Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Ch'ên Yü-ch'êng

CH'ÊN Yü-ch'êng 陳玉成 (original ming 丕成), d. 1862, age 26, general in the Taiping Rebellion, was a native of Kuei-hsien, Kwangsi. His uncle, Ch'ên Ch'êng-jung 陳承鎔 (d. 1856), was at one time a bandit chief who later joined the Taipings. During the advance of the insurgents from Kwangsi (1850) to Nanking (March 19, 1853), Ch'ên Yü-ch'êng, being then young, did not take part in the fighting. In April 1853 he was recommended by his uncle for a post and was placed in charge of the transport of provisions. In June 1854 he volunteered for service in the vanguard which attacked Wuchang. With a battalion of 500 men he took the city on June 26—a victory that was followed by the occupation of a few other cities. The generalissimo, Yang Hsiu-ch'ing [q. v.], was surprised at his prowess and his tactics, and as a reward made him the eighteenth commander (September, 1854) and after a month promoted him to be supervisor (檢點). Thereafter Ch'ên became an important figure in the Taiping Kingdom.

Wuchang was retaken (October 14, 1854) by the forces of Tsêng Kuo-fan [q. v.], thus compelling the Taipings to retreat eastward to T'ien-chia-chên, a strategic point on the Yangtze about 40 miles west of Kiukiang. Here Ch'ên Yü-ch'êng built a strong defense to block the river (see under P'êng Yü-lin). But after a fierce battle the defense was destroyed (December 2, 1854) by P'êng Yü-lin and others. A majority of the Taipings were forced to retire to Kiukiang and the remainder under Ch'ên went to the districts of Kuang-chi and Huang-mei, west and east of T'ien-chia-chên. Though Ch'ên fought desperately and moved his forces with great speed, he was eventually compelled by T'a-ch'i-pu [q. v.] to retire to Kiukiang. Abashed at his failure, he asked the Celestial King Hung Hsiu-ch'üan [q. v.] to punish him. However, instead of being punished, he was rewarded (1855) for his enterprise with a higher title. For the purpose of drawing the government forces away from Kiukiang Ch'ên Yü-ch'ˆng and Shih Ta-k'ai [q. v.] went back to Hupeh, retaking Wuchang on April 3, 1855.

Ch'ên Yü-ch'êng and other generals defeated the imperialists near Nanking and thereupon Ch'ên was made a marquis. Though the Taipings were in a favorable position in Hupeh (1855) they were in trouble near Nanking where they were besieged by the imperial troops under the general command of Hsiang Jung [q. v.]. Early in 1856 Ch'ên Yü-ch'êng was recalled to Nanking and, after his arrival, dared to make a dash in a flotilla from Nanking to Chinkiang, though numerous government gun-boats were in control of the river. As soon as he reached Chinkiang other Taiping land forces co-operated with him in relieving the city. In one of the encounters the leader of the Imperial forces, Chi-êr-hang-a [q. v.], was killed. In August Ch'ên, together with other generals, dealt a smashing blow to the imperialists who were besieging Nanking and compelled them to make a general retreat to Tan-yang where Hsiang Jung died. As a reward for his part in this victory Ch'ên Yü-ch'êng was made a marquis with the designation Ch'êng-t'ien 成天.

After this victory over the imperialists near Nanking the Taiping generalissimo, Yang Hsiu-ch'ing, was so proud of his merit that he attempted to usurp the throne of the Celestial King. The result was a series of murders among the leaders themselves (see under Yang Hsiu-ch'ing and Hung Hsiu-ch'üan). At the conclusion of this civil strife in 1856 the five original wang or kings were either dead or out of favor. In the search for able men to take charge of affairs Ch'ên Yü-ch'êng and Li Hsiu-ch'êng [q. v.] were recommended to the Taiping throne as capable in military matters. Ch'ên assumed command of 100,000 men and advanced from Anking to Huang-mei, Huang-chou and other cities in Hupeh (May 1857). After twenty-five engagements he was eventually forced by the government generals, Pao Ch'ao [q. v.], P'êng Yü-lin and others to retreat to Lu-chou.

Thereafter Ch'ên Yü-ch'êng gained signal victories, chiefly over the Hunan Braves under the command of Li Hsü-pin [q. v.]. In April 1858 the reorganized imperialists again besieged Nanking (see under Hsiang Jung) and Ch'ên was ordered from Anhwei to the rescue of the capital. In co-operation with Li Hsiu-ch'êng he took the city of Pukow (September 26, 1858) on the Yangtze opposite Nanking. Following this success Li Hsiu-ch'êng took Yangchow (October 9, 1858) and Ch'ên took Liu-ho (October 24). Soon after the fall of Liu-ho Ch'ên was repeatedly urged to relieve Lu-chou, Anhwei, since the government forces, after the conquest of Kiukiang (May 19, 1858) were advancing on San-ho-chên, a strategic point about 80 li south of Lu-chou. Ch'ên hurried to the scene but instead of attacking San-ho-chên directly made a flank movement from the rear. Li Hsiu-ch'êng, in command of a strong detachment, joined in the battle. These two defeated 5, 000 Hunan Braves, and on November 15, 1858 caused the death of the famous general, Li Hsü-pin. Following this signal victory they took with ease several cities west of Lu-chou. Ch'ên pursued the government soldiers as far as Su-sung, Anhwei, near the border of Hupeh, but meeting defeat from the troops of Hu Lin-i [q. v.] was forced back to T'ai-hu where he had a conference with Li Hsiu-ch'êng. With a view to strengthening his position in Anhwei Ch'ên, despite Li's opposition, insisted on again attacking Su-sung. In consequence, toward the end of 1858, he was defeated, by the forces of Pao Ch'ao.

