of the Honolulu City Council. He was a Punahou student of more recent vintage. Doo quotes the director of the Sun Yat-sen Institute of Guangzho, China, as saying, "Without his experience in Hawaii there would not be the great career of Dr. Sun Yat-sen."

Doo's relative, Young Sen-yat, was called by Sun "the father of China's air force." Young was Hawaii's first island-born land and seaplane pilot with U.S. pilot's license Serial No. 416. He went to China in 1918, then traveled to Japan, the U.S. mainland and Mexico to raise funds for 12 planes to support Sun. In 1923 he was killed in combat.

America's first U.S. senator of Chinese ancestry, Hiram L. Fong, now 93 and retired, traveled to both Beijing and Taipei while in office and did much to permit increased immigration to the United States from Asian countries, including China.


Info about Sun Yat Sen:

Furthermore: Hawaii's Territorial Law, Chapter 57 - "VITAL STATISTICS, I", shown beginning pg 23 of 29, (the law in effect in 1961) allowed the parents (or grandparents or other relative) of baby's born anywhere in the world to be eligible to apply for a Hawaiian birth certificate. A mailed-in form (without mention of a hospital, doctor, or midwife) signed by one of his grandparents (who forged the parent signature(s)) would have been enough to set up a birth record and a birth certificate at the Dept of Health. The Dept of Health would (presumably) then have automatically sent the names of the parents, their address as given on the mailed-in form , the gender of the child, and the date of birth to the Honolulu Advertiser and Star-Bulletin. The address given for the parents in the newspaper announcements is actually, however, the August 1961 home address of Obama's maternal grandparents Stanley and Madelyn Dunham [6085 Kalanianaole Highway], and not the 1961 home address of Barack Obama, Sr. [625 11th Ave].)


** Further discussion of the birth certificate, including a very readable photo of it, is on pp. 39-41 of the book here:


Sun Yat-sen's Territory of Hawaii birth certificate was legitimate, insofar as it was in fact issued officially by the government of the Territory of Hawaii; but it was fake insofar as the fact that he was not born in Hawaii and the birth certificate was issued only in reliance on affidavits signed by people who were lying. On June 6, 2011 Andrew Walden of the Hawaii Free Press published articles taken from The China Post (June 7 in China, June 6 in Hawaii), Radio Taiwan (June 7), and the American Institute in Taiwan (June 7), all of which were responding to serious concerns that perhaps the "father of modern China" had actually been born in Hawaii and not in China. See



Date: Tue, 18 Sep 2001
From: [Chinese name, redacted]
Subject: Aid in writing my screenplay?

I am writing the screenplay for a film about the overthrow of the Hawaiian Monarchy.

It is highly fictional, but will be based on real historical events.

Somewhat like a "Romeo & Juliet" and "Westside Story," it tells the story of a the son of a Chinese Martial Arts Master and a Hawaiian Princess who fall in love much to the chagrin of their respective communities, polarizing them. The overthrow of the Monarchy as well as the imprisonment of the Princess among others of the Royal Family, brings the Hawaiian and Chinese communities together as they fight side by side to try to save their nation.

I am having trouble finding information about the relations of the Hawaiian and Chinese populations during this period. Although, most of my family is living in O'ahu, I am currently in Paris, France, working on a children's educational TV series here. My family has not been much help in doing research for me.

Can you please provide me with any information you might have on this subject?

Thank you for your attention.


Aloha [name redacted]

Someone forwarded to me your e-mail regarding the relations between ethnic Hawaiians and ethnic Chinese during the period of the overthrow.

As you know, most Chinese came to Hawai'i as contract laborers to work on the sugar plantations, where they lived in "Chinese camp" plantation housing apart from other groups such as "Hawaiian camp" or "Japanese camp." Almost all the Hawaiians who worked on sugar plantations were landless lower-class people, just like the Chinese workers. But they lived apart on the plantations. There were many wealthy land-owning Hawaiians, and middle-class Hawaiians who worked in government agencies, who would have had very little contact with Chinese. The plantation-worker Chinese were virtually slaves, rarely leaving the plantation; while Hawaiians owned and operated the government and in some ways were responsible for "keeping down" the Chinese.

Many Chinese came to work on the plantations with the intention of returning to China after a few years; and many did in fact return to China as the political situation in China changed, especially to join Sun Yat Sen. Some Chinese left the plantations and became merchants downtown, where Chinatown began to grow.

