Sun and Lea’s 1911 Chinese Revolution
             It was an extraordinary moment to see two of Lea's family descendants shake the hands of Dr. Sun Yat-sen's great grandson and his wife at the Chinese banquet to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the 1911 Chinese Revolution. It was amazing to watch hundreds of Chinese came back to Charles Beach Boothe's estate to commemorate "Dr. Sun Yat-sen's Visits to Los Angeles". It was wonderful to know that US officials, such as a Senator, Congresswoman, Mayors and City Council members, offered their support and congratulations. The foreign representatives from China and Taiwan also expressed their warm wishes. There were Chinese news media from local and abroad who came to gather news about this unknown historical event: the preparation for the Chinese Revolution in the United States. Homer Lea, an American military geopolitical genius had assisted Dr. Sun Yat-sen to overthrow the corrupted, uncultivated Qing government. The success of this bloodless revolution resulted in the vanishing of the Imperial administration (which had been around thousands of years), as well as the removal of the Emperors. A new Chinese republic based on Lincoln's ideology was born.

            For the first time on TV, two news features on the "Red Dragon Scheme" broadcasted on a Local Chinese TV Channel, which will further disperse the importance of Homer Lea's contribution to the 1911 Chinese Revolution. I would like to thank News anchor, Harry Chang and the event organizer of "Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s Visits to Los Angeles", Pedro Chan, for their hard work, their deep involvement with their projects about Homer Lea and Dr. Sun Yat-sen. And I was asked to write about and trace the footsteps of Dr. Sun's last two visits to Los Angeles.

