Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Chin Jên-jui

CHIN Jên-jui 金人瑞 (T. Shêng-t'an 聖歎), d. Aug. 7, 1661, writer and humorist, was a native of Wu-hsien (Soochow). He is commonly known by his tzŭ as Chin Shêng-t'an. He was referred to by Ch'ien Ch'ien-i [q. v.] as "my pupil, Chin Ts'ai" (金采) and by some other writers as Chin K'uei 金喟. Statements to the effect that he was also known as Chang Ts'ai 張采 seem to be incorrect, being apparently due to a confusion with a contemporary of that name (see under Chang P'u).

Chin Jên-jui was born toward the close of the Wan-li period, probably about 1610. He passed his childhood in poverty and loneliness, but when he was about ten sui he showed unusual aptitude in his studies and in the interpretation of the Classics. He liked best, however, to read novels and dramas, and this fondness increased as he grew older. He obtained a hsiu-ts'ai degree, but often ridiculed his fellow hsiu-ts'ai for their commonplace aims and their lack of aesthetic appreciation. Spending freely what money he had, he was often in straitened circumstances. Nevertheless, he had a few devoted friends whose views were similar to his, and with these he was fond of holding lengthy conversations. He liked to read Buddhist literature, and therefore cultivated friendship with some learned priests.

The career of Chin Jên-jui can be understood only in the light of the social and political background of his day. The land was overrun with bandits, the literati spent their energies in the formation of rival factions (see under Chang P'u), and the dynasty was losing its sovereignty through the Manchu invasion. Consequently Chin Jên-jui attacked the oppressive measures of the government and even advocated rebellion on the part of the people who were pressed beyond endurance. For him the novel and the drama portrayed best the hollowness of obsolete conventions and taboos, and it is for this reason that he valued the 水滸 Shui-hu and the 西廂記 Hsi-hsiang chi as the outstanding specimens of the novel and the drama, respectively, in his day. In the Shui-hu the sympathy of the writer was obviously with the poor peasants who were forced by oppressive officials to unite and become bands of robbers. In the Hsi-hsiang chi we have an attractive love story in which the ordinary conventions are indirectly criticized, and the elemental passions are unreservedly portrayed. For these reasons Chin compared the former to the Spring and Autumn Annals and the latter to the Book of Odes. It is not surprising, therefore, that his notes and commentaries to both of these works became very popular. For the same reasons he praised the ancient works: 離騷 Li-sao ("An Elegy on Encountering Sorrows"); 南華 Nan-hua (the writings of Chuang-tzŭ); 史記 Shih-chi ("Historical Record"); and 杜詩 Tu-shih ("The Poems of Tu Fu", the T'ang poet). To these four works and to the above-mentioned Shui-hu and Hsi-hsiang chi, he gave the collective name, 才子書 Ts'ai-tzŭ shu ("Works by and for Men of Genius"), ranking the six in the order here given. Consequently these works are sometimes still referred to, not by the titles commonly assigned to them, but by the order in which Chin classified them. Thus the drama Hsi-hsiang chi is referred to as the 六才子書 Liu ts'ai-tzŭ shu, "The Sixth of the Works by and for Men of Genius". Chin's commentaries to the Shui-hu were written about 1641 and were printed in 1644 by Han Chu 韓住 (T. 嗣昌) whose studio was named Kuan-hua t'ang 貫華堂. His edition of the Hsi-hsiang chi was printed in 1656. Other works by Chin, published about this time, were the 唐才子書 T'ang ts'ai-tzŭ shu, (chia-chi 甲集 first series), 8 chüan, an anthology of T'ang writers; and the 制義才子書 Chih-i ts'ai tzŭ shu, printed about 1654, a collection of pa-ku wên 八股文 or essays in the style required in the examination halls. Aside from writing, Chin sometimes gave lectures to students. Both his lectures and his writings impressed most of the contemporary conventional writers as strange and eccentric. Some of his views strikingly anticipate those of our time. His last years he devoted to the elucidation of Tu Fu's poems, but he did not finish this task before he lost his life in a famous episode known as k'u-miao 哭廟 ("Laments in the Temple"), related below.

