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Bank of China Building at the Bund Rivaling Foreign Banks (1930 - 1937)


 

Bank of China Shanghai Branch was opened in 1912 at the site of the former Bank of Great Qing at No. 50, Hankou Road, Shanghai. After the World War I, Bank of China procured the site of the German Federation at No. 22, Renji Road on the Bund from the government and moved there in February 1923. Since then, Bank of China grabbed a place on the Bund where foreign-funded banks were concentrated.

In 1928, the Head Office of Bank of China moved from Beijing to Shanghai and shared the office on Hankou road with Shanghai Branch. With the business development, the old site of Bank of China Shanghai Branch became inadequate for business expansion. Therefore, in 1930, Bank of China acquired land plots on Renji Road and Yuanmingyuan Road. From then on, it set aside 500,000 yuan from its yearly profit as construction funds.

Another factor that stimulated Bank of China to construct a building within the concession of the Bund in Shanghai, according to Zhang Jia'ao, was that "Bank of China has gone through various challenges without vacillation and its internal organization has been reformed. It is able to contend with the Western banks in Shanghai and needs a modern building to show its solid foundation and to convince the customers at home and abroad."

In April, 1934, the board of directors of Bank of China decided to spend 6 million yuan constructing an 18-floor building for its Head Office and Shanghai Branch. As the British-funded Sassoon House was the highest tower on the Bund in Shanghai at that time, the British side was unwilling to see a higher building than its own tried several times to obstruct the Bank of China construction. After repeated modifications, the drawing of Bank of China building was finally completed with a total of 15 floors and a height of 227 ft. The building was designed to cover an area of 55,000 sq. ft. and its front gate was 25 ft tall. T.V. Soong, Chairman of the board of directors of Bank of China, hosted the founding ceremony on October 10, 1936.


The foundation card signed by T.V. Soong, then Chairman of Bank of China

In 1937, the main body of the building was almost completed. The second to the fourth floors of the front tower were offices for the board of directors and general manager; the ground floor was a business hall with black marble counters on both sides. The counters were in a shape of the Chinese character "Zhong", with eight great marble pillars inside the counters, carved with pictures of "Eight Immortals Crossing the Sea". Two huge canvas of great people such as Confucius and Dr. Sun Yat-sen as well as pictures of the ancient lifestyle were hung on the east and west walls. With decoration of lattice doors and palace lanterns, the business hall looked elegant and simple, reflecting the splendid eastern civilization. The safe deposit in the building occupied a floor area of approximately 500 sq. m., accommodating 10,084 safes of all sizes. Both the safes and the vault doors were made of stainless steel, making the arch door as heavy as 10 tons and thick as 85 cm. The bank introduced a complete set of alert facilities against fire, water and theft, which was at the top level in the Far East. Till the founding of the People's Republic of China, it had been the only precise and complete safe deposit in Shanghai.


Bank of China Building, Shanghai

In the concession on the Bund of Shanghai, where foreign-funded high-rises were concentrated, emerged Bank of China Building that that was funded by the bank its own and constructed by Chinese workers. It changed the situation of "world of foreigners" and showed the determination of Bank of China to compete with foreign banks.

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