Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Hsü Yüan-wên

HSÜ Yüan-wên 徐元文 (T. 公肅, H. 立齋), Nov. 18, 1634–1691, Aug. 20, official, younger brother of Hsü Ch'ien-hsüeh [q. v.], was a native of K'un-shan, Kiangsu. In 1659 he was the highest ranking chin-shih, known as chuang-yüan, and was given the rank of compiler of the first class in the Hanlin Academy. Two years later he was involved in a taxation case in Kiangsu (see under Yeh Fang-ai), and was degraded to the post of registrar of the Imperial Equipage Department. He was not declared innocent until 1665. Having served as a compiler in the Historiographical Bureau, and as director of the provincial examination in Shensi (1669), he was appointed (1670) libationer in the Imperial Academy where he served for four years. Under his supervision the Academy was well organized and scholarship was much improved. In 1674 he became sub-chancellor of the Grand Secretariat and assistant director-general in charge of the compilation of the "veritable records" of Emperor T'ai-tsung (see under Abahai). In 1675 he became chancellor of the Hanlin Academy and in the following year had charge of the compilation of the Hsiao-ching yen-i (see under Fu-lin and Yeh Fang-ai). Upon the death of his mother in 1676 he returned to his native place to observe the period of mourning. Summoned in 1679 to the capital, he participated in the compilation of the Ming Dynastic History (Ming-shih), and in the following year was made president of the Censorate. He was courageous in the performance of his duties as censor, and during his tenure of three years rebuked a number of high officials in the provinces, among them Yao Ch'i-shêng [q. v.] then governor-general of Fukien. In 1683 two candidates whom Hsü recommended for the post of provincial judge in Hupeh were shown to be incapable and failed to receive imperial approval. Accordingly Hsü was degraded in official rank, but was ordered to continue his work on the Ming-shih. In 1688 he was again president of the Censorate, succeeding his brother, Hsü Ch'ien-hsüeh. Early in 1689 he was appointed president of the Board of Punishments, and then of the Board of Revenue, and finally was made a Grand Secretary. He served concurrently as chancellor of the Hanlin Academy, having charge of the compilation of the P'ing-ting San-ni fang-lüeh (see under Han T'an) and the Ta Ch'ing i-t'ung chih (see under Hsü Ch'ien-hsüeh).

Hsü Yüan-wên and his brothers, Hsü Ch'ien-hsüeh and Hsü Ping-i (see under Hsü Ch'ien-hsüeh), became involved in factional strife. In 1689 Hsüeh Ch'ien-hsüeh, having instigated the attack which drove Mingju [q. v.] from office, was in turn forced by the latter's remaining adherents, to retire. These adherents soon succeeded, also, in overthrowing Hsü Yüan-wên. In 1690 a nephew of Mingju, Fu-la-t'a 傅拉塔 (d. 1694), then governor-general at Nanking (1688–94), accused Hsü Yüan-wên and his brothers, on fifteen counts, of extortionary and over-bearing conduct. He accused Hsü Yüan-wên of accepting bribes from Hung Chih-chieh 洪之傑, governor of Kiangsu (1688–90), when Hsü became Grand Secretary, and accused his sons and nephews of being in league with Hung Chih-chieh to threaten and oppress the people. The Emperor, inclined to treat him leniently, did not press the case in court, but suggested that he retire from office, which he did in the autumn of 1690. He died the following year.

Like his brother, Hsü Ch'ien-hsüeh, Hsü Yüan-wên was interested in scholarship and in book-collecting. His energies as a scholar were directed chiefly to the afore-mentioned official compilations. There is a collection of his minor writings entitled 含經堂集 Han-ching t'ang chi, 30 chüan.

Hsü Yüan-wên had two sons: Hsü Shu-shêng 徐樹聲 (T. 實均, H. 容齋), a chü-jên of 1684; and Hsü Shu-pên 徐樹本 (T. 道積, H. 忍齋), chin-shih of 1697, and a compiler in the Hanlin Academy.


[1/256/12a; 3/8/1a; 4/12/22b; 23/6/1a; 崑新兩縣續修合志 K'un-Hsin liang-hsien hsü-hsiu ho-chih (1880) 13/20a, 24/26a, 31/8b, 50/7a; Hsieh Kuo-chen 謝國楨, 明清之際黨社運動考 Ming-Ch'ing chih-chi tang-shê yün-tung kao; 文獻叢編 Wên-hsien ts'ung-pien nos. 4, 5; Li Kuang-ti [q. v.], Jung-ts'un yü-lu, hsü-chi.]

Li Man-kuei