With world media headlines proclaiming China’s current threat to regain control over Nationalist Taiwan, few Australians would know that a leading member of the original Chinese National movement lived as a child and teenager in Grafton.
This person, who was directly involved in the historic break-up of China under the last Manchu Emperor, was known as Jimmy See, a former Grafton High School schoolboy. As a teenager, Jimmy vowed to have the hated Manchus removed from power.
The son of Chinese parents in Northern New South Wales, Jimmy even devised a nationalist flag and an anthem while in Grafton — and which later became the ‘White Sun on a Blue Sky’ flag and anthem of Nationalist Taiwan after that territory gained Nationalist independence from the Chinese mainland.
After Jimmy had graduated from Grafton High School, he became a leading voice in a Chinese secret society generally modelled on Western Masonic Lodge principles. He used the society as a platform in Australia to present his youthful but very determined ideas for a new and free China.
He and his parents later returned, however, to China from Australia in 1887. There, true to his promise as an Australian schoolboy, Jimmy became highly active in Chinese politics, calling on all Chinese people of the day to revolt against the Manchus.
As a resident of China in 1892, Jimmy started, with other Chinese revolutionaries, the politically enhanced Furen Literary Society and merged it with the Revive China Society in 1895, with the historically famous Dr Sun-Yat-Sen as secretary. When one of Jimmy’s most important supporters was assassinated by Manchu agents at the turn of the 19th Century, Jimmy decreed to avenge his associate and, with others, plotted an uprising in Canton, calling for a democratic China.
Although this plot failed to an extent it led to the widespread social hostilities throughout China in October 1911 which caused the last Manchu Emperor, Pu Yi, to be deposed and the violent Manchu Tartars to be driven from power.
History has all too often regarded Dr Sun-Yat-Sen and General Chiang Kai-Shek as the would-be creators of a more modern China. This is not correct as Grafton’s Jimmy See was the one who started the original revolutionary movement that led to the Chinese Nationalists claiming Taiwan as an independent country.
In China during his revolutionary days, Jimmy See used his full Chinese birth name of Tse Tsai Tai. While living in Grafton, his family had simplified their surname to See which is still remembered today by the naming of the city’s See Park following Jimmy’s political exploits in far-off China.
He is also remembered in China by this name for his putting an end to the former Chinese tradition of binding Chinese women’s feet as a method of husbandry control over their wives.
Who would have thought that Grafton once had a resident schoolboy who had the foresight and desire to make a big dent in the history of both China and Taiwan?
Oscar Tamsen, Yamba