This article is excerpted from Biographies of Prominent Chinese, published in Shanghai in c.1925.
Mr. Li Yuk-tong was born in 1850, at Tai Shan, Kwangtung Province. He went to America when quite young, and later acquired considerable commercial experience there. This he used later to good advantage; and succeeded in amassing a considerable fortune. Upon his return to Hongkong, he established a firm under the name of the King Li Yuen Company, which maintained two branches. His motto in business was “strict adherence to honesty and sincerity in all dealings”.
Mr. Li realizing that there was a big future for the insurance business in China, invested heavily in various companies which he himself organized. They included: the Hong Nin Life Insurance Co. Ltd. And the Lun Yick Fire and Marine Insurance Co. Ltd., of which he is Chairman of the Board of Directors, The Lun Tai Fire and Marine Insurance Co. Ltd., of which he is a Director, and The Shanghai Fire and Marine Insurance Co. Ltd., of which he is Chief Manager.
Although his time is principally occupied in attending to his various commercial enterprises, he is affiliated with the Kuomingtang, or Peoples Political Party, and is an ardent advocate of democracy. Following the revolution, in 1911, leaders of this party elected Mr. Li Commissioner of Finance for Canton. Reluctantly he accepted, and held office through six months of troublous times, during which he was called upon to raise considerable military funds. After surmounting all serious difficulties, he resigned.
With renewed vigour he returned to his insurance business. Branches were established in various cities throughout China and the South Sea Islands. Good system and honest management brought prosperity, and his companies developed rapidly.
Mr. Li was one of the most active promoters of the Bank of Canton, Ltd., of Hongkong, and was elected Chairman of the Board of Directors and Managing Director of that institution. This business also prospered under Mr. Li’s able management. Branches were established in Canton, Shanghai, Hankow, Bangkok, New York, and San Francisco. Sub-agencies are maintained in other important cities in China.
In 1920, Mr. Li made a tour of Europe and America, for the purpose of investigating foreign banking and insurance systems, in order to enrich his knowledge. More than ten countries were visited; and upon his return, a book was written regarding his investigations.
The latest enterprise which Mr. Li has become interested in is the Sun Sun Co. Ltd., of Shanghai, a large department store company, of which Mr. Li is one of the principal founders and serves as Managing Director. The Shanghai store, which will be the largest, most modern, and finest equipped department store in the Far East, is in course of construction.
Mr. Li contributes liberally to philanthropic work intended to benefit the public at large. One of his largest contributions was made to the Agricultural School of the Canton Christian College, one of the most important educational institutions in China, of which he is a Director. He is also a Director of the Kwangtung Hospital at Canton. He was one of the promoters of the Sunning Railway.
At the advanced age of seventy-four, Mr. Li is sound in health, active and energetic, and attends office daily. His ambition is to see greater industrial development in China.
A.R. Burt, J.B. Powell and Carl Crow, editors, Biographies of Prominent Chinese (Shanghai: Biographical Publishing Company Inc., c.1925), 65.