Meet Zheng Yaonan, General Manager

This is the second instalment of my series of essays aimed at drawing a collective biography of the Consolidated National Advertising Co. In this post, we propose to start our gallery of individual portraits with Zheng Yaonan, one of the four main founders of the Consolidated Group, with Zhang Zhuping, Yao Juwei and Lu Meiseng, who will be introduced in the following posts.

Zheng Yaonan 鄭耀南 (Cheng Yaonan, thereafter noted “ZYN”) was born in Shanghai in 1892.[1] Being the son of an advertising broker, he did not pursue higher education but engaged in business at a very young age. In 1916, he was appointed advertising director for the newspaper New World (Xinshijie rikan 新世界日刊) and later for the Shenbao 申報. In 1920, he founded his own company, Yaonan Advertising Company (Yaonan guanggao gongsi 耀南廣告公司). Specialized in press advertising, Yaonan was one of five companies that merged to form the Consolidated National Advertising Co. (Lianhe guanggao gongsi 聯合告公司) in 1930.[2] As a major shareholder of the Consolidated group, ZYN became an ex-officio member of the board of directors and affiliated companies, including Consolidated Coupon Co (Lianhe zengpin gufen youxian gongsi 聯合贈品有限公司), of which he was appointed managing director; Consolidated Trading Co (Zhongguo lianhe yingye gongsi 中國聯合營業公司 (another trading branch) and the affiliated sports association established in 1934 (Lianhe tiyuhui 聨合體育會).[3]

An Overactive Entrepreneur

ZYN was known for being ta careful and reliable business partner. His huge fortune (estimated at 200,000 yuans in 1930) enabled him to invest in numerous enterprises.[4] ZYN alone led some fifteen companies covering a wide variety of sectors, including the press, food products, raw materials[5]  and the textile industry, especially cotton and wool.

In the press, ZYN concurrently hold the positions of Managing Director and member of the Board of Directors of several major Shanghai newspapers, including the China Times (Shishi xinbao 時事新報) and theChina Evening News (Dawanbao大晚報), and of the Shenshi News Agency (Shenshi tongxunshe 申時通訊社).[6] He also ran the printing company Liantai Printing Co. (Liantai yinshua gongsi 聯泰印刷公司), which was rapidly expanding in the early 1920s.[7] After the Sino-Japanese war (1937-45), he served as an advertising consultant for the Shanghai Journal of Commerce (Shanghai shangbao chubanshe gufen youxian gongsi 上海商報出版社股份有限公司).[8]

ZYN was also a pionneer in the wool industry. He participated in the formation of the Shanghai Yarn Market (Shanghai shaxian zhengquan shichang choubei chu 上海紗線證劵市場籌備處) in 1921 [9] In 1928, however, he faced a major strike in his cotton factory in Shanghai (Shanghai hongyu fangzhichang 上海鴻裕紡織廠), involving a serious trial of strength with workers unions for more than a year.[10] After the war, he still sat on the board of directors of the Taifeng Yarn Mill Co (Taitfeng shachang gongcheng gufenyou xiangongsi 泰豐紗廠工程股份有限公司).[11] In the food industry, he founded and ran the Huimin Milk Powder Co. (Huiminnaifen gongsi 惠民奶粉公司), a noodle factory (Xinghua Machine Noodle Co 興華制麵公司) and the Guanshengyuan Food Products Co, Ltd. (Guanshengyuan shipin gufen youxian gongsi 冠生園食品股份有限公司).[12]

As a key player in the business community, ZYN hold strategic positions in inter-professional organisations and local government bodies. He represented advertising circles at the Shanghai Chamber of Commerce and chaired its committee for the promotion of national products.[13] He also represented the business community in the Chinese Ratepayers Association, which strongly influenced the decisions of the Shanghai Municipal Council (SMC).[14] Concerned with the development of a national transportation network, he joined the National Good Roads Construction Association (Zhonghua quanguo daolu jianshe xiehui 中華全國道路建設協會)[15] in 1926 and stood among the prominent guests at the inauguration of the Hangzhou-Shanghai-Hangzhou railway line in 1933.[16]

His strong national consciousness did not refrain him from supporting local organizations, such as the Chaozhou Residents’ Association (Chaozhou lühu tongxianghui 潮州旅滬同鄉會) and the Guangdong Residents’ Association (Guangdong lühu tongxianghui 廣東旅滬同鄉會).[17]

Serving the Advertising Profession

Along with his colleagues Yao Junwei and Zhang Zhuping, ZYN was a founding member of the Chinese Advertisers Association (Zhonghua guanggao shanghui 中華廣告商會), in which he hold several important positions throughout his career, as member of the standing committee, head of the inspection team during the anti-Japanese campaign in response to the invasion of Manchuria in September 1931, member of the executive committee and head of the communications committee.[18]

In contrast with his US-trained associates Lu Meiseng and Wang Yingbin, Zheng was not directly involved in teaching activities, but he did share his expertise by contributing to professional journals, such as Guanggao yu tuixiao jikan (廣吿與推銷季刊) [Advertising and Marketing Quaterly] and collective works, such as the first volume on the history of Chinese advertising published in 1948. [19]

From Advertising to Philanthropy

Although it was just one among his numerous activities, ZYN relied on advertising to pursue a higher social mission. Like his partners in the Consolidated group, ZYN was representative of the new class of committed entrepreneurs who put their resources and networks at the service of Chinese society and, from Japan’s invasion of Manchuria onwards (september 1931), of national survival. [20] His multifaceted involvement also embodied the “enlightened paternalism” that characterized the emerging group of industrialists under the Republic of China (Yeh, 2007, p.101-128).