                                                   Sun Yat-sen and Homer Lea
           By the end of Spring 1908, Kang Yu-wei had come and gone, traveling in style, making investments and enjoying his good life financed by people's hard earned money from his Reform Association in one hundred and seventy cities in the western hemisphere. With his wealth, in October 1907 he had married a third wife from Fresno, California, Lily Haw, who was 17 years old - 33 years younger than Kang. She also served as his secretary and translator, just perfect for his needs. The marriage was bitterly disapproved of by Lily's parents.
          A new chapter opened to Homer Lea, when Charles Beach Boothe, a wealthy business man from South Pasadena, asked Lea about Kang's whereabouts. Boothe's business affair would tie him to the political affairs of China. In September 1908, Boothe traveled to Washington on two missions for Lea. First, he would help Lea to get an appointment for the U.S. Consul in Canton, through his connection with the politicians in the Capitol. Unfortunately, it had failed.  Second, he would contact the 80 year old Yung Wing in Hartford for his assistance with Lea's revolution plan, in order to help Lea establish contacts and win support from various insurgent leaders in China. Lea was unaware of his assumption of Yung's ability. Yung was most eager to take this opportunity to proceed with the enterprise. Yung Wing was a prominent member of the reform movement in 1900 and plotted against the Qing government. He was good friends with Kang.
         Walter W. Allen was Boothe's childhood friend. He was a successful consulting engineer, as well as an established New York business man with direct access to the heavyweight J.P. Morgen and the financial arena in both Wall Street and London. He was impressed with Lea's revolution plan, a scheme to provide financial support to overthrow the Qing dynasty, with Kang as the sole leader. Thus, these four men, Homer Lea, Charles Boothe, Yung Wing and Walter Allen, became conspirators and they gave their code name as the "Red Dragon.”  In between the four conspirators, two from the east coast and two from the west coast, they communicated with secret codes through telegrams or letters:  China was referred to as "The Old Country," Manchu as "Jingo," Kang as "Menace,"  Lea as "Melting,"  Boothe as "Memorial," and Yung Wing as "Memento." The initial estimate for fund raising, as Yung Wing suggested, was about five million dollars. Allen estimated it as too low; the realistic figure should be nine million dollars or more, a large amount in those days. Lea and Boothe agreed. Along the way, Yung Wing had his own ideas about making money instead of raising money, such as the silver mining project in Kwangsi, and turning ramie into silk, with his son in charge. Allen warned that the investment money would not be able to be returned, unless the revolution succeeded.
         The death of Emperor Kuang-hsu on November 14, 1908, signaled the end of Kang's cause. At first, Kang was in disbelief and thought it was a rumor of a plot to assassinate the emperor by Yuan Shih-kai. He then sent three telegrams to President Roosevelt, asking him if he could step in and prevent the murder. Meanwhile, Kang had a Commercial Corporation, with its headquarters in Hong Kong ventured in mines, rice brokerage and banking over Southeast Asia, China and America. In Torreon, Mexico, the enterprise operated a bank, real estate, steamship company, and constructed streetcar line, as well as another streetcar line in Panama. The Commercial Corporation heavily dealt with stocks, newspapers, and operated a hotel and a bank in Shanghai with a major branch in New York. The failure of Kang's Commercial Corporation, was mainly due to his mismanagement of such a vast enterprise, and the corruption of his staff. "Even Kang, in spite of all the business reverse suffered by the corporation from 1907-1908, apparently did not lack for traveling funds. He had enough left over to purchase himself a small island in Sweden," quoted from the writer L. Eve Armentrout Ma in her book, Revolution, Monarchists and Chinatowns, 1990. The Commercial Corporation diverted the main purpose of Po Wong Hui from Kang and the leaders.
         Like Dr. Sun, Homer Lea understood that finance was crucial for the success of a revolution, besides his military venture. He would no longer be able to depend on Kang's finance for his military schools. Since Kang's campaign and his enterprise had collapsed, Boothe and Lea would search for another leader. Yung Wing perfectly understood that he would have a chance to replace Kang. He vigorously denounced Kang's corruption and his investment of streetcar lines in Mexico using his daughter's name. Yung had his revolution plans presented to Boothe and Allen. At one point, Yung proposed to ally with Yuan Shih-kai and bring his children to America for their education. Allen warned that Yung was not fully committed to the cause, with limited patriotism, and self-interest.
         According to Sun's memoir, Lea and Sun had met prior to their meeting in late February 1910, in Long Beach. We do not know exactly when and where they first met, because Sun did not provide the time and place. Sun was speaking to a company of his followers and his eye fell on a young man, five feet tall, and about his age. His face was pale and he looked delicate. When the meeting was over, he came up to Sun and said: "I should like to throw my lot with you. I should like to help you. I believe your propaganda will succeed." After Lea left, Sun asked a friend, "Who was that little hunchback?" He said:" Oh, that is Colonel Homer Lea, one of most brilliant military geniuses now alive. He is a perfect master of modern warfare." Some historians give credit to Yung Wing who introduced Sun Yat-sen to the "Red Dragon" scheme, but there is no evidence that Sun and Yung Wing had direct contact, since they met on board a ship from Shanghai to Japan in 1900. Other historians insist that Sun had contacted Lea first, with a letter to praise his new book, "The Valor of Ignorance." In any case, these four conspirators never met once altogether.
         In 1910, Dr. Sun Yat-sen made another cross-country tour to raise money for his revolution. Since Kang's decline, many Chinese had transferred their loyalties from Po Wong Hui to Sun's Tung Meng Hui and Chee Kung Tong. Sun's fund raising had become much easier for him. While Sun was in San Francisco, he received a letter from Lea, inviting him to come to Los Angeles. In late February, Sun and Lea met in a hotel close to Lea's residence in Vista Del Mar, Long Beach. We could guess that their main topic was about their revolution plan. Lea would commit royalty and his trained Chinese soldiers with his military expertise to Sun. With the help from Boothe and Allen, Sun would access financial support from U.S. financial backers. Sun gladly accepted Lea's offer, and provided Lea information about his connection with the insurgent network in China, and his own army with general Huang Hsing. Immediately, they began work together and established a close relationship. Since then, they communicated constantly through letter or telegram, if they were not together.
