China commemorates centenary of end to imperial rule

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Beijing's Palace Museum, located in the famous Forbidden City, was once the heart of China's capital, housing 24 emperors during the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties.

The conference to commemorate the centennial of the 1911 (Xinhai) Revolution is held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, Oct. 9, 2011.

The conference to commemorate the centennial of the 1911 (Xinhai) Revolution is held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, Oct. 9, 2011.

It was from there that the emperors ruled the country until October 10, 1911, when an armed uprising broke out and successfully forced Emperor Aisin-Gioro Puyi to abdicate the throne.

The revolution marked the end of the Qing Dynasty and the fall of one of the longest-lasting autocratic monarchies in the world, as well as resulted in the establishment of Asia's first republican government.

China held a grand ceremony on Sunday morning at the Great Hall of the People near the Forbidden City to mark the centennial anniversary of the 1911 Revolution, otherwise known as the Xinhai Revolution.

Gateway to modernization

"A century ago, Chinese revolutionaries led by Dr. Sun Yat-sen launched the Revolution of 1911, which shook the world and ushered in unprecedented social changes in China," President Hu Jintao said in his speech at the ceremony.

The revolution overthrew the Qing Dynasty, ended an absolute monarchy that had ruled China for thousands of years, spread the ideas of democracy and republicanism and brought about earthshaking social changes in China, according to Hu.

Hu highly praised Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the leader of the revolution, during his speech.

Zhang Haipeng, a history researcher from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the event "liberated people's minds" and offered a new vision for saving and rejuvenating China.

"The senses of democracy and republicanism became more deeply rooted in people's hearts following the revolution," Zhang said.

The revolution was an "epochal turning point," according to Li Gongming, a professor of art history at the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts.

"From then on, fundamental changes happened in the imperial palace. Its connotation of political power was replaced by civil rights and cultural exchanges," Li said.

China was one of the first countries to shift from a slavery-based society to feudalism and took the lead in developing advanced technologies, institutions and culture.

However, imperial China failed to embrace reforms, while Western countries overthrew feudalism and emancipated their productive forces after the Renaissance. China gradually became a semi-colonial and semi-feudal society after the Opium War in 1840.

The failure of the Middle Kingdom was a result of standing still and refusing to make progress by insisting on imperial autocracy.

The 1911 Revolution was the result of the country's pioneers applying lessons learned from the outside world. It was also a move away from an agricultural society to an industrial society, from autocracy to democracy, and from the emperor's courtyard to the homes of ordinary people.

Aisin-Gioro Puyi, China's last emperor, revisited the former palace after being granted a special pardon in 1959.

"What I found most surprising was that the air of decay and collapse I had known there when I left had disappeared," Puyi wrote in his autobiography "From Emperor to Citizen."

"In the imperial garden I saw children playing in the sun and old men sipping tea. I sniffed the spring fragrance of the ancient cypresses and felt that the sun was shining brighter here than it had ever done before. I was sure that the former palace had taken a new lease on life," Puyi wrote.

However, the Republic of China established after the 1911 Revolution did not quite bring true modernization to China.

According to Hu, due to the constraints of the historical and social conditions prevailing at the time, the revolution failed to change the semi-feudal nature of Chinese society, lift China's people out of misery or complete the historic mission of winning national independence and the people's liberation.

Dreams fulfilled

Zhang Kaiyuan, a historian and expert on the 1911 Revolution, said Dr. Sun Yat-sen kept calling for "peace, struggle saving China" all the way up until his death.

In his book "the Blueprint of Founding a Republic," Dr. Sun mulled the construction of three major international ports, 100,000 miles of railways and the improvement of waterways and canals in China.

However, these dreams were not fulfilled until the CPC seized power in 1949 to establish the People's Republic of China, replacing the Republic of China.

Dr. Sun also suggested constructing affordable homes for poor people in his book. Just decades later, in the city of Wuhan in central China's Hubei province, a 77-year-old man recently moved into a new two-bedroom home which was built as part of a government-funded housing program for low-income people.

"I thought I would have to dwell in rundown areas until my death," said retired steel mill worker Yu Dunhao.

Hu said that the Chinese Communists are the staunchest supporters, closest cooperators and most loyal inheritors of the revolutionary cause Dr. Sun Yat-sen initiated, and are dedicated to achieving and furthering the lofty aspirations of Dr. Sun Yat-sen and other revolutionary pioneers.

"Dr. Sun Yat-sen's cherished goal of revitalizing China, as well as the longings of the other pioneers of the 1911 Revolution for a bright future, have become or are becoming a reality," Hu said.

Road to future

China still remains a developing country, even 100 years after the revolution. Its per capita GDP ranks 100th in the world; poverty and struggle can still be seen in many parts of the country.

During a speech entitled "The Path to China's Future" delivered at Britain's renowned Royal Society in June, Premier Wen Jiabao said, "China was long under the influence of feudalism. After the founding of New China, the country went through the turmoil of the decade-long Cultural Revolution. After China opened itself (to the world), new developments and problems occurred."

When talking about China's future, Hu said the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation must be achieved by adhering to "socialism with Chinese characteristics."

"The correct path is the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics, and the core force is the Communist Party of China," Hu said, adding that "this path accords with China's realities and the demands of the times, and conforms to the fundamental interests of the overwhelming majority of the Chinese people and the fundamental interests of the Chinese nation."

He also emphasized the fostering of patriotism and the strengthening of the unity of all of China's ethnic groups, as well as all Chinese living at home or abroad.

Hu also recited a famous saying by Dr. Sun Yat-sen during his speech: "If China becomes powerful and prosperous, we will not only restore our nation's standing, but also take greater responsibility in the world."

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