Transpacific Reform and Revolution
The Chinese in North America, 1898-1918
Zhongping Chen



After the gold rushes erupted first in California in 1848 and then in British Columbia in 1858, successive waves of Chinese migrants arrived in North America. The construction of the Central Pacific Railroad in the American West from 1862 to 1869, the Canadian Pacific Railway from 1880 to 1885, and other North American railroads triggered new waves of migration from China to the United States and Canada. The racist agitations in California and British Columbia led the American and Canadian governments, respectively, to restrict immigration from China beginning in the early 1880s and pushed many Chinese migrants to move east. Yet the Chinese in the United States and Canada continued to disperse mostly on the Pacific Coast ranging from California to British Columbia, and their communitywide organizations in the two countries also developed first in San Francisco and Victoria, respectively.1 Thus, these early migrants had already established a base of institutional networks for the development of reformist and revolutionary associations across the transpacific Chinese diaspora after 1898.

The overwhelming majority of early Chinese migrants in the United States and Canada, together with the major leaders of their reformist and revolutionary movements, came from Guangdong Province north of Hong Kong.2 They utilized their transpacific networks, especially their local and provincial fellowship, for both migration and political movements. Thus, it is important to start network analysis of reform and revolution in North American Chinatowns with a quick look at the long-established transpacific channels for migrants between Guangdong and North America and their native-place connections with both reformist and revolutionary leaders.

Previous studies of the transpacific migration from Guangdong Province to the United States and Canada have often stressed that it resulted from “push” forces such as natural disasters, population pressure, sociopolitical unrest, and economic poverty in China, as well as “pull” forces in North America, such as gold rushes and employment and business opportunities.3 Yet Guangdong also distinguished itself from other provinces of China by its geographical proximity to Macao and Hong Kong, the two Western colonies that provided havens for illegal emigrants before Qing China fully repealed its anti-emigration laws—the dregs of its traditional closed-door policies—in 1899. Hong Kong particularly facilitated increasingly convenient trips across the Pacific through its development of relevant legal and shipping systems as well as migrant networks.4 Both colonies would provide political protection and pivotal links for reformist and revolutionary radicals in late Qing China and the Chinese diaspora (see Map 1).

A leading political reformer first in late Qing China and then in the Chinese diaspora, Kang Youwei was born in Nanhai County 南海县 adjoining Canton, the provincial capital of Guangdong. His family had produced Confucian scholars over thirteen generations and government officials over the recent three, but his reformism had a Western origin. Since 1757, Canton had been Qing China’s only port open to Western merchants for foreign trade and residence. After Britain defeated the Chinese empire in the first Opium War (1839−1842) and seized Hong Kong as a colony, five “treaty ports,” including Canton, were opened on China’s coast. Hong Kong’s nearness to Guangdong helped facilitate the local people to lead the first large wave of transpacific migration when the California gold rush began in 1848.5 Both the Western military challenges and cultural influences would stimulate Kang’s reformist thoughts and activities.

Kang Youwei’s home county, Nanhai, is centrally located in the populous and prosperous delta of the Pearl River, which flows through Canton and enters the South China Sea through its estuary between Hong Kong to the east and Macao to the west. The people of Nanhai and two nearby counties, Panyu 番禺 and Shunde 顺德, speak a near-standard form of Cantonese and constitute one of the largest local and dialectal groups, Sam-yup (Sanyi 三邑, three counties), among early Chinese migrants in both the United States and Canada.6 Their merchant leaders in Canada would provide the earliest help for Kang Youwei to launch his overseas reform in 1899, as is detailed in Chapters 1 and 2.

MAP 1. Pearl River Delta Region, 1915

Although Kang initially pursued a traditional career path from a Confucian scholar to an official in Qing China by taking the Confucianism-based civil service examinations, he also received Western cultural influence both through his visits to Hong Kong and the foreign settlements in Shanghai, and through his study of Chinese publications about the West. He even opened a private school in Canton to teach Western learnings to his students, such as Liang Qichao 梁启超 (1873−1929, see Figure 3 in Chapter 1), who would go on to become an influential reformist journalist. Kang finally passed the civil examinations at the national level and became a junior official in mid-1895, just after Qing China suffered disastrous failure in the Sino-Japanese War (1894−1895). The unprecedented national crisis prompted Kang to lead a reformist propaganda campaign and join the Qing government’s political reform in 1898. But the so-called Hundred Days’ Reform quickly ended with a coup of the conservative faction in the Qing court and forced Kang to take refuge abroad and seek resumption of the reformist movement overseas.7

Liang Qichao, Kang’s chief disciple and the most influential propagandist in their reformist movement at home and abroad, came from the coastal area southwest of Canton, the part of the Pearl River delta that included the county of Taishan 台山, named Xinning 新宁 before 1914, together with Xinhui 新会, Kaiping 开平, and Enping 恩平 counties. These four counties, especially Enping, were hillier and less fertile than the aforementioned three counties surrounding Canton. Their geographical proximity to the Portuguese colony of Macao, however, enabled local people to engage in foreign trade and illegal emigration up to the mid-nineteenth century. The natives of these four counties speak a distinctive Cantonese dialect and constituted the sizeable local and dialectal group, Sze-yup (Siyi 四邑, four counties), which also produced the largest number of migrants, principally laborers, to North America and Australia from the 1840s to the early twentieth century.8 They were particularly active supporters of Liang Qichao’s overseas reformist activities, in no small part because he was a native of Xinhui County and a member of their local and dialectal group.9

