Zhang Jian (张謇 1853-1926)


In the 13th Chapter on Shen Shou, Zhang Jian is mentioned as the man who set up The Nantong Embroidery Academy for Women and put Shen Shou in charge there. Zhang Jian was a pioneer in many things in the closing years of the Qin and the early days of the Republic. The Embroidery Academy was only one minor project , and Zhang Jian was the man responsible for many “firsts”. A native of Nantong, a city on the north shore of the Yangtse River, directly across the water from Changshu, Zhang Jian passed the imperial exams as Zhuangyuan (the highest ranked scholar), and then returned to his hometown and became a pioneer industrialist and educator. He started the first large cotton spinning mill, the first cotton supply base, the first school for textile industry, and other schools, and even promoted cotton cultivation, to name just a few of his many faceted contributions. To this day, Zhang Jian is revered by the people of Nantong. In the center of this booming industrial port city is a museum which features him prominently. Not far from it stands the museum in honor of Shen Shou and the art of embroidery. A new bridge over the Yangtse now connects Nantong with Shanghai by expressways. Travelling time has been cut to one and half hours from four hours or more. Today Nantong is one of the most promising cities in the whole of China. Although his ventures did not achieve commercial success, Zhang Jian sowed the seeds that eventually transformed Nantong. A truly great man.


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