This excellent synopsis and historical background to 1911 plus some comments from various people involved in the making of the movie has appeared on aforeradio.com.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the Chinese people faced not only internal turmoil but foreign aggression. Political reforms introduced from within the Qing court had failed; Revolutionaries led by Sun Yat-sen were determined to overthrow dynastic rule and establish a Republic.
Between 1895 and 1910, the Revolutionaries organized a number of uprisings, yet none of them succeeded. Martyrs such as Qiu Jin and Xu Xilin were executed and the movement suffered major setbacks.
Toward the end of 1910, Sun Yat-sen called again for support from core overseas members of the Tongmenghui (Chinese Revolutionary Alliance), asking them to gather forces for an uprising in Guangzhou. Key players in the Alliance Huang Xing and Xu Zonghan pretended to be husband and wife and stole secretly into Guangzhou. But the Guangzhou uprising was crushed because the Revolutionaries were outnumbered. Among the many who died was Lin Juemin; Huang Xing was also injured. Xu Zonghan and others risked their lives to bury the 72 martyrs of the Guangzhou uprising in the outskirts of Huanghuagang.
The aftermath of this uprising was simple: the Qing court continued its efforts to root out the Revolutionaries, at the same time trading whatever they could with the imperialist powers to replenish the national treasury.
The Qing court’s actions compromised China’s sovereignty. In Sichuan, patriots gathered and participated in the Railway Protection Movement. The New Army, originally stationed in Hubei, was dispatched to suppress the people. In Wuchang, a secret list of Revolutionaries belonging to the New Army was leaked, and Governor Rui Cheng ordered everyone listed to be murdered. The situation with the Revolutionaries was critical: Xiong Bingkun and Jin Zhaolong led a mutiny from within the army, firing the first shots of rebellion. Overnight, the Wuchang Uprising succeeded and Revolutionaries took over the governor’s mansion. Li Yuanhong was then selected as the provisional military governor.
The success of the Wuchang Uprising shocked the Chinese nation; the news was reported in America, reaching the ears of Sun Yat-sen and Tongmenghui members. Huang Xing and Xu Zonghan were immediately sent to Wuchang to raise morale, and the Revolutionary army there risked everything to protect Wuhan, Hanyang and Hankou. Having lived through numerous dangerous battles, Huang Xing and Xu Zonghan developed a romantic bond. They decided to get married and continue to fight for the Revolution.
As a last resort, the frail Qing court appointed Yuan Shikai to lead the Beiyang Army to suppress the Revolutionaries. Yuan was an opportunist eager to exploit the power balance. Seemingly dedicated to annihilating the Revolutionary forces, he also attempted to negotiate a compromise with the Revolutionaries through Wang Jingwei.
At this crucial moment for the Revolution, Sun Yat-sen traveled to various countries, eventually persuading the Four Nations’ Bank to reject a loan request from the Qing court.
The battle to defend Yangxia was hard. Huang Xing and Li Yuanhong could not repel the enemy. Huang was forced to make a strategic move to transfer the Revolutionary army further down the Yangtze River, consolidating power there in hopes of relaunching an offense at a later date.
As the battleships were sailing along the Yangtze, news broke that many provinces had already declared independence. Huang Xing and his comrades were overjoyed.
From then on, the Revolutionary war was split according to the north-south divide. Through the efforts of many, representatives of the north and south—Tang Shaoyi and Wu Tingfang respectively—met at the negotiating table. Eventually, they reached an agreement to support the founding of a Republic. Representatives from 18 provinces elected Sun Yat-sen as the Republic’s first President. Sun announced that if Yuan Shikai would convince the Qing Emperor to abdicate, he would relinquish his presidency to Yuan.
The Chinese people had paid a dear price to end 2,800 years of feudal rule. The Xinhai Revolution helped establish the first Republic in Asia, which marked a crucial chapter in world history. The success of the Revolution also showed that the tides of history cannot be resisted by anyone filled with revolutionary zeal and hope.
At the eve of the Qing dynasty, Western powers exerted their spheres of influence and the resulting trade imbalance endangered the entire country. From the 1840 Opium War onward, Western Imperialists extended their control on Chinese soil. While parts of China were ruled by the feudal Qing court, other parts were administered as foreign colonies. Yet the Qing court continued to concede to foreign demands: the Manchus gave up land and control while exercising dictatorial powers over the Chinese people, creating great stress and strain on various social strata. The Western powers abused the Qing court to the extent that China was literally being overwhelmed, which alarmed many.
At the same time, as Chinese people began to benefit from capitalism: business people accumulated wealth and a national consciousness on the political and economic front, reflecting the Chinese people’s wish to be autonomous and their desire to live in a democratic society. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Chinese intellectual world has become aware of revolution and democracy and various organizations were established to promote these ideals: Xingzhonghui (Revive China Society), Huaxinghui (China Revival Society), Kexuebuxisuo (Science Night School) and Guangfuhui (Restoration League). On August 20, 1905, the Tongmenghui (Chinese Revolutionary Alliance) was established and Sun Yat-sen proclaimed its founding principles: “Repel the Tatar barbarians, revive China, establish a republic, divide land equally.” Tongmenghui’s founding signaled a new revolutionary phase in the political development of China.
