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The antiques man on East 55th

Updated: 2019-05-25 09:00:00

( China Daily )

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Chen Shizhen sees his own company, which bears the name Ton Ying, as a continuation of some sort for the old Ton Ying company. [Photo by Judy Zhu/China Daily]

That was just the beginning of a legend. On a steamship returning from China to Europe in 1906, Zhang had a chance encounter with Sun Yat-sen, founder of the Nationalist Party of China, who today is considered pivotal in overthrowing the rule of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) and thus ending the country's feudal history stretching over millennia.

Immediately enchanted, Zhang pledged support.

"The two established a code for Sun to use if he needed money: 'A' meant send 10,000 francs, 'B' meant send 20,000 francs and so forth," Chen says. "This was a pledge that Sun took only half seriously until 1907, when a cash-strapped Sun, with few donors to turn to for his revolutionary cause, sent a telegram to Zhang with the letter C. A few days later 30,000 francs appeared in Sun's bank account.

Drawing from the huge profit generated mainly by his sale of ancient Chinese artworks and antiques, Zhang was able to offer continued support to Sun. When Sun, afflicted by cancer, signed his will in Beijing in 1925, Zhang was at his deathbed.

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