Xinhai Revolution

Cities vie for centenary honours but Beijing trumps

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 January, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 January, 2011, 12:00am

Four cities on the mainland are competing for the honour of leading celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the Xinhai revolution - Wuhan , Guangzhou, Nanjing and Shanghai. Gaining the title would bring prestige and commercial benefits and attract thousands of visitors during the centenary year.

Leading the race is Wuhan, the city where troops of the Qing dynasty mutinied on October 10, 1911, and captured the palace of the provincial governor. It was the spark for the fire that brought down the dynasty.

The city started preparing for the anniversary in 2008 and is spending 20 billion yuan (HK$23.46 billion) on projects related - more or less - to it. They include a Xinhai revolution museum, tower and park, a cultural district, restoration of buildings connected to the rebellion, a 10-part television documentary, a four-volume history and real estate and commercial projects. The four-storey museum, costing 334 million yuan, is due for completion in April.

The city regards these projects as its equivalent of the World Expo in Shanghai and the Asian Games in Guangzhou; but scholars have questioned whether such enormous spending is justified, especially on property projects that have no relation to the anniversary.

'Is the government's intention to remember a revolution or start another one?' said one. Guangzhou also has a good claim to be the birthplace of the revolution, since many of Sun's comrades-in-arms were Cantonese and 130 of them staged a failed uprising there in April 1911 - 72 are buried in a cemetery on the city outskirts. The city government is spending 200 million yuan on a museum to the Xinhai revolution.

Nanjing argues that it was the city where Sun took the oath of office on January 1, 1912; he made it the capital of his new government and is buried there. In June last year, it unveiled in the city centre a statue of Sun; in August, it held a major seminar with 140 scholars from around the world on Nanjing's role in the history of Republican China.

For its part, Shanghai argues it was a centre of revolutionary activity - since its foreign concessions were off limits to the police of the Qing dynasty - and the place which organised the armies of Jiangsu and Zhejiang to unite and capture Nanjing for the new government in December 1911.

But, in the end, the central government refused to award the title of 'centenary capital' to one city, saying that the Xinhai revolution was too important an event to be limited to a single place. It said each city could celebrate the anniversary with appropriate events but that Beijing would be the most important venue.