Chang Chien (Zhang Jian) 張謇

This article is excerpted from Biographies of Prominent Chinese, published in Shanghai in c.1925, in which Chang also wrote the introduction.

Chang Chien

His Excellency Chang Chien, a native of Nantungchow, Kiangsu, was born of parents who were proud of belonging to the industrious farming class. Chang Chien however, was destined to become a scholar. In his early years, he received his education under private tutorship; and the conscientiousness with which he mastered his studies was manifested in the fact that, at the age of sixteen, he was given the title of Hsiu Tsai, and, later, won the title of Chin Hsi, Han Lin, and the formidable scholastic title of Chuan Yuan. The latter was the highest literary title for one to achieve during the Ching Dynasty. As a Han Lin, he served as professor in many government institutions. Owing to the many changes in the government, he planned to reform the institutions of the government.

He proceeded to devote his entire attention to industrial and commercial pursuits. He organized: a cotton spinning and weaving mill, flour and bean oil mills, an iron works, a silk filature, and a steam navigation company. His chief aim was to produce better native products, and at the same time, cultivate barren lands. About two hundred square miles of barren land, lying waste from time unknown along the shores of the river near Nantungchow has thus become known, to everyone, as the model city. It contains sixty miles of hard surfaced roads, lined with shade trees, 330 schools, having a total of 30,000 students, and scores of factories.

Chang Chien does not consider self in the undertaking of these many enterprises, as it is well known that he donates large sums towards the promotion of education and public welfare. He has organized: a normal school for boys and girls, schools for agriculture, sericulture, and medicine, womens’ domestic works, nursing homes, orphanages, and schools for the deaf and dumb.

During the Manchu régime, Chang Chien held several honorable positions, such as Advisor to the Boards of Finance and Education. In addition to this, he served as chairman of many national and provincial organizations, such as: the Kiangsu Provincial Assembly, the National Agricultural Association, and the National Railways.

On March 13th, 1913, he was appointed Director-General of the Huai Ho Conservancy Bureau; and he then established a conservancy school which produced two hundred maps and sectional plans of the Huai River.

While holding the post of Director of the Salt Gabelle of Liang Huai, he published “The System of Salt Taxation”. When the Salt Gabelle was given as security for a large loan, he resigned his post as Director.

After receiving the Second Order of Merit and the First Class Chiaho, Chang Chien was appointed as Minister of Agriculture and Commerce. He established the Industrial Development Bank of China. In 1914, he accepted the post of Director of National Conservancy. This he later resigned, upon meeting with opposition. In 1920, he again accepted the position of Tupan of the Grand Canal Conservancy; and, in 1921, he became Tupan of the Woosung Port Development Bureau. He planned the new Grand Canal, which runs through ten districts in Kiangpah.

Among his contributions to the city of Nantungchow, should be mentioned: the museum, the observatory, a hospital, factories which employ only the poor, institutions for the old and helpless, and a home for cripples. Chang Chien has done a great deal towards bringing about the improvement of industrial conditions of the country. He is now recognized, by both Chinese and foreigners, as the greatest industrial leader in China. His latest decorations include the First Order of Merit, and the First Class Chihao with Grand Sash. His honesty, integrity, industry, and strong personality have won for him the confidence and respect of the entire nation.

Chang Chien text

A.R. Burt, J.B. Powell and Carl Crow, editors, Biographies of Prominent Chinese (Shanghai: Biographical Publishing Company Inc., c.1925). 12.