A Brief History
On October 9, 1911, an accidental bomb explosion in China lead to the ultimate fall of China’s last imperial dynasty.
By 1911, the Qing or Manchu dynasty had ruled over China for almost 300 years. During that time period, China experienced numerous internationally embarrassing disasters from its defeat in the Opium Wars to the failed Boxer Rebellion. 1911 would see the proverbial straw that broke the imperial camel’s back.
An incident known as the Wuchang Uprising broke out on this day in 1911 by accident. A revolutionary leader named Sun Wu was accidentally injured by a bomb’s explosion resulting in him being sent to a hospital. While there, the hospital staff realized that he was indeed a revolutionary and so they alerted the imperial government.
With impending arrests and likely executions now coming their way, Wu’s followers prepared for a coup to overthrow the government. An army mutiny on October 10, 1911 proved decisive. The “New Army” responsible for the rebellion established a military government in Hubei, China on October 11, 1911. Five thousand Chinese died in the provincial uprising, which soon erupted into a full on national Chinese Revolution. This revolution took over 200,000 more Chinese lives and after thousands of years of China’s existence as an empire, the country’s government became a republic led most famously by Sun Yat-sen. And it all began with the accidental explosion of a bomb just over 100 years ago today!
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Concerning the broader Chinese Revolution, an essential film to see is The Last Emperor (1987). We recommend the 218 minute director’s cut over the 160 minutes theatrical version. The film won nine Academy Awards including best picture and as such is a well-made and culturally significant film in its own right.
As for more information about the events of October 9, 1911, unfortunately, most scholarly sources are in Chinese. Even on the American version of Amazon.com, you will likely find books primarily in Chinese. Thus, for English speakers, you will most likely need to read general histories of the Chinese Revolution to find additional details. To that end, we recommend first checking Google Books with a search for “Wuchang Uprising“.
The featured image in this article, a photograph of the Hubei Military Government from circa 1911, is now in the public domain in China because its term of copyright has expired. This work was published before January 1, 1926 and it is anonymous or pseudonymous due to unknown authorship. It is in the public domain in the United States as well as countries and areas where the copyright terms of anonymous or pseudonymous works are 95 years or fewer since publication.
You can also watch a video version of this article on YouTube.