The major revolutionary leader, Sun Yat-sen, was also a native of Guangdong Province, born to a poor peasant family in Xiangshan County 香山县 on the southern tip of the Pearl River delta. This county was renamed Zhongshan County 中山县 in 1925 after one of Sun’s other names. Its residents were mostly immigrants from other places or their descendants, and thus spoke variants of Cantonese and other dialects. Xiangshan’s adjacency to Macao led to the natives of the county forming the majority of residents in the Portuguese colony and also to engage in illegal emigration overseas before the mid-nineteenth century. Many people from this county, including Sun Yat-sen’s elder brother, moved to the Hawaiian Islands and formed the Chinese immigrant majority there by the late nineteenth century. Sun both benefited from the improvement of his family fortune as a child owing to his brother’s business success in Hawai‘i, and also joined him there as a thirteen-year-old young immigrant in 1879.10

Thereafter, Sun Yat-sen received a Western education first in Honolulu and then in Hong Kong, including training as a doctor in Western medicine. He even converted to Christianity in the British colony in 1884. But his political adventures started with his submission of a series of petitions for reforms and self-recommendations to the Qing reformist officials, ranging from a retired diplomat in his home county of Xiangshan in 1890 to officials in Shanghai, and finally to Li Hongzhang 李鸿章 (1823–1901), the governor-general of Zhili Province 直隶省, in June 1894. Sun’s failure in these attempts, including his self-recommendations for an official appointment, and his disenchantment in the reform efforts of the Qing government and its unsuccessful war with Japan led to his return to Honolulu. There he established his first anti-Qing revolutionary organization in November 1894, approximately eighteen years before his rise as the first provisional president of the Republic of China in 1912.11

Both Kang Youwei and Sun Yat-sen were influenced by Western culture and ultimately pursued reformist solutions to the national crises of late Qing China up to the early 1890s, but Sun turned to more radical anti-Qing revolution in part because of his personal failure to enter the Qing government and push for reforms from inside. After Liang Qichao became a political exile overseas following the failure of the 1898 Reform, he and some radical students of Kang Youwei would briefly pursue an alliance with Sun for a republican revolution against the Qing dynasty, but they would eventually return to the seemingly promising overseas Chinese reform movement under the leadership of their mentor.12 Evidently, personal pursuits and interpersonal ties such as teacher-student bonds at least partly influenced the political choices of these politicians hailing from the same province.

Chinese scholars from the 1930s have also identified Sun Yat-sen with the Hakka (Kejia 客家, guest people), another ethnic group of people in Guangdong Province and southern China, who were so named for the migration of their ancestors or themselves to the areas around Canton. But recent studies have questioned this assertion regarding Sun’s Hakka identity.13 There is a similar claim about the Hakka identity of Kang Youwei and Liang Qichao, though it lacks supportive evidence.14 Nonetheless, this ethnic group had undoubtedly maintained a tradition of mobility at home and abroad. In Guangdong, the Hakka people concentrated in Jiaying Department 嘉应州 (renamed Mei County 梅县 in 1912), the mountainous area northeast of Canton. They had long pursued economic opportunities by migrating from such barren highlands in southern China to coastal areas, including the Pearl River delta, and farther to Taiwan and Southeast Asia by the mid-nineteenth century. In North America, the Hakka people from Guangdong constituted only a minority among the Chinese migrants.15

Predictably, most Chinese migrants in North America formed close ties with reformist and revolutionary leaders, including Kang Youwei, Liang Qichao, and Sun Yat-sen, because they hailed largely from the same three local or dialectal groups in eight counties of Guangdong Province. One report on Chinese migrants in the United States from the community leaders of San Francisco’s Chinatown in 1876 provided information about their rough proportions in different local and dialectal associations: 7.7 percent from the Sam-yup dialectal group, or the three counties around Canton and nearby counties; another 7.7 percent from Xiangshan and neighboring counties; 80.7 percent from the Sze-yup dialectal group, or the four counties, plus nearby counties; and 2.6 percent from the Hakka group. The remaining 1.3 percent of migrants did not join any of these associations. Two other estimates of the Chinese migrants in the United States in 1878 and 1888 showed roughly similar proportions of migrants in these local and dialectal groups.16 A more reliable study of data on Chinese migrants in Canada from the early 1880s reports that 23.3 percent were from the Sam-yup dialectal group of the three counties, 63.6 percent from the Sze-yup dialectal group of the four counties, only 1.6 percent from Xiangshan (Zhongshan) County, and the remaining 11.5 percent from other counties of Guangdong Province.17

Kang Youwei and Sun Yat-sen, respectively, led reformist and revolutionary movements among the Chinese in North America who were mostly Cantonese speakers from the eight counties near Canton and shared a close local fellowship. Even the smaller number of Hakkas and the migrants from other counties of Guangdong were considered their fellow provincials. However, these predominantly Cantonese migrants had long developed their interrelations beyond interpersonal ties, which is the focus of conventional network analysis. Their “traditional institutions,” such as families, native-place organizations, and secret fraternal societies, constituted “the nodes in interlinked networks” for their global migration.18 Based on my previous research on modern China,19 this book uses the concept of “associational network” to analyze both reformist and revolutionary associations with modern features, their intertwined interpersonal and institutional relations, as well as their interactions with other sociopolitical forces in North American Chinatowns and the transpacific Chinese diaspora.

