Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Hsüeh Fu-ch'êng

3639990Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period, Volume 1 — Hsüeh Fu-ch'êngTu Lien-chê

HSÜEH Fu-ch'êng 薛福成 (T. 叔耘, H. 庸盦), Apr. 12, 1838–1894, July 21, official and diplomat, was a native of Wu-hsi, Kiangsu. His father, Hsüeh Hsiang 薛湘 (T. 曉颿, d. 1858), was a chin-shih of 1845 who died while officiating as magistrate of Hsin-ning, Hunan. In 1857 both Hsüeh Fu-ch'êng and his younger brother, Hsüeh Fu-pao 薛福保 (T. 季懷, 1840–1881), obtained the hsiu-ts'ai degree. After their father's death the spread of the Taiping Rebellion caused the family to move to a village in the Pao-ying district, Kiangsu, where they resided for about six years. In 1867 Hsüeh Fu-ch'êng became a senior licentiate. In 1865 when Tsêng Kuo-fan [q. v.] was charged with the task of subduing the Nien-fei (see under Sêng-ko-lin-ch'in), bulletins were posted in various places appealing for able men to help in the task. In response to this call Hsüeh Fu-ch'êng submitted to Tsêng a long letter giving his opinion on the problems confronting the nation. Tsêng was pleased with the suggestions and invited both Hsüeh Fu-ch'êng and Hsüeh Fu-pao to join his secretarial staff. Hsüeh Fu-ch'êng thus served for eight years as secretary on Tsêng's staff in the province of Shantung, and in the cities of Nanking and Paoting.

In 1875 an imperial edict was issued inviting constructive suggestions for the improvement of national welfare. Hsüeh Fu-ch'êng took up the challenge with enthusiasm and wrote a long memorial in which he made six suggestions for efficiency in administration and ten on the betterment of coastal defense. This memorial was forwarded to the throne through Ting Pao-chên [q. v.], then governor of Shantung. Some of Hsüeh's suggestions were ordered to be discussed by the various Boards and the Tsung-li Yamen. In the same year (1875) Hsueh joined the secretarial staff of Li Hung-chang [q. v.], then viceroy of Chihli. In 1878 Liu Hsi-hung (see under Kuo Sung-tao), minister to Germany, recommended him for a post as third secretary on Liu's staff in Germany, but he declined on the ground that he was in mourning for his mother who had died in 1877. As secretary to Li Hung-chang; Hsüeh rendered valuable service and made suggestions concerning many important issues such as the timely dispatch of forces to Korea following the riots in Seoul in the summer of 1882. For his meritorious services he was appointed in 1884 intendant of the Ning-Shao-T'ai circuit in Chekiang. At that time China and France were at variance over Annam (see under Fêng Tzŭ-ts'ai). When Hsüeh Fu-ch'êng assumed office he paid special attention to the defense of his area, so that when the French attacked Chenhai, early in 1885, the Chinese forces were able to hold out successfully. He wrote an account of this episode in 4 chüan, under the title 浙東籌防錄 Chê-tung ch'ou-fang lu, which was first printed in 1886. While officiating in Chekiang he fostered certain cultural undertakings such as the preparation of a new catalogue of the famous T'ien I Ko Library (see under Fan Mou-chu) and the printing of Ch'üan Tsu-wang's [q. v.] Ch'i-chiao Shui-ching chu (1888). In 1888 he was made judicial commissioner of Hunan.

In 1889 Hsüeh Fu-ch'êng was appointed minister to England, France, Italy and Belgium, but, owing first to illness and then to epidemics in Europe, he did not set out for his new posts until 1890. He and his retinue boarded a French liner at Shanghai on January 31, 1890, and arrived in Paris on March 9. He presented his letters of credence at Paris on March 24, at London on May 5, and at Brussels on June 13, but did not go to Italy until 1891—presenting his credentials at Rome on March 30 of that year. As minister to these four nations he remained in Europe for more than four years. This was a comparatively tranquil period in China's foreign relations. There were questions concerning the establishment of Chinese consulates in British dominions and concern over British encroachment in Central Asia. An outstanding event, however, was the signing in London, on March 1, 1894, of the Anglo-Chinese convention concerning Burma and Tibet. By this agreement the boundaries between Burma and China (see under Tsêng Chi-tsê) were delimited.

Hsüeh Fu-ch'êng left two diaries concerning the years of his diplomatic service in Europe: the 出使日記, Ch'u-shih jih-chi, 6 chüan, covering the period from January 31, 1890 to April 8, 1891; and the Ch'u-shih jih-chi hsü-k'o (續刻), 10 chüan, covering the period from April 9, 1891 to July 1, 1894. He left Marseilles for China on May 26, 1894, arrived in Shanghai on July 1, and died there twenty days later. His complete works 庸盦全集 Yung-an ch'üan-chi (printed 1884–1898) include: his collected essays, Yung-an wên-pien (文編) 4 chüan; Yung-an wên hsü-(續) pien, 2 chüan; Yung-an wên wai-(外) pien, 4 chüan; 海外文編 Hai-wai wên-pien, 4 chüan; his official papers, 出使奏疏 Ch'u-shih tsou-shu, 2 chüan; and Ch'u-shih kung-tu (公牘), 10 chüan; the Chê-tung ch'ou-fang lu; the two sets of diaries; and 1 chüan on foreign affairs entitled 籌洋芻議 Ch'ou-yang ch'u i. He was also the author of the Yung-an pi-chi (筆記), 6 chüan, printed in 1898—a collection of miscellaneous notes which he jotted down during the years 1865–91. The first half of this collection has many notes of historical importance.

Hsüeh Fu-ch'êng was the third of six brothers. His eldest brother, Hsüeh Fu-ch'ên 薛福辰 (T. 撫平[屏], d. 1889, a chü-jên of 1855), held administrative posts in Chihli and was also known for his medical knowledge.

[1/452/5a; 2/58/54b; 6/13/1a; Chin-liang, Chin-shih jên-wu chih (see under Wêng T'ung-ho) p. 290.]

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