I-ching 奕經 ( 潤峯), d. Nov. 12, 1853, official and Imperial Clansman, was a great-grandson of Emperor Kao-tsung (see under Hung-li) and a grandson of the famous calligrapher, Yung-hsing [q. v.]. His father, Mien-i 綿懿 (d. 1809), was the second son of Yung-hsing but became the adopted son of his deceased uncle, Yung-chang 永璋 (1735–1760). Yung-chang was the third son of Emperor Kao-tsung and was given posthumously the rank of a prince of the second degree with the designation, Hsün (循郡王). As Yung-chang's adopted son, Mien-i inherited in 1787 the rank of a prince of the third degree and was transferred to the Manchu Bordered Red Banner. After Mien-i died the hereditary rank went to Mien-i's eldest son, I-hsü 奕緒.
I-ching was the second son of Mien-i. In 1816 he passed the examination for the sons of princes, was given the rank of a Noble of Imperial Lineage of the tenth degree, and was made an Imperial Bodyguard. In 1817, owing to a minor offense, the hereditary rank was taken from him, but he was promoted in official rank to be a director of the Imperial Gardens and Hunting Parks. In 1818 he became a sub-chancellor of the Grand Secretariat and held various concurrent posts in the administration of the Banner forces. In 1825, under Emperor Hsüan-tsung, he was made junior vice-president of the Board of War. During the next ten years he served as a vice-president in various Boards. In 1835 he was made military governor of Shêng-ching with headquarters at Mukden. Recalled in 1836, he was made president of the Board of Civil Appointments and was given concurrently the important office of commandant of the Peking Gendarmerie. In March 1841 he was made concurrently an Associate Grand Secretary, an office vacated by I-li-pu [q. v.] who was degraded for failing to attack the British at Tinghai during the First Anglo-Chinese War.
At this time the war with England was spreading, for a second time, from Canton to the coast of Chekiang (see under Yü-ch'ien). Tinghai was lost to the British on October 1, 1841 and Chinhai, on October 10th. When the news reached Peking on October 18 Emperor Hsuan-tsung made up his mind to resist in Chekiang, and immediately appointed I-ching commander of the forces in that province. I-ching was given the rank of General Yang-wei (揚威將軍), and Wên-wei 文蔚 ( 豹人, 露軒, d. 1855), a Manchu of the Plain Blue Banner, and a chin-shih of 1820, was made assistant commander.
I-ching was a favorite of the Emperor, and a talented official who had studied the Manchu written language. But these were not the qualifications required in a general, and certainly not in one who would fight the British. I-ching and Wên-wei went to Soochow and stayed there for two months awaiting the arrival of recruits from inland provinces. But before these troops could arrive the English had taken Ningpo and neighboring towns. In the hope of finding a plan to conduct the war I-ching invited the people to submit suggestions. Hundreds of these came in, but most of them were valueless. Early in 1842 I-ching reluctantly proceeded to Hangchow and a day was set to attack Ningpo. The attack took place in the middle of March and resulted in the complete defeat of I-ching's forces.
Thereafter I-ching stayed for several months at Hangchow. He escaped severe punishment for his defeat only because the Emperor blamed himself for sending such an inexperienced commander. When I-ching reported that in April some of his men had gained a victory at sea, he was rewarded, but the report was based on false claims of his subordinates. In May Cha-p'u was lost to the British and the peace party, headed by Mu-chang-a [q. v.] in Peking, and by Ch'i-ying [q. v.] in Hangchow, gained the emperor's consent to negotiate a settlement. As the invaders took Shanghai and sailed up the Yangtze, I-ching was ordered to proceed to Kiangsu to hold them off. But he stayed far from the scene until the Treaty of Nanking was signed (see under Ch'i-ying). In October he was ordered to return to Peking. While on the way, he was condemned together with I-shan [q. v.] and Wên-wei, to imprisonment awaiting execution. Late in 1842 he was escorted to Peking in chains and consigned to imprisonment in the Imperial Clan Court. In April 1843 he was pardoned and, after being made a fourth-class Imperial Bodyguard, was appointed commissioner at Yarkand. By this time Ch'i-shan [q. v.] had been pardoned and given a minor post. However, the censor, Ch'ên Ch'ing-yung (see under Huang P'êng-nien), memorialized Emperor Hsüan-tsung that it was wrong to release these and other officials who were responsible for the military reverses of the War. In May the emperor meekly replied that it was he who should be held responsible for the ignominious defeats. Nevertheless he cancelled the appointments and ordered Ch'i-shan and I-ching to meditate on their misdemeanors at home.
In November 1843, six months after his humiliation, I-ching was reappointed commissioner at Yarkand. In 1844 he was made commandant of the forces at Ili, but was discharged two years later for a mistrial and was exiled to Heilungkiang. Released in 1850, he was again made (1851) commandant of the forces at Ili. In the same year (1851) he was transferred to Yinggishar. He was recalled in 1852 and made vice-president of the Board of Punishments with the concurrent post of commandant of the Peking Gendarmerie. In 1853, when the Taiping forces took Nanking and threatened to advance northward, I-ching was sent with a detachment to defend Hsü-chou where he died of malaria late in that year.
His younger brother, I-chi (see Ying-ho), was made a noble of Imperial Lineage in 1816, but was deprived of his rank in 1840. A son of I-chi, named Tsai-chih 載治 (original name 載中, d. 1880, posthumous name 恭勤), became in 1854 the adopted son of a distant uncle, I-wei 奕緯 (1808–1831, posthumous name 隱志). I-wei was the eldest son of Emperor Hsüan-tsung and a prince of the third degree. His princedom was in 1850 posthumously raised one degree by his half-brother, Emperor Wên-tsung. Thus Tsai-chih inherited the rank of a prince of the third degree. His eldest son, P'u-lun 溥倫, was in 1875, and again in 1908, suggested as heir to the throne but was both times rejected by Empress Hsiao-ch'in [q. v.]. Tsai-chih's second son, P'u-t'ung 溥侗 ( 西園, 紅豆館主), is a famous authority on the Chinese drama, a subject he once taught in Tsinghua University.
[1/171/8b, 21b; 1/379/3a; 2/41/17b; 4/19/7a; Ch'ing Huang-shih ssŭ-p'u (see under Fu-lung-an) 3/27a; I-hsin [q. v.], Chiao-p'ing Yüeh-fei fang-lüeh 65/16a; Hsüeh-ch'iao shih-hua (see under Shêng-yü) 11/40b; see also bibliography under Ch'i-ying.]