The Star, Sunday June 16, 2006
link to international history
Khoo Salma Nasution
branch of the Tungminghui, Dr Sun Yat Sens political party,
was first established in 1907. This was followed by the Penang
Philomatic Union, a booklovers club and propaganda centre,
which also served as a cover for the revolutionary activities.
British authorities put a lid on the partys activities in
Singapore, its South-East Asian headquarters was transferred to
Penang. Dr Suns steadfast Penang supporters, such as Goh
Say Eng and Ooi Kim Kheng, were willing to back him through thick
an emergency general meeting of the South-East Asian Tungminghui
was convened at the headquarters in 120 Armenian Street. Eight
thousand Straits Dollars was raised in one night.
his wifes house, a grand four-storey building better known
today as Shih Chung School on Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah (Northam
Road), to assist in the fundraising.
Guangzhou Uprising became well known, people looked back at the
planning stage which took place in Penang and called it the The
after nine failed uprisings, Dr Sun called upon his South-East
Asian followers to support him one last time.
Uprising, which took place in the spring of 1911, was a spark
that burst into a fire. Athough that uprising was quickly quelled,
the fire of revolution under Dr Suns ideological leadership
had spread further afield and burned on in the imaginations of
the Chinese in and outside of China.
had been set in motion and the Manchu government collapsed with
the Wuchang Uprising in October that year. Dr Sun, who had fled
to Hawaii after the failed Guangzhou Uprising, returned
to China to be appointed the provisional president.
In fact Dr
Sun had several bases in Penang. The Penang Philomatic Society
had its original premises at 94 Datuk Keramat Road. When Dr Sun
spent six months in Penang in 1910, with his wife, his second
wife, his two daughters, and a dozen of his closest co-revolutionaries,
he stayed at a double-storey Jawi Peranakan bungalow at 400 Datuk
Keramat Road while his office was a double-storey terrace house
two doors away at No 404.
By this time,
the Tungminghui branch office had moved to 120 Armenian Street,
and was upgraded into the South-East Asian headquarters. It was
here that the Kwong Wah Jit Poh, one of the worlds oldest
Chinese newspapers today, was started.
What do all
these houses have in common? They were all found in areas where
the local community included Malays, Jawi Peranakan and Indian
Muslims. One possible reason is that Dr Suns revolutionaries
felt they could conduct their activities safely if their meeting
places were located in non-Chinese neighbourhoods.
Suns revolutionaries were Chinese, those who opposed him
were also Chinese the royalists and reformists who would
prefer to reform, rather than overthrow, the Manchu government.
It was the
Chinese conservatives who instigated the British authorities to
suppress the Tung Meng Hui in Singapore. They were to do
so again in Penang, causing Dr Sun to be banished from the British
colony in December 1910.
It is possible
to observe, even today, certain things about 120 Armenian Street.
It looks and feels like a Straits Chinese house, and it was, and
still is, located almost equi-distant from the Acheen Street Mosque
and the Kapitan Keling Mosque.
back lane was introduced in the 1920s, the back door of this house
led directly to Kampong Kolam and Kampong Kaka. If enemies were
to barge into the Tungminghui headquarters from the front, Dr
Suns supporters could easily slip out the back door and
lose their pursuers in the maze of alleyways criss-crossing the
Indian Muslim settlements.
survived of the various sites associated with Dr Sun Yat Sen?
His house at 400 Datuk Keramat Road and his office at No 404 have
long been demolished. The original Philomatic Union premises at
94 of the same road is sadly dilapidated and its future is uncertain.
On the other
hand, 120 Armenian Street has been preserved and restored; it
represents Penangs link to international history. The pictorial
exhibition on Dr Sun Yat Sen in Penang which hangs there now was
officiated by Tun Dr Mahathir, accompanied by Datuk Seri Abdullah
Badawi, (then Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister respectively)
in February 2001.
house was officially recognized by Hu Jintao, President of China
(then Vice-President), when he visited Penang in April 2002. This
was the first and only time a Malaysian site associated with Dr
Sun was officially recognised by the Chinese government.
potential of promoting the Dr Sun Yat Sen story in Penang has
hardly been realised. The Penang Philomatic Society, originally
formed by Dr Suns Penang supporters, is working to establish
a Dr Sun Yat Sen Museum at their double-storey heritage house
in Macalister Road.
or so sites associated with Dr Sun and his followers in Penang
could easily be linked together in a heritage trail, presented
through attractive maps and signage, as has been done in Hong
aspects of Dr Suns stay in Penang and Malaya might prove
fascinating to tourists and lovers of history. Dr Suns second
wife, Chen Cui Fen, helped to raise the two daughters by his first
wife, and was her constant companion.
a great deal of time in Penang, and even after the revolution
she returned to send the Sun daughters to Convent Light Street.
Chens role in the revolution will be dramatized in an upcoming
film on Dr Sun Yat Sen in Penang, which will begin shooting this