An Iolani Friendship Goes A Long Way: Sun Yat-Sen and Chang Chau

Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, the Father of Modern China and my grandfather, Chang Chau | Courtesy Iolani School

Pictured above: Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, the Father of Modern China, and Chang Chau, wearing the medal of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen | Courtesy Iolani School magazine

By Heidi Chang

Click here to view this article in Iolani School’s magazine (page. 11)

You never know where a friendship may take you.

More than a century ago, Dr. Sun Yat-Sen formed a lasting bond with another Iolani student known as Chang Chau.

Chang, who was born in Kohala, Hawaii, moved to Honolulu with his family after his father died and he met Dr. Sun while attending Iolani in the late 1870s.

Chang went on to become Sun’s trusted ally and sworn brother and was involved in the eventual success of the Chinese Revolution of 1911.

When Sun needed help, he’d send word to his friend, who’d leave his job and family in Honolulu and sail to China.

During the revolution, Chang was with Sun in two of his rebellions and his companion in two of his escapes.

“We were hounded like beasts. We went for days with nothing more to eat than a handful of rice. It was one long masquerade. We had to keep changing location and our costume,” Chang said in an interview with the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.

After one uprising failed, Sun and Chang, escaped, disguised as boat women. Another time, the “brothers” got away by disguising themselves as beggars.

Stories of those narrow escapes, of Sun’s connections to Hawaii, and his inspiring life story are recounted in a biography by Henry Bond Restarick called “Sun Yat-Sen: Liberator of China” published by Yale University Press. Bishop Restarick was the first American Episcopal Bishop of Hawaii.

When Sun’s revolution succeeded in overthrowing the Ch’ing Dynasty, Chang sent a message to Prince Jonah Kuhio, who was a Hawaii delegate to Congress (and also a classmate).

Chang urged Kuhio to introduce a resolution authorizing the United States to recognize the new Chinese republic. The United States became the first of the major powers to recognize modern China in 1912.

This significant world event all began thanks to a friendship at Iolani.

(Heidi Chang is the granddaughter of Chang Chau, who was a trusted ally of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen.)


This story is a sidebar to the cover story Global Citizenship, Begins With Worldwide Friendships in the Spring 2013 issue of Iolani School magazine.
Dr. Sun Yat-Sen

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