In 1961, Chang and some friends jointly established a shipping company and, having helped this company to develop, he decided to branch out on his own, establishing Evergreen Marine Corporation on 1 September 1968 with just one secondhand 15,000 ton vessel, Central Trust.
In 1975, Chang realised that containerisation was the way forward. He built four advanced S-type container ships and launched his US East Coast Service. Fifteen months later, he added the West coast of the United States to his network. Europe followed in 1979.
By 1984, he started his most ambitious Service yet- two 80-day round-the-world services, one circling the globe in an easterly direction, the other westward. Departing every 10 days, the 20 G-type container ships he employed had a capacity of 2,728 containers each and could travel at a speed of 20.5 knots.
The Evergreen Group, with over 27,000 employees and more than 220 offices worldwide, now comprises about 30 major corporations worldwide, 3 of which are listed on the Taiwan Stock Exchange. During the 2012 Republic of China presidential election, Mr Chang expressed his disapproval of the so-called Taiwan Consensus. The China Post reported that he said that the ""Taiwan Consensus" smacks of Taiwan independence" which the paper said was "not his cup of tea". In February 2012, it was reported that Chang had pledged "to give away all his wealth" (approximately US$1.69 billion), primarily via the Chang Yung-fa Foundation.
Chang was married twice, first to Lin Chin-chih, with whom he had four children. His second wife Lee Yu-mei bore him one son. On 20 January 2016, Chang died at the age of 88.