Chang Chien (1 July 1853-24 August 1926), industrialist, educator, and conservationist, was a leading social reformer and a scholarentrepreneur. Beginning in 1899 with the Dah Sun Cotton Mill, he established an industrial complex in Nant'ung. His T'ung Hai Land Reclamation Company became a model for others. Chang devoted the last decade of his life to creating a model community in Nant'ung. The fourth of five sons, Chang Chien was born in Haimen, a district adjacent to his native district of Nant'ung. Although for generations the Chang family had been illiterate farmers, his father, Chang P'eng-nien, had acquired a modicum of schooling and was able to provide his sons with a sound education. Chang Chien showed early evidences of unusual ability and soon outstripped his brothers in scholarship. After .studying under a succession of tutors, he passed the examinations for the sheng-yuan degree in 1868, at the age of 15. He spent the following years studying at academies in Nant'ung and in Nanking, and from 1870 to 1876 he made four unsuccessful attempts to pass the examinations for the chu-jen degree. In 1876, through the recommendation of a mentor, Chang Chien entered the service of Wu Ch'ang-ch'ing (1834-1884; T. Hsiao-hsien) then commandant of the garrison at Pukow, across the Yangtze river from Nanking. Later in the same year Wu took Chang with him when he was transferred from Pukow to Tengchow in Shantung. During Chang's association with Wu Ch'ang-ch'ing, which was to last until the latter's death eight years later, Chang came into contact with other men of promise who were on Wu's staff, notably Yuan Shih-k'ai and Hsueh Fu-ch'eng (1838-1894; ECCP, I, 33132). While a member of Wu's staff, Chang's duties were not demanding, and he found ample leisure to continue his studies in preparation for the civil service examinations until the summer of 1882. In July of that year, the ultranationalist faction of the Korean court, led by the king's father, the Tai Won Kun, surrounded the Japanese legation in Seoul and killed many Japanese. On the advice of Li Shu-ch'ang (1837-1897; ECCP, I, 483-84), the Chinese minister in Tokyo, the imperial government in Peking decided to send a Chinese force to Korea. Wu Ch'ang-ch'ing was ordered to mobilize his troops in Tengchow and to dispatch them to Korea immediately. Wu entrusted to Chang Chien the responsibility of coordinating the movement of his troops from Shantung to Korea; and with the able assistance of Yuan Shih-k'ai and others, Chang succeeded in sending a Chinese force from Chefoo to Seoul in time to neutralize the armed opposition to the Korean king. Owing to the quick dispatch of Chinese troops in 1882, the revolt of the Tai Won Kun faction was put down, and the possibility of full-scale Japanese intervention in Korea was avoided for a time. For his important contribution to the success of this expedition, Chang was publicly rewarded both by the Korean king and by Wu Ch'angch'ing. In 1884 Chang returned from Korea and, after the death of Wu later in the year, again devoted himself to his studies, passing the examinations for the chü-jen degree in 1885. Between 1886 and 1892, he sat four times for the metropolitan examinations in Peking. Although he failed in these attempts, he succeeded in attracting the favorable attention of such influential officials as Weng T'ung-ho (18301904; ECCP, II, 860-61), the imperial tutor, who did his utmost to help him. In 1894, after he had all but resigned himself to permanent failure, he not only passed the series of examinations giving him the chin-shih degree, but also gained the ultimate distinction of chuang-yüan, or first in rank in the palace examinations. At this time Chang found reason to change the course of his career. The year 1894 witnessed the outbreak of the disastrous war against Japan over Korea. The humiliating terms of the Treaty of Shimonoseki, accepted by the Chinese government in the following year, were a shock to Chang. Although he had been appointed a member of the Hanlin Academy in 1894, Chang resolved to turn his back on the career of an official. Aware that reforms were necessary to strengthen China against foreign powers, he returned to Nant'ung to devote his efforts to the development of his native district so that it might serve as a concrete example of the benefits of modernization to the rest of China.
In the course of the Sino-Japanese war, Chang Chien had met Chang Chih-tung (1837-1909; ECCP, I, 27-31) who was in Nanking temporarily serving as governor general of Liang-Kiang. At that time Chang Chih-tung was seeking to develop industry by persuading members of the local gentry to establish cotton mills as he had done in the Hu-Kuang region. With the encouragement and the backing of Chang Chih-tung, Chang Chien began the task of establishing a cotton spinning mill in Nant'ung. The next three years were spent in raising the necessary funds for this venture, a difficult task because people of wealth were at that time reluctant to invest in fledgling industrial enterprises, especially one under the direction of an untried scholar. Through his own unceasing efforts, the loyal support of a small group of local gentry, and the continuing official encouragement of Liu K'un-i (1830-1902; ECCP, I, 523-24), who had succeeded Chang Chih-tung as governor general in Nanking, Chang Chien was able to make a success of his first industrial venture. The Dah Sun Cotton Mill in Nant'ung began operating in the fall of 1899 and thereafter made increasing profits for its investors, the only privately financed cotton mill to do so until the time of the First World War. From the success of the Dah Sun Cotton Mill Chang Chien derived immense prestige as a promoter, and from its profits he financed almost all of his numerous projects in and around Nant'ung. The Dah Sun Cotton Mill was also the first enterprise in an industrial complex which grew in Nant'ung and which included a flour mill (1901), shipping lines (1902, 1903), an oil mill (1903), a distillery (1903), a silk filature (1905), and a machine shop (1905).
