Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Ch'ên Wei-sung

CH'ÊN Wei-sung 陳維崧 (T. 其年 and 迦陵) Jan. 3, 1626–1682, June 12, writer, was a son of Ch'ên Chên-hui [q. v.] and a native of I-hsing, Kiangsu. He received a good education in accordance with the family tradition, and at an early age was introduced by his father to well-known scholars of the time. Notwithstanding repeated failure from the age of sixteen to fifty-three [sui] to pass the civil service examinations, his literary ability was highly esteemed and widely recognized. He was a master of various types of composition, including the parallel or antithetical prose style in four or six characters, called p'ien-li 駢儷, and the poetic form known as tz'ŭ (詞), consisting of irregular lines disposed according to fixed patterns. Wherever he went scholars and high officials welcomed him and arranged gatherings of literary men. A contemporary, Wang Wan [q. v.], once remarked that in the p'ien-li style Ch'ên ranked higher than anyone in the preceding seven centuries, or since the T'ang dynasty. In 1679 he passed the special examination known as po-hsüeh hung-tz'ŭ, was made a corrector in the Hanlin Academy, and was delegated to assist in the compilation of the official Ming history (Ming-shih), a post he held until his death.

The works of Ch'ên Wei-sung, entitled collectively, 陳迦陵集 Ch'ên Chia-ling chi, were printed by his fourth brother, Ch'ên Tsung-shih (see under Ch'ên Chên-hui). This collection included: his prose, 文集 wên-chi, 6 chüan; his writings in the p'ien-li style, 儷體文集 li-t'i wên-chi, 12 chüan; his poems, 詩集 shih-chi, 8 chüan; and his poems in irregular meter, tz'ŭ-chi, 30 chüan. The first three items were printed in the years 1686-87, and the last in the year 1689. In 1721 there was printed a collection of his poems under the title 湖海樓詩稿 Hu-hai lou shih-kao, 10 chüan. Another edition of his collected works, entitled Hu-hai lou chi, printed in 1795, contains his poems in 20 + 1 chüan, his tz'ŭ in 20 chüan, his prose in 6 chüan, and his p'ien-li in 12 chüan.

Ch'ên Wei-sung owed much of his early fame in literature to his father's most intimate friend, Mao Hsiang [q. v.], for he lived many years in Mao's home at Ju-kao, studying and writing. Mao maintained a troupe of boy actors, among them a certain Hsü Tzŭ-yün 徐紫雲 (1644–1675) who was both talented and handsome. When Ch'ên disclosed his admiration for this actor, Mao generously placed the youth in his custody; and owing to Ch'ên's verses eulogizing his acting Hsü Tzŭ-yün became famous in Chinese literature. A collection of poems and short items, all dealing with this actor and written by various authors, was compiled by a modern descendant of Mao Hsiang, named Mao Kuang-shêng (see under Mao Hsiang), under the title 雲郎小史 Yün-lang hsiao-shih. It was printed in 1927 in the 雲在山房叢書 Yün-tsai shan-fang ts'ung-shu. A portrait of Ch'ên Wei-sung is reproduced in the magazine 詞學季刊 Tz'ŭ-hsüeh chi-k'an (vol. 1, no. 4, 1934), and an example of his calligraphy appears in another issueof the same magazine (vol. 2, no. 1). The portrait, reputed to have been painted by Yü Chih-ting [q. v.], shows Ch'ên with a luxuriant beard—a physical characteristic which earned for him the cognomen, [Ch'ên] Jan 髯, "the Bearded".


[3/117/36a; 4/45/19b; Chia-ling tz'ŭ, 10/12a (for date of death), 28/15a (for date of birth).]

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