Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Hsü Ching-ch'êng

HSÜ Ching-ch'êng 許景澄 (T. 竹筠[篔], original ming 癸身 T. 拱辰), Oct. 22, 1845–1900, July 28, diplomat and liberal statesman, who died a martyr in the Boxer rebellion, was a native of Chia-hsing, Chekiang. Becoming a chü-jên in 1867, he was made a chin-shih in 1868 and was selected a member of the Hanlin Academy. Among the chin-shih of this year (1868) were several who later played important rôles in China's foreign service, namely, Hung Chün, Wu Ta-ch'êng [qq. v.] and Ho Ju-chang (see under Huang Tsun-hsien). After serving in various positions, Hsü Ching-ch'êng was recommended by Wên-hsiang [q. v.] for a diplomatic post and in 1880 was appointed minister to Japan. However, before leaving to take up his duties his father died and he returned home to observe the customary period of mourning. In 1884 he succeeded Li Fêng-pao 李鳳苞 (T. 丹崖, d. 1887) as minister to France, Germany, Italy, Holland and Austria. He sailed from Shanghai September 6, 1884 and presented his letters of credence in turn at Berlin, November 2; at Rome, December 31; at Vienna, January 29, 1885; at Paris, July 27, and at The Hague, December 21. During the year 1885 he was also made minister to Belgium. At this time China planned to build a navy and had ordered two ships from Germany. Hsü Ching-ch'êng was charged with the prior inspection of these vessels. To qualify himself for the task he made a study of the naval forces of nineteen nations, and compiled a work on the subject, entitled 外國師船表 Wai-kuo shih-ch'uan piao, which was presented to the throne in 1885. He also memorialized the throne on the significance of Taku and Kiaochow as naval bases. In 1887 his mother died and he sailed back from Marseilles late in the same year, arriving at Shanghai on January 25, 1888. Having completed the period of mourning, he reported in Peking (1890) and was appointed minister to Russia, Germany, Austria and Holland in place of Hung Chün. He first presented himself officially at St. Petersburg (February 23, 1891), and visited the other three capitals in the same year. Believing that Russia was planning to encroach in the Pamir region, he proposed that the two nations agree on a line of demarcation. Though this was not done, Russia agreed in 1893 not to advance her forces before such a line was drawn. In view of the situation Hsü and his staff prepared a detailed map of the Pamir region with explanatory notes. This work, entitled 帕米爾圖說 P'a-mi-êr t'u-shuo, was printed in 1897 in the 漸學廬叢書 Chien-hsüeh lu ts'ung-shu.

Before long China was engaged in war with Japan 1894-95. The humiliating treaty of Shimonoseki (signed April 17, 1895), forced China to cede to Japan, among other things, the Liaotung Peninsula. Though the intervention of Russia, France and Germany forced Japan to return this territory, China's indemnity to Japan was increased by 30,000,000 taels. It was a hard and trying time for Chinese diplomats and Hsü foresaw clearly that, under the guise of intervention, the powers were chiefly seeking their own interests. Realizing that his diplomatic tasks in Russia and Germany would be increasingly heavy, he sent in a memorial requesting that the responsibilities be shared by two ministers. The request was approved, and late in 1896 Hsü was made minister to Germany only, while Yang Ju 楊儒 (T. 子通, d. 1901), then minister to the United States, was made minister to Russia, Austria and Holland. As Hsü had anticipated, the catastrophe materialized in a scramble among the powers for concessions (1897–98). While Li Hung-chang [q. v.] was representing China at the coronation of Nicholas II, he signed (June 3, 1896) with Lobanov and Witte a secret treaty in which Russia obtained the right to extend the Trans-Siberian Railway through Manchuria to Vladivostok. Before leaving for Germany Hsü also signed (September 2, 1896) a contract with the Russo-Chinese Bank for the construction and operation of the Chinese Eastern Railway. After about a year in Berlin he was ordered back and was succeeded by Lü Hai-huan 呂海寰 (T. 鏡宇, 1840–1927) who, however, did not reach his post until early in 1898.

Because two German missionaries were killed in Shantung (November 1, 1897), Germany seized Tsingtao and this led to the leasing of Kiaochow (March 6, 1898). Shortly thereafter Russian warships occupied Port Arthur and Talienwan (Dairen). Hsü Ching-ch'êng was then appointed special envoy plenipotentiary to Russia and arrived at St. Petersburg early in 1898 where, despite his efforts, the leasing of the two ports to Russia was confirmed by two conventions, one signed at Peking (March 27, 1898) and another at St. Petersburg (May 7, 1898). With this lease Russia obtained the right to construct a branch line of the Chinese Eastern Railway to Port Arthur and Dairen—the so-called South Manchurian Railway. A supplementary contract was signed on July 6 between the Chinese Eastern Railway Company and the Chinese envoys, Hsü Ching-ch'êng and Yang Ju. Having carried out his official mission Hsü left Russia via America, arriving at Shanghai September 20, 1898. In addition to filling other posts he served in the Tsung-li Yamen. In February 1899, when Italy demanded Sanmen Bay (Chekiang), he was one who upheld China's refusal.

During the early stages of the Boxer uprising Hsü Ching-ch'êng advocated strong measures to suppress the rebels. When the conservatives gained control in the government he was accused of being pro-foreign, and together with Yüan Ch'ang [q. v.] was executed on July 28, 1900. Early in 1901 an imperial edict acknowledged that these men had been unjustly put to death and their descendants were rewarded with offices. In 1909 Hsü was officially canonized as Wên-su 文肅.

The collected works of Hsü Ching-ch'êng, entitled 許文肅公遺稿 Hsü Wên-su kung i-kao, 12 chüan, and his diplomatic correspondence, 許竹篔先生出使函稿 Hsü Chu-yün hsien-shêng ch'u-shih han-kao, 10 chüan, were printed by his disciple, Lu Chêng-hsiang 陵徵祥 (T. 子欣, 子興, b. 1870). A supplement to his collected works, Hsü Wên-su kung wai-chi (外集), 10 chüan, including one chüan of his diary, was brought together by Shêng Yüan 盛沅 (T. 萍旨, a chin-shih of 1886) and printed in 1920.


[1/472/1b; 2/62/52a; 6/5/13a; Fêng Shu 馮恕, 庚子辛亥忠烈像贊 Kêng-tzŭ hsin-hai chung-lieh hsiang-tsan (1931); Chia-hsing hsien-chih (1908) 22/52b; Chin-shih jên-wu chih (see under Wêng T'ung-ho) p. 210; Ch'ing-chi wai-chiao shih-liao (see under I-hsin); Morse, H. B., International Relations of the Chinese Empire Vol. III; Yano Jinichi 矢野仁一, 日清役後支那外交 Nisshin-eki go Shina gaikō shi (1937).]

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