It’s Double Ten in Taiwan, a national holiday, but it’s also recognized in China, Hong Kong, and US Chinatowns. Read about the history behind Double Ten and why it’s not quite accurate to label it “Taiwan’s 100th birthday.”
Each year in Taiwan, October 10th is celebrated as the national day of the Republic of China (ROC). This year marks the centennial anniversary of “Double Ten” day in Taiwan, and this past year the government of Taiwan has been hosting multiple celebratory events leading up to this year’s holiday.
But do you know the history behind this day? Have you thought about why several Chinatown communities in the United States also celebrate “Double Ten” day with parades and fanfare? Why is it also recognized in Hong Kong and China? And have you heard some people mistakenly refer to this year’s event as celebrating “Taiwan’s 100th birthday?” After all, Taiwanese people have been on Taiwan, or Formosa, for hundreds of years (or thousands of years, if you consider the aboriginal groups).
Here’s a brief history behind the founding of the Republic of China, when it was first established in China leading to the government that now resides on Taiwan…
October 10, 1911 marked the beginning of the military Wuchang Uprising (aka the start of the Xinhai Revolution), as revolutionaries were upset over government corruption, the encroachment of foreign countries into China, and resentment over Manchu rule over Han Chinese. This day marked the collapse of the Qing Dynasty in China, thus ending thousands of years of imperial dynastic rule.
Sun Yat-sen, a Chinese doctor, revolutionary and political leader, played an influential role in the overthrow of the Qing dynasty and served briefly as the first president of the Republic of China when it was founded on January 1, 1912. As a proponent of Chinese nationalism, he actually spent much time in the West, and in 1894, founded the Revive China Society in Honolulu, Hawaii. One of his key political philosophies was known as the “Three Principles of the People” and revolved around ideals of nationalism, democracy, and the people’s livelihood. When the Republic of China government was first established, its first national flag was the “Five-Colored Flag” (as shown in the left side header image) representing the five major nationalities of China: the Han (red), the Manchu (yellow), the Mongol (blue), the Hui (white), and the Tibetan (black). It’s interesting to note that Sun Yat-sen believed the flag to be inappropriate due to its horizontal color ordering reminiscent of hierarchical class rule. But for 15 years, this flag represented a modern “Republican” post-imperial China.
So how did the current day flag of the Republic of China come about? The design elements of the ROC flag actually existed before the Wuchang Uprising and the establishment of the ROC. The “Blue Sky with a White Sun” portion was a flag design itself and had been presented at a meeting of the Society for Regenerating China, an anti-Qing society based in Hong Kong, in February of 1895. This White Sun emblem would later be adopted by the Chinese Nationalist Party, the Kuomingtang (KMT), as its party flag and the Coat of Arms of the Republic of China. In 1906, the “red Earth” portion was added by Sun Yat-sen.
The period after the Wushang Uprising saw much political strife and power struggles. President Yuan Shikai assumed dictatorial powers in 1913 by dissolving the National Assembly and outlawing the KMT. When Sun Yat-sen established a government-in-exile in Tokyo, he employed the modern “Blue Sky, White Sun, and a Wholly Red Earth” flag as the national ROC flag. The KMT established a rival government in Guangzhou in 1917 and made this the official national flag on December 17, 1928. During this time, a newly established Communist Party of China (CPC), supported by the Soviets, struggled for power with the KMT. Starting in 1927, the Chinese Civil War was fought between the KMT and the CPC.
At the end of World War II in 1945, the government of the Republic of China lost control of mainland China and relocated to Taiwan in 1949, bringing with them over 1.5 million refugee civilians and soldiers, forever changing the face of Taiwan’s population of 7 million people at the time. The rest is history and the source of continued political debate, recognition, and international struggle across both sides of the Taiwan Strait.
Now you know a brief history of why “Double Ten” day is now mainly celebrated in Taiwan, but also by supporters of the original “Republic” who fled to Hong Kong and Chinatowns in the United States. And in China, it’s still a day remembered as the start of the Xinhai Revolution associated with the “Father of the Nation,” Sun Yat-sen. What one is celebrating depends on which perspective you take.
Today in Taiwan, the official celebration starts with the raising of the flag of the ROC in front of the Presidential Building, followed by singing of the National Anthem. Until recent years, it included a military parade. As a national holiday off from work, festivities also include performances, lion dances, drum teams, and fireworks displays around major cities.
Enjoy the day off of work, but like all holidays, it’s good to know what it is you’re actually celebrating.
*Note: Edited on 10/10/13 the end of WWII date correction
To learn more about the history of the ROC’s flags:
To discover the history behind Double Ten Day:
To read more about the Wuchang Uprising:
To learn more about Sun Yat-sen: