Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Ch'ên Wên-shu

CH'ÊN Wên-shu 陳文述 (T. 退庵, 雲伯, H. 碧城外史, 頤道先生, 蓮可居士, 秦亭山樵), 1775–1840, official and poet, was a native of Ch'ien-t'ang (Hangchow). Even as a youth he gained recognition as a poet, and the designation Êr Ch'ên 二陳 or "The Two Ch'êns" was given to him and his cousin, Ch'ên Hung-shou 陳鴻壽 (T. 頌文, 子恭, 翼庵, H. 曼生, 1768–1822), who was a poet, a painter, and a calligrapher. In 1796 Ch'ên Wên-shu was well received by Juan Yüan [q. v.], then commissioner of education in Chekiang, and thereafter became his favorite student. In 1800 he received his chü-jên degree. Failing in the metropolitan examinations at the capital, he returned south in 1806. He was employed by T'ieh-pao [q. v.] in the management of grain transport and then held other positions at Soochow while awaiting appointment to a magistracy. Later he became acting magistrate of Ch'ang-shu (1809–10), of Shanghai (1813) and of Fêng-hsien (1813–14); magistrate of Ch'ung-ming (1816–17) and of Chiang-tu (1821–23), all in Kiangsu. In 1823 he retired to his native city of Hangchow, living in a residence on West Lake called Ch'iu-hsüeh yü-chuang 秋雪漁莊. After sojourning in Hankow (1828) and in Chiang-tu (1829), he settled down in Soochow (1830). In 1840 he resumed official life, becoming magistrate of Fan-ch'ang, Anhwei, where he died in office. In later life Ch'ên Wên-shu became interested in Buddhism and Taoism—assuming the Taoist names: Yang-i 陽頤, Hua-hsü-tzŭ 華胥子, and Yüan-ch'iao chên-i 圓嶠真逸 .

Ch'ên Wên-shu left many works, primarily verse. His collected works, including both prose and verse, entitled 頤道堂全集 I-tao t'ang ch'üan chi, 78 chüan, were printed from time to time and completed about 1828. Certain of his works (some in this collection and others printed independently), may here be mentioned: 碧城仙館詩鈔 Pi-ch'êng hsien-kuan shih-ch'ao, 10 chüan (some editions in 8 chüan), a collection of his early poems; 西冷懷古集 Hsi-lêng huai-ku chi, 10 chüan, printed in 1831–32; Hsi-lêng kuei-yung (閨詠), 16 chüan, printed in 1827; Hsi-lêng hsien-yung (仙詠), 3 chüan, printed in 1827; and 西溪雜詠 Hsi-hsi tsa-yung, 1 chüan, a collection of poems about famous men, women, and places relating to West Lake; 秣陵集 Mo-ling-chi, 6 chüan, printed in 1823, poems describing past events and famous places in Nanking, including an historical sketch of that city; 岱游集 Tai-yu chi, 1 chüan, printed in 1909, being poems about T'ai-shan, Shantung; 蘭因集 Lan-yin chi, 2 chüan, printed in 1881, poems and articles by him and his friends concerning three women whose tombs on West Lake he had repaired. One of the three women here treated was the possibly legendary poetess, Fêng Yüan-yüan 馮元元, commonly known as Hsiao-ch'ing 小青.

Ch'ên Wên-shu was known for his liberality and fair-mindedness toward women, and had many women students whom he resolutely encouraged in the development of their talents. A painting, entitled 金釵問字圖 Chin-ch'ai wên-tzŭ t'u, was made depicting some of these students taking lessons from him. Two of his concubines, Kuan Yün 管筠 (T. 湘玉, 靜初, Taoist names 純陽, 守性) and Wên Ching-yü 文靜玉 (T. 湘霞, Taoist name 秀貞), as well as his two daughters, Ch'ên Hua-ch'ü 陳華娵 (T. 萼仙), and Ch'ên Li-ch'ü 陳麗娵 (T. 茗仙), were poetesses. Ch'ên Wên-shu's son, Ch'ên Pei-chih (see under Wang Tuan), and his daughter-in-law, Wang Tuan [q. v.], were writers of verse, the latter being one of the famous poetesses of the later Ch'ing period.

[2/73/8a; 6/48/12b; 20/4/xx; 24/52/5a; 19/癸下/11a; 21/7/25b; 21/26a; Anhwei t'ung-chih (1877) 145/14a; Juan Yüan [q. v.], Ting-hsiang t'ing pi-t'an, chüan 1.]

Li Man-kuei