Certainly, these associations developed on the basis of the preexisting migrant networks of families, native-place organizations, and other “traditional institutions,” as well as their predominantly primordial kinship, local fellowship, and other personal relationships. Merchant leaders of migrants from Guangdong Province built transpacific family networks for business and political activities from the beginning. In September 1855, eleven Chinese business establishments in San Francisco issued a public appeal to white Americans for friendship in the face of rampant racism.20 Hop Kee & Co. (Hejihao 合记号), owned by Loo Chock Fan (Lu Zhuofan 卢卓凡) and his younger brother from Guangdong Province, led this petition. After the gold rush began in British Columbia in 1858, the Loo brothers opened Kwong Lee & Co. (Guanglihao 广利号) in Victoria, which quickly became the headquarters of the transpacific family business networks. In connection with Hop Kee & Co. in San Francisco, Kwong Lee & Co. had several branches across British Columbia and sister companies in Hong Kong and Canton. It also played a leading role in the local Chinese protests against racial discrimination until its decline during the Loo brothers’ court battle with each other in the late 1880s.21

The multifamily business partnerships that sprang from Guangdong Province also supplied the Chinese laborers for the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway in British Columbia from 1880 to 1885. The four major Chinese labor contractors of the railway came from the same Li lineage in Shuilou Township (Shuilouxiang 水楼乡), Taishan County, and they used their respective companies in San Francisco, Hong Kong, and Victoria for the recruitment, transportation, and management of railroad workers from Guangdong Province. Three of the four labor contractors from the Li lineage, together with merchant leaders of Victoria’s Chinatown, later led a legal battle against the anti-Chinese laws of the British Columbia provincial government in 1884, and also established their communitywide organization there.22

The first North American Chinese communitywide organization grew out of a federation of dialectal and native-place associations in San Francisco’s Chinatown, the so-called Six Companies that operated from the 1850s. It further evolved into the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association of San Francisco (Jinshan Zhonghua zonghuiguan 金山中华总会馆) in 1882. Similar organizations also appeared in the Chinatowns of New York, Honolulu, and Portland, Oregon, by the 1880s.23 In Victoria, the merchant leaders of the local Chinatown—including Loo Chock Fan of Kwong Lee & Co. and the Canadian Pacific Railway’s three labor contractors from the Li lineage—formed the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association (Zhonghua huiguan 中华会馆, CCBA hereafter) in 1884, which became the representative of all migrants from China to Canada for decades.24

The use of the term “Zhonghua” or “Chinese” in CCBA’s bilingual title has been regarded as an indication of the change from a narrow, native-place identity to a national identity among its predominantly Cantonese members from Guangdong Province.25 These organizations appeared in American and Canadian Chinatowns from the early 1880s as the leading forces of community reforms that sought to thwart mounting racism through the internal removal of social vices and charitable care of poor and helpless migrants from China. Indeed, the birth of the CCBA in San Francisco and its appearance in Victoria coincided with the enactment of Chinese exclusion acts in the United States beginning in 1882 and the introduction of several anti-Chinese bills in British Columbia in 1884. These provincial initiatives were mostly aborted later for their violation of the Canadian constitution, but politicians in British Columbia still pushed the Canadian government to impose a $50 (CAD) head tax on each immigrant from China in 1885.26

These new communitywide organizations in American and Canadian Chinatowns had already begun community reforms before the leaders of Victoria CCBA joined Kang Youwei in overseas Chinese political reform in 1899, which is detailed in Chapter 2. Nonetheless, the CCBAs were small in number, and the family business establishments or dialectal and native-place associations in their respective Chinatowns still lacked institutional interrelations. Similarly, secret societies among the Chinese communities in North America, which predominantly originated from the same Hong Fraternal Society (Hongmen 洪门) in China, lacked institutional unity and engaged repeatedly in the notorious “tong wars” or factional fights with each other from their beginnings in California in the 1850s.27

The secret societies would engage in both reform and revolution in the transpacific Chinese diaspora, but the origins of the Hong Fraternal Society in China and its North America order are still controversial.28 Its early lodges or local branches appeared in San Francisco and Sacramento in 1854,29 and in Victoria and the gold-mining town of Quesnel Mouth (Quesnelle Mouth or Quesnelle before 1900; City of Quesnel now) in the Cariboo region of British Columbia by the 1870s.30 They used the same title as their predecessors in Guangdong Province, Hongshuntang 洪顺堂 (Society of the Hong Obedience).31 A larger order of the Hong Fraternal Society of North American origin—Chee Kung Tong (Zhigongtang 致公堂, Active Justice Society, CKT hereafter)—appeared in San Francisco’s Chinatown and registered with the State of California under an alternative name, California Chinese Free Mason Society, in 1879.32

A self-publication of the Chinese Freemasons in Canada claims that the Canadian CKT developed its earliest lodges in British Columbia in 1876, as do some previous studies of the issue. But such claims seem to lack supporting evidence or include self-contradiction and misunderstanding of the Canadian CKT’s rare documents from the Cariboo region in 1882.33 Most likely is that the CKT or the Chinese Freemasons spread from California to British Columbia through the Chinese workers who came from San Francisco to build the Canadian Pacific Railway in the early 1880s. Its lodges were thus developed successively in Victoria, along the Canadian Pacific Railway in British Columbia, and farther north in the Cariboo region and other areas of Canada.34

Similar to the transpacific family businesses and communitywide organizations based in San Francisco and Victoria, the CKT lodges and other orders of the Hong Fraternal Society in both the United States and Canada included only fellow provincials, even specific groups of clansmen, local fellows, and dialectal speakers from Guangdong. The institutional connections among the different families, community organizations, and fraternal secret societies were sporadic or temporary beyond a specific Chinatown, as were their interactions with homeland and hostland politics. However, their internal and external relations would undergo profound change through engagement in the North American Chinese reforms and revolutionary movements and associations.

