Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Kao Shih-ch'i

KAO Shih-ch'i 高士奇 (T. 澹人, H. 瓶廬, 江邨, 竹窗), Oct. 26, 1645–1703, literary man, was born in Ku-an, Chihli, and was brought up in Hangchow which he designated as his home when he registered for the examinations. His ancestral home was in Yü-yao, Chekiang. At nineteen sui, poor and forlorn, but gifted as a writer and calligrapher, he went north to try his fortune. Establishing his residence in Peking in 1665, he became a student in the Imperial Academy, winning by competitive examination in 1671 a position as clerk in the Hanlin Academy, and in 1675 a clerkship in the Supervisorate of Imperial Instruction. By 1677 his calligraphy and his skill in writing court poems so impressed the young Emperor Shêng-tsu that he was ordered to serve, together with Chang Ying [q. v.], in the Imperial Study, although Chang was then an expositor of the Hanlin Academy and Kao was only a recently-appointed secretary of the Grand Secretariat—a difference of seven grades between them. But, like Chang, he was given a home west of the Palaces to be near when the emperor summoned. From this time until 1688 he was frequently in the emperor's company. In 1680 he was especially elevated to an expositorship in the Hanlin Academy and in 1687 was made a supervisor of instruction. He often lingered with the emperor till late at night, helping him in calligraphy and poetry. He accompanied him on many tours, concerning most of which he left intimate accounts: 松亭行紀 Sung-t'ing hsing-chi, concerning a journey to Jehol in 1681; 扈從東巡日錄 Hu-ts'ung tung-hsün jih-lu, concerning a journey to Mukden and Ula (Kirin) in 1682; 扈從西巡日錄 Hu-ts'ung hsi-hsün jih-lu, concerning a journey to Wu-t'ai-shan in 1683; and 塞北小鈔 Sai-pei hsiao-ch'ao, concerning a second journey to Jehol in 1683.

In 1688 Kao Shih-ch'i was involved in a bribery case and was relieved of his duties inside the Palace. Nevertheless he was entrusted with the compilation of several unimportant works. Early in 1689 he was especially commanded to accompany the emperor on his second tour of south China, in the course of which the emperor paid a visit to Kao's lavish garden near Hangchow. Later in the year Kao was accused by Kuo Hsiu [q. v.] of having accepted bribes. According to Kuo's memorial, he is said to have entered Peking a poor student but became, in less than twenty-five years, a man of great wealth. Kao was then ordered to retire. Adopting Ping-hu, Chekiang, as his home, he remodelled an old mansion which he called Pei-shu 北墅 of which the main structure was called Chiang-ts'un tsao-t'ang 江村草堂. There in 1690 he printed a number of his works: two collections of verse, 城北集 Ch'êng-pei chi, in 8 chüan, and 苑西集 Yüan-hsi chi, in 12 chüan; and one collection of prose, 經進文稿 Ching-chin wên-kao, in 6 chüan. In the same year he compiled a work, 北墅抱瓮錄 Pei-shu pao wêng lu, which describes 222 plants that grew in his garden. In 1693 he completed the famous catalogue of paintings, 江村消夏錄 Chiang-ts'un hsiao-hsia lu, in 3 chüan, in which he set down valuable, detailed information concerning the dimensions and characteristic features of the works described. A simpler catalogue, entitled Chiang-ts'un shu-hua mu (書畫目), was printed in 1924 from an old manuscript.

