Tongrentang, or Tong Ren Tang (Chinese: 同仁堂), abbreviated as TRT, is a Chinese pharmaceutical company founded in 1669, which is now the largest producer of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). The company is headquartered in Beijing, and is engaged in both manufacture and retail sales, operating drug stores predominantly in Chinese-speaking regions.
In 1669, the 8th year of Emperor Kangxi’s reign of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), Tong Ren Tang was established in Beijing by Yue Xianyang who served as a senior physician of the royal court of the Qing Dynasty. In 1702, the company relocated within Beijing to the address from which it has operated ever since. In 1723, Tong Ren Tang was appointed the sole supplier of medicinal herbs/herbal medicines to the royal court of the Qing Dynasty by Emperor Yongzheng and remained in that position until the collapse of the Qing Dynasty in 1911.
Like many older Chinese companies, Tong Ren Tang has struggled to adapt to market changes. In recent years, Tong Ren Tang has modernized its facilities, and changed its trade name to Tongrentang. It remains one of the oldest surviving brand names for traditional Chinese medicine, and has wide name-recognition among Chinese and Asians worldwide. It is also one of the world's largest TCM companies, with products sold in countries all over the world.
Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing became a major player in Tongrentang's business dealings, becoming the second largest shareholder in the corporation in 2000, with the purchase of sixty million shares. Li's company, Hutchison Whampoa Ltd., has had two major joint ventures with Tongrentang. In 2004, Tongrentang invested 150 million Hong Kong dollars in the construction of a manufacturing plant in Hong Kong.
In October 2007, Tong Ren Tang and an American company called Greater China Corporation jointly announced the formation of a partnership under the name Tong Ren Tang Wellness Corporation to "develop spa-like wellness centers that will provide treatments and products based upon China's famous TongRenTang herbal medicines. These will include acupuncture, massage, acupressure, Tuina, T'ai chi, Qigong, reflexology and many other oriental treatments as well as a full line of herbal foods and health products".
In 2001, Tongrentang, in collaboration with Germany-based Mirahi Biotech, diversified into skincare products. Using state-of-the-art western technologies and the vast cache of herbal medicines of Tongrentang, the collaboration has come up with an impressive list of products. In 2008, the exclusive U.S. distributorship is licensed to a California corporation, Denosim Incorporated, and the products are being distributed by MIRAHI Skincare, Inc., San Jose, California, USA.
Intellectual property rights
Possibly because of its very size, Tongrentang has recently been at the center of a number of disputes brought in the courts of China. In November 2004, mediation by the High People's Court of the Province of Zhejiang brought about a settlement in favor of Tongrentang for trademark infringement
Tongrentang's problems with intellectual property rights are not limited to China. It is also one of the many Chinese companies whose products have been counterfeited for sale inside and outside of China as well. China's Ministry of Commerce notes that "Tongrentang ... and others have had their names illegally registered by other Chinese and overseas manufacturers, resulting in a predicament in exports, multinational exchanges and potential economic losses."
Tort law suit
On December 14 of 2004, Tongrentang company was subject to a lawsuit brought against it in the Chinese court system, in which Chinese plaintiffs alleged that medicines produced by the company contained an ingredient that had caused their kidney failure. The Beijing No 2 Intermediate People's Court dismissed the case, finding insufficient proof of a connection between the medicines and the injury.