From a network perspective, the preexisting transnational family companies, communitywide organizations, and even secret societies in North American Chinatowns not only laid a foundation but also set precedents for the future reformist and revolutionary associations to use both interpersonal and institutional ties in their development. But these political associations would distinguish themselves by their numerous chapters, formal institutional structure, broad network expansion into diverse overseas Chinese communities beyond the Cantonese-dominated Chinatowns in North America, and intensive interactions with both homeland politics and hostland cultures in the transpacific context. The different levels of institutionalization, expansion, and diversification of the political parties under the leadership of Kang Youwei or Sun Yat-sen, as well as their competition and other forms of interaction with each other and with other sociopolitical forces, would significantly determine the fate of their respective political movements.

This book adopts such a new network perspective in its analysis of the reform and revolution among the predominantly Cantonese migrants in North America, as well as their political associations and influences in the transpacific Chinese diaspora from 1898 to 1918, although the reformers suffered fatal failures from 1909, especially after the Republican Revolution around 1911. The first three chapters of the book focus on the North American trips of Kang Youwei, Sun Yat-sen, and other politicians in connection with the political mobilization, organizational development, and transpacific expansion of the Chinese reform and revolution in the United States and Canada. The fourth chapter covers the period after the 1911 Revolution created the Republic of China, and it focuses more on the institutional development of Sun’s revolutionary parties and that of his rival forces, the former reformers and the Chinese Freemasons, in their mutual competition for overseas Chinese support with a common slogan to protect the fragile republic. As a whole, the book examines the origins, interrelations, and influences of Chinese reform and revolution in North America and the transpacific diaspora for two decades.

Chapter 1 starts with Kang Youwei’s involvement in the short-lived political reform of the Qing government in 1898 and his subsequent initiation the following year of radical reform of both China and Chinatowns through interactions with the Western political systems and overseas Chinese migrants in North America. It stresses his collaboration with merchant leaders of Canadian Chinatowns to launch a political reform and reformist association with patriotic and antiracism slogans. He then used his Guangdong provincial contacts in Canada and the United States as well as his former students and second daughter to expand this reformist association and its movements, including its women’s branches and their feminist activities, to Canadian and American Chinatowns, as well as to the Chinese communities across the Pacific Rim.

Subsequently, Chapter 2 follows Kang Youwei’s consecutive trips from Canada to the United States and Mexico from 1904 to 1906 and the simultaneous expansion of his reformist association through its transpacific mobilization against American racism, its promotion of constitutional reform in China, and its development of a transnational business empire. While this reformist association rapidly expanded through interpersonal and institutional relations, the pursuit of individual, familial, and even factional interests by its leaders, including Kang himself, as well as their personal and cliquish clashes also contributed to its transpacific decline by 1909.

Chapter 3 explores the transpacific mobility of Sun Yat-sen and his revolutionary fellows in their efforts to use personal connections with Chinese Freemasons and Christians to develop their own political associations for anti-Qing revolution in American and Canadian Chinatowns before and after 1909. Their successes in North American Chinatowns and in China’s Republican Revolution around 1911 relied not only on their combination of Western-originated republicanism with ethnic Chinese nationalism against the Manchu rulers of the Qing dynasty, but also on their assimilation of personnel, political strategies, and institutional resources from Kang Youwei’s reformist camp.

Chapter 4 concentrates on the development of Chinese political parties in North America as highly institutionalized and politicized networks. It goes beyond the 1911 watershed in the Chinese Republican Revolution of most previous studies and further examines revolutionary struggles led by Sun Yat-sen for the fragile Republic of China and his partisans’ competition with Kang Youwei’s followers and the Chinese Freemasons in North America. This chapter attributes the hegemonic rise of Sun’s party in North American Chinatowns and in future China to its increasing institutionalization and expansion under centralized leadership and other political strategies. It also discusses the internal strife over the centralization of leadership in Sun’s parties and the radical tendency among his partisans to deal with political opponents with violence, including assassinations.

Both network analysis and documentary research in this book reveal the origins and dynamics of North American Chinese reform and revolution from the interactions of their political leaders with migrant activists. The book challenges previous studies that often ascribe the origins of such overseas Chinese political movements and organizations solely to the transnationally itinerant agitators, such as Kang Youwei and Sun Yatsen,35 while neglecting these movements’ reactions to antiracism and other political initiatives of the migrant populace. The book also provides a comprehensive examination of the myriad interactions between diasporic reformers and revolutionaries beyond the infighting stressed by other studies.36 In particular, this research reveals the historic influence of both types of political movements on the transpacific Chinese diaspora, mainly on the diaspora’s unprecedented politicization and ethnic connectivity, its deep involvement in homeland politics, and its relations with North American hostlands beyond their racial tension. Finally, the book presents an argument about a network revolution in the transpacific Chinese diaspora on the basis of documentary analysis of the institutionalization, expansion, and diversification of reformist and revolutionary associations as well as their interactions with each other and with other sociopolitical forces across the Pacific Rim.

