Foreigners in Nanjing will most likely be familiar with this building. He lives at 155 Baixia Lu, right next to the visa office, across from Taiping Nan Lu. While waiting for the visa appointment, many may have wondered about its architectural beauty and why the Communication Bank is there.
Foreign banks in China for some time during and after the First World War collapsed one after another under the influence of the war and the anti-imperialist movement of the Chinese people. The credibility of the surviving foreign banks was also badly shaken.
Partly as a response to this, China & South Sea Bank was founded in 1919 by overseas Chinese during the country’s Republic, with its head office in Shanghai.
In July 1922, the Bank opened its first branch in Tianjin. It was followed by branches and sub-branches in Beijing, Chongqing, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Hankou, Hong Kong, Nanjing, Suzhou, Wuxi, Xiamen and other cities. Engaged mainly in the deposit business, the Bank absorbed savings and provided loans to the business community. Later, the trust department was established to hold valuables and buy and sell securities on behalf of clients.
Shortly after the opening, China & South Sea Bank gained the right to issue banknotes. It was decided to do it as a group, for fear of escaping to the bank due to the indiscriminate printing of banknotes; Salt Bank is known as the “four northern banks” along with Jincheng Bank and China Continental Bank.
Banknotes issued by the group remained de facto legal tender until November 1935, when the Nanjing National Government consolidated the national monetary system.
As a building, the former Nanjing Branch of the Bank of China and the South Sea (Zhongnan Bank Nanjing Branch) what we appreciate today was the result of continued expansion in the Bank’s business. The new building came into existence in 1936, with its highly revolutionary, modern architectural style at the time.
Let’s face it; the look of most banks is pretty boring and especially so back then. But the China & South Sea Bank Nanjing Branch has a two-toned exterior, which gives it a crisp clarity. Both European and American decorative styles are prominent.
The centerpiece of the show is, of course, the bell tower, located four floors above the entrance hall of the Bank. From here the wings of the building extend north and west over a total floor area of 1,986 square metres.
With the raging of World War II, the Bank moved to Chongqing and the building became the Ministry of Industry and finally the Ministry of Grain. It became the Chaoyang Hotel in the 1950s. The current branch of Communication Bank was here in February 1987.