Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Hou Fang-yü
HOU Fang-yü 侯方域 ( 朝宗), Mar.–Apr. 1618–1655 Jan.–Feb., man of letters, was a native of Shang-ch'iu, Honan. His grandfather, Hou Chih-p'u 侯執蒲 ( 以康, d. 1641 age 74 sui), was a chin-shih of 1598. Both his father, Hou Hsün 侯恂 ( 若谷) and his uncle, Hou K'o 侯恪 ( 若木, 若樸, d. 1635 age 43 sui), became chin-shih in 1616. All obtained official preferment under the Mings, and as members of the politico-literary party known as Tung-lin 東林, endured persecution when the eunuch, Wei Chung-hsien [q. v.], was in power. Hou Fang-yü was a pupil of Ni Yüan-lu [q. v.]. He was with his father in Peking when the latter was made president of the Board of Revenue in 1633. There he was initiated into current politics and earned fame as a young literary genius. In 1639 he went to Nanking to compete in the examinations, but his name was erased from the list of successful candidates because of failure to observe certain restrictions against the use of taboo characters. A brilliant young man of good family, he together with Fang I-chih, Ch'ên Chên-hui, and Mao Hsiang [qq. v.] came to be known as the "Four Esquires" (四公子). When he returned to his native place in 1640 he organized the Hsüeh-yüan shê 雪苑社 as a branch of the politico-literary society called the Fu-shê 復社. When the forces of Li Tzŭ-ch'êng [q. v.] ravaged his native province in 1642 his father was given authority to suppress the rebels. But unwilling to employ the drastic measures suggested by his son, he failed to cope with the situation and moved the entire family to the south of the afflicted area. When Juan Ta-ch'êng [q. v.] came into power in the government which Prince Fu (see under Chu Yu-sung) headed in Nanking in 1644, he initiated a wholesale arrest of the Fu-shê members but Hou Fang-yü managed to escape to Yangchow where he took refuge in the military quarters of Kao Chieh [q. v.]. When the Manchu forces crossed the Yangtze River in 1645 his family resettled in his native Shang-ch'iu. He competed again in the Honan provincial examination of 1651, but was unsuccessful, and died three and a half years later at the early age of thirty-seven.
One of the best known essayists of his time, Hou Fang-yü revived the style of Han Yü (see under Mao Chin) of the T'ang and of Ou-yang Hsiu (see under Shao Chin-han) of the Sung dynasties. A younger contemporary, Sung Lao [q. v.], had Hou Fang-yü's collected essays printed with those of Wang Wan and Wei Hsi [qq. v.], and the trio came to be known as the "Three Masters of the Early Ch'ing Period" (清初三大家). These essays, entitled 壯悔堂文集 Chuang-hui-t'ang wên-chi, in 10 chüan, were first printed in 1656. Hou's collected verse, 四憶堂詩集 Ssŭ-i t'ang shih-chi, in 6 chüan, was printed by Sung Lao a little later. Hou Fang-yü had a good knowledge of music and was deeply interested in dramatics. He owned, after the manner of well-to-do contemporaries, a group of boy actors who were said to be among the best trained of their day. The names of Hou Fang-Yüand his mistress, Li Hsiang-chün 李香君, appear as the hero and heroine of the famous drama known as T'ao-hua shan (see under K'ung Shang-jên). His second brother, Hou Fang-hsia 侯方夏, became a chin-shih in 1646 in the first examination which the Ch'ing dynasty conducted in the traditional Chinese style.
[1/489/4b; 3/423/14a; 1/136/2b; 20/1/00 (portrait); 年譜 Nien-p'u by a 5th generation descendant, Hou Hsün 侯洵, appears in Chuang-hui t'ang chi; Shang-ch'iu-hsien chih (1885) 9/31b.]