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The Bank of China led China's modern-style banks during the Republican era, supporting the Chinese state through war and peace and financing China's industrialization in the first half of the twentieth century. This article explores the founding of this institution in 1912 in the context of building the modern Chinese nation state following the 1911 Revolution. It argues that the events that made possible the Bank of China's founding illustrate the contingent nature of state building. Furthermore, emphasis is on the critical relationship between finance and political legitimacy in state building. The article also shows how the creation of an institution such as the Bank of China, which was originally intended to be the new Republic's central bank, gave the fledgling state the opportunity to support the transfer of legal rights in regime change.