Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Chiang Ch'ên-ying

CHIANG Ch'ên-ying 姜宸英 (T. 西溟, H. 湛園), 1628–1699, scholar and author, was a native of Tz'ŭ-ch'i, Chekiang, and a great-grandson of Chiang Ying-lin 姜應麟 (chin-shih of 1583, d. 1630), one of the first metropolitan censors to memorialize the throne in protest against alleged mistreatment of the heir-apparent, Chu Ch'ang-lo [q. v.]. Chiang Ch'ên-ying distinguished himself, even in youth, as a scholar and essayist and was frequently called upon to write prefaces to books by well-known contemporaries. Nevertheless, he failed repeatedly in the civil service examinations. Despite this handicap he attracted the attention of the emperor—along with Chu I-tsun [q. v.] and Yen Shêng-sun (see under P'an Lei)—a circumstance that caused the three, none of whom had taken a high degree, to be known as "the three cotton-clothed scholars" 三布衣, or commoners. In 1679 his two friends succeeded in passing the special examination known as po-hsüeh hung-ts'ŭ (see under P'êng Sun-yü) but he himself was prevented from taking it because of the unpremeditated negligence of his sponsor, Yeh Fang-ai [q. v.], in failing to transmit his name to the authorities. Chagrined at his oversight, Yeh nevertheless saw to it that Chiang was appointed one of the compilers of the Ming dynastic history (Ming-shih) along with other scholars who had passed the coveted examination.

Chiang Ch'ên-ying's contribution to the Ming-shih was the section on law, 刑法志 Hsing-fa chih, which, though considerably shortened in the final draft of 1739, nevertheless retained the substance of the material which he assembled and at the same time preserved something of his admirable style. It is a clear, carefully written document tracing the historical changes of the more important sections of the code throughout the dynasty. In describing the application of the law he was especially critical, denouncing the cruel practices which arose at the beginning of the Ming dynasty whereby officials were flogged in court for certain crimes. He pointed out that many offenders were executed without due processes of law by the "military officials and the despicable eunuchs" into whose hands "the fate of both the Court and the country had passed...." In addition to the monograph on law, he contributed 4 chüan of biographies to the section known as Lieh-chuan 列傳, and 2 chüan to the section on hereditary native chieftains, T'u-ssŭ chuan 土司傳.

In 1689 Chiang Ch'ên-ying assisted Hsü Ch'ien-hsüeh [q. v.] in the compilation of the Ta-Ch'ing i-t'ung chih, or "Comprehensive Geography of the Empire", contributing essays on the defenses of the coast and the Yangtze River. These essays may be seen in their original form in his first book of collected prose, 湛園未定稿 Chan-yüan wei-ting kao, which he brought together in 6 chüan about this time and which was re-edited by Huang Shu-lin [q. v.] in 1746. This work contains, among other items, an interesting monograph on Japanese pirates known as Wo k'ou 倭寇 who harassed the China coast in the Ming period and when apprehended frequently gained release by posing as tribute bearers. He pointed out that if acceptance of such tribute had been stopped and if trade had been restricted to specified ports the trouble could have been avoided.

Finally, in 1693, Chiang Ch'êng-ying passed the examination for the chü-jên, and in 1697 at the advanced age of seventy (sui), became a chin-shih. When he took the palace examinations the emperor raised his rank from fourth of the second class to third of the first class (t'an-hua 探花) with a compilership in the Hanlin Academy. In 1699 he acted as Assistant examiner for the Shun-t'ien provincial examination at Peking, the Chief examiner being Li P'an 李蟠 (T. 根大, H. 仙李) who took his chin-shih in the same year as Chiang (1697) but with the rank of chuang-yüan or optimus. Both were accused of irregularities in the examination; Li P'an was banished, and although it was generally acknowledged that Chiang was innocent he died in prison before he could be cleared of the charge, much to the regret of Wang Shih-chên [q. v.] who was then president of the Board of Punishments.

Some critics of the famous novel, Hung-lou mêng or "Dream of the Red Chamber" (see under Ts'ao Chan), have professed to find in the plot and characters of that novel reflections (影射) of episodes in the life of Chiang Ch'ên-ying. This theory which arose in the middle of the last century was sponsored by Ts'ai Yüan-p'ei 蔡元培 (T. 孑民, 1867–1940), but has been emphatically refuted by Hu Shih (see under Ts'ui Shu). In addition to his fame as an essayist and poet, Chiang Ch'ên-ying gained distinction as a penman, following calligraphic styles set by Chung Yu 鍾繇 (151–230 A.D.) and Wang Hsi-chih (see under Ch'ên Chao-lun). Several of his published works obtained notice in the Imperial Catalogue and two were copied into the Ssŭ-k'u Manuscript Library (for both see under Chi Yün). His complete works 姜先生全集 Chiang hsien-shêng ch'üan-chi were collected and printed in 1889 in 33 chüan. His miscellaneous notes on the classics, entitled Chan-yüan cha-chi (札記), 1 chüan, is included in the Huang-Ch'ing ching-chieh (see under Juan Yüan).


[2/71/20b; 3/122/1a; 4/47/1a; 20/2/00 with portrait; 26/11/22b; 29/3/1a; 32/8/29a; Tz'ŭ-ch'i-hsien chih (1899) 21/18b, 31/17a; 胡適文存 Hu Shih wên-ts'un III, p. 192; M.1/233/1b.]

Cyrus H. Peake