In 1859 Ch'ên Yü-ch'êng was ordered from Anhwei to the rescue of Pukow and Kiang-p'u—both on the north bank of the Yangtze opposite Nanking. There the combined forces of Ch'ên and Li Hsiu-ch'êng attacked (November 1859) the imperial troops for several days and destroyed 50 or 60 of their barracks at Pukow. Thereafter Ch'ên returned to Anhwei. As a reward for his valor in these vehement engagements he was made Ying Wang 英王, or Brave Prince. After they had taken Pukow the Hunan Braves under Tsêng Kuo-ch'üan [q. v.] besieged Anking, Anhwei—this being a province which both the Taipings and the imperialists wished very much to control. As it was necessary for Li Hsiu-ch'êng to guard Nanking, Ch'ên was sent to the relief of Anking. As Ch'ên's forces drew near the besieged co-rebels the latter made a sortie from the city while Ch'ên himself confronted the imperialists on the outside. The imperialists thus menaced from both sides had a difficult time, but the stubborn Hunan Braves, commanded by the equally stubborn general, Tseng Kuo-ch'üan, withstood the attack and continued the siege through 1860–61. In the meantime Li Hsiu-ch'êng was successful in luring the imperialists to the rescue of Hangchow. Li at once summoned the forces of Ch'ên Yü-ch'êng and of other generals to Nanking where the imperialists' headquarters outside the city were decisively defeated (May 1860) and the commanders, Ho-ch'un and Chang Kuo-liang, were killed in battle (see under Hsiang Jung). Thereupon Ch'ên returned to Anhwei to continue the warfare against Tseng Kuo-ch'üan. In the winter of 1860 Li Hsiu-ch'êng joined Ch'ên, but instead of attacking Anking they proceeded to southwestern Anhwei, and to Kiangsi and Hupeh. They harassed Tsêng Kuo-fan at Ch'i-mên in southern Anhwei in the winter of 1860 and the spring of 1861. But contrary to their expectations and regardless of the difficulty of the position of his brother at Ch'i-mên, Tsêng Kuo-ch'üan steadfastly continued to besiege Anking. Failing thus to disperse the government forces, Ch'ên again attacked the besiegers of Anking from April 27 to May 17, 1861. But the Hunan Braves were firmly intrenched, and the attacks were fruitless. After retiring to T'ung-ch'êng for a few months Ch'ên, in command of more than 100,000 men, made a desperate assault on Anking for six days and nights beginning on August 21, 1861. But in the end the city of Anking, which had been held by Yeh Yün-lai 葉芸來 (d. 1861) for nine years, was taken by Tsêng Kuo-ch'üan's forces on September 5. Henceforth Anking served as a base for the recovery of Nanking.

As a punishment for his loss of Anking Ch'ên Yü-ch'êng was deprived of his ranks, but still retained command. Disheartened and mortified, he retired to Lu-chou. After further fighting he was forced by To-lung-a (see under Pao Ch'ao) to retreat from Lu-chou (May 13, 1862) to the region of Shou-chou (May 15), also in Anhwei. Here Ch'ên hoped to obtain refuge with his friend, Miao P'ei-lin (see under Sêng-ko-lin-ch'in), who, after some years as a Nien bandit chief, had surrendered to the Ch'ing government but at the same time maintained secret connections with the Taipings. Most of Ch'ên's troops were killed and scattered by To-lung-a's pursuing forces but two or three thousand of his bodyguard followed him in numerous battles. Perhaps hoping to obtain these veterans for his own use, Miao betrayed Ch'ên and turned him over to the imperialists with the result that Ch'ên was executed by order of the court at Yen-chin, Honan, probably in May 1862.

Ch'ên Yü-ch'êng and Li Hsiu-ch'êng were, after 1856, the two ablest generals of the Taiping Rebellion. Apparently Ch'ên was less skillful in military tactics than Li Hsiu-ch'êng but he was more courageous and also more cruel. In his army he had a contingent of youthful soldiers who fought with great recklessness and slaughtered non-combatants without mercy. Ch'ên himself is described as valiant but bloodthirsty, with a stout physique, an angular white face, a large mouth and two dark spots under his eyes. Owing to this last-mentioned peculiarity and because of his ferocity he was nicknamed Ssū Yen Kou 四眼狗 or "the dog with four eyes". By Ch'ên's death Li Hsiu-ch'êng was deprived, as it were, of his right hand.


[1/481/1a; Li Hsiu-ch'êng [q. v.], Li Hsiu-ch'êng kung-chuang; See bibliography under Hung Hsiu-ch'üan; Pao Ch'ao [q. v.], Pao-kung nien-p'u; 中國近百年史資料 Chung-kuo chin-pai-nien-shih tzŭ-liao, first collection.]

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