Wuhan: Experience the real 1911

My birth city Wuhan, the capital of Hubei Province in central China, came under spotlight last week on the 100th anniversary of the 1911 Revolution, also known as the Xinhai Revolution, for being the first city to break apart from the Qing government (1644–1911).

One hundred years ago on October 10th, mutineers from Wuhan and its surrounding counties attacked the provincial headquarters of the Qing government located in Wuchang District of Wuhan, in what is known today as the Wuchang Uprising. They successfully captured key locations in the city, including the Governor-General’s Office, the Chuwangtai Armory, and the Provincial Administration Commission of Hubei, and forced the viceroy in office, who was in charge of both Hubei and Hunan Province at the time, to flee.

In a significant moment during the revolt, a flagman climbed up the Provincial Assembly Hall of Hubei, which is the Memorial Hall for the Wuchang Uprising of the 1911 Revolution today, and put up the Iron-Blood 18-star flag to mark their victory. This flag was declared the official flag of the Military Government of Hubei the next day. It is 130 days older than the Five Races Under One Union flag of Sun Yat-sen’s provisional government of the Republic of China, and 10 years older than the official flag of the Republic of China, which is often described as “Blue Sky, White Sun, and a Wholly Red Earth” in Chinese.

Memorial Hall of the Wuchang Uprising of the 1911 Revolution in Wuhan, Hubei

I am proud to point out that one of the key revolutionaries in the Wuchang Uprising, Cai Jimin (1887-1919), actually came from my native village Caiguantian of Huangpi County of Hubei Province. Technically speaking, he and I are from the same Cai clan, so it is very likely that we were related in the distant past.

Cai Jimin belonged to Sun Yat-sen’s anti-Qing allegiance. He was an active member of the Literary Society, the Progressive Association, as well as the China Revolutionary Alliance at his time. He led one of the troops during the revolt and was later given many different high-ranking military posts within the military government of Hubei. It is well documented that he and his descendants had been the keepers of the original 18-star flag up until 1975, when the flag was handed over to the Hubei Museum as a first-class cultural and historical relic.

The Wuchang Uprising sparked a number of uprisings all across China, known collectively as the Xinhai Revolution, and together they brought down the Qing Dynasty and 2,000 years of Chinese feudal rule. Today, this occasion is recognised in both China and Taiwan, with the latter also declaring October 10th or Double Ten Day its national day.

In Wuhan, a massive brick-red V-shaped structure was opened to the public on October 10th this year. It is the Xinhai Revolution Museum, and it is to commemorate the revolution (another museum of the same name was opened in Guangzhou on the same day). This museum is part of a revolution-themed complex that currently includes 18 attractions in Wuhan.

The Wuhan Xinhai Revolution Museum / source: Alpha Li's photo from Panoramio

Since October 15, the Wuhan Xinhai Revolution Museum has offered free admission to the public. If you happen to be in Wuhan or are curious about the factual history behind Jackie Chan’s 100th movie 1911, be sure to pay a visit!

And if you are like me living thousands of miles away from Wuhan right now, you may choose to download this interesting app on your iPad, iPhone, or iPod, to satisfy your thirst for knowledge about the revolution!