Joint Management by Four Branches


 When it came to the 20th century and China was in a fast changing and highly volatile situation, TRT was also involved in a new crisis. In the thirty-third year during the reign of Emperor Guangxu (1907 A.D.), Xu Yefen, who had made great achivements, passed away. She was not free from any worry at her death. Who could manage this big family after her death? And who could run the time-honored brand of TRT? Yue Mengfan had left the world before her and and so his brother Yue Zhongfan took over the responsibility for the business affairs. But Yue Zhongfan didn’t have much experience and she didn’t know whether he could shoulder this responsibility with his talents and character. Xu Yefen, the capable woman, had to leave the world with this doubt.


After she died, the four branches of the family decided to have joint management and made decision on major events together. The head should be assumed by different branches by turns.


The joint management stipulated that all the branches could share the book of prescriptions handed down from previous generations. They could open new stores in various places with the signboard of the Yue’s Old Pharmacy, but they could not use the name TRT. In other words, they had agreed that TRT was a common property handed down by generations and no one could establish new stores with the name of TRT.


Why was there such a rule? Firstly, this was a rule established by ancestors. It was also the commitment to the royal court when TRT offered up medicines to the court; this rule could prevent lawless persons from establishing fake TRT stores. Although there was no emperor any more at that time, the four branches should still show respect to their ancestors. What’s more important, they knew the importance of keeping the golden brand of “TRT”. In today’s words, keeping it means keeping an important intangible asset and keeping the brand effect of “TRT”.


Secondly, the four branches were all noble families then. They could not maintain their luxurious life with just the 10,000 liang silver’s income from TRT each year. Moreover, TRT had lost the privilege of “offering up royal medicines” and so the income had greatly reduced. Also it was in a turbulent time in history and the emperor had been forced to step down. Even the royal families had lost their fixed income. Who could guarantee that the Yues could always earn 40,000 liang each year?


Another important reason was that the strange and new things had come into Beijing. Young men who only knew playing with the birds, having fun with actresses, walking dogs and playing crickets now enjoyed new things like gramophone, telephone, cars and films.


There were also ambitious men among the descendants of the Yues. They wanted to go abroad and found out how the foreigners ran factories and schools and how they manufactured weapons, cars and ships, and especially, how they made western medicines with machines. Maybe traditional Chinese medicines could be made in the same way? But you would need money to go abroad. Therefore, all the branches wanted to earn more money. However, the family had a rule: they could not engage in other businesses except sale of medicines. The descendants of the Yues had also been influenced by what they saw and heard - the pills and powder, decoction and herbal medicine in small pieces and the recognition, preparation and sale of medicinal herbs. They were not familiar with other professions but were adept at running pharmacies. Besides, they could rely on the reputation of TRT, the time-honored brand and various resources of TRT. This is the brand effect and intangible assets often talked by people today. Hence a great change took place in the family: the four branches all opened their own stores like Leshoutang, Lerentang, Peirentang, Yilingtang, Hongrentang, Huairentang, Darentang and Hongdatang, emerging like mushrooms after the rain. And TRT was jointly managed by the four branches with the head position being held by them in turn.


The eldest branch was Yue Mengfan, who died early. His descendants opened Leshoutang and Lerentang and also Nanjing TRT.


