This article is excerpted from Biographies of Prominent Chinese, published in Shanghai in c.1925.
His Excellency Hsu Shih-chang, Ex-President of the Republic, was born at Tientsin, in 1858. He became an orphan when a youth, and was raised by the late Yuan Chia-san, father of the late President Yuan Shih-kai. Mr. Hsu was born of a literary family; and given a good education. He passed the literary examinations, and became a Han-lin, or Metropolitan graduate, in 1886. In November 1903, he became Senior Councillor of the Board of Commerce. In June 1904, he was made Probationary Grand Councillor; and the following year became Minister of the Government Council.
In October 1905, Mr. Hsu was appointed President of the Board of Civil Administration. In February 1906, he was promoted to serve as Grand Councillor of the State. In January 1907, he was appointed to accompany Prince Tsai Chen on a special mission to Manchuria. Upon his return to the Capital, he was made President of the Board of Interior. In April 1907, he was appointed Viceroy of Manchuria. He remained there for two years; and in February 1909, was appointed President of the Board of Communications, later serving concurrently as Director-General of the Tientsin-Pukow Railway. In March 1910, Mr. Hsu was made Assistant Grand Secretary of State: and, later, Grand Councillor of State.
In Prince Ching’s Cabinet, organized in May 1911, he was appointed Associate Premier. He resigned shortly afterward in order to accept the office of Vice-President of the Privy Council. Although a literary man, Mr. Hsu was appointed Chief of the General Staff, in December 1911. The following month he was authorized, by an edict, to be High Commissioner for the Emperor,—the most honorable position he could hold under the Manchu Dynasty. Upon the resignation of the Prince Regent, Mr. Hsu was again appointed a Grand Guardian of the Emperor. After the first revolution, Mr. Hsu retired to private life.
Being a “sworn” brother of the late President Yuan Shih-kai, Mr. Hsu became Secretary of State in the new Republican Government, and served in that capacity until October 1914, when he resigned.
Mr. Hsu visited Japan, where he met a number of prominent Japanese officials; but he soon returned on account of illness. Being a “sworn” brother of the late President Yuan Shih-kai, Mr. Hsu could not very well remain out of politics; and in May 1914, he accepted the appointment of Secretary of State. Mr. Hsu took leave of absence, in October 1915, when His Excellency Yuan Shih-kai launched his monarchical movement.
Subsequently, he was named one of “The Four Friends of Sungshan” by His Excellency Yuan Shih-kai. The others named were: His Excellency Chang Chien, His Excellency Chao Erh-hsun, and His Excellency Li Ching-hsi.
In March 1916, Mr. Hsu was again appointed Secretary of State; which position he shortly afterwards relinquished in favor of Marshal Tuan Chi-jui. Mr. Hsu retired for a time, residing in Honan, his former home. He returned to Peking in November 1916, to mediate between President Li Yuan-hung and Premier Tuan Chi-jui. During the unsettled period, 1917-1918, he remained detached from Peking politics. However, he did not lose his influence over the contending factions. On September 4th, 1918, Mr. Hsu was elected President of the Republic of China at a joint meeting of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Mr. Hsu received the honorary degree of Doctor of Literature, from the University of Paris, in 1921. In June of that year, he sent Mr. Chu Chi-chien to represent him upon the occasion of the awarding of this degree, by the authorities of the University, at Paris.
Mr. Hsu vacated the Presidency on June 1st, 1922; and since then has been living in retirement in Tientsin.