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Analysis of Historical Documents from the Former Residence of Sun Yat-sen

Jie QIU (Sun Yat-sen University)
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A significant body of historical documents related to the Sun family is preserved at the Sun Yat-sen (Sun Zhongshan) Memorial Hall on the site of his former residence in Cuiheng village, Guangdong. In the past, scholars have used these documents mainly to study the origins of the Sun Yat-sen’s family, the economic situation of his household, and the details of his early life, in order to provide the background for his revolutionary ideas. These same documents can also be used to significantly deepen our understanding of the daily life of residents of the Pearl River Delta in the latter part of the nineteenth century. For example, from the account books of the ancestral estate of the Sun family, we can learn much about finance, credit, and sacrificial activities of an ordinary rural lineage. They can also better inform us about local prices, and the simplified forms of characters that were used by the people at that time. Sun Yat-sen once said that his ancestors had been farmers for generations. No member of his lineage passed the official examination; indeed none received much education. These documents can thus help us understand the actual lived experience of the villages of the Pearl River Delta. Because Sun Yat-sen later became an influential figure in Chinese history, there is also a considerable body of oral history and published research on his family. These materials can lend further support to our interpretation of the documents.

Journal of History and Anthropology