CHAO I 趙翼 ( 雲崧, 耘松, 甌北) Dec. 4, 1727–1814, June 5, historian and poet, was a native of Yang-hu, Kiangsu. His father, Chao Wei-k'uan 趙惟寬 ( 子容, d. 1741), taught in private schools for a living. After the age of six (sui) Chao I studied with his father and accompanied him to various teaching positions. In 1741 his father died while teaching in the home of a family named Hang 杭. This left the son destitute, with younger brothers and a sister to support. The Hang family took pity on him and asked him to take over his father's duties. Chao I was then only fifteen (sui) and his pupils were all his former schoolmates. For eight years, until 1749, he was thus engaged, like his father, as a teacher in various localities. In 1749 he went to Peking, and before long his literary abilities became known and appreciated in the capital. Liu T'ung-hsün [q. v.], who was then Grand Secretary, asked him to his residence to assist in the compilation of the 宮史 Kung shih, or "History of the Palace", which was completed in 1770 in 36 chüan. In the following year (1750) Chao I became a chü-jên. Upon passing a special examination (1754) he was made a secretary of the Grand Secretariat and two years later (1756) was appointed a secretary in the Grand Council. During this time the conquest of Turkestan was in progress (see under Chao-hui), and most of the numerous official communications that were issued from the Council of State (in Chinese), for transmission to the northwest, were drafted by Chao I. In 1761 he became a chin-shih which he originally passed with the rank of optimus, or chuang-yüan 狀元. But when Emperor Kao-tsung observed the list of candidates and discovered that the third ranking graduate, Wang Chieh (see under Chiang Fan), was from the province of Shensi, which had never before produced an optimus), he ordered the names to be interchanged, with the result that Chao I was ranked third.
Chao I was assistant examiner of the Shun-t'ien provincial examination in 1762, chief examiner of the military examination of the same area in 1765, and associate examiner of the metropolitan examination in 1763 and in 1766. Late in 1766 he was appointed prefect of Chên-an in Kwangsi province. Chên-an was a perfecture southwest Kwangsi, bordering Annam on the south, and Yunnan on the west. It comprised an area of about 800 square li. After assuming office Chao I visited all parts of his prefecture, and initiated various reforms designed to improve the lot of the people. But in 176 8 he incurred the displeasure of his superior for disagreeing with a decision in a criminal case. He was about to be denounced when an imperial edict arrived ordering him to work temporarily with the military staff in Yunnan which was then operating against Burma (see under Fu-hêng). In the summer of 1769 he resumed his post in Chên-an, and in the following year was transferred to the prefecture of Kuang-chou (Canton). In 1771 he was made tao-t'ai or intendant of the Circuit of Kuei-hsi, Kweichow. Two years later (1773) he was allowed to retire in order to look after his aged mother.
During these years at home he completed and published a collection of miscellaneous notes in 43 chüan, entitled 陔餘叢考 Kai-yü ts'ung-k'ao, and other works of a similar nature. His mother died in 1777. At the conclusion of the period of mourning (1780) he proceeded to the capital to report for duty, but on the way was stricken by paralysis and returned home. From 1784 to 1786 he was head of the An-ting Academy 安定書院 in Yangchow, Kiangsu. When in 1787 a rebellion broke out in Formosa under the leadership of Lin Shuang-wên (see under Ch'ai Ta-chi), Li Shih-yao [q. v.], governor-general of Fukien and Chekiang, who was then in charge of military supplies, requested Chao to assist him. When Chao returned from Fukien in 1788, he was again in charge of the An-ting Academy—a post he held until 1792. In 1809, at the age of 83 (sui), he gave himself the nickname, San-pan Lao-jên 三半老人 "The Old Man with Three Halves", that is to say, with eyes that could only half see, with ears that could only half hear, and with a voice that could only be half heard. He died in 1814 at the age of 88 (sui).
Chao I's well-known critical work on the Twenty-two Dynastic Histories, entitled 卄二史劄記 Nien-êr shih cha-chi in 36 chüan, was completed in 1796 and was first printed in 1799. The 1877 reprint of his complete works, entitled 甌北全集 Ou-pei ch'üan-chi consists of seven titles. In addition to the afore-mentioned Kai-yü ts'ung k'ao and Nien-êr shih cha-chi, it contains 53 chüan of poems, (甌北集 Ou-pei chi); 10 chüan of discourses on poetry (甌北詩話, Ou-pei shih-hua), including a chronological biography of the Sung poet, Lu Yu 陸游 (務觀, 放翁, 1125–1210) entitled 放翁年譜 Fang-wêng nien-p'u; a collection of miscellaneous notes, entitled 簷曝雜記 Yen-p'u tsa-chi; a selection of his poems, entitled 甌北詩鈔 Ou-pei shih-ch'ao; and the 皇朝武功紀盛 Huang-ch'ao wu-kung chi-shêng in 4 chüan, a record of the military achievements (seven campaigns) of the Ch'ing Dynasty. Chao I's accounts of the campaigns against Burma and Formosa are particularly noteworthy in view of the fact that he himself took part in them. As a poet he was one of the foremost of his time, being classed with Yüan Mei and Chiang Shih-ch'üan [qq. v.].
[1/490/11a; 3/212/9a; 甌北先生年譜 Ou-pei hsien-shêng nien-p'u in Ou-pei ch'üan-chi; 武進陽湖合志 Wu-chin Yang-hu ho-chih (1886) 26/43a.]