This article is excerpted from Biographies of Prominent Chinese, published in Shanghai in c.1925.
Mr. Sung Han-chang was born on April 6th, 1872, in the Kienming District of Fukien Province, —where his father was engaged in the salt business. He studied in his native city until 1889, when he joined the Chinese Telegraph Administration as an accountant. As his work occupied only a portion of his time, he spent the balance of the day in studying English. He resigned from the Administration, in May 1895, to join the service of the Chinese Customs Administration, as a clerk on the indoor staff. Two years later, he was transferred to the Ningpo office.
Mr. Sung resigned from the Customs in 1898, in order return to the service of the Telegraph Administration, as an accountant and private secretary to the manager, Mr. King Lien-shan. In the same year he accompanied Mr. King on the latter’s trip to Hongkong and Macao, acting as his assistant. In 1900, he returned to Shanghai, and joined the Imperial Bank of China,—which later became known as the Commercial Bank of China.
In August 1906, Mr. Sung went to Peking to establish the Peking Savings Bank, under the control of the Board of Revenue, which was really a department for managing the savings accounts of the Ta Ching Government Bank, then in liquidation.
By an order of the Ministry of the Board of Revenue, Mr. Sung returned to Shanghai to serve as manager of the Ta Ching Bank in Shanghai. In 1912, with the consent of the local shareholders, he liquidated this bank. This involved a great volume of work for the manager; and during a short period of time, the entire amount of capital, totalling Haikwan Taels 5,000,000, was returned to the shareholders.
Mr. Sung then accepted the position as manager of the Bank of China. The work of organizing and inaugurating the Bank of China also involved tremendous energy and trials, but Mr. Sung faced the situation admirably.
Just after Mr. Sung had put the bank on a firm footing, His Excellency Yuan Shih-kai proclaimed a state of moratorium among the government banks, and almost succeeded in undoing that which Mr. Sung had labored for five years to accomplish. The order was proclaimed by a Mandate, on May 12th, 1916, on account of the government being short of funds. Instructions from Peking, for Mr. Sung, were that he should at once lock up the cash reserves in the vaults of the Shanghai office, and remove his office to Chinese territory. Although he was impressed with the importance of obeying this order, Mr. Sung realised that the financial market of the port would be greatly disturbed if it were observed and carried out. Courageously he made up his mind to resist the order, and transacted his banking business as usual. Thus he avoided a financial panic, and consequently kept Shanghai notes at par.
Though the head of the most important office of the premier government bank of the Republic, Mr. Sung is extremely modest and retiring. He is unassuming and simple in his expressions, shrewd and careful in his business dealings, and courageous in dealing with any difficulties that may arise. He has won admiration and respect, not only among his banking colleagues, but from everyone who has had the pleasure of knowing him.
Mr. Sung has served as President of the Shanghai Bankers’ Association, and Director of the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce, the Red Cross Society of China, the Anti-Kidnapping Society, and the Shaoshing Guild. In 1916, Mr. Sung was elected Chairman of the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce. However, he declined the honor on account of pressure of work in his banking business. He was re-elected in 1923, when he agreed to serve for one year. On the expiration of the term, he refused to serve again, although his votes were in the majority, because of dissension among the members. Nevertheless, he continues to serve on the board of directors.
A.R. Burt, J.B. Powell and Carl Crow, editors, Biographies of Prominent Chinese (Shanghai: Biographical Publishing Company Inc., c.1925), 63.