While engaged in setting up the Dah Sun Cotton Mill, Chang Chien made a brief trip in May 1898 to Peking, where he came in close touch with the events immediately preceding the Hundred Days Reform. In Peking, Chang had frequent discussions with his old benefactor, Weng T'ung-ho, and when Weng was ordered to retire in mid-June, Chang urged him to leave the capital without delay. He also had occasion to meet K'ang Yu-wei (q.v.), then at the height of his influence as leader of the reform movement; and although Chang sought to dissuade him from open advocacy of far-reaching reforms in China's government, K'ang was not inclined to accept his advice. Chang left Peking for Nant'ung in July, well before the empress dowager's coup d'etat of September 1 898, and thus was not implicated with K'ang and the other reformers, although he was known to be a progressive. In 1899, soon after the establishment of the Dah Sun Cotton Mill, the Boxer Uprising broke out, and from north China spread southward toward the Yangtze valley. Chang Chien, who by this time had become a trusted adviser of Liu K'un-i, the governor general of Liang-Kiang, vigorously advised Liu to remain aloof from what Chang regarded as the disastrous policy of the imperial court in Peking. Liu was persuaded to adopt this point of view and, together with Chang Chih-tung, then governor general of Hu-Kuang, and Sheng Hsüan-huai (q.v.), was instrumental in keeping the Yangtze valley calm throughout the disturbance. In 1901, Chang Chien began the second of his major projects, the reclamation of wasteland along the seacoast of Nant'ung. For centuries this coastal strip had been considered unfit for cultivation and given over to salt production. Because changing natural conditions had gradually made many salt fields unworkable, Chang undertook to put the land into productive use. With the aid of several others of the district he founded the T'ung Hai Land Reclamation Company, which in succeeding years served as a model for some 40 land reclamation companies that developed along the Kiangsu coast. While not entirely successful, these land reclamation projects did provide a livelihood for tens of thousands of cultivators. In 1902 Chang embarked upon still another project, the founding of normal schools in his native district. As a first step in his plans to provide education to all children of school age in Nant'ung, Chang established the Nant'ung Normal School, the first of its kind in the country. In the beginning the school limited itself to the training of male teachers, but after seven years expanded its facilities to provide training for female teachers. These establishments provided trained teachers for several hundred primary schools in Nant'ung district. The success of the two normal schools prompted Chang to set up an agriculture school (1910), a textile school (1912), and a medical college (1912), these three institutions being combined in the 1920's to form Nant'ung University. Chang Chien spent four months of 1903 touring Japan, where he was greatly impressed with the progress toward modernization. Attributing Japan's achievements to its constitutional form of government, he returned to China an ardent advocate of constitutionalism. Thus in 1908 when the Manchu government issued a scheme for the gradual introduction of constitutional government, including the establishment of provincial assemblies, Chang took the initiative in drawing up preliminary plans for the Kiangsu provincial assembly and in selecting the site in Nanking where the new assembly building was to be constructed. In recognition of these services he was elected chairman of the first Kiangsu provincial assembly, which met in 1909. In this position, Chang issued a call for the representatives of all provincial assemblies in China to meet in Kiangsu, in order to press for the speedier formation of a national constitutional government. Sixteen provincial assemblies responded in the same year, and sent representatives to meet in Shanghai, where they formed a Kuo-hui ch'ing-yüan t'ung-chih hui [association of comrades to petition for a national assembly], an organization which took the lead in agitating for constitutional government. As chairman of the Kiangsu provincial assembly, Chang Chien inaugurated another project that he had long favored, the Kiang- Huai River Conservancy Company. Its projected function was to apply modern techniques of water control to the traditionally troublesome Huai river and to the Kiangsu section of the Grand Canal. Because of its limited resources, however, the activities of this quasi-official conservation project were confined largely to surveying work.