This book focuses mainly on reform and revolution in the Chinese communities along the western coast of North America, ranging from California to British Columbia (see Map 2). But it also examines the interactions of these movements with politics of modern China and other overseas Chinese communities in the Pacific Rim, as well as the political cultures of the West, especially the United States and Canada. It crosses the static borders of the different nations and disciplinary fields within their nation-state frameworks, such as the history of modern China versus Chinese American or Chinese Canadian studies. Its analytical scope often expands flexibly to follow the transpacific mobility of political leaders and migrant activists as well as their relational expansion to different cities in the Pacific Rim, such as Canton, Shanghai, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Honolulu, San Francisco, Victoria, and Vancouver.

Pacific Canada, including the cities of Victoria and Vancouver, will receive special attention in this book because it served as a central arena of Chinese reforms and revolutionary movements in North America and the Pacific Rim between 1898 and 1918, but has long been neglected in studies of overseas Chinese politics. This book complements and also connects previous studies of overseas Chinese reform and revolutionary movements in Japan,37 Southeast Asia,38 and the United States.39 Its network analysis draws from and also links up existing accounts of such overseas Chinese politics in these various regions. This study thus distinguishes itself from previous works on the local history of individual Chinatowns, which often focus on the so-called “forbidden city within Victoria”40 or the racialized “enclave of Chinese settlement” in Vancouver during the racist era.41 By contrast, my research stresses the interrelations among these Chinatowns and their interactions with China and with American and Canadian societies through reformist and revolutionary movements from the local to the transpacific level.

MAP 2. Western Regions of North America, ca. 1910

This panoramic view of the broad connections of local Chinatowns in Pacific Canada, especially those in Victoria and Vancouver, enriches recent scholarship on transpacific Chinese migration and communities based in Hong Kong, San Francisco, and other cities in the Pacific Rim.42 In this sense, this work goes beyond the conventional local history that has long been limited to “the study of individuals and groups interacting within a specific locality in the past.”43 Instead, my network analysis of the Chinese reform and revolution in North America as well as their transpacific connections confirms that local history should be local-centered rather than a locally contained historical study so as to reveal its links in a broader context.44 In other words, local history can center itself on a specific locality but also link itself with broader historical movements beyond the locally confined milieu.

From a network perspective, Chinese reform and revolution in North America developed through interpersonal and institutional links across the transpacific world in space as well as in time. While this study starts its historical narrative from Kang Youwei’s engagement in the 1898 Reform in Qing China and in overseas Chinese political reforms thereafter, it also reaches back to an earlier period to trace Kang’s use of personal and associational networks to mobilize reforms. Similarly, discussion of Sun Yatsen’s leadership in the Republican Revolution across the Pacific, particularly in North America, looks back upon his 1894 initiation of a revolutionary party in Honolulu and formation of the party’s first North American chapter before 1898. The deep-rooted analysis goes beyond the focus of other research on Sun’s leadership of the 1911 Revolution by following his continuing struggle for the Republic of China until he and his followers turned to the militant fight for a single-party state around 1918. The book ends with the case study of Tang Hualong’s assassination in 1918 and its relationship to the new partisan politics and related political violence thereafter.

While the political activities and transpacific mobility of Kang Youwei, Sun Yat-sen, and other elite politicians are a prominent focal point in the book, especially its first three chapters, their respective movements did not necessarily promote Chinese migration to North America between 1898 and 1918. According to available demographic data, the Chinese population in the United States decreased from 89,863 in 1900 to 61,639 in 1920,45 but it increased from 17,312 to 39,598 in Canada between 1901 and 1921.46 This demographic disparity resulted mainly from the imposition of Chinese exclusion acts in the United States beginning in 1882, while Canada imposed merely a head tax on migrants from China from 1885 until 1923, when it followed the American path.47 The contrasting policies toward Chinese immigration in the United States and Canada help explain why most reformist and revolutionary leaders successfully launched their political movements first in Canada and then in the United States, although Sun Yat-sen’s use of his Hawaiian connections aided his North American travels to some extent.48

In order to examine the political history of the Chinese diaspora from the transpacific down to the local, familial, and personal levels, this book sifts through extremely rich and diverse sources ranging from the personal collections of leading reformers and revolutionaries and family documents of merchant leaders in North American Chinatowns, to English and Chinese newspapers as well as archives of various Chinese organizations and governments of China, Canada, and the United States. From 1898 to 1918, Chinese reformist and revolutionary organizations in North America left unusually rich documents. These sources not only provide a solid documentary foundation for this book, but also enable it to correct oral history errors or other erroneous accounts in the self-publications and academic works on these Chinese sociopolitical organizations.


1. Shih-shan Henry Tsai, The Chinese Experience in America (Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1986), 10−32, 45−53, 62−67; Edgar Wickberg et al., From China to Canada: A History of the Chinese Communities in Canada (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1982), 13−27, 30−63, 301.

