Sun Ning Railway Company (aka Sunning Railway
Company and Xinning Railway Company) 新寧鐵路 (pinyin: Xinning Tielu) was a standard gauge railway
in the Pearl River
Delta in Guangdong Province founded in 1906 by Chin Gee Hee 陳宜禧 (pinyin: Chen Yixi) and Yu
Shek 余灼 (pinyin: Yu Zhuo).
It was South China's first
railway The History of Xinning Railway
, Bureau of Archives of
Taishan City.Scigliano 2007. and one of only three railways in
pre-1949 China built solely with private Chinese capital.
In order to fund the railway, Chin raised $2.75 million, mainly
from overseas Chinese
; some sources
say that further investment came from James J. Hill
but others say that at a time when railway development in China was
dominated by European
nations, he "vowed not
to sell shares to foreigners, to borrow money from them, or to use
their engineers." Chin's partner Yu Zhuo raised further funds in
China and from overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia
. Its benefits to
Guangdong's economy were cut short when it was seized by
local warlords in 1926; it was finally
destroyed during the Second
Sino-Japanese War in 1938.Xiao-huang Yin & Zhiyong Lan
(2003), p. 9.
While raising funds and building the railway, Chin encountered
numerous obstacles: a magistrate
usurp credit for organizing the company; there were many
difficulties over obtaining a right of way
due to clan
feuds and superstitions
); and gentry
-officials repeatedly attempted extortion
. Chin bought an official title to become
legally one of the gentry himself, which somewhat eased the
process. Still, the construction was confronted by over a hundred
riots staged by local landlord forces, resulting in thirty-nine
othewise unnecessary turns, which made construction more expensive
and affected speed and safety.
The company was officially chartered in 1906. The first section—15
miles from Kung Yick City (公益, pinyin Gongyi) at the northern tip of the
Taishan district to Taishan—opened in
In 1909, it reached Doushan
and the 54-mile railway was
officially open for business. By 1913, it reached another 26 miles to
Jiangmen city; a
further 21-mile branch line from Taishan to Baisha opened in 1920.
construction costs totalled about 9.7 million yuan
Rolling stock was purchased mainly from the
United States, although three tank
locomotives came from Germany.
Trains typically had six or seven cars, carrying both passengers
(in three classes
) and freight. At its
height in the 1920s, it carried three million passengers and
approximately a hundred thousand tons of cargo annually, with 80%
of income coming from passengers. In this same era, freight was
heavily weighted toward imports: the import/export ratio was about
thirty to one, in an economy heavily based on remittances from
By 1922 there was a machine shop in Kung Yick City. Chin Gee Hee
claimed that it "could manufacture everything except the
Unfulfilled 1924 plans by Chin would have
extended the railway in one direction 40 miles from Doushan to the
Tonggu Commercial Port and in the other to
Foshan, through which would have reached Guangzhou and the domestic mainland. Chin also wanted to
continue west through Yangjiang and the
west of Guangdong and to the Leizhou peninsula,
forming a traffic network throughout the southwest of
Several similar proposals met similar fates: the
well-connected Yuehan Railway
had a near-monopoly on railway construction in
Guangdong, some of the gentry wished to create their own railways,
and while the Sun Ning finally obtained the required formal
positions, by the time it got those permissions it was in financial
trouble. Furthermore, the Qing government
prevented them from borrowing from abroad, despite the fact that
the government itself was taking foreign loans at the time.
Consequently, the railway never connected to any major port or any
other key city of the Chinese economy.
From 1927 to 1929, the government overtly took over the railroad,
but it proved to be beyond their ability to operate it, and they
returned it to civilian control. The railroad was destroyed in the
Second Sino-Japanese War, dismantled in December 1938 to deny its
use by the Japanese military, who nonetheless occupied Taishan.
23,782 rails were shipped to Guangxi
to build the Qianguei Railway
other assets, which were worth over three million yuan
, were carried off by the Japanese.
Lucie Cheng and Liu Yuzun write that, while the railway did not
play major economic or strategic role in the history of Chinese
transportation, "its entire life reflects the interlocking but
conflicting pressures of Western imperialism
, bureaucratic capitalism
which characterized early twentieth century China… Moreover [it]
reflects the role of emigrant capital and nationalism
on the development of enterprises in
the emigrant motherland," reflecting especially the investment by
overseas Chinese in a geographic area (Taishan) which had been the
homeland for so many of them.
- Another transliteration of 余灼 (pinyin: Yu Zhuo) is Yu Chuek
(Editors' note, p. 125, Chin Gee Hee, "Letter Asking for Support to
Build the Sunning Railroad" (1911), p. 125–128 in Judy Yung, Gordon
H. Chang, and Him Mark Lai (compilers and editors), Chinese
American Voices, University of California Press (2006). ISBN
- Don T. Nakanishi and Tina Yamano Nishida, The Asian
American Educational Experience: A Source Book for Teachers and
Students, Routledge (1995). ISBN 0415908728. p. 55.
- Jue (1983) for the ideographs and Taishanese spellings.
- Eric Scigliano, for example. Cheng and Yuzun (1982) seem to say
that initial fundraising was entirely from China and from overseas
Chinese, but some later funds were borrowed from abroad.
- Cheng and Yuzun (1982) record that "by 1911, over ninety
percent of Chinese railroad lines were built by Westerners or by
- Guide to the Willard G. Jue Papers, 1880-1983
on the site of the University of Washington Libraries,
accessed July 19, 2007.
- Helen F. Siu, Agents and Victims in South China:
Accomplices in Rural Revolution, Yale University Press (1989).
ISBN 0300052650. p. 71.
- Cheng and Yuzun (1982)
- Jue (1983) p. 34 is the source for the spelling Kung Yick and
the location of the city.
- Jue (1983), p. 34.
- Lucie Cheng and Liu Yuzun with Zheng Dehua, "Chinese
Emigration, the Sunning Railway and the Development of Toisan",
Amerasia 9(1): 59-74, 1982; transcribed online, accessed 22 September 2007.
- Peter Crush, The Sunning Railway, Hong Kong Railway Society;
source for the Chinese characters for the railway name.
- Willard G. Jue, "Chin Gee-hee, Chinese Pioneer Entrepreneur in
Seattle and Toishan", The Annals of the Chinese Historical
Society of the Pacific Northwest, 1983, 31:38. This is the
source for ideographs and for (non-pinyin) transliteration of
- The History of Xinning Railway, Bureau of Archives of
Taishan City. Undated; the Internet Archive shows the page already existing December 10, 2004.
Accessed online 22 September 2007. This appears to draw heavily on
the Cheng and Yuzun paper.
- Eric Scigliano, "Seattle's Chinese Founding Father",
Seattle Metropolitan, May 2007, p. 48.
- Xiao-huang Yin & Zhiyong Lan, Why Do They Give? Change and Continuity in Chinese American
Transnational Philanthropy since the 1970s, commissioned by the
Global Equity Initiative
for a workshop on Diaspora Philanthropy to China and India, held in
May 2003. p. 9. Accessed online 22 September 2007.
- Gallery of the Xinning Railway, Archives of Taishan
- Peter Crush, , Hong Kong Railway Society. Includes a map of
the railway and many pictures of the railway's rolling stock. (Link
updated Sep 2009. Select ENGLISH, Member's Corner, Feature