Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Ch'i-shan

CH'I-shan 琦善 (T. 靜庵), d. Aug., 1854, official, was a member of the Borjigit clan and of the Manchu Plain Yellow Banner. In Western accounts his name is often spelled Kishen. He was a descendant of Enggeder [q. v.] in the seventh generation and recipient of the hereditary rank of Marquis (see under Enggeder). He began his official career in 1808 as an assistant department director in the Board of Punishments. After several promotions he was appointed in 1814 provincial judge of Honan and in 1819 was made governor of that province. In 1820 he was dismissed for failing adequately to control the Yellow River during floods, but in the same year was pardoned. He was re-instated in his earlier post of provincial judge of Honan, and soon after was transferred to Shantung where in 1821 he became governor. Early in 1823 his father died and he inherited the rank of Marquis. In the following year he succeeded in exterminating a rebellious sect in the district of Lin-ch'ing, and early in 1825 was commended by the emperor for the determination he had shown in the face of great obstacles. Later in the same year he was appointed governor-general of Kiangnan and Kiangsi. His plans for the improvement of the waterways in northern Kiangsu gained the approval of the emperor, but the engineering methods he employed resulted in such damage in 1827 that he was dismissed from office. After being degraded for a few months to sub-chancellor of the Grand Secretariat, he was re-appointed governor of Shantung. From 1829 to 1831 he held the important post of governor-general of Szechwan and was then (1831–40) given the same host in Chihli. In 1836 he was made concurrently an assistant Grand Secretary and in 1838 a Grand Secretary.

In 1839 the first Anglo-Chinese War broke out at Canton (see under Lin Tsê-hsü) spreading northward when the British fleet took Tinghai, Chekiang, on July 5, 1840. Ch'i-shan was transferred to Tientsin to supervise defense measures. When the enemy squadron arrived off Taku on August 11 and 12, instead of offering opposition, he sent them provisions, and on the 16th his aide received for transmission to the emperor Lord Palmerston's letter demanding payment for the opium destroyed at Canton by Lin Tsê-hsü in 1839 and for the expenses of the British military operations. The letter further demanded that the affronts to Captain Elliot (see under Lin Tsê-hsü) be punished; that the island of Hong Kong be ceded to the British as a trading post; that the Hong merchants at Canton pay their large outstanding debts; and that in the future the British government's representatives be accorded treatment on terms of equality with officials of the Chinese government. On August 1840 the emperor instructed Ch'i-shan to negotiate with a view to getting the British back to Canton for the settlement of these matters. Ch'i-shan's entertainment of the British emissaries in specially prepared tents set up at Taku, and his tact and consideration in the negotiations held there on the 30th and 31st, were so successful that on September 17 they promised to leave for Canton. For this diplomatic success Ch'i-shan was sent to Canton to take the place of Lin Tse-hsü as High Commissioner, and shortly afterwards he was made acting governor-general of Kwangtung and Kwangsi—his main task being to continue the negotiations which he had begun near Tientsin. He was given power to act as he saw fit with the understanding that he would consult with Governor I-liang [q. v.] and others.

Ch'i-shan's task was not an easy one. Though he went to Canton to inaugurate a new policy of conciliation, he was required to employ local officials who were still loyal to the old practices used by Lin—officials who did not give him faithful support. Shortly after his arrival at Canton, on November 29, he sent the emperor a private report showing how Lin had promoted strife by his unfulfilled promises of compensation to the British for the opium he had destroyed and his insistence that further commercial dealings be under bond, with a penalty of death for traffic in opium. He also refuted several of the statements in Lin's official reports. In his dealings with the British Ch'i-shan encountered new difficulties: inadequacy of the military defenses of Canton, increased British demands for the punishment of Lin, cession to Britain of a new trade center, and finally an unexpected change of policy in Emperor Hsüan-tsung himself who now favored a more hostile attitude toward the British. Diplomatic failure or military disaster seemed inevitable. On January 7, 1841, the British, unwilling to allow negotiations to drag on longer, attacked the forts of Chuenpi (Ch'uan-pi 川鼻) and captured them. Ch'i-shan's first report of this battle, written on January 8, called it a "draw," but on January 10, after ascertaining the facts, he memorialized the throne on the fall of the forts and the inadequacy of the defenses against British cannon. He advocated the cession of Hong Kong to Great Britain and immediate resumption of trade at Canton in order to appease the British and to save Canton from almost certain disaster. Along these lines he began negotiations at the Convention of Chuenpi which was concluded on January 20. This convention proposed that the island of Hong Kong be ceded to the British, that an indemnity of six million dollars be paid to them, that the privilege of direct official relations be granted to them, and that the Canton trade be soon re-opened. Without waiting for the approval of either the Chinese or the British governments Elliot permitted the occupation of Hong Kong (January 26) and formally declared it a part of the British Empire (February 1). This step was immediately reported to the throne by I-liang, governor of Kwangtung, who at the same time professed complete ingorance of the terms of the Chuenpi Convention. I-liang's report convinced the emperor that Ch'i-shan was acting with duplicity. On the other hand, the pouring in of new troops and the increase of defense measures as ordered by imperial decrees (see under I-shan) led the British to suspect that Ch'i-shan was playing false to them also. Ch'i-shan's later explanation to the emperor that Hong Kong was geographically indefensible and without military advantage, that it was lacking in arms and man power, and that among the population there was no fighting spirit, was naturally unconvincing in Peking, and the Court reiterated its orders to exterminate the British. Ch'i-shan's two personal interviews with Elliot on January 27 and February 13 convinced his Chinese critics that he had secret dealings with the British—all the more since he had failed to prevent the British attack of February 23 and the fall of the Bogue Forts (Bocca Tigris 虎門) on the 26th. On this last-mentioned day the emperor issued from Peking an edict condemning Ch'i-shan's policy and methods and accusing him of failure to report the truth. He was dismissed from all his official posts, stripped of all honors and titles, and his immense private fortune, amassed during his years of official life, was confiscated. His military command was given to I-shan [q. v.] and his post as governor-general was given to Ch'i Kung 祁𡎴 (T. 竹軒, H. 寄庵, 1777–1844). On March 12 Ch'i-shan was escorted from Canton in chains. He was tried in Peking and was sentenced to be executed, but the emperor commuted the sentence to banishment.

