Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Huang Tsun-hsien
HUANG Tsun-hsien 黃遵憲 ( 公度), 1848–1905, Mar. 28, poet and reformer, was a native of Chia-ying-chou, Kwangtung. His father, Huang Hung-tsao 黃鴻藻 ( 雁賓, 逸農, chü-jên of 1855), served as acting prefect of Ssŭ-ên-fu, Kwangsi, 1889–91. In 1873 Huang Tsun-hsien became a senior licentiate and a year later went to Peking to fulfill the requirements for that grade. During 1875 he remained in the north, travelling to Tientsin and Chefoo and meeting at the latter place the diplomat, Chang Yin-huan [q. v.]. Huang Tsun-hsien became a chü-jên at the provincial examinations held in Peking in 1876 and early in the next year was appointed counselor to the Legation in Tokyo. He and the minister, Ho Ju-chang 何如璋 ( 子峨, 1838–1891), arrived in Tokyo late in 1877. There they were highly esteemed by Japanese scholars who frequently entertained them, as reported by Wang T'ao [q. v.] who visited Japan in 1879. The year 1879 marks the beginning of Japan's expansion when she occupied part of the Loochoo Islands and had designs on Korea (see under Li Hung-chang). In 1880 Huang suggested that the Court send a resident to Korea to supervise the Korean officials or at least take charge of the country's foreign relations. Li Hung-chang [q. v.] disapproved of the idea for fear of being involved in disputes. Huang then advised the Korean government to keep in close contact with China and establish friendly relations with Japan and the United States. But his proposals were furiously attacked by the conservatives in Korea.
Although busily engaged in his social contacts with Japanese literary men, and in diplomatic affairs, Huang Tsung-hsien found time to study and to write about Japan. His "Poems About Japan", entitled 日本雜事詩 Jih-pên tsa-shih-shih, 2 chüan, are full of interesting, and at times scholarly, information. They were first printed in 1879 by the Tsung-li Yamen—the Chinese Foreign Office—and were reprinted by the author in 1885. In 1880 Huang began to compile a history of Japan, but the work was interrupted in 1882 when he was appointed consul-general at San Francisco. In 1885 his mother died and he returned home for the mourning period, and during this time he continued the history of Japan. It was completed in 1887 under the title 日本國志 Jih-pên kuo chih, 40 chüan, and was printed in 1890 and reprinted in 1898, as well as in later years. It was one of the popular, though scholarly, accounts of that country and was highly praised by those who wished to follow the example set by Japan in matters of reform.
In 1889 Huang Tsun-hsien went to Peking where he received appointment as counselor to the Legation in London. Before leaving he met many famous men of the day who acclaimed him for his literary and political achievements. He and the new minister to England, Hsüeh Fu-ch'êng [q. v.], arrived in London in the spring of 1890. A year later Huang was sent to Singapore as consul-general and remained there for three years.
In 1894, when Chang Chih-tung was transferred to Wuchang as governor-general, he obtained the consent of the Court to recall Huang from abroad. Thereupon Huang went to Wuchang and in a few months settled a number of cases involving Chinese Christians and foreigners. With the rank of intendant of a circuit, he was summoned to Peking and was granted a special audience by Emperor Tê-tsung who was eager to initiate reforms. In 1896 he was named minister to Germany, but the appointment was cancelled, owing to alleged objections from Berlin. In 1897 he was made salt intendant of Hunan, and for a short while acted as judicial commissioner. The governor of Hunan, Ch'ên Pao-chên (see under T'an Ssŭ-t'ung), being one of the sponsors of the reform movement in that province, enabled Huang to put into practice what he had learned in foreign countries. Huang helped to organize a society of more enlightened local gentry, known as the Nan Hsüeh Hui (see under T'an Ssŭ-t'ung) and gave a number of lectures. He set up a police bureau, published a newspaper, and established some schools. The highest school, Shih-wu Hsüeh-t'ang 時務學堂, was an important institution where a number of revolutionary leaders discussed reform ideas and where Liang Ch'i-ch'ao (see under T'an Ssŭ-t'ung) was the dean of Chinese studies.
In 1898 Emperor Tê-tsung was determined to carry out reforms in the empire. Early in that rear he had read the Jih-pên kuo-chih of Huang Tsun-hsien and was impressed by the achievements of Japan in her few years of Westernization. Thus in June, on the recommendation of Hsü Chih-ching (see under T'an Ssŭ-t'ung), the emperor summoned Huang to another audience and in August named him minister to Japan. But Huang was prevented by illness from going farther north than Shanghai, and before long the whole reform movement was crushed by Empress Hsiao-ch'in [q. v.] who relentlessly punished the leaders. He was retired and went back to his home in Chia-ying-chou where he lived quietly until his death seven years later.
Though unable to carry out his ideas of reform, Huang Tsun-hsien is likely to be remembered for his poetry. He proclaimed that he wanted to discard the traditional modes of writing verse and to compose as he liked. Although he made use of traditional forms, he did succeed in writing verse with a freer and richer movement. His collected poems, entitled 人境廬詩草 Jên-ching-lu shih-ts'ao, 11 chüan, were printed after his death and have since been widely read.
[1/470/2b; 6/13/11b; Liang Ch'i-ch'ao, 飲氷室合集 Yin-ping-shih ho-chi; Nien-p'u, by Ch'ien Ê-sun 錢蕚孫 in 大陸 Ta-lu, vol. 1, no. 12, and vol. II, no. 1 (June, July, 1933).]