As early as in the 1920s, he brought relief to the victims of repeated natural disasters (floods, droughts), either by making donations or by contributing to the organization of relief work through fundraising campaigns and open calls for volunteers.[21] As hostilities with Japan escalated in the 1930s, he joined the China Aviation Association (Huangkong jiuguo yundong 航空救國運動) in 1933[22] and organized a campaign for collecting gas masks in 1936.[23] After the bombings of August 1937 and the massive influx of refugees in Shanghai foreign settlements[24], he became a major sponsor of the Shanghai Refugees Association (Shanghai jiuji nanmin xiehui 上海救濟難民協會), as head of the propaganda committee and regular donator.[25]

ZYN was also concerned with health and sanitation. As such, he supported the construction of several hospitals, such as Tongde Hospital (Tongde yiyuan 同德醫院)[26], Tongshan Nursing School (Wuxing linghu zhen tongshan yuyingtang 吳興菱湖鎭同善育嬰堂)[27], Shanghai Workers Hospital (Shanghai laogong yiyuan 上海勞工醫院 )[28], Hongkew Hospital (Hongkou bo’ai yiyuan 虹口博愛醫院).[29] Concerned with the resurgence of epidemics during the war (especially cholera), he contributed with Yao Junwei to the maintenance of the Chinese Infectious Disease hospital (CIDH) (Shanghai shiyi yiyuan 上海時疫醫院 ).[30] He was also invited to join the board of directors of the China Health Society (Zhongguo baojianshe 中國保健社).[31] Committed to children welfare, he sponsored the Poor Children Association (Pin’er jiaoyang yuan 貧兒敎養院) and the Children Welfare Society (Zhonghua ciyou xiehui 中華慈幼協會).[32]

After the war, he redirected his donations towards the promotion of education and culture. Along with his associate Yao Junwei, he funded the Shenbao Research Prize in Natural Sciences  (Shenbao kexue jiangjin 申報科學獎金 ) and several scholarships, including those from the Shenbao (Shenbao zhuxuejin 申報讀者助學金) and Nantong University.[33] He also sponsored Lu Meiseng’s (unsuccessful) political campaign when he run for legislative elections in 1948. [34]

Little is know about his private life and personal hobbies. He joined a club of taijiquan (Jianquan taijiquanshe 鑑泉太極拳社) in 1931 and was among the founding members of the Shanghai Club of Martial Arts (Shanghaishi guoshuguan zhengqiuhui 上海市國術館徵求會) in 1937.[35] In the backdrop of the Sino-Japanese war, it is likely that ZYN envisioned martial art as a weapon for national defense, as his compatriot Wang Xiaolai did.[36]


[1] Guohuo weiyuanhui 國貨委員會. Shenbao, July 11, 1930, September 29, 1931, July 11, 1936.

[2] Shanghai zujie nashui Huaren hui上海租界納稅華人. Shenbao, 11 April 1934, 2 April 1935.

[3] This initiative is part of a larger national Good Roads Movement. Shenbao, June 3 and 22, 1926, July 18, 1930.

[4] Shenbao, 23 December 1933

[5] Shenbao, 9 November 1932, 20 December 1933, 20 February 1934, 26 January 1935, 20 February 1934.

[6] SMA, Q275-1-1840-37 (108). Shanghai gongshang renming lu 上海工商人名錄, 1936, p.172. Shenbao, October 19, 1931, February 24, 1934, June 17, 1935.

[7] Shenbao, 3 July 1920

[8] Shenbao, August 10, 1946.

[9] Shenbao, August 12, 1921.

[10] Shenbao, February 8, 1928, February 23, 1929.

[11] Shenbao, April 22, 1946.

[12] Shenbao, 13 October 1931, 6 June 1932, 24 October 1933, 29 May 1934, 27 May 1935.

[13] Shanghai Bank (Shanghai yinhang 上海銀行). Consolidated Branch Survey (Lianhe guanggao gongsi 聯合告公司). Shanghai, 15 October 1936. SMA, Q275-1-1840-37 (108)

[14] Huafeng Raw Materials (Huafeng yuanliao gongsi 華豐原料公司).

[15] Shanghai gongshang renming lu 上海工商人名錄, 1936, p.172

[16] China Press, August 8, 1930. Shenbao, August 8, 1930.

[17] China Press, May 11, August 1, 1930. Shenbao, August 1, 1930. Shenbao, February 17, 1934, July 2, 1934. China Press, February 19, 1934, p.12; May 28, 1934, p.2; August 17, 1934, p.2.

[18] Shenbao, 27 June 1921; 1 July 1922; 24 November 1923; 15 October 1929, 10 June 1930; 12 August 1934.