The Hawaiian Kingdom did allow anyone to become a naturalized citizen who had lived in Hawai'i for 5 years and take an oath of allegiance to the Kingdom. Following the overthrow, that oath of allegiance was to the Provisional Government, and then to the Republic. For an excellent history of citizenship and voting rights in the Kingdom, Republic, and Territory of Hawai'i, please see

Contrary to popular belief, ethnic Hawaiians had a major role in the Republic of Hawai'i following the revolution of 1893. For example, J.L. Kaulukou had served as Marshal of the Kingdom in 1886 and was in the favor of both Kalakaua and Lili'uokalani, serving as an elected member of the Kingdom legislature, and served as a judge and also Attorney General under Kalakaua. Following the revolution of 1893, he was strongly in support of annexation, and served as Speaker of the House of Representatives in the Republic. Chinese and Japanese played almost no role in the governments of the Kingdom, Republic, or Territory, because both the haoles and the Hawaiians regarded them as merely low-class contract laborers or merchants -- foreigners likely to leave after a few years.

Immediately upon annexation, property and wealth requirements for voting were abolished; but Asians were not allowed to become U.S. citizens because of anti-Asian U.S. policies. Hawaiians dominated the legislature from 1900 to about 1930. For example, in 1901, 70% of the members of the legislature were Hawaiian; and the legislature voted unanimously to seek statehood. Although Hawaiians controlled the Territory legislature for about 30 years, they did very little to help Chinese. Social conditions improved for Chinese and Japanese under the Republic and the Territory, because the Hawaiian ali'i no longer had automatic supremacy merely because of their birth status. As democracy became stronger, Chinese became more equal to Hawaiians.

I think your portrayal of Chinese and Hawaiians "fighting side-by-side to save their Kingdom" is historically inaccurate. It might make a wonderful romantic concept for a work of fiction, but has very little basis in reality. Remember that most Chinese worked as laborers or small shop-owners, struggling to get enough money to eat and have a small place to live. Meantime, King Kalakaua was building a magnificent Palace, living a lavish lifestyle, and traveling around the world. The money for all these things was not available before the plantation era. The money for the King's Palace and round-the-world trip and constant gambling and partying came from taxes paid by the plantations -- wealth created by Asian laborers working long hours for slave-wages. The wealth of the Hawaiian Kingdom floated on a sea of Asian sweat, and Hawaiians were no more eager than haoles to treat Asians as equals. Certainly some Chinese and Hawaiians met and fell in love, as did people of all ethnicities. But those were personal relationships among "ordinary people" and had very little impact on the government. Did Chinese join the Hui Aloha 'Aina or Hui Kalai 'Aina (anti-annexation groups)? No. The Hawaiians didn't want them, and most Chinese didn't care about the government. Did Chinese sign the anti-annexation petition? Certainly very few. But later, in 1954, thousands of Chinese signed the huge petition demanding statehood, putting their names side by side with Hawaiians, Japanese, haoles, and all other ethnic groups.

Ken Conklin


** Original URL

** New URL after merger of Advertiser and Star-Bulletin

Honolulu Star-Bulletin, February 16, 2010

Book on isle Chinese a labor of love

By Nadine Kam

Ken Yee's father couldn't afford to send him to college, so upon retiring after a lengthy career as an electrician, at 60 years old, Yee decided to enroll at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

The families of Sun Mi and Dr. Sun Yat-sen (back row, fourth and fifth from the left, respectively), lived at Sun Mi's ranch in the Kula area until 1907.
View more photos >>

"My wife, all my children went to university. I was not gonna be the only one left out," said the 96-year-old who with his wife, Nancy Wong Yee, compiled and edited a new publication, "Chinese Pioneer Families of Maui, Molokai, and Lanai."

The book is a valentine to the memory of his wife, whose knowledge of Chinese language, dance and music led her to host Chinese radio and television programs in Honolulu from 1946 to '56.

She died 2 1/2 years ago, about 33 years after they embarked on the project that became a labor of love for both. On her deathbed the incomplete book still weighed heavily on her mind, and Yee promised he would finish it.

The book shares the experiences of Chinese families who migrated to Maui, Molokai and Lanai. To date, much of the history of the Chinese in Hawaii has focused on Honolulu. The stories are told in the voices of the children and grandchildren of those who came from villages in the Pearl River Delta in Kwangtung province (Guangdong) in the late 1800s through early 1900s, sharing tales of perseverance and adaptation to their new home even as they maintained their ties to China through rituals now ingrained in local culture.

Yee said he was struck by the common experiences of the Chinese in Hawaii, in spite of the separation by islands and continent. "They all celebrated the Chinese holidays and ate the same foods."

And in spite of the relatively small population of Chinese in Hawaii, the impact of their fundraising played a role in China's history, in financing Sun Yat-sen's revolutionary attempts to overthrow the Manchu Ching Dynasty and later create a unified China. The man now considered to be the father of modern China lived with his brother Sun Mi, a successful rice farmer and businessman on Maui, before being sent to Honolulu for education at Bishop's (later 'Iolani) School.

