Foreigners to Nanjing will probably be familiar with this building. It is located at 155 Baixia Lu almost next to the visa office, opposite Taiping Nan Lu. Many might have wondered about its architectural beauty while waiting for their visa appointment and why the Bank of Communications is located there .
During World War I and for some time thereafter, foreign banks in China collapsed one after another due to the impact of the war and the Chinese people’s anti-imperialist movement. The credibility of the surviving foreign banks had also been badly shaken.
Partly in response to this, the China & South Sea Bank was established in 1919 by overseas Chinese during the country’s Republican era, with its headquarters located in Shanghai.
In July 1922, the Bank opened its first branch in Tianjin. Branches and sub-branches followed in Beijing, Chongqing, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Hankou, Hong Kong, Nanjing, Suzhou, Wuxi, Xiamen and other cities. Primarily engaged in the deposit business, the Bank absorbed savings and provided business loans. Later, its escrow department was established to hold valuables and buy and sell securities on behalf of clients.
Shortly after its opening, the China & South Sea Bank obtained the right to issue banknotes. In fear of runs on the bank due to the indiscriminate issuance of banknotes, it was decided to do this as a group; along with Salt Bank, Jincheng Bank and China Continental Bank, otherwise known as the “four northern banks”.
Banknotes issued by the group were de facto legal tender until November 1935, when the national government in Nanjing unified the national monetary system.
As a building, the former Nanjing branch of China & South Sea Bank (中南银行南京分行) that we enjoy today is the result of a continuous expansion of the Bank’s activities. The new building, in its then quite revolutionary modern architectural style, appeared in 1936.
Let’s face it; the appearance of most banks is rather drab, and was especially so back then. But the China & South Sea Bank Nanjing Branch has a two-tone exterior, which gives it a crisp sharpness. European and American decorative styles are evident.
At the center of the show is of course the bell tower, which rises four stories above the Bank’s entrance hall. From here, the wings of the building extend north and west for a total floor area of 1,986 square meters.
As World War II raged, the Bank moved to Chongqing, and the building became the Ministry of Industry and later the Ministry of Grains. In the 1950s it became the Chaoyang Hotel. The current branch of the Bank of Communications was located here in February 1987.