Sun Yat-Sen Statue

Sun Yat-sen Statue, Chinatown. Los Angeles Explorers Guild.

Sun Yat-Sen Statue

In Chinatown, framed by the Chinatown East Gate, you’ll find a lasting tribute to Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the first president of the Republic of China.

Statue of Dr. Sun Yat-sen

Dr. Sun Yat-sen, sometimes called the “George Washington of China” for his role in the founding and first president of the Republic of China, has been a fixture in Chinatown’s Central Plaza since 1966.

Sun Yat-sen Statue, Chinatown. Los Angeles Explorers Guild.
The statue of Dr. Sun Yat-sen in Chinatown Central Plaza. Photo from the author’s collection.

The statue features a seated Sun Yat-sen, sitting serenely with his hands in his lap and wearing traditional Chinese attire. It was commissioned by the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Society and created in Taiwan or China (accounts differ, but Taiwan makes more sense considering the timeline or U.S.-Chinese relations) by an unknown sculptor. It arrived in time to be installed for a dedication ceremony on November 12, 1966, commemorating the 100-year anniversary of Sun Yat-sen’s birth.

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The concrete statue was initially painted black to give it an appearance of metal or granite. But the finish didn’t much look like any kind of metal or stone, so the paint was sandblasted off and Dr. Sun was re-painted — this time in gold. The statue originally sat on a base made of marble tiles. Over the years these tiles started to break and fall away. So in 2003 the entire base was replaced with a more stout pedestal of granite sourced from a Chinese quarry.

Sun Yat-sen is best known for his role in helping to spark the uprising against the ruling Qing Dynasty, establishing China as a republic, and his political philosophy known as Three Principles of the People — loosely translated as nationalism, democracy, and welfare.

Dr. Sun only served as the Republic of China’s first President for a few months (January 1 through March 12, 1912), but he continued to serve in a governmental leadership capacity until his death on March 12, 1925.

Testament to his global influence, there’s a Sun Yat-sen statue in many major cities throughout the world, including San Francisco, New York City, Sacramento, Chicago, Honolulu, Toronto, and many more.

Sun Yat-sen Statue, Chinatown. Los Angeles Explorers Guild.
The statue of Sun Yat-sen sits in front of the flags of the United States and Taiwan. Photo from the author’s collection.

Sun Yat-sen in Los Angeles

Dr. Sun came to Los Angeles in 1905 to rally support for his cause of overthrowing the Qing Dynasty from the city’s Chinese community. Back then, Chinatown is where Union Station is today, and Dr. Sun held a rally at the Olvera Street Plaza to raise money to fund his revolution.

Careful readers may remember that the U.S. was under the effect of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 (championed by California’s own U.S. Senator, Stephen M. White), where anyone of Chinese ancestry was not allowed into the country, even if they’d been born a citizen of the U.S.

In fact, Sun was arrested on his first attempt to enter the United States and subsequently released. But Sun Yat-sen had a brother in Honolulu, and through some contacts on the island territory, Dr. Sun was able to secure an Hawaiian birth certificate that showed he was born in Hawaii in 1870 (presumably as an Hawaiian and not of Chinese ancestry) — when Hawaii was still an independent kingdom.

In honor of the everything Sun has done for the Chinese people, the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Society places flowers around the statue every November12 (his birthday) and March 12 (the anniversary of his death).

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Sun Yat-sen Statue

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Tom Fassbender is a writer of things with a strong adventurous streak. When not exploring Los Angeles, he’s been known to enjoy a cup of coffee or two. You can find him at Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


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