In 1694 Kao Shih-ch'i was summoned to Peking by Emperor Shêng-tsu and was again appointed to serve in the Imperial Study as one of the Emperor's personal secretaries. About this time he printed several more collections of his poems, namely: 隨輦集 Sui-nien chi, 10 chüan; Sui-nien hsü (續) chi, 1 chüan; 歸田集 Kuei-t'ien chi, 12 chüan; and 獨旦集 Tu-tan chi, 8 chüan. The last collection contains his poems written in memory of his wife who died in 1691, and to whom he was devoted. His life in Peking from 1694 to early in 1696 was uneventful, but later he accompanied the Emperor twice on the latter's expeditions against Galdan [q. v.], to Outer Mongolia in 1696, and to Ninghsia in 1697. About the last-mentioned expedition he left an account, entitled 扈從紀程 Hu-ts'ung chi-ch'êng. Later in 1697 he was at last granted his request to retire. Five years later he was appointed a vice-president of the Board of Ceremonies but he declined, preferring to lead a quiet, literary life at home. About 1700 he printed yet another collection of poems, entitled 清吟堂集 Ch'ing-yin t'ang chi, 9 + 3 chüan. In April 1703 he went to Kiangsu to meet the Emperor when the latter was making his fourth tour to the south. Accompanying the emperor to Hangchow, he returned with him to Peking, arriving there May 1. According to Kao's account of this visit to the Palace, entitled 蓬山密記 P'êng-shan mi-chi, the Emperor confessed that in his youthful days he often wondered if he could ever attain such literary skill as Kao possessed. It seems from this account that the visit was markedly informal, much like a meeting of two old friends reminiscing together. Kao left Peking for his home on June 3, and died soon after his arrival. He was given, considering his official rank, unusual posthumous honors and was in 1704 canonized as Wên-k'o 文恪.

Kao Shih-ch'i wrote or edited more than fifty items. One collection of his works, entitled Kao Chiang-ts'un ch'üan-chi, contains fourteen of his literary collections, most of which are mentioned above. A more complete collection of his works, entitled Kao Wên-k'o kung ssŭ-pu kao (公四部稿), contains 41 titles. Among them may be mentioned the following: 左傳紀事本末 Tso-chuan chi-shih pên-mo (1690), in 53 chüan, a narrative of notable events in the Ch'un-ch'iu period; 編珠補遺 Pien-chu pu-i and Hsü (補) Pien-chu, each in 2 chüan (1698), being supplements to a classified phrase dictionary, 編珠 Pien-chu, attributed to Tu Kung-chan 杜公瞻 of the early seventh century; 金鰲退食筆記 Chin-ao t'ui-shih pi-chi (1684), in 2 chüan, being notes on sites of historical interest in the Forbidden City; 天錄識餘 T'ien-lu chih-yü (1690), a work of miscellaneous notes, and several more collections of verse and prose.

Kao Shih-ch'i's eldest son, Kao Yü 高與 (T. 巽亭, H. 青璧, d. 1717), chin-shih of 1700 and a Hanlin compiler, was ordered to print at his home the famous classified anthology of poetry, P'ei-wên chai yung-wu-shih hsüan (see under Cha Shên-hsing), completed in 1706, and he possibly also printed the encyclopedia, Yüan-chien lei han (see under Wang Shih-chên). After the printing was completed Kao Yü lived in Peking for several years and died while serving as a compiler of the classified dictionary of literary terms, 駢字類編 Pien-tzŭ lei pien (printed 1726). This unfinished task was assigned, by imperial order, to Kao Yü's nephew, Kao Hêng 高衡 (T. 南岫, H. 枝山), who is said to have been later entrusted with its printing. Kao Hêng served for a time in 1726 as grain intendant of Fukien.

It is not known exactly how Kao Shih-ch'i, without being either a Bannerman or the holder of a coveted degree, managed to rise from an obscure student to an imperial favorite. According to Wang Ching-ch'i [q. v.], his abilities were first recognized by Tsu Tsê-shên 祖澤深 (T. 仁淵) who recommended him to a powerful slave of Songgotu [q. v.], the latter recommending him in turn to the Emperor. Kao is said to have brought about the downfall of Songgotu, and later of Mingju [q. v.]. According to Li Kuang-ti [q. v.], Kao's own downfall was effected through the intrigues of Hsü Ch'ien-hsüeh [q. v.].


[1/277/5a; 2/10/11a; 3/60/15a; 12/3/26a; 19/乙上/54b; 20/2/00 with portrait; 29/2/20b; 32/3/31b