2. In Lynn Pan, The Encyclopedia of the Chinese Overseas (Singapore: Chinese Heritage Center, 1999), 36, it indicates that 99 percent of Chinese migrants to the Americas were from Guangdong Province by 1957. For the Cantonese dominance among the Chinese migrants across the Pacific from the mid-nineteenth to the late twentieth century, see also Henry Yu, “Mountains of Gold: Canada, North America, and the Cantonese Pacific,” in Routledge Handbook of the Chinese Diaspora, ed. Tan Chee-beng (London: Routledge, 2013), 108−21.

3. Sue Fawn Chung, In Pursuit of Gold: Chinese American Miners and Merchants in the American West (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2011), 1−5, 10−13; Wickberg et al., From China to Canada, 6−9.

4. Wu Jianxiong 吴剑雄, “Cong haijin dao huqiao: Qingdai dui chuguo yimin zhengce de yanbian” 从海禁到护侨—清代对出国移民政策的演变 [From prohibition of maritime activities to protection of overseas Chinese: The change in Qing China’s policies toward emigration], in Haiwai yimin yu Huaren shehui 海外移民与华人社会 [Overseas Chinese emigrants and their societies] (Taibei: Yunchen wenhua shiye gufen youxian gongsi, 1993), 19−39; Elizabeth Sinn, Pacific Crossing: California Gold, Chinese Migration, and the Making of Hong Kong (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2013), 43−136.

5. Kang Youwei 康有为, Kang Nanhai zibian nianpu 康南海自编年谱 [The chronological autobiography of Kang Youwei], in Kang Nanhai zibian nianpu: Waierzhong 康南海自编年谱: 外二种 [The chronological autobiography of Kang Youwei: With two supplements], ed. Lou Yulie 楼宇烈 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1992), 1−5; Him Mark Lai, “The Sanyi (Sam Yup) Community in America,” in Becoming Chinese American: A History of Communities and Institutions (Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press, 2004), 78−81, 86−87; Sinn, Pacific Crossing, 48.

6. Li Xinkui 李新魁, Guangdong de fangyan 广东的方言 (Dialects in Guangdong Province) (Guangzhou: Guangdong renmin chubanshe, 1994), 28; Sinn, Pacific Crossing, 48; Chuen-yan David Lai, “Home County and Clan Origins of Overseas Chinese in Canada in the Early 1880,” BC Studies 27 (1975): 4, 6.

7. Kang Youwei, Kang Nanhai zibian nianpu, 5−6, 9−12, 19−20, 25−32, 36−68.

8. Mei Weiqiang 梅伟强 and Zhang Guoxiong 张国雄, eds. Wuyi Huaqiao Huaren shi 五邑华侨华人史 [A history of the overseas Chinese sojourners and settlers from five counties] (Guangzhou: Guangdong gaodeng jiaoyu chubanshe, 2001), 2−10, 18−26, 36−39, 74−76, 79, 209; Li Xinkui, Guangdong de fangyan, 27. Because of changes in the administrative division of Guangdong Province beginning in 1983, Mei and Zhang’s work (pp. 3−4) adds Heshan County 鹤山县 to the four counties and calls them the “five counties” (Wuyi 五邑) but concedes that the term “four counties” was the most popular one in local historical records.

9. Ding Wenjiang 丁文江 and Zhao Fengtian 赵丰田, Liang Qichao nianpu changbian 梁启超年谱长编 [A detailed chronological biography of Liang Qichao] (Shanghai: Shiji chuban jituan and Shanghai renmin chubanshe, 2009), 170.

10. Huang Yuhe 黄宇和, Sanshisui qiande Sun Zhongshan: Cuiheng, Tandao, Xianggang 三十岁前的孙中山—翠亨、 檀岛、 香港 [Sun Yat-sen before thirty years old: Cuiheng village, Hawaiian Islands, and Hong Kong] (Hong Kong: Zhonghua shuju, 2011), 116, 130−36, 174; Ye Xian’en 叶显恩, “Xiangshan yimin Xiaweiyi de lishi kaocha” 香山移民夏威夷的历史考察 [A historical examination of migration from Xiangshan County to Hawai‘i], in Xiangshan wenhua 香山文化 [Xiangshan culture], ed. Wang Yuanming 王远明 (Guangzhou: Guangdong renmin chubanshe, 2006), 91−104; Sinn, Pacific Crossing, 48−49; Li Xinkui, Guangdong de fangyan, 115−16, 452, 512−19. For Sun’s multiple names, see the cited book by Huang (pp. 130–32).

11. Huang Yuhe, Sanshisui qiande Sun Zhongshan, 194−98, 226, 263, 283, 330, 506−10, 520−28; 539−42; Clarence Elmer Glick, Sojourners and Settlers: Chinese Migrants in Hawaii (Honolulu: University Press of Hawaii, 1980), 238, 274−76.

12. Ding and Zhao, Liang Qichao nianpu changbian, 119−25, 208–10, 214−15.

13. Huang Yuhe, Sanshisui qiande Sun Zhongshan, 13−65, 76−113; Sow-Theng Leong, Migration and Ethnicity in Chinese History: Hakkas, Pengmin, and Their Neighbors (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1997), 32−33, 85, 189n7.