“The benevolent pursues longevity and the longevity pursues benevolence; The same store has two names, and the names are from the same source.” this was the description of Leshoutang and Lerentang. Leshoutang and Lerentang were opened by Yue Dakang and Yue Dazhuang, sons of Yue Mengfan. Leshoutang was in Xidan of Beijing and later had its subsidiary store in Tianjin called Lerantang. Just after the liberation, Leshoutang reopened; it was, also called Lerentang; hence there was the saying. At that time, foreigners didn’t know about traditional Chinese medicine and felt lost when entering the drugstore. Seeing that things like scorpion, centipede and toad could also be used as medicine, they usually felt amazed and even exclaimed with surprise. But this was not the case when coming to Lerentang. Yue Dazhuang, younger brother of Yue Dakang, could deal with the situation. He had once visited and studied in Japan and could speak fluent Japanese and English. Since he knew foreign languages and ranked the sixth in the family, his families jokingly called him “foreign devil the sixth”. Whenever foreigners came to store, it was Yue Dazhuang who received them. He could tell the Latin names of medicinal herbs like Angelica sinensis, ginseng and radix liquiritiae, and foreigners in the store all nodded with “yes, yes” when hearing what he said. Yue Rentang opened five drugstores in Beijing, Tianjin and Kaifeng.


The second branch of the family was Yue Zhongfan and the stores opened by his descendants were “Yongrentang”, “Huairentang” and “Peirentang”.


Yongrentang was located in Wangfujing of Beijing. Wangfujing gradually replaced the commercial area of the Front Gate in 1930s and became the most prosperous place in Beijing. Yongrentang was operated well and had good medicines; the most famous medicine in the store was “one plaster”. Why was it called so? The name means just one plaster was enough to treat the aches of the waist and leg. As there were too many buyers for the medicine, the store had to set up a rule that one customer could just buy one piece, so the medicine got the name “one plaster”. In fact, it was improved based on the recipe of Wanyinggao. The “one plaster” was sold without any restrictions and with 20% off only on the April 28, the birthday of the King of Medicine. On this day, the business hours of Yongrentang would start from 5 o’clock in the morning till 10 o’clock in the evening. Many people even came to the store specifically for it. According to the statistics in 1937, over 7 million pieces of “one plaster” were sold just on this day. Yongrentang had three drugstores in Beijing, Baotou and Yantai.


The third branch was Yue Shufan. His descendants opened 3 Hongjitang stores, 2 Jirentang stores,1 Yueshunji store, 1 Hongdetang store and 2 Hongdatang stores.


Descendants of the fourth branch of the family Yue Jifan were quite different from others. They opened 11 Darentang stores over the country and 1 Shurentang store in Shanghai. They considered these stores as the common property of their brothers and sisters - Yue Daren, Yue Dayi, Yue Daming and Yue Dade. Later as Yue Kai son of Yue Dade died early, the right of Yue Kai’s inheritance was transferred to his sister Yue Qianwen. Darentang was the second most successful enterprise run by the family, behind TRT.


According to statistics, there were 11 males in the twelfth generation in the Yues family. Except Yue Yizhi who died young at 34, the other ten people all opened drugstores in their own names or their branch’s names. Together with the stores opened by the thirteenth generation, the number of the Yue’s old pharmacies reached 41.


There were 5 Lerentang stores in Beijing, Tianjin and Kaifeng. They were owned by the eldest branch and Yue Youshen was the key manager.


There were 4 Hongrentang stores. Two of them were in Beijing and the other two were in Tianjin and Shanghai. They were jointly owned by Yue Xiyuan, Yue Duzhou and Yue Yiqing.


There was 1 Nanjing TRT store and Yue Duzhou was the key manager.


There was 1 Taiwan TRT store and the wife of Yue Duzhou was the key manager.


The second branch had a total of 11 Yue’s Old Pharmacies, of which:


There was 1 Yilingtang store opened in Beijing and then shutdown in an early year.


There were 3 Yongrentang stores opened in Beijing, Baotou and Yantai. They were opened by Yue Yongxi and mainly operated by Yue Yuanke.


There were 2 Hengrentang stores opened in Beijing and Shenyang. They were wholly owned and operated by Yue Yuanke. They were the only two stores opened by the Yues after the liberation.


There was 1 Huairentang store opened in Beijing and it was wholly owned and operated by Yue Dongping.


There was 1 Jurentang store opened in Jinan and it was wholly owned and operated by Yue Dongping.


