Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Fêng Kuei-fên

FÊNG Kuei-fên 馮桂芬 (T. 林一, H. 景亭, 鄧尉山人), 1809–1874, May 28, scholar, was a native of Wu-hsien (Soochow). Several of his ancestors were wealthy, but his father lost his fortune through fire. Though he studied under unfavorable circumstances, Fêng Kuei-fên took his chü-jên degree in 1832 and his chin-shih degree with high honors in 1840, after which he became a compiler of the Hanlin Academy. He was assistant examiner of the Shun-t'ien examination of 1843 and chief examiner in Kwangsi in 1844. After completing the mourning period for his mother (1845–48), he served several months as director of the Hsi-yin 惜陰 Academy at Nanking, and then went up to the capital (late in 1848). Early in the summer of 1850 Grand Secretary P'an Shih-ên [q. v.] recommended him to Emperor Wên-tsung as an able official, but soon afterwards Fêng was obliged to return home because of the death of his father. When the Taiping army occupied Nanking in 1853 he was active in organizing a volunteer corps to defend Soochow against the enemy. For this military service he was raised to the fifth rank, and in 1856 was promoted to the junior secretaryship of the Supervisorate of Imperial Instruction, a position he held until 1859. Thereafter, until his death, he served as director of the Ching-yeh 敬業 Academy at Shanghai and of the Tzŭ-yang 紫陽 and Chêng-i 正誼 Academies at Soochow, though he continued to render practical service to the government unofficially. When the Taiping army attacked Soochow in 1860 he took refuge in Shanghai which was defended by the so-called Ever-victorious Army (常勝軍) under the command of the American soldiers of fortune, Frederick Townsend Ward 華爾 (1831–1862) and Henry Andrea Burgevine 白齊文, (1836–1865), in co-operation with the allied forces under command of the British and French admirals, James Hope 何伯 (1808–1881) and Auguste Leopold Protet 卜羅德 (1808–1862), respectively. The authorities of the Soochow region, who assembled at Shanghai, asked Tsêng Kuo-fan [q. v.] for reinforcements, but the request was ignored. Late in 1861 Fêng sent Tsêng a letter in which he explained the situation and the strategic importance of the Soochow region. It is said that Tsêng was so moved by this letter that he decided to despatch Li Hung-chang [q. v.] to Kiangsu province. After the suppression of the Taipings in the Shanghai region by Li's army (1864) Fêng assisted Li for more than a year as adviser on post-bellum problems and administrative matters concerning his native province. Several important undertakings, carried out by Li, were based on Fêng's suggestion, namely: the diminution in 1865 of grain transport from the Soochow area to Peking, carried out in order to lighten the burden of taxation under which the people in that region had for centuries labored; and the establishment (1863) of a school of western languages and science at Shanghai—a school that was later (1869) annexed to the Kiangnan Arsenal. For these services Fêng was given (early in 1871), on the recommendation of Li Hung-chang, the honorary position of an official of the third rank. From 1869 until his death Fêng was the chief editor of the gazetteer of his native prefecture, the Soochow-fu-chih, 150 chüan, which was completed after his death and published in 1883.

In this period of the Ch'ing dynasty, when China was plunged into confusion by troubles from without and from within, Fêng Kuei-fên was one of the most competent students of statecraft. In 1861 he edited a collection of about fifty essays, in which he examined the social and economic problems of the time. A part of it was published by his son a few years after his death, and the complete work was published in 1885 in 2 chüan under the title 校邠廬抗議 Chiao-pin-lu k'ang-i. It shows that Fêng had considerable knowledge of foreign affairs, and was progressive in his ideas. His observations, too, in regard to the reform of corrupt administrative practices were pertinent. It was with reason, therefore, that Sun Chia-nai [q. v.] presented Emperor Tê-tsung with this book in 1893 when the Ch'ing authorities were attempting actively to modernize the country. Fêng was also versed in mathematics and was eager to learn western science. He wrote two primers on higher mathematics: one an introduction to the 弧矢算術細草 Hu-shih suan-shu hsi-ts'ao by Li Jui (see under Chiao Hsün), entitled Hu-shih suan-shu hsi-ts'ao t'u-chieh (圖解), 1 chüan, published in 1847; the other an explanation of the Tai wei chi shih-chi (see under Li Shan-lan), entitled 西算新法直解 Hsi-suan hsin fa chih-chieh, 8 chüan, published with a preface dated 1865. The latter was compiled with the assistance of his pupil, Ch'ên Yang 陳暘 (T. 子搢, 1806-1863). Fêng constructed an improved type of surveying instrument and reformed the method of drawing survey maps. He also made a map of the heavens for the year 1844, entitled 甲辰新憲赤道恆星圖 Chia-Ch'ên hsin-hsien ch'ih-tao hêng-hsing t'u, revising a similar map for the year 1834 made by his teacher, Li Chao-lo [q. v.], the printing blocks of which Fêng owned. He specialized in the Shuo-wên (see under Tuan Yü-ts'ai) and his most authoritative work on this dictionary, the 說文段注攷正 Shuo-wên Tuan chu k'ao-chêng, 15 chüan, in which he corrects Tuan's annotations, was published in 1928. He reprinted in 1864 the approved text of the 說文解字韻譜 Shuo-wên chieh-tzŭ yün-p'u, 10 chüan, by Hsü Ch'ieh 徐鍇 (T. 楚金, 920-974), on the basis of a Japanese manuscript copy. This reprint was issued in 1868. Fêng's literary collection was published in 1877 in 12 chüan, under the title 顯志堂稿 Hsien-chih-t'ang kao. It contains many short essays and letters concerning statecraft, and also biographies and epitaphs of soldiers and officials who died during the Taiping Rebellion. One of these biographies is that of the above-mentioned Frederick T. Ward.

Fêng Kuei-fên was an admirer of Ku Yen-wu [q. v.] and was one of those who regularly paid respects to that scholar at his shrine in Peking (see under Chang Mu). He was also a good calligrapher and was skilled in the chuan and the li styles. According to his biographers, he was austere and exacting in his behavior and shunned even the most simple enjoyments. His name was enshrined posthumously at Soochow. His eldest son, Fêng Fang-ch'i 馮芳緝 (T. 熙臣, H. 升芷, 申之, 穉林, b. 1833, chin-shih of 1868), was one of those who completed the Soochow-fu chih. He later became a Maritime Customs Taotai.


[1/491/17a; 2/73/43a; 5/18/17a; Ch'ou-jên chuan (see under Juan Yüan) 1935 ed. vol. 11, pp. 806–9 (supplement); Wu-hsien chih (1933) 66/下/31a, 43b; Hsien-chih t'ang kao, passim, especially appendix; 江蘇省減賦全案 Chiang-su shêng chien fu ch'üan-an (1866); Huang Ts'ui-po 黃淬伯, 七十年前之維新人物馮景亭 in Quarterly Review of the Sun Yat-sen Institute for Advancement of Culture and Education, vol. IV, no. 3 (1937).]

Hiromu Momose