Standard Oil Trust appointed Ye as their exclusive distribution agent in China from 1883 to 1893. As a "comprador-merchant", he organized the distribution of Kerosene fuel across North China and the Lower and Middle Yangtze regions.
Ye established the Chengzhong Middle School in Shanghai, which was built between 1889 and 1901 where Cai Yuanpei was the first principal and Hu Shih along with Coching Chu two of the first pupils. Today the building is home to the Shanghai Middle School No. 58 He also gave money to several other charitable institutions.
By the time of his death in October 1899, Ye's assets were valued at between six and eight million taels of silver, equivalent to one-tenth of the Qing government's annual income.