Playing up Sun Yat-sen's unseen side

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 December, 2011, 12:00am


Sun Yat-sen's elder brother may have had ulterior commercial motives in supporting the 1911 revolution. And Sun's first wife was miserable at home because of his prolonged absence.

These are some of the little-known details getting an airing by a local cultural group breathing life into the revolution's key players.

Hulu Culture's tours in Central focus on the importance of Hong Kong's role as the setting of the 1911 revolution.

The tour includes two short plays about the 'Father of the Nation' by members of the drama group Theatre Space. With a park and a playground providing an outdoor stage, five members in period costume tell their version of small though consequential events that led to the end of dynastic rule a century ago.

Sun's estranged first wife, Lu Muzhen, for example, could not accompany him on his revolutionary campaign because her feet were bound - and she could not bear his long absences from home. That's where Sun's concubine of two decades, Chen Cuifen, comes in. A staunch supporter of the revolution, Chen cooked and cared for Sun and his comrades while he was still married to Lu.

Giselle Poon Ying-ying, a tour group member, said: 'The performance made me feel like I had travelled back in time. Who would have thought that Sun's elder brother Sun Mei might have had ulterior commercial motives to support the revolution? We are only taught about how great he was, but this tries to show another perspective. The performance is actually quite objective because it shows the historical figures' strengths and weaknesses, like Sun's troubled married life.'

Nine-year-old history buff Catherine Chan Cheuk-tung was captivated by the tour, which she took part in with her mother. 'I was a little scared when he yelled,' Catherine said, referring to the part where Sun's elder brother yells at him for being too naive in his lofty revolutionary goals.

'The drama was very interesting. It is much better than learning history from a book. My school does not teach that much about the 1911 revolution, but I love Chinese history because it is so relevant to our lives.'

At one point, the actor playing Sun stands on a park bench to give a speech about his revolutionary ideals, encouraging young people to educate themselves through reading and maintaining an open mind. Tour members gather around, watching and listening intently - just as Hongkongers in 1911 would have done.

The 2 1/2-hour tour is lead by staff from Hulu Culture who take the public along the Sun Yat-sen Historical Trail. They offer insight into the lives of Sun and other revolutionaries such as Yeung Kui-wan, a friend of Sun's who was assassinated in Hong Kong in 1901 by a Qing government agent, and Tse Tsan-tai, a co-founder of the South China Morning Post.