Early in 1661 the newly-appointed magistrate of Wu-hsien [Chin's district], named Jên Wei-ch'u 任維初, having determined on a speedy collection of delinquent taxes, set out to use strong measures. These included the actual flogging of many farmers and even the confiscation of grain from the public stores which the magistrate sold to local merchants in lieu of taxes. The injustice and cruelty of these measures angered many of the scholars of the district who had an opportunity to display their feelings as they gathered from the first to the third of March that year in the local Temple of Confucius to mourn the death (February 5, 1661) of Emperor Shih-tsu. The governor of Kiangsu, Chu Kuo-chih (see under Yeh Fang-ai) and many other prominent officials were also present. On the fourth of March more than a hundred students gathered at the Temple and, with loud lamentations, presented to the governor a document attacking the magistrate and pleading for his dismissal. Eleven leaders among the students were placed in confinement to await trial. At the preliminary hearing the accused magistrate explained that he was forced to resort to the measures complained of in order to satisfy the illicit demands of the governor. To pacify the magistrate, and to nullify his charges, the governor connived with others to make the measures the magistrate had used seem reasonable. This he did by issuing an order stating that owing to military exigencies all taxes must be speedily collected, and predated the order many days to give to the measures used the appearance of legality. Thereupon he reported to Peking that the students had staged a riot against the assessment of taxes, had threatened physical harm to the magistrate, and by their conduct had "disturbed the spirit of the lately deceased emperor". When the memorial reached Peking the regents (see under Oboi) were already contemplating some intimidation of the people of Kiangsu by punishments sufficiently drastic. At this time more than a hundred men lay imprisoned at Chinkiang, Chin-t'an (both in Kiangsu), and elsewhere, most of them charged with having surrendered to Chêng Ch'êng-kung [q. v.] when the latter invaded Kiangsu in 1659. The regents, therefore, dispatched several officials to try all these offenders. The trial began at Nanking early in May, and within that month eleven more natives of Soochow were arrested for their part in the k'u-miao incident—among them Chin Jên-jui. Finally Chin and six of those most recently seized, and the eleven originally arrested, were sentenced to be beheaded for treasonous conduct. The execution took place on August 7. The property of Chin and of seven others was confiscated and their families were banished to Manchuria. It seems that his son Chin Yung 金雍 (T. 釋弓), was later pardoned and was allowed to return to Soochow. The execution of these scholars of Soochow was bitterly resented by the people of the province (Kiangsu); and biographers of Chin Jên-jui and narrators of the k'u-miao incident evidently took pleasure in recording that the magistrate, Jên Wei-ch'u, and the governor, Chu Kuo-chih, each died an unnatural death. Jên lost his post late in 1661 and in the following year was executed at Nanking. Chu became governor of Yunnan (1671–73), but was killed late in 1673 by Wu San-kuei [q. v.] when the latter began his rebellion.

Soon after his death the works of Chin Jên-jui were collected and edited by his cousin, Chin Ch'ang 金昌 (T. 長文, H. 矍齋, 聖瑗). Sixteen items, some of them comprising only a few pages, were printed under the title, 唱經堂才子書彙稿 Ch'ang-ching t'ang ts'ai-tzŭ shu hui-kao. They were reprinted in 1744—one of them being the Tu-shih chieh (解), in 4 chüan. Chin Ch'ang also made a list of all of Chin Jên-jui's writings, dividing them into wai-shu 外書 (comments on the works of others) and nei-shu 內書 (his own compositions). Five of these items are listed as having been printed, including Chin Jên-jui's editions of the Shui-hu and the Hsi-hsiang chi. The comments of Chin Jên-jui on these two works were so well received that publishers had his name as commentator printed on several other items, giving to each its number as one of the Ts'ai-tzŭ shu. His comments were also referred to favorably by Emperor Shih-tsu about the year 1659. In recent years the significance of the Shui-hu as one of China's literary masterpieces has been duly recognized—thus corroborating, in a sense, Chin's high praise of it.


[Ch'ên Têng-yüan 陳登原, Chin Shêng-t'an chuan (傳, 1935); 哭廟紀略 K'u-miao chi-lüeh; 金壇縣志 Chin-t'an hsien-chih (1923) 12之2/8b; 胡適文存 Hu Shih wên-ts'un, 1st series; 6/44/10a; Liu Hsien-t'ing [q. v.], Kuang-yang tsa-chi 3/26b; Ch'ien Ch'ien-i, Ch'u-hsüeh-chi, 43/13a.]

Fang Chao-ying