Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall (SYSNMH), a heritage institution of the National Heritage Board, traces Dr Sun's revolutionary activities in the Southeast Asian region, and highlights the impact of the 1911 Chinese Revolution on Singapore as well as Singapore's contributions to the Revolution.
SYSNMH re-opened on 8 October 2011 after undergoing one year of enhancement works. The revamped Memorial Hall features a new storyline and refreshed galleries which introduce key community leaders in the early 20th century; highlights Nanyang as a base for Revolution; and explores the impact and influences of the 1911 Chinese Revolution on the Singapore Chinese community.
Wan Qing Yuan, the former Sun Yat Sen Villa: History of the Memorial Hall
Completed in 1902, this double-storey villa was bought by rubber magnate, Teo Eng Hock, for his aged mother. It was then named Wan Qing Yuan to symbolise Teo Eng Hock’s hope that his mother would enjoy peace and happiness in her twilight years.
When Dr. Sun Yat Sen chose Singapore as the nerve centre of his revolutionary movement in Southeast Asia, Teo Eng Hock offered the place to Dr. Sun Yat Sen for his revolutionary activities. It was in this very villa that Dr. Sun Yat Sen shared his revolutionary ideals with his Nanyang supporters.
Significance of the Memorial Hall
As the headquarters of Dr. Sun Yat Sen’s Chinese Revolution Alliance or Tong Meng Hui in Nanyang, Singapore assumed a pivotal role in the 1911 Revolution. Loyal supporters of Dr. Sun Yat Sen, including Singapore pioneers Teo Eng Hock, Tan Chor Lam and Lim Nee Soon, provided invaluable support in the form of fund-raising and dissemination of revolutionary principles and ideals. It was in Wan Qing Yuan that Dr. Sun Yat Sen planned three of his 10 failed uprisings, prior to the successful Wuchang Uprising in 1911.
The newly revamped SYSNMH pays tribute to the vital role played by Singapore and Nanyang in the 1911 Revolution. Focusing on the contributions of Dr. Sun Yat Sen’s key supporters in Singapore, the refurbished museum sheds light on the lesser-known details of Singapore and Nanyang’s involvement in the 1911 Revolution.
The new SYSNMH will also share how the 1911 Revolution left its lasting imprint on Singapore, especially in the areas of education, print media and economic contributions. This Singapore and Nanyang-centred focus is what sets the SYSNMH apart from other museums and institutions dedicated to the legacy of Dr. Sun Yat Sen around the world.
The 1911 Revolution and Dr. Sun Yat Sen’s Nine Visits to Singapore
The late 19th century was a tumultuous period for China. With a Manchu government that demanded exorbitant taxes and the constant threat of foreign invasion, the people of China had little means of livelihood. It was in such turbulent times, on 12 November 1866, that Dr Sun Yat Sen was born.
Schooled in Honolulu, Hawaii and Hong Kong, Dr. Sun Yat Sen was greatly exposed to the wonders of technology and ideals of progress. The critical flaws he witnessed in the Manchu government, as compared to democracies in Europe and the United States, led him to realise that political reforms were needed in order for China to advance as a country. It was then that he decided to launch his revolutionary career to overthrow the Manchu government and establish a republic.
Dr. Sun Yat Sen travelled widely to gather supporters and resources to launch his uprisings. With its excellent geographical location and a considerable population of Chinese immigrants, Singapore was the natural choice for Dr. Sun Yat Sen to set up his Tong Meng Hui headquarters for the Nanyang region.
Loyal Singapore supporters, including Teo Eng Hock, Tan Chor Lam and Lim Nee Soon, were also instrumental in helping Dr. Sun Yat Sen gather financial support, as well as spread his revolutionary ideals within the region. It was recorded that Dr. Sun Yat Sen visited Singapore a total of nine times, four of which he stayed in Wan Qing Yuan.
Dr. Sun Yat Sen’s revolutionary efforts saw ten failed uprisings before the Manchu government was successfully overthrown in the Wuchang Uprising of 1911. Dr. Sun Yat Sen went on to be elected as the first Chinese President of the newly-minted Republic of China.