14. Qiu Quanzheng 丘权政, Kejia yuanliu yu wenhua yanjiu 客家源流与文化研究 [A study on the origins of the Hakka people and their culture] (Beijing: Zhongguo Huaqiao chubanshe, 1999), 3–6. Qiu’s book makes this claim but does not cite any sources as supportive evidence. One piece of counterevidence against the claim is Kang’s derogatory comment on the origin of the Hakka ethnic group. He once stated that “the Hakka people in southern China were from the barbarian race of the three-branch Miao minority.” See Kang Youwei 康有为, “Jiaoxue tongyi” 教学通议 [A general discussion about teaching], Zhongguo wenhua jikan 中国文化研究集刊 [Collected papers on Chinese culture] 3 (1986): 409.

15. Leong, Migration and Ethnicity in Chinese History, 33, 43–60, 64, 70, 75–76, 127; Sinn, Pacific Crossing, 49.

16. Liu Boji 刘伯骥, Meiguo Huaqiao shi 美国华侨史 [A history of the Chinese in the United States of America] (Taibei: Xingzhengyuan qiaowu weiyuanhui, 1976), 169−72.

17. David Lai, “Home County and Clan Origins of Overseas Chinese in Canada in the Early 1880s,” 6.

18. McKeown, Chinese Migrant Networks and Cultural Change, 20.

19. Zhongping Chen, Modern China’s Network Revolution, 7.

20. Sacramento Daily Record-Union, September 12, 1855.

21. David Chuenyan Lai, Chinese Community Leadership: Case Study of Victoria in Canada (Singapore: World Scientific Publishing, 2010), 38, 53−54; Tzu-I Chung, “Kwong Lee & Company and Early Trans-Pacific Trade: From Canton, Hong Kong, to Victoria and Barkerville,” BC Studies 185 (2015): 143−47.

22. Zhongping Chen, “Chinese Labor Contractors and Laborers of the Canadian Pacific Railway, 1880–1885,” Pacific Northwest Quarterly 110, no. 1 (2018/2019), 20−23, 28−29. Today, Shuilou Township is called Shuilou Village (Shuiloucun 水楼村).

23. Yucheng Qin, The Diplomacy of Nationalism: The Six Companies and China’s Policy toward Exclusion (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2009), 44−45, 103.

24. David Lai, Chinese Community Leadership, 27−38, 65−89; Zhongping Chen, “Chinese Labor Contractors and Laborers of the Canadian Pacific Railway,” 28.

25. Qin, The Diplomacy of Nationalism, 54−55; Timothy J. Stanley, “‘Chinamen, Wherever We Go’: Chinese Nationalism and Guangdong Merchants in British Columbia, 1871−1911,” Canadian Historical Review 77, no. 4 (1996): 489−94.

26. Tsai, The Chinese Experience in America, 62−66; Qin, The Diplomacy of Nationalism, 103–105; David Lai, Chinese Community Leadership, 19, 27−37; Patricia E. Roy, A White Man’s Province: British Columbia Politicians and Chinese and Japanese Immigrants, 1858–1914 (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1989), 54−61.

27. Tsai, The Chinese Experience in America, 51−55.

28. Dian H. Murray and Qin Baoqi, The Origins of the Tiandihui: The Chinese Triads in Legend and History (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1994), 89–150; Sue Fawn Chung, “The Zhigongtang in the United States, 1860–1949,” in Empire, Nation, and Beyond: Chinese History in Late Imperial and Modern Times, a Festschrift in Honor of Frederic Wakeman, ed. Joseph W. Esherick, Wen-hsin Yeh, and Madeleine Zelin (Berkeley: Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, 2006), 234.

29. Daily Alta California, January 5, 1854; Daily California Chronicle, January 30, 1854.

30. Colonist, May 2, 1871, January 21, 1877, and January 5, 1879; Stanford M. Lyman, W. E. Willmott, and Berching Ho, “Rules of a Chinese Secret Society in British Columbia,” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 27, no. 3 (1964): 536, plates 3 and 5.

31. Liu Boji, Meiguo Huaqiao shi, 418–19; Yingying Chen, “In the Colony of Tang: Historical Archaeology of Chinese Communities in the North Cariboo District, British Columbia, 1860s–1940s” (PhD diss., Simon Fraser University, 2002), 427–28.

32. The San Francisco Directory for the Year Commencing April 1879 (San Francisco: Francis, Valentine & Co., 1879), 932; California Chinese Freemason, Wuzhou Zhigong Zongtang geming lishi tulu: 170 zounian jinian tekan, 1848–2018 五洲致公总堂革命历史图录: 170 周年纪念特刊, 1848–2018 [A collection of pictures on the revolutionary history of the headquarters of the Active Justice Society across five continents, 1848–2018: A special issue in commemoration of the 170th anniversary] (n.p., n.d.), 37. “California Chinese Freemason” is listed on the cover of this source as its institutional author. This self-publication of the California Chinese Freemasons claims that this secret society first appeared in San Francisco around 1848 but left no historical documents. For other claims about the CKT’s origin from San Francisco in 1863 or from the Rocky Mountain mining fields around that time, see Tsai, The Chinese Experience in America, 52–53.

