Chou Ch'ang-ling (13 March 1861-24 February 1959), known as Shouson Chow, high official in the imperial government who became an outstanding businessman and civic leader in Hong Kong. He was knighted by King George V in 1928.
Although Shouson Chow was born in Hong Kong 20 years after the island had been ceded to Great Britain by the treaty ending the first Anglo-Chinese war, his native district usually is given as Paoan hsien, Kwangtung province; Hong Kong was a part of the province before it came under British jurisdiction. Chow's grandfather lived in the village later known in English as Aberdeen, and he was one of the village elders who assisted the British in posting their first official proclamations on the island of Hong Kong. The Chow family was in comfortable circumstances, and the boy Shouson received a traditional Chinese education.
Shouson Chow's promise found early recognition in 1873 when, at the age of 13 sui, he was selected by the Chinese imperial government as a student in the Chinese Educational Mission, which then was sending students to the United States. The mission selected a total of 120 Chinese students, all between the age of 12 and 14. The plan was that the boys would stay 10 or 15 years in the United States, where they would receive elementary, secondary, and college educations. The students left China in the summer of 1872. The third group included Shouson Chow.
In the United States, Shouson Chow, after a period of language study and orientation, entered Phillips Academy at Andover, Massachusetts. After being graduated from that school, he went to Columbia University in New York. He was not to complete his study program because in 1881 the Chinese government suddenly ordered the recall of the entire Chinese Educational Mission. The Peking government had been influenced by conservatives who were alarmed by reports that the Chinese students in the United States were becoming excessively Americanized. These reports had led to concern that the students eventually would become revolutionaries.
On their return to China, the students were regarded with suspicion, treated with indignity, and confined to special quarters allocated to them in Shanghai. Shouson Chow was no exception. The potential usefulness of the Western-trained young men was soon recognized, however, and they were assigned to official posts appropriate to their backgrounds and qualifications. Shouson Chow, with some of his fellow students, was a member of the Chinese deputation sent to assist the Korean government in reorganizing its customs service. Yuan Shih-k'ai, as imperial resident, was then China's ranking representative in Korea, and Shouson Chow served under Yuan until the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese war in 1894. In that year he also served for a time as Chinese consul at Inchon.
After the Sino-Japanese war, Shouson Chow returned to China and held numerous official posts. Several years later, in 1903, he was appointed to the important post of managing director of the China Merchants Steam Navigation Company, with headquarters at Tientsin. He remained in this post for four years. In 1907 he was named managing director of the Peking- Mukden Railway. In 1908 Shouson Chow received the highly important appointment of customs tao-t'ai at Newchwang. In addition to supervising the customs administration there, he carried out many other duties, notably the handling of foreign relations in the region west of the Liao River, an area covering several hundred square miles with a population of several million people. As the representative of the viceroy of Manchuria, he entertained Field Marshal Kitchener when the latter visited the battlefields of Manchuria in 1909.
In 1911 Shouson Chow was recalled to Peking and was made a secretary in the Board of Foreign Affairs. In April the revolutionaries staged the famous Huang-hua-kang Uprising at Canton, now commemorated on 29 March each year (see Huang Hsing). Although the insurrection was abortive, it stirred revolutionary forces throughout the country to action and led directly to the Wuchang revolt of 10 October. Chow, accurately sensing the trend of the times, retired from official life in China and went to live in Hong Kong. Reportedly, he declined an offer from Prince Ch'ing, the president of the Board of Foreign Affairs, to become minister to a European country. Shouson Chow was 50 years old when he went to Hong Kong in 1911. He had dedicated three decades to public service in the land of his ancestors, had established a distinguished and successful career, and had received many decorations. He did not enter politics in Hong Kong, in the sense that he held no official posts. He identified himself with the colony's varied commercial and industrial interests, became associated with a host of enterprises, and served as a director of many corporations, including the Hongkong Electric Company; the Hongkong Telephone Company; Hongkong Tramways; A. S. Watson & Company; the Bank of East Asia; the China Entertainment and Land Investment Company; the China Emporium; the Nanyang Brothers Tobacco Company ; and the Hongkong Yaumati Ferry Company. Shouson Chow's immediate and phenomenal success in Hong Kong and his illustrious record on the mainland made it natural for him to be called upon to work in the public interest as a responsible citizen. In 1920 he was made a justice of the peace. In 1921 he was appointed an unofficial member of the Legislative and Executive councils of the Hong Kong government. The same year he was elected to the Council and Court of the University of Hong Kong, from which institution he received the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws in 1935. He sat on many commissions appointed by the government, and in 1924 he was associate commissioner of the Hong Kong section of the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley. He served on many public welfare and philanthropic organizations, among them the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals, the Po Leung Kuk (an organization for the protection of women and children), and the Town Planning Committee. In 1928, when he was 68, Shouson Chow was knighted by King George V and henceforth became known as Sir Shouson Chow. The investiture, held at Government House, was conducted by Prince George (later Duke of Kent), the son of George V, who was then serving in the Royal Navy in Hong Kong. It was the first time in the colony's history that a member of the British royal house had officiated at such a ceremony. Through the years, Sir Shouson also received various decorations from the British Government.
In the later years of his life, though he was retired from active business affairs, Sir Shouson Chow continued to give his service to public interests. When he retired from the Legislative and Executive councils in 1937, he was given the unprecedented privilege by King George V of retaining the title Honorable before his name, a title normally used in Hong Kong only by active members of these two councils. Despite advancing years, he retained his health and vigor and visited his office in the Bank of East Asia every morning. He built a mansion, called Pine Villa, on an incline at Shouson Hill, a site he had developed. Lady Chow died in 1933, and he did not remarry.
Toward the end of his life, Sir Shouson Chow was fond of reminiscing about his youthful days, particularly those which he had spent as a student in the United States from 1873 to 1881. He frequently reminded younger Chinese students who had studied in America that he was very much their senior. Indeed, by his ninetieth birthday he was reportedly one of three living members of the group of 1 20 pupils. Even in his later years, he was a lively and witty public speaker, invariably disdaining a microphone. He also delighted in enlightening young Americans of conditions in their country as they had been three quarters of a century before. Sir Shouson Chow died at his home in Hong Kong in 1959, at the age of 98. Following the example of Sir Robert Ho-tung (Ho Tung, q.v.), he was baptized an Anglican on his deathbed.