Photo Credit: Courtesy of the National Library of Israel
Dr. Sun Yat-sen in 1924

An original signed letter in which Dr. Sun Yat-sen (1866 – 1925) 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.

Dr. Sun Yat-sen served as the provisional first president of the Republic of China established in 1912 following the fall of the last imperial dynasty and was the first leader of the Kuomintang (Nationalist Party of China). He is commonly referred to in Taiwan as the “Father of the Nation.”


In the letter, the pre-Communist era leader calls Zionism “one of the greatest movements of the present time,” and adds that “all lovers of Democracy cannot help but support whole-heartedly and welcome with enthusiasm the movement to restore your wonderful and historic nation…”

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

While Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s support of Zionism is well-documented and the letter’s text was previously known, the original signed copy has only now been rediscovered, more than a century after it had been written. The original 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 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 mouthpiece, 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 illuminate 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 before the ultimate fall of the Qing dynasty. Their support of the Zionist movement stemmed from both ideological and practical considerations.

Sun Yat-sen’s letter to NEB Ezra, dated April 24, 1920. / Courtesy of the National Library of Israel

Below is the full transcript of the letter:

29 Rue Moliere,
24 April.1920.
Mr. N. E. B. Ezra,
Dear Mr. Ezra:
I have read you [sic] letter and the copy of “Israel’s Messenger” with much interest, and wish to assure you of my sympathy for this movement – which is 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, which has contributed so much to the civilization of the world and which rightfully deserve [sic] an honorable place in the family of nations.
I am,
Yours very truly,
[Sun Yat-sen]

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