Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Ch'ien Ch'i

CH'IEN Ch'i 錢棨 (T. 振威, H. 湘舲), d. 1799, age fifty-eight (sui), man of letters, was a native of Ch'ang-chou, part of present Wu-hsien, Kiangsu. His family traced its ancestry to Ch'ien Liu (see under Ch'ien Tsêng), he himself being a descendant of Ch'ien Liu in the thirtieth generation. His great-grandfather, Ch'ien Chung-hsieh 錢中諧 (T. 宮聲, H. 庸亭, chin-shih of 1658), passed the po-hsüeh hung-tz'ŭ examination of 1679 (see under P'êng Sun-yü) and served in the Hanlin Academy as compiler. Ch'ien Ch'i was a studious youth. In 1766 he won highest honors in the local examination for the hsiu-ts'ai degree, his examiner being Liang Kuo-chih [q. v.], then commissioner of education of Kiangsu. He passed first also in all subsequent examinations, namely, in the provincial examination of 1779 as chieh-yüan 解元, in the metropolitan examination as hui-yüan 會元, and in the palace examination of 1781 as chuang-yüan 狀元. These honors, the highest a candidate in the examination system could obtain, were collectively known as san-yüan 三元 or "thrice first." Ch'ien Ch'i was the first scholar of the Ch'ing period to obtain this distinction, another being Ch'ên Chi-ch'ang (see under Ch'ên Hung-mou) who received it in 1820. In the twelve hundred years before the abolition of the examination system in 1905 there were about four hundred chuang-yüan, of whom less than ten are known to have achieved the honor of san-yüan. When the results of the palace examination of 1781 were announced Emperor Kao-tsung, then in his seventieth year, was so pleased that he wrote a poem to commemorate the event.

In 1786 Ch'ien Ch'i served as one of the associate examiners of the Shun-t'ien provincial examination and in the following year was made a teacher in the palace school for princes, a post known as Shang shu-fang hsing-tsou 上書房行走. In April 1789 he was one of the associate examiners in the metropolitan examination. A month later he with other teachers who for seven consecutive days were found neglecting their daily attendance at the Palace School (Shang shu-fang) were deprived of their ranks, but were permitted to continue at their posts. In 1794 Ch'ien Ch'i was sent for a time to Kwangtung as assistant examiner in the provincial examination of that year. After several promotions he was, in 1798, made a reader in the Hanlin Academy. In the summer of the same year he served as chief examiner in the provincial examination of Yunnan, and after the examination was over was appointed commissioner of education in the same province. Although promoted in 1799 to the rank of chancellor of the Grand Secretariat, he was nevertheless ordered to continue at his post in Yunnan. That summer he went to examine the students in the southern prefectures of Yunnan where he contracted malaria and died. His daughter, Ch'ien Shu 錢淑 (T. 氷如) won distinction as a poetess, but died young.

[2/28/50b; 3/104/12a; 33/76/14a; 21/8/30a; Shih Yün-yü [q. v.], Tu-hsüeh lu ssŭ (四) kao 5/15a; Kung Mêng-jên 宮夢仁, 讀書紀數略 Tu-shu chi-shu lüeh (1709) 22/34a gives the number of san-yüan as five, thus making a total of seven, counting Ch'ien Ch'i and Ch'ên Chi-ch'ang; Wêng Fang-kang [q. v.], Fu-ch'u chai wên-chi (1877) 3/10b gives the number of san-yüan since the T'ang period (including Ch'ien Ch'i) as eight, making, with Ch'ên Chi-ch'ang, a total of nine.]

Fang Chao-ying