The year 1911 was to see Chang Chien traveling over a great part of the country and becoming involved in the rapidly changing political situation. He was in Peking in the early part of the year seeking to promote a commercial transaction between a group ot Kiangsu merchants and the American shipping magnate Robert Dollar. While in the capital, Chang was summoned to a private audience with the Regent, Prince Ch'un, in the course of which he strongly urged immediate political and economic reform measures to be taken by the tottering imperial government. Later in the year, just as the fighting in Wuchang broke out, Chang went there as a consultant on cotton mills. His first reaction upon returning to Kiangsu was to urge the incumbent governor general to rush to the aid of the imperial forces in Hupeh. Chang's conservative sympathies rapidly changed, however, when it became apparent that the imperial regime was incapable of taking decisive action. Abandoning his constitutionalist position, Chang became concerned with furthering the peaceful transfer of authority from the imperial government to the republican, and to this end he consented, when approached by the revolutionary leader Hu Han-min (q.v.), to draft an abdication statement, the text of which was subsequently used in drawing up the final Manchu abdication decree of 1912. Together with several others of his native province, Chang also wrote to key Manchu and Mongol officials, imploring them to accede peacefully to the transfer of power. These activities led to Chang's nomination in 1912 to the post of minister of industries in the cabinet of the provisional government of Sun Yat-sen at Nanking. Chang's chief efforts during this brief period in office were confined to the task of administering the funds derived from salt revenues in such a way as to keep the interim regime solvent. He continued to devote his attention to the problems of salt administration after the inauguration of Yuan Shih-k'ai as the first official president of China. As a result of his many years of interest in salt production on the Kiangsu coast, Chang published a comprehensive report calling for a reform of the entire salt administration, and for a number of years thereafter, he continued to take an active part in measures dealing with salt reform. During his participation in the short-lived provisional government at Nanking, Chang Chien came in contact with Huang Hsing, Ch'en Ch'i-mei, Chang Ping-lin (qq.v.), and other members of the republican revolutionary movement. Early in 1912 Chang joined Chang Ping-lin, Hsiung Hsi-ling (q.v.), and others to form the T'ung-i-tang [united party], an independent political group which was in opposition to the T'ung-meng-hui, and gravitated toward Yuan Shih-k'ai in Peking. In May 1912, Chang became a director of the Kung-ho-tang [republican party] led by Li Yuan-hung (q.v.). However, in the successive transformations of political groups during the years 1912 and 1913, although Chang's name figured prominently in the leadership of various parties, he himself was never in favor of interparty struggles and took but little part in them, remaining for most of this period in his native Kiangsu.
Late in 1911 Chang Chien had resumed frequent communication with his associate of former years, Yuan Shih-k'ai. Having declined a number of Yuan's earlier invitations to serve in Peking, including an offer of the premiership, Chang eventually felt obliged to join the Peking government as minister of agriculture and commerce, a post he held from October 1913 to December 1915, in the cabinets of Hsiung Hsiling and Sun Pao-ch'i (q.v.). During this period Chang was the prime mover behind a number of laws designed to provide the country with a legal foundation for continued agricultural and industrial growth. These included the Labor and Profit Law, the Corporations Establishment Law, and the Chamber of Commerce Act. Concurrently, Chang was the national director general of river conservation. He could accomplish little because of China's political instability. The increasingly obvious designs of Yuan Shih-k'ai to become emperor caused a final break in the relations between the two men, and Chang Chien resigned from both his positions in December 1915. During the last decade of his life, Chang Chien channeled his energies into endeavors to make his native Nant'ung a model for all of China. In addition to his industrial, conservational, and educational efforts, he had long been active in philanthropic projects. As early as 1906, Chang had personally financed the establishment of a new foundling home able to care for 1,200 children. After the fall of the Manchu regime, his attention turned increasingly toward charitable work, and he founded successively a home for the aged, a workshop for the poor, a medical clinic (all in 1913), a home for the crippled, and a school for the blind and dumb (both in 1916). Most of these were financed entirely from his personal funds. He was instrumental in providing Nant'ung with a museum (1905), a library (1912), and a weather station (1916). A lover of traditional drama, Chang also instituted a local school for opera singers and promoted the building of a new opera house in 1919.
Careful in his personal habits and endowed with a robust constitution, Chang Chien passed the gala celebration of his seventieth sui in 1922 with an undiminished zest for life. He died after a brief illness on 24 August 1926. Chang Chien was survived by three of his four concubines (his wife having died in 1908), four daughters, two adopted sons, and an only son, Chang Hsiao-jo, born of his fourth concubine, nee Wu. Chang Hsiao-jo published a completed version of his father's nien-p'u, originally compiled by Chang Chien and published in 1925 as She-weng tzu-ting nien-p'u [chronology of the venerable Seh], and he compiled a biography of his father, published in 1930, entitled Nan-Vung Chang Chi-chih hsiensheng chuan-chi [the biography of Chang Chichih of Nant'ung]. In addition, Chang Hsiao-jo completed the task of editing his father's voluminous correspondence and other writings. Although Chang Chien never abandoned the traditional Confucian values, he departed from the pattern of behavior traditional to the official-gentry class by venturing actively into the culturally despised world of business. In so doing, moreover, Chang differed from other official-entrepreneurs, such as Li Hung-chang and Chang Chih-tung, in that he was directly involved in the day-to-day operations of his enterprises; and in this respect, only one of his contemporaries, the entrepreneur Sheng Hsuanhuai, can be compared to him. As a modernizer, Chang also differed from many of the reformers of his period ; they were primarily concerned with changing the political system. Despite his involvement in national affairs, Chang was seldom in direct touch with the major political events of the country. By shunning a purely political career and by confining most of his activities to the local level, he was able to effect many practical advances in the fields of industry, education, and conservation.