33. Jian Jianping 简建平, Zhongguo Hongmen zai Jianada 中国洪门在加拿大 [The Chinese Freemasons in Canada] (Vancouver: Zhongguo Hongmen Minzhidang zhu Jianada zongzhibu, 1989), 13; Li Quan’en (David Chuenyan Lai) 黎全恩, Hongmen ji Jianada Hongmen shilun 洪门及加拿大洪门史论 [The Hong Fraternal Society and its history in Canada] (Hong Kong: Shangwu yinshuguan, 2015), 78, 83, 87–88, 93–95, 99; Wickberg et al., From China to Canada, 30–31. Jian’s book is the Canadian CKT’s self-publication, and the English translation of its title is original. For critiques of the baseless claim about the CKT’s origin in Canada by Jian’s book, self-contradiction in Li’s work, and misunderstanding of the Canadian CKT’s document from 1882 by Wickberg and his collaborators, see Zhongping Chen, “Vancouver Island and the Chinese Diaspora in the Transpacific World,” BC Studies 204 (2019/2020), 58–59, especially its detailed explanatory notes on the two pages.

34. Zhongping Chen, “The Construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway and the Transpacific Chinese Diaspora, 1880–1885,” in The Chinese and the Iron Road: Building the Transcontinental Railroad, ed. Gordon H. Chang, Shelley Fishkin, et al. (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2019), 303–304; Zhongping Chen, “Vancouver Island and the Chinese Diaspora in the Transpacific World,” 59.

35. L. Eve Armentrout Ma, Revolutionaries, Monarchists, and Chinatowns: Chinese Politics in the Americas and the 1911 Revolution (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1990), 45; Harold Z. Schiffrin, Sun Yat-sen and the Origins of the Chinese Revolution (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1968), 4–9.

36. For a major example of these previous studies, see L. Ma, Revolutionaries, Monarchists, and Chinatowns. Ma’s book evolved from her doctoral thesis on such political competition; see L. Eve McIver Ballard Armentrout-Ma, “Chinese Politics in the Western Hemisphere, 1893–1911: Rivalry between Reformers and Revolutionaries in the Americas” (PhD diss., University of California at Davis, 1977). For Chinese publications with similar arguments, see Zhang Yufa 张玉法, Qingji de geming tuanti 清季的革命团体 [Revolutionary organizations in the late Qing period] (Beijing: Beijing daxue chubanshe, 2011), 274–97; Zhang Kaiyuan 章开沅 and Lin Zengping 林增平, eds., Xinhai geming shi 辛亥革命史 [History of the 1911 Revolution] (Shanghai: Dongfang chuban zhongxin, 2010), vol. 2, 534–82.

37. For two examples, see Marius B. Jansen, The Japanese and Sun Yat-sen (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1954); Li Jikui 李吉奎, Sun Zhongshan yu Riben 孙中山与日本 [Sun Yat-sen and Japan] (Guangzhou: Guangdongsheng renmin chubanshe, 1996).

38. In regard with this region, the most authoritative work on this subject remains Yen Ching Hwang, The Overseas Chinese and the 1911 Revolution (Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, 1976).

39. L. Ma, Revolutionaries, Monarchists, and Chinatowns; Gao Weinong 高伟浓, Ershi shiji chu Kang Youwei Baohuanghui zai Meiguo Huaqiao shehui zhong de huodong 二十世纪初康有为保皇会在美国华侨社会中的活动 [The activities of Kang Youwei and the Chinese Empire Reform Association among the Chinese in the United States during the early twentieth century] (Beijing: Xueyuan chubanshe, 2009); Shih-shan Henry Tsai, China and the Overseas Chinese in the United States, 1868–1911 (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1983).

40. David Chuenyan Lai, The Forbidden City within Victoria: Myth, Symbol and Streetscape of Canada’s Earliest Chinatown (Victoria, BC: Orca Book Publishers, 1991).

41. Kay J. Anderson, Vancouver’s Chinatown: Racial Discourse in Canada, 1875–1980 (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1991), 4.

42. Yong Chen, Chinese San Francisco, 1850–1943: A Trans-Pacific Community (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2002); Sinn, Pacific Crossing.

43. Lyle Dick, “2013 Canadian Historical Association Presidential Address: On Local History and Local Historical Knowledge,” Journal of the Canadian Historical Association 24, no. 1 (2013): 5.

44. Chen Zhongping 陈忠平, “Weiduoliya, Wengehua yu haineiwai Huaren de gailiang he geming, 1899–1911” 维多利亚、 温哥华与海内外华人的改良和革命, 1899–1911 [Victoria, Vancouver, and Chinese reforms and revolutionary movements at home and abroad, 1899–1911], Shehui kexue zhanxian 社会科学战线 [Frontiers of social sciences] 11 (2017): 96; Zhongping Chen, “Vancouver Island and the Chinese Diaspora in the Transpacific World,” 65.

45. Bureau of the Census, Abstract of the Twelfth Census of the United States, 1900 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1904), 40; Bureau of the Census, Abstract of the Fourteenth Census of the United States, 1920 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1923), 143.

46. Peter Li, The Chinese in Canada, 67. See also Wickberg et al., From China to Canada, 296, 301.

47. Tsai, The Chinese Experience in America, 62–67; Wickberg et al., From China to Canada, 55–59, 145.

48. Chen Xiqi 陈锡祺, ed., Sun Zhongshan nianpu changbian 孙中山年谱长编 [A comprehensive chronological biography of Sun Yat-sen] (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1991), vol. 1, 307–10.