Posted by: soniahs | February 15, 2011

A tribute to Sun Yat-sen in Kula

It’s been a while, but I thought I’d revive my posts on our (not-so) recent trip to Maui. While we were there, there was a lot of rain. This wasn’t so noticeable when we were on Haleakala (except for interfering with the view), but we had a lot of drizzle, showers, and then downpours for a day or so. Luckily it cleared up the last day we were there for more birding! But more on that later.

After we finished our most excellent Waikamoi hike, it was early afternoon. We headed back down the mountain through fog, having a few close encounters with cows along the way. Part of the road up to the summit is open pasture, and in the fog with hairpin turns, it’s pretty creepy to suddenly see a cow looming on the shoulder, stupidly chewing its cud and gazing at your car with an unfazed expression.

It was pretty rainy and overcast, and we didn’t feel like finding another place to hike in the rain (the beach was out, too), so we decided to drive down the Kula road a bit and check out the scenery. This is mainly an agricultural area, with a fine view downslope to the sea. We stopped at a wayside memorial park dedicated to Sun Yat-sen, the Chinese revolutionary.


Dr. Sun Yat-sen, in bronze.

Why a park on Maui dedicated to one of the men behind the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty? Well, it turns out that he attended school in the Kingdom of Hawaii, back in the late 1800s (`Iolani School and Oahu College-now known as Punahou). There are a number of statues of him on other islands.

These lion statues were really cool, until we realized they were made of hollow fiberglass...

At one point, he was issued a (false, for he was born in China) birth certificate from the then-Territory of Hawaii stating that he was born in Kula. Hence the Kula connection, and Sun Yat-sen Memorial Park along the Kula Highway.

Lion detail.

Sun Yat-sen is apparently one of the few Chinese revolutionary figures revered in both the People’s Republic and in Taiwan. His time in Hawaii was also a time of revolution: he attended school here during the reign of King Kalakaua, the second-to-last monarch of the Kingdom of Hawaii. By the time he returned to Hawaii, the Kingdom had been overthrown by a cabal of American businessmen, and political power rested in the short-lived “Republic of Hawaii.” While he was here the second time, the Hawaiian islands were formally annexed to the United States as a Territory.

Agave plants in the garden, known locally as "dragon's tail" or "lion's tail."

For Hawaii, as well as much of the Pacific, those years were a time of change and turmoil. This period of time is something that’s definitely hidden when Hawaii is presented as just an entity subsumed into the U.S., and the formation of the contemporary political situation in the Pacific is taken as something of a forgone conclusion. For example, there’s not a lot of effort in public schools in Hawaii to tie the local events of those years to the turmoil in China and other parts of the Pacific, except as they relate to the U.S. snapping up territories that the European empires were losing control of, like the Philippines. Definitely an eventful time in the Pacific, and though Sun Yat-sen didn’t play a huge role in the contemporary political scene, he’s a formidable player in the larger picture.


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