[19] Shenbao, 12 May 1936, 2 November 1948.

[20] In coining the notion of “committed entrepreneurs” I got my inspiration from Feng’s concept of “political merchants” (zhengshan 政商) (Feng, 2013).

[21] The floods of 1931 were one of the major disasters in early twentieth-century China. It resulted from the exceptional flooding of the Yangtze and Huai Rivers and affected most severely the provinces of Anhui, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangsu, Jianxi and Zhejiang (Shenbao, 21 August 1931, 14 September 1931, 17 September 1931). Other floods occurred during the decades 1920-30s (Shenbao, 5 September 1922, 1 January 1923, 19 January 1929). Droughts (especially the one in Shaanxi in 1928-1930) and subsequent famines were two other major causes of mobilization (Shenbao, 23 July 1935).

[22] Shenbao, 18 March 1933

[23] Shenbao, December 4, 1936.

[24] More than a million refugees flooded into the foreign concessions between the summer and the end of 1937. Nearly 200 refugee camps were established in Shanghai, often in precarious conditions. (Henriot, 2006; Henriot et al. 2019, pp. 84-86).

[25] Shenbao, October 29, 1938.

[26] Shenbao, April 22, 1922.

[27] Shenbao, March 2, 1930.

[28] Shenbao, November 9, 1931. One year after the strikes of the textile workers, this philanthropic act is probably not disinterested. ZYN may be seeking to appease the anger of the textile unions who were on strike for more than a year (1928-9) and make people forget the social conflicts it faced in the late 1920s.

[29] Shenbao, November 6, 1932, July 12, 1939.

[30] Shenbao 11 September 1933; 12 July 1939. 28 July 1942. Established in the early 20th century by wealthy Chinese entrepreneurs (Nakajima 2018, pp.51-58), the Chinese Infectious Disease Hospital (CIDH) was originally a seasonal hospital specializing in gastrointestinal diseases. In the 1930s, it became one of the main hospitals in Shanghai and one of the best equipped, especially for the treatment of cholera. (Nakajima 2018, pp.51-58).

[31] Shenbao, October 18, 1936.

[32] Shenbao, 16 August 1941; 19 June 1942.

[33] Shenbao, June 2, 1942, May 3, 1944, September 19, 1947.

[34] Shenbao, 6 and 27 January, 4, 6, 15 and 29 February 1948.

[35] Shenbao, March 29, 1931, January 28, 1935, March 3, 1937.

[36] Wong, K. Wang Xiaolai 王曉籟 (1887-1967): A Biography. Ph.D. Thesis in History. University of Lyon 2, Lyon, 2019.


Feng, Xiaocai. Zheng shang zhong guo : Yu qia qing yu ta de shi dai. [Political Merchants of China: Yu Qiaqing and his time]. Beijing : She hui ke xue wen xian chu ban she, 2013.

Nakajima, Chieko. Body, Society, and Nation: The Creation of Public Health and Urban Culture in Shanghai. Cambridge: Harvard university Asia center : Harvard University Press, 2018.

Henriot, Christian. “Shanghai and the Experience of War: The Fate of Refugees.” European Journal of East Asian Studies 5, no. 2 (2006): 215–45.

Henriot, Christian, Lu Shi, and Charlotte Aubrun. The Population of Shanghai (1865-1953): A Sourcebook. Brill. Leiden ; Boston, 2019.

Wong, K. Wang Xiaolai 王曉籟 (1887-1967): A Biography. Ph.D. thesis in history. University of Lyon 2, Lyon, 2019.

Yeh, Wen-Hsin. Shanghai Splendor: Economic Sentiments and the Making of Modern China, 1843-1949. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007.

Citer ce billet
Cécile Armand (2020, 14 avril). Meet Zheng Yaonan, General Manager. ADVERTISING HISTORY. Consulté le 12 juin 2024, à l’adresse

Cécile Armand

Ancienne élève de l'Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon (2006), agrégée d'histoire (2009), docteure en histoire (2017), mes travaux portent sur la publicité, l'histoire urbaine, les migrations intellectuelles entre la Chine et les Etats-Unis et les méthodes computationnelles appliquées à la recherche historique. Mes recherches ont reçu le soutien des fondations Chiang Ching-kuo, Coca-Cola, Andrew Mellon (Program DHAsia, Stanford), de l'Agence Nationale de la Recherche (Access ERC, ENS-Lyon) et du Conseil Européen de la Recherche (projet ENP-China, Aix-Marseille).

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Cécile Armand

Ancienne élève de l'Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon (2006), agrégée d'histoire (2009), docteure en histoire (2017), mes travaux portent sur la publicité, l'histoire urbaine, les migrations intellectuelles entre la Chine et les Etats-Unis et les méthodes computationnelles appliquées à la recherche historique. Mes recherches ont reçu le soutien des fondations Chiang Ching-kuo, Coca-Cola, Andrew Mellon (Program DHAsia, Stanford), de l'Agence Nationale de la Recherche (Access ERC, ENS-Lyon) et du Conseil Européen de la Recherche (projet ENP-China, Aix-Marseille).

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