There were 3 Peirentang stores - two in Beijing and one in Hankou. They were wholly owned and operated by Yue Pusun.


The third branch had a total of seven Yues old pharmacies:


There were 3 Hongjitang stores opened in places like Jinan and Beijing. They were owned by Yue Jingyu and mainly operated by Yue Tie’an.


There was 1 Yueshunji store in Beijing. It was opened by Yue Mushun and mainly operated by Yue Jianqiu.


There was 1 Hongdatang store opened in Beijing and Chengde. It was wholly owned and operated by Yue Shaoyu.


There were 2 Jirentang stores opened in Beijing. It was wholly owned and operated by Yue Jianqiu.


The fourth branch had a total 19 Yue’s Old Pharmacies: 18 Darentang stores established in Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Hankou, Xi’an, Chengdu and Hong Kong;  1 Shurentang store opened in Shanghai and shutdown in an early year. These stores were jointly owned by Yue Daren, Yue Dayi, Yue Daming and Yue Daren and Yue Daren was the key manager.


At that time, the Yue’s Old Pharmacies were opened in most of China’s big cities except Yunnan, Guizhou, Tibet, Hainan, Guangdong and Guangxi.


Among the sons of the four branches of the Yues, Yue Dakang and Yue Dazhuang in the eldest branch had ever studied in France, Yue Dayi of the fourth branch had studied in Britain and Yue Daren had visited Germany. Therefore, these two branches had much in common. And among them, Yue Daren was the most open-minded and innovative. When Yue Daren visited Germany, he noticed and observed the production in modern industry. Therefore, Darentang was different from other people in the family who ran business with the model of store afront and workshop behind; he had built modern factories from the early period.


It was in the 17th century that TRT started its business. As productive forces were not highly developed and factories behind at that time were only manual workshops, so people called this model “store afront and workshop behind”. It was already the 20th century when Darentang was opened; at that time the industry of the capitalist countries had become quite developed while China’s industry, including pharmaceutical industry, lagged far behind. Whether industrialized production could be realized in the production of Chinese patent medicines became an issue of great controversies. However, Yue Daren was so innovative that he set up “Tianjin Darentang Pharmaceutical Factory” in Tinjin; covering over 8,000 square meters, Tianjin Darentang included a manufacture building and a warehouse building. A deep motor-pumped well and a water tower were also built and some heavy manual labors were replaced with modern equipment operations, an effort to do away with the superstitious belief that traditional Chinese medicine could not be produced with foreign machines. Yue Daren also imported refrigerators and built refrigerating chambers to store medicinal materials and medicines that went bad easily. Darentang at that time no longer used the functional classification in traditional Chinese medicine production like “doufang”, “daofang” and “grinding room”, but adopted that of modern enterprises, such as “ grinding department”, “boiling department”, “wrapping department”, “cutting department” and “printing department”. This was a very new practice at that time. Seeing the electric grinding machine turning swiftly, the workers who had used stone rollers said with great joy, “It’s so good. We won’t the donkey any more.”


Darentang inherited the principles of “no manpower shall be spared, no matter how complicated the procedures of pharmaceutical production are; and no material shall be reduced, no matter how much the cost is” and “we shall do things with our sincerity and trustworthiness even without supervision from others, because God sees” and a set of management regulations of TRT. And it also had its own improvement. Yue Daren had visited many big pharmaceutical factories in Germany and learnt a lot from them on management, which were integrated into the management of Darentang and good results were yielded.


As Yue Daren ran Darentang with great success and he himself respected the elderly and loved the young, he won high respect from his three younger brothers Yue Dayi, Yue Daming and Yue Dade, who even entrusted him with the education of their descendants. Besides his own son Yue Zhao, Yue Songsheng, son of Yue Dayi, and Yue Zhaoji, the only son of Yue Daming were all nurtured by Yue Daren with his experience and knowledge. Yue Zhaoji and Yue Songsheng also participated in the production and management of Darentang.