Dr. Sun Yatsen (孙中山先生-1866-1925)

Courageous Statesman

Dr. Sun Yatsen is hailed as the father of modern China, and his courageous life story has been reported in many books and articles. This profile will not try to summarize that life but instead will focus on three episodes that portray his longtime faith in Jesus Christ.

His Conversion

Sun was born in a small village in Guangdong and given the name “Dixiang” (he who serves the god) to signify his mother’s reverence for the village deity. In 1879 his older brother brought him to Hawaii and enrolled him in a Christian school, where he developed a love for singing hymns and the habit of reading the Bible. His brother sent him back to China in 1882 after he asked for permission to be baptized. During a festival Sun defaced the village deity’s idol to demonstrate its impotence. For his shocking action, he was expelled from the village and went to Hong Kong.

Sun enrolled in a Christian school that required mastery of both English and Chinese. He studied the Chinese classics under Ou Fengchi (区风墀), a Chinese pastor. He also became friends with an American missionary, Dr. Charles R. Hager. Sun told Hager that he believed in Christ but had not been baptized. Hager discipled him for a time and baptized him in 1884. Hager wrote that Sun “immediately began to witness for Christ, and such was his earnestness that in a short time two of his friends accepted Christ. This was at time when few converts were made and when many feared to identify themselves with Christians.” Sun also accompanied Hager on a missionary journey to Macau and even took him to the home village from which he had recently been expelled.

His Consecration

Following in Dr. Hager’s steps, Sun became a medical doctor, but he was drawn to political activities after the shocking defeat of China in the 1894-95 war with Japan. While in London in 1896, Dr. Sun was kidnapped by the Qing Government and faced deportation and certain execution. God used this prison experience in a mighty way in Sun’s life, and he wrote to both of his Hong Kong mentors in the faith, Rev. Ou and Dr. Hager. To Rev. Ou he wrote, “While in prison I thought I should surely meet death and that I could never hope to live again...In those days of suffering I only beat my heart and repented and earnestly prayed. For six or seven days I prayed incessantly day and night. The more I prayed the more earnest I was in my payer. On the seventh day I felt suddenly comforted. I was absolutely without fear. The state of being comforted and feeling brave came to me unconsciously. This was the result of prayer. How fortunate I was to have received the Grace of God.” To Dr. Hager, Sun wrote: “I was saved by God…Now I believe in God more than ever…I owe everything to the great favor of God.”

His Commemoration

Dr. Sun died of liver cancer at age 58 in Beijing on March 12, 1925. Just before his death, he told his only son, “As a Christian I have wrestled with the devil for forty years. You should do likewise and believe in God.” At his family’s insistence, a Christian funeral was first held before the massive state funeral. H.H. Kung, Dr. Sun’s brother-in-law and later the Minister of Finance, recounted in his eulogy that the dying Dr. Sun had seized his hand and exclaimed, “You are a Christian and so am I. I wish to tell you something I have always felt which you will understand. Just as Christ was sent by God to the world, so also did God send me.”

  1. Final Quotation from Martin, Bernard. Strange Vigor. (William Heinemann Ltd, 1944) p. 65.
  2. Wilbur, C. Martin. Sun Yat-Sen. (Columbia University Press, 1976).
  3. Wong, J.Y. The Origins of an Heroic Image: Sun Yatsen in London 1896-1897. (Oxford University Press, 1986).
  4. Wu, John C.H. Sun Yat-sen: the Man and His Ideas. (Taipei Commercial Press, 1971).