As for Yee, nothing about returning to school came easy. "My brother-in-law and I retired at the same time, and he signed up for courses, too, but after two weeks he gave up. It's not easy to learn how to study," Yee said. "It was hard to keep up, but I always liked to read history books."

With the encouragement of Puanani Woo, president and executive director of the Hawaii Chinese History Center from 1978 to 1988, Yee started collecting oral histories while working toward his master's degree in Asian studies. He had earned his bachelor's degree in Chinese language.

With grown children, the Yees had the time and means to travel frequently to the neighbor islands, and Yee said Woo asked the couple whether they were willing to continue the project after he completed his course work.

But age came with setbacks. "My health wasn't so good," Yee said. "In 1979 I had my first bypass surgery. My second was in 1991. Two veins were taken out of my leg, so I had difficulty walking. Lots of things happened."

After a time the book became a family project with his four children -- three on the mainland -- and their cousins pitching in to input the Yees' handwritten notes into the computer, with edits sent to and from the mainland.

Yee's son Roy said, "Anything my mother and father got interested in, we were able to help. It was quite a transition for them to go from a typewriter to a computer. We were all the time back and forth, hand-carrying documents. E-mail didn't exist until the 1990s.

"I'm proud my father is able to see the finished product," Roy said. "I could relate to how the Chinese were such a hardy people who were able to succeed in life by being frugal and family-oriented. We can still see that today. Families saved so these children of farmers were able to go to school and get college degrees. That's the heritage."

And the elder Yee says his writing days are not over. He's considering setting his own life story down on paper.

"Now that I have a little time -- God gave me a little extra, I almost died a couple years ago -- I believe I can."


By Edna Tavares Taufaasau (granddaughter)

Shortly after (Tong Kan's) arrival in May 1853, a smallpox epidemic broke out. It spread like wildfire during the months of June, July and August and finally subsided in October of that year. Entire families died, especially among Hawaiians as they had no immunity to the disease. The few who had recovered from smallpox in their earlier years did most of the nursing, among them being Tong Kan, who had smallpox as a young boy in China.

While caring for smallpox victims, he had the opportunity to meet Queen Emma, who took an active part in the work of stopping the disease. She became fond of the young Chinese man who helped so many victims of the disease and accepted him as a friend. As a result, he had the opportunity of visiting the queen's household both in Honolulu and on Maui.

Business in Honolulu had suffered a depression because of the epidemic. The island of Maui was not as hard hit by the epidemic, so Tong Kan decided to move to Maui, where he hoped to be able to make a good living. He made a contract with a Honolulu merchant, borrowed to buy some goods, and accepted a guarantee of one dollar a month in pay.

When he went to register with the minister of interior of the kingdom, the Hawaiian official who registered him was not aware that Tong was his last name. He wound up with a new official name, T. Akana, because the Hawaiians called him Ah Kan-a. Because there was another "Akana" who was a larger man, the official added the word "liilii," meaning small. In time, my grandfather became known far and wide as T. Akana Liilii.

When he first went to Maui, he traveled by foot from village to village, peddling his wares and keeping his eyes open for opportunities to make money. At that time, the real money was to be made selling produce to the whaling fleet anchored off Lahaina. He worked diligently and was soon able to buy a mule, enabling him to go to various chiefs' ahupuaas and buy coconuts. He sold some of the coconuts to the whalers but traded most of them in the uplands of Ulupalakua and Kula for sweet potatoes and other vegetables, which brought more money from the whalers than coconuts. Before long he managed to accumulate sufficient funds to lease lands directly from the king at Waiopae and Kahikinui near Kipahulu on the slopes of Haleakala, to raise cattle. He lived at Alele in Makawao and opened a meat market in Wailuku town. The meat market opened only when the butcher brought fresh meat in, once or twice a week. The meat was sold right away -- either there, in Lahaina, or to the nearby camps -- as there was no refrigeration.

Providing provisions to whalers ended in 1872 with the great Arctic disaster that caught the Pacific whaling ships in an ice pack and destroyed them. Akana then decided to supplement his ranching by raising sugarcane, making five attempts to do so. His first venture was made in Lahaina. He and two friends took a short lease on some land, planted their crop, but lost the whole thing when their lease expired before maturity of the cane and the owners refused to extend or renew the lease. ...

Other attempts also failed, primarily because of the higher interest rates charged Chinese entrepreneurs than those charged white men. While a white man could borrow money at nine or ten percent, Chinese had to pay 16 or 18 percent for the same money. This discrimination led to the eventual opening of banking establishments by the Chinese community. One of these, the Chinese American Bank, later changed its name to American Security Bank. Some of these banks are still in existence today


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