Sun Yat-sen Park

High above the pacific ocean, overlooking the southwest coast of Maui, sits a quiet little park honoring a visionary of the past. Sun Yat-sen Park, located between Keokea and ‘Ulupalakua, has always been a mystery to me, but one I was only somewhat interested in solving.

Until recently, I never knew why Maui has a park honoring this man who changed China and the world during his lifetime. The few times I had visited the park in the past were not experiences one needed to share with the world. Taking the time to visit the park, which recently went through some improvements, was the beginning of satisfying my curiosity and it gave me the inspiration to write a blog.

The statue of Dr. Sun Yat-sen looking west, above the pacific.
The statue of Dr. Sun Yat-sen looking west, over the pacific.

The Man.

Sun Yat-sen was a revolutionary who is considered by many to be the National Father of Modern China. Born in 1866 in the Xiangshan County in Macau, Sun Yat-sen moved to Honolulu early in his life to be with his successful merchant brother Sun Mei (Sun Mei is also featured in the park and has a statue there as well). Educated at Iolani school, Sun Yat-sen became an American citizen before attending Oahu College (now Punahou School).

He eventually went back to China, married, and became a doctor of medicine in Hong Kong. Dismayed at the way China was developing as a Nation, Sun Yat-sen helped found the Revive China Society in 1894. After a coup he had helped plot failed in 1895, Doctor Sun Yat-sen was exiled from China for what was supposed to be nineteen years.

When a rebellion in 1911 ended the monarchy in China, Sun Yat-sen moved back immediately and was elected the provisional President of China in December. January 1st, 1912 is the first day of the first year of the Republic of China and that calendar is still followed to this day in some parts of China.

Sun Yat-sen did not hold power for long in China and fled to Japan in 1913. In 1915 he married again, but failed to divorce his first wife, which was considered an outrage by many.

In 1917 Sun Yat-sen returned to China and in 1921 established a military government in Southern China to fight the other military leaders and unite the country. Sun continued his struggle to unite China and eradicate corruption in the government until he died of cancer in 1925.

Statue of Doctor Sun Yat-sen.

The Park.

The land for Sun Yat-sen park was donated by ‘Ulupalakua Ranch back in 1989 and is found between mile markers eighteen and nineteen off the Kula Highway (37). One of the most noticeable improvement to the park is the newly paved parking lot. Formerly covered with a lackluster sprinkling of loose gravel, the dirt lot has been leveled, paved, and the parking spots now have lines to designate them.

Sign language.
Sign language.

One of the more prominent features of the park is the uncomfortably close proximity to the abundance of power lines above you. The park was built after the lines had been installed and they just seem to be above your head wherever you explore the park. I may or may not have felt a tingle in my fillings when I stood underneath the lines. The good news is that the park slopes so drastically that the further you walk downhill from the entrance of the park the higher above you the power lines become.

Park entrance
Park entrance with the statue of Sun Mei (Sun Yat-sen’s older brother) in the distance.
Well dressed guardian.
Well dressed guardian (yes, that is my hat as a prop).
Money where their mouth is.
These guardian statues certainly put their money where their mouths are.

The picnic tables scattered throughout the park are the picture perfect example of function over form. They are built to last forever, not designed to win any beauty contests (which is silly because who is going to enter a picnic table into a beauty contest?). The tables are cement slabs held up by cinder blocks and the benches are built the same way, only smaller in height and width. Clearly they were built by an engineer who used to design beach defense pillboxes during World War II.

Picnic table
One of the very well built picnic tables in the park.

One of the most popular activities in this particular park is to carve something into an agave plant’s leaf. The agave plants are huge and the leaves are big and solid, so people sheep have just followed what other brainless, unoriginal people sheep have done and they have made their insignificant mark in the world by carving really deep messages onto a living plant. As the plant dies due to this scaring of its limbs, hopefully some of these upstanding members of society morons die along the same timeline and help natural selection along.

Aloe plant
One of the few agave plants, not vandalized in the park. I will not show any of the graffiti.
Broken hearts
Broken hearts.
Guardian overlooking the park, the Pacific Ocean, and the parking lot.

If you are driving upcountry, bring a lunch and stop by Sun Yat-sen Park for a few minutes (or grab an elk, lamb, or beef burger to go from ‘Ulupalakua Ranch and a can of Maui Brewing Company root beer and enjoy your lunch on a cold slab of a picnic table). It will give you great views and you can relax in the shadow of someone who is considered to be a great man.

Vincent Lorusso Written by:

A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives. - Jackie Robinson

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