Dr. Sun Yat-sen, leader of pre-Communist era China. (National Library of Israel) (National Library of Israel)
Dr. Sun Yat-sen

While his support of Zionism is well-documented and the letter’s text was previously known, the original signed copy has only now been rediscovered, over a century after it was written.

Courtesy Israel Government Press Office

An original signed letter in which Dr. Sun Yat-sen expresses his strong support for Zionism has recently surfaced at the National Library of Israel in Jerusalem and is now online for the first time.

In the letter, the pre-Communist era leader calls Zionism “one of the greatest movements of the present time.”

“All lovers of Democracy cannot help but support whole-heartedly and welcome with enthusiasm the movement to restore your wonderful and historic nation,” the letter continues.

The message, dated April 24, 1920, was sent to N.E.B. Ezra, founder of the Shanghai Zionist Association.

Dr. Sun Yat-sen served as the first provisional president of the Republic of China, established in 1912 following the fall of the last imperial dynasty, prior to the Chinese civil war and the establishment of the current People’s Republic of China in 1949.

The letter recently surfaced as part of a major National Library of Israel initiative, supported by the Leir Foundation, to review and describe millions of items in its archival collections, including personal papers, photographs, and documents from many of the 20th century’s most prominent figures. The initiative is part of the Library’s current renewal, which includes next year’s opening of a new campus adjacent to the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) in Jerusalem.

Born in Lahore (modern-day Pakistan), the letter’s recipient, N.E.B. Ezra, was a Jewish scholar, writer, publisher and activist who lived most of his life in Shanghai. In addition to founding the Shanghai Zionist Association, he edited its official organ, Israel’s Messenger, for decades.

According to Prof. Gao Bei, an expert on Shanghai’s 20th century Jewish community, “It is very exciting that this original letter from Sun Yat-sen to N.E.B. Ezra has been unearthed. It is one of the seminal documents that illuminates the Chinese Nationalist government’s early support for the Zionist cause.”

Dr. Sun Yat-sen and other members of the Chinese leadership had warm relations with local and international Jewish communities and figures, many of them cultivated during years of exile prior to the ultimate fall of the Qing dynasty. Their support of the Zionist movement stemmed from both ideological and practical considerations.

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