Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Kêng Ching-chung

3642396Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period, Volume 1 — Kêng Ching-chungE. S. Larsen

KÊNG Ching-chung 耿精忠, d. 1682, was the eldest son of Kêng Chi-mao [q. v.] and a member of the Chinese Plain Yellow Banner. When still young he accompanied his father on military expeditions, but in 1654 was sent to Peking to wait upon the emperor. In consideration of his father's meritorious services he was made a viscount of the first class and was married to a daughter of Haoge [q. v.], thereby receiving the title of consort of a princess. In 1663 he was sent at his father's request to Fukien to study military affairs, and in 1671, when his father died, was placed in charge of his posts and inherited the title of Ching-nan wang 靖 南王. In 1673 the Manchu Court accepted the resignation of Shang K'o-hsi [q. v.] and decided to abolish his feudal powers in Kwangtung. This made Wu and Kêng fearful of losing their command too. They submitted resignations meant only as "feelers," and when these were accepted, revolted. It is possible, however, that Kêng's grudge against the Manchus dated further back, and was due to the temporary cancellation of his grandfather's princedom in 1649, by the Regent, Dorgon [q. v.].

That a certain amount of racial hatred was smouldering in the hearts of Chinese officials who served the Manchus was inevitable. Some Chinese sources ascribe Kêng Ching-chung's rash judgment in joining the rebels in 1674 to his “weakness and lack of understanding," and a proclamation by Emperor Shêng-tsu plainly states that he had been living on the reputation of his father and grandfather and had been given his high post purely in recognition of their services. The first reaction to the triple revolt—Wu San-kuei in the southwest, Shang Chih-hsin [qq. v.] in Kwangtung, and Kêng in Fukien—was a flood of edicts denouncing Kêng and calling upon his supporters to surrender. Absolute amnesty and handsome rewards were promised for all rebels involved. There was naturally an appropriate show of force, and the first actual resistance offered by the Manchus was in Chekiang. Kêng had invaded this province and occupied Wenchow. The army sent by the Manchu commander Giyešu [q. v.] stormed the city with the help of Yao Ch'i-shêng [q. v.], and elaborate campaigns were outlined in edicts commanding loyal Ch‘ing troops to advance into Chekiang, and ordering the Hangchow and Chinkiang admirals to the coast. High commands were handed out to Manchus, one to Yolo [q. v.], cousin of Emperor Shih-tsu, and father-in-law of Kêng's younger brother, Kêng Chü-chung (see under Kêng Chi-mao). Yolo was sent to Nanchang and from there wrote letters to Kêng pleading with him to surrender, but Kêng's answers were "angry and stubborn." The rebels, however, began to lose courage when their soldiers were defeated at many points.

Kêng, in desperation, even sought the help of Chêng Ching [q. v.], promising him certain districts on the mainland. But for some reason he did not keep his word, with the result that Chêng Ching, highly incensed, took Amoy and other towns in the years 1674 to 1676, and even raided Foochow. Giyešu attacked the rebels at Chien-yang and again offered Kêng a chance to surrender. Kêng replied that he was willing, but that his followers were not. Finally Giyešu camped outside the city of Yen-p'ing where Kêng was, and on November 9, 1676 obtained his surrender. At that moment it was far from opportune to have Kêng executed, but events show that the Manchus never abandoned the idea of revenge for all the anxiety he had caused them. Although Kêng now had his title restored to him, and took part in successful campaigns against Chêng Ching's forces at Hsinghua and elsewhere, he was constantly under surveillance by one Manchu or another. When Giyešu secretly addressed the throne in 1678, recommending that the time had come to arrest and execute Kêng, the emperor replied that a premature move of this sort might frighten the remainder of the rebels who were just then "stretching their necks" to be pardoned and taken back into the fold. A bit of trickery was suggested by Peking for luring Kêng Ching-chung to the Court, and once there he was sentenced to be publicly put to death by quartering (磔死). The emperor was in no hurry to have the sentence carried out, but Grand Secretary Mingju [q. v.] urged that his crime was too great to be pardoned. The point that was held most against Kêng was his "angry and stubborn" reply to Prince Yolo when he was first offered amnesty. Finally, in 1682, Kêng Ching-chung was executed. Eight of his followers were quartered; his son, Kêng Hsien-tso 耿顯祚 and a score of other rebels were decapitated, and the title, Prince Ching-nan, was abolished. Some of his followers escaped death and were sent into exile (see under Ch'ên Mêng-lei).

[1/480/12a; 2/80/19a; 四王合傳 Ssŭ Wang ho-chuan in 荊駝逸史 Ching-t'o i-shih; 閩難記 Min-nan chi in Chao-tai ts'ung-shu; 平定耿逆記 P'ing-ting Kêng ni chi in Ching-t'o i-shih; Haenisch, T'oung Pao 1913, p. 83; China Review, XXI, 1894–95, p. 94.]

E. S. Larsen