Jackie Chan (Huang Xing)
Winston Chao (Sun Yat-sen, aka Sun Wen)
Li Bing Bing (Xu Zonghan)
Joan Chen (Empress Dowager Longyu)
Jaycee Chan (Zhang Zhenwu)
Hu Ge (Lin Juemin)
Sun Chun (Yuan Shikai)
Jiang Wu (Li Yuanhong)
Yu Shaoqun (Wang Jingwei)
Huang Zhizhong (Situ Meitang)
Ning Jing (Qiu Jin)
Mei Ting (Chen Yiying)
Dennis Tao (Xiong Bingkun)
From the Producer Wang Tianyun: “Let history foretell the future”
2011 marks the centenary of the Xinhai Revolution, a defining and inspiring moment for the Chinese people. The current film 1911 is conceived upon a dialogue between yesterday and today: when dynastic rule was overthrown, when doors were opened to a new Chinese republic, when democratic ideals flourished … it is very difficult to present all of the above within the span of two hours. The entire film project was not easy: 80 stars assembled for 15 months, experiencing together hot summers and cold winters, fighting the natural elements to complete their task.
I must thank the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, propaganda departments of various provinces, as well as the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. I am also grateful to each and every member of the creative and production team in this film.
As 1911 is about to launch in cinemas, we pay tribute to the martyrs of the Xinhai Revolution, as history never forgets. Their work that founded a modern China has continued: China is now a country that thrives in peace. Sun Yat-sen’s dying wish is being realized now, right on Chinese soil. Overseas Chinese are also proud of China’s achievements now. We firmly believe the historical significance and value of 1911 will far surpass the film itself.
From the Executive Producer Wang Zhebin: “A centenary tribute to the Xinhai Revolution”
I believe all Chinese people will look forward with reverence as we approach October 10, 2011.
The Xinhai Revolution overthrew the Qing dynasty that had ruled China for 267 years. It also signalled the end of feudal rule for more than two millennia, leading to the establishment of the new Chinese Republic.
The screenplay for 1911 features not only the ideals and actions of the great political leader Sun Yat-sen, but also the love story between Huang Xing and Xu Zonghan. Other pivotal characters—Yuan Shikai, Li Yuanhong, Empress Dowager Longyu who made critical decisions that changed the fate of the revolution—are also highlighted, along with dedicated patriots and martyrs such as Lin Juemin and Yu Peilun.
1911 gathered such actors and artists from China, Taiwan and overseas as Winston Chao, Jackie Chan, Lee Bingbing and Joan Chen, along with the professionals from a dozen well-established production companies across the straits including the Changchun Film Group and Shanghai Film Group. This film also received support from such democratic organizations as the China Public Interest Party (Zhigongdang); overseas Chinese are also eagerly anticipating the film’s release.
Under the guidance of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference as well as the leadership of the Ministry of Propaganda and the Film Department of the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, the creative team of 1911 collaborated for two years to create this grand epic film 1911, fully shot in historic locations. Although the process was difficult, this film is completed in time for the centenary of the Xinhai Revolution.
At this moment, I am humbled by my miniscule contribution.
Here I must salute that martyrs who died during the Xinhai Revolution! I must also show my sincere thanks to all leaders and friends who care about and support 1911! I wish audiences both at home and abroad will enter the cinema with us to commemorate the Xinhai Revolution!
From the Producer Bi Shulin
On the eve of the centenary of the Xinhai Revolution, the grand epic 1911 spearheaded by the Changchun Film Group (as lead producer) will be released. This film has amassed the talents and efforts of numerous production units, consolidating a sense of historical mission and responsibility of Chinese film professionals. The film not only recreated for the audiences such historical figures as Sun Yat-sen and Huang Xing, but presented in full cinemascope the revolution that shook China and the world a hundred years ago.
1911 also marks Jackie Chan’s 100th film, gathering a stellar cast of more than 70 actors from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macao to present real-life histories and people, so as to portray a bigger picture of China on the establishment of nationhood. The film is an amalgam of finely etched dramatic twists and artistic vision.
As the general manager of the Changchun Film Studio and as a producer of this film, I have steadfast faith in this: even if the audience didn’t know the historical details of the Xinhai Revolution, they will still find interesting and inspiring vistas. This is what is mesmerizing about a fine film.
Deep in our hearts, we know that numerous nations and their peoples have suffered historical realities, some perhaps even more tragic than ours. Therefore, the film 1911 not only finds resonance with bombastic moments of martyrdom that determines the fate of a nation, but also uncovers the violence and physical sacrifice as society was transformed. In addition, the story also contains elements of love, dream and faith, hoping to find empathy with contemporary audiences. Just as those youngsters look forward to a bright future by the sea, we all hope for and deserve a life of love and peace.
1911 is a film specially made for the centenary of the Xinhai Revolution. This epic is like the unfolding of a large-scale scroll painting, with scenes shot entirely on location. The retelling of the events of 1911 is a way of using art to revisit those revolutionary heroes, their patriotism and willingness to risk their lives. The Xinhai Revolution is a great revolution of the people in the modern history of China. It overthrew the Qing dynasty, ending more than two millennia of feudal rule and opening a new chapter in Chinese history with the establishment of a republic. The film 1911 is a vehicle to retrace and show respect to that collective memory of a nation. Our mission is to continue to foster the spirit of the Xinhai Revolution, to continue the ideals of our forebears. All of us in the production and creative team applied our efforts in the hope of recreating the story, images, scenes, so that the people will further understand the historical mission and be motivated by the collective wish to realize the rejuvenation of the great Chinese nation.