In 1842, after the termination of the war, Ch'i-shan was reinstated in officialdom and made assistant military governor of Yarkand. In 1843 he was appointed military governor of Jehol, but the appointment was immediately denounced by a censor, and consequently he was not allowed to fill the post. However, late in 1843 he was sent as Imperial Commissioner to Tibet, where in 1846 he ordered the French missionaries Huc and Gabet back into China. On March 15, 1846 they started, taking with them two large cases containing Ch'i-shan's effects which he asked them to deposit at Chengtu, Szechwan, for him to pick up upon his return. Ch'i-shan was appointed governor-general of Szechwan early in 1847 and the next year an edict congratulated him on his good administration and granted him the restoration of the first rank. Late in 1848 he was again made an assistant Grand Secretary though, at the same time he retained his position as governor-general of Szechwan. In 1849 he was made governor-general of Shensi and Kansu, but in 1851 was deprived of office because of his severe treatment (1850) of the native and Mohammedan tribes in Kokonor. He was again banished (1852), this time to Kirin, but after a few months his services were needed in Honan to check the advance of the Taiping rebels and he was recalled. As acting governor of Honan he supervised the garrisoning of the Honan-Hupeh border. In the spring of 1853 Emperor Wên-tsung ordered him to assist in the defense of the country in Kiangsu north of the Yangtze, and in March he took part in the defeat of the rebels round Pukow and Yangchow (see under Tê-hsing-a). He was actively engaged in the fighting in this sector until his death in the summer of 1854. He was canonized as Wên-ch'in 文勤.

A son of Ch'i-shan, named Kung-t'ang 恭鏜 (T. 振夔, d. 1889), was at one time military governor of Heilungkiang (1886–89). Kung-t'ang's son, Jui-chêng 瑞澂 (T. 莘儒), was governor-general at Wuchang when the revolution broke out in that city in 1911. Jui-chêng fled from the city and was ordered arrested by the Ch'ing government for neglect of duty, but escaped to Shanghai and took refuge in the foreign concessions. After the termination of Manchu rule he remained in Shanghai until his death (1914?). He was one of the first officials of China to seek refuge in a foreign concession and thus escape punishment that had been ordered by the government. Another son of Kung-t'ang was Jui-yüan (see under Chang Yin-huan) who was a secretary in the Chinese Legation at Washington from 1886 to 1888. A granddaughter of Ch'i-shan married a son of Ch'ung-hou [q. v.].


[1/376/1a; 2/40/18a; Ch'ou-pan I-wu shih-mo (see under I-hsin) Tao-kuang, chüan 12–23, 31; The Chinese Repository, vols. IX–XI, passim; Davis, J. F., China During the War, vol. I, pp. 24–52, 141–43; Eitel, E. J., Europe in China, pp. 11–12, 115–25; M. Huc, A Journey Through Tartary, Tibet and China (1852) vol. II, pp. 181–244; Barnard, W. D., Narrative of Voyages of the Nemesis (1844), vol. I, pp. 196–437; Kuo, P. C., A Critical Study of the First Anglo-Chinese War, pp. 140–49, Appendix Documents, Nos. 28, 31–35, 37, 40–42; Morse, H. B., The International Relations of the Chinese Empire (1910), vol. I, pp. 266–80, 621–26; Tsiang T'ing-fu 蔣廷黻, 近代中國外交史資料輯要 Chin-tai Chung-kuo wai-chiao shih tzŭ-liao chi-yao (1931), vol. I, pp. 82–112; and 琦善與鴉片戰爭 Ch'i-shan yü ya-p'ien chan-chêng in Tsinghua Journal, vol. VI, no. 3; Chang Yin-huan, San-chou jih-chi, 8/48a.]

William R. Leete