7. Portraits on Chinese banknotes (1): Zaizhen (Tsai Chen)

Zaizhen’s portrait appears on notes of The Sin Chun Bank (華商上海信成銀行)  – the first savings bank in China. The bank was founded in 1906, and issued notes from 1907. It closed in 1913.[1] 

The note below is an unissued 10-yuan (10-dollar) dated 1907 in the British Museum collection (1986,0554.101). The note was printed in Japan, and the date is presented in the Chinese style (33rd year of the Guangxu period) and in the Japanese style (40th year of the Meiji era).[2][3]

Sin Chun Bank135

Here’s a close-up of the portrait:

Sin Chun Bank135 -portrait

Aisin Gioro Zaizhen (1876-1947) was a Manchu prince and politician. The inscription below his portrait on the banknote reads 大清國商部尚書固山貝子銜鎮國將軍載公振 (Secretary of the Board of Commerce of the Great Qing empire, Prince of the Fourth Rank, and Defender General, Prince Zaizhen).

The portrait appears to be based on a photograph (source: Wikimedia Commons)


The image of The Sin Chun Bank was also based on a photograph of the building in Shanghai. The Head Office was at Dadongmen, Shanghai (上海南市大东门万聚码头).

Sin Chun Bank135 - bank 2

Here’s the photograph (source: 360doc no.37):


Zaizhen’s visits to the UK

Zaizhen (Tsai Chen, Tsai-Chen, Tsai-cheng) visited the UK at least twice. He represented China at the coronation of Edward VII in 1902 – the coronation was postponed owing to illness, and Zaizhen went to Oxford that day instead.[4] He also represented China at the coronation of King George V and Queen Mary on 22 June 1911.[5] Prior to both occasions, The Times‘ correspondent expressed his dismay at the choice of Zaizhen as representative of China.[6][7][8]


[1] 王允庭:  《浅析上海信成银行纸钞版式》  (WANG Yunting on the different issues of notes of the Sin Chun Bank, blog dated 14 Feb 2011 – this is the detailed account I found relating to these notes)

[2] 馬傳德  , 湯偉康 , 徐淵 , 傅為群 (翻譯: 陳啟德):  《老上海貨幣》 (上海人民美术出版社) MA Chuande, TANG Weikang, XU Yuan and FU Weichun, Currencies in Old Shanghai (Shanghai: Shanghai People’s Fine Arts Publishing House, 1998, ISBN 7-5322-1774-4.

[3] The Development of Banks in Shanghai and Hong Kong / 從錢莊到現代銀行. 滬港銀行業發展 – exhibition catalogue, by the Hong Kong Museum of History and the Shanghai Bank Museum, 2007. ISBN 978-962-7039-61-7 (exhbition at the Hong Kong Museum of History, 28 Nov 2007 to 24 Mar 2008).

[4] Robert Ronald Campbell, James Duncan Campbell, A Memoir by His Son (East Asian Research Center, Harvard University; distributed by Harvard University Press, 1970), esp.  pp. 103-104 “The Chinese Special Envoy at King Edward’s Coronation”

[5] “China.” Times [London, England] 22 Jan. 1902: 5. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 5 May 2017 – “I am informed that a son of Prince Ching has been nominated to represent China at the Coronation of King Edward. He is 26 years old, without personal distinction, and is quite unknown. His present rank – a duke of the fourth degree – will be raised to that of Pet-tsze, or prince of the fourth degree. He is a distant cousin of the Emperor, Prince Ching being descended from the 17th son of the Emperor Chien-lung, who died in 1796. It is regrettable that China should be so inadequately represented at the great pageant. The Chinese will inevitably compare to our disparagement the relative rank of the envoy with that of Prince Chun.”

[6] “China’s First Prime Minister.” Times [London, England] 17 May 1911: 7. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 5 May 2017 – a damning feature on Zaizhen’s father printed about 5 weeks before the coronation: “For years the Prince [Ching] has stood for all that is most evil in Chinese officialdom… his record is always associated with disaster. No constructive statesman, no masterful patriot, he has lived his 73 years with no act of glory attached to his name. Censors have vainly impeached him; the Press never mentions his name but in execration, but he survives it all, and is daily more powerful.”

[7] G.E. Morrison, The Times Correspondent in his letter to D.D. Braham, 5 Sept 1911, wrote of the “disreputable Tsai-Chen”, that it was “an insult to send such a man to the Coronation”, although the Chinese “sent to the King gifts of quite unusual beauty and value” – see Lo Hui-min (ed), The Correspondence of G.E. Morrison 1895-12 (Cambridge University Press, 1976), p. 623.

[8] See Royal Collection website for details and images of the gifts Tsai-Chen presented. See also the 1911 Coronation Chinese Gift List (RA F&V/COR/1911: Chinese presents list.


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