         Charles Beach Boothe, the mayor of South Pasadena (1909-1910), welcomed Dr. Sun to stay in his mansion. The main reason why Sun moved from Long Beach to Boothe's house was for his safety concerns. While there, Sun would meet Lea's friends, such as Gen. Chafffee, Gen. Story, Gen. Otis, Captain O'Banion and other Chinese revolutionists, who were frequently in and out of the house without being noticed. Captain O'Banion was Sun's bodyguard. Within these two weeks, with a map of China on the table, the generals and Lea further discussed the details of the revolution plan with Sun. On March 14, Sun appointed Charles B. Boothe as sole foreign financial agent and signed a contract with him. Boothe wasted no time in starting to raise funds for Sun and he also contacted Allen in New York for his assistance.
          In Chinatown, Chee Kung Tong members welcomed Sun with a lavish banquet in Tuey Far Low restaurant and met predominate Chinese representatives there. Dr. Sun gave a speech, as well as received generous donations for his revolution. For the first time, members of Po Wong Hui welcomed Dr. Sun to their Sun Sing Lee building. For the first time, Tung Meng Hui members and Po Wong Hui members became friends and united to support Dr. Sun Yat-sen as the only leader for their future Republic of China. Tuey Far Low, Sun Sing Lee, and Chee Kung Tong buildings in the old Chinatown were all torn down to make way for today's Los Angeles Union Station.
           Although Boothe's mansion has been torn down, there are still two original structures left on this property. One is Boothe's private "Redwood" chapel which Sun, a Christian, would most likely have prayed in for his country men and the revolution. The servants quarters connected with the horse carriage barn are also still present.
          Sun's visit to Los Angeles in June 1911, was a brief stop-over while on his way to Vancouver, Canada where he would receive a large donation for his emergency fund. Lea and Sun met at the Lankershim Hotel where Sun stayed. They reviewed their revolution plan and updated necessary changes. Lea's friend Harry Carr, a Los Angeles Times writer, was there one morning with Lea, and Lea introduced Dr. Sun to him. Lea also told Harry that he had a plan to travel to Germany to get his eyes fixed. Lea reminded Harry that Sun would be a well-known figure to the world someday.
          On October 10, Sun arrived Denver from Idaho. Sun recalled from his autobiography:
                                 "About a fortnight before, I had received a telegram from Huang Hsing in Hong Kong. Because my secret code-book was in my trunk, which had already gone to Denver, I had no way of translating it on the way. That night, on arriving in Denver, I took out the secret code and decoded the telegram from Huang, which read: "representatives ......... arrived at Hong Kong from Wuchang, reporting sympathizers in the New Army are determined to move.  Please remit funds at once," etc."
          Dr. Sun was extremely tired of traveling and he had no way in the middle of his trip to get funds. He thought he would just reply to Huang, "Do not move." Sun was very confused with his own thoughts for a proper answer. It was late at night when he thought he would rather have a good night’s sleep first and took care of the rest the next morning with a fresh mind.
                                 "However, I slept until eleven o'clock the next morning. When I got up, I was hungry. I went to cafeteria to get my breakfast. On passing a newsstand in the lobby, I bought a newspaper which opened with the news, "Wuchang occupied by the revolutionists." All the difficulties in answering Huang's telegram were completely removed. Consequently, I sent a telegram to him, explaining how my reply was delayed and telling him my plan. I immediately left for the eastern part of the United States.""
           The above narrative concluded Dr. Sun Yat-sen's activities and his last two visits to Los Angeles in 1910 and 1911. There were two previous Sun's Los Angeles visits in 1904 and 1905. By then, Sun did not have any direct connection with Homer Lea. Although Boothe and Allen worked hard to get loans for Sun's revolution, the result was not fruitful. The large private financial bankers did not make any commitment to the revolution fund. They felt there was no security from a youthful or uncertain government which could bring profit back from their investment; as J.P. Morgan had said: "I am ready to do business with any established government on earth but I cannot help to make a government to do business with." On the plus side, Sun did not commit to any large loan that would carry a 99-year concession to build and operate all railroads in mainland China; control and operate a Central bank of China, as well as a monopoly over all coinage, and free reign to exploit China's resources of coal and precious metals. Perhaps, Sun had received a substantial donation from the US Chinese community, as well as other Chinese organizations around the world.
            The United States government stayed neutral with the new Chinese government, but the US officials in Peking worked against Sun. Since there was no recognition and financial backing, the new government from America or European countries, the administration was in jeopardy. Lea strongly disagreed with Sun's decision to abdicate his presidency, not because he would lose his important military position, he preferred an opportunity to test his military skills against Yuan Shih-kai. On the day before Sun announced his abdication, Homer Lea suffered a stroke. Nevertheless, when he recovered in Ocean Park, Santa Monica, he wrote Sun that he would like to come back and work for him, in whatever position Sun had for him. From that, we know position or title was not Homer Lea's priority, and he certainly was not a soldier of fortune. Dr. Sun Yat-sen and Homer Lea had succeed overthrowing the Qing government.

Photo: News anchor of Los Angeles Chinese TV, Channel 18, Harry Chang and his “Red Dragon Scheme” news feature.

Reference:  Kang's Commercial Corporation - Revolutionaries, Monarchists, and Chinatowns, 1990 by L. Eve Armentrout Ma.  Red Dragon scheme - Americans' Plot for Chinese Revolt Revealed, Los Angeles Times, Oct 13, 1966, by Julian Hartt.  Others - Joshua Powers collection, Hoover Institution, Stanford University. 

“Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s Visits to Los Angeles” - Exhibition Tour

“Red Dragon Scheme” - Two Chinese TV news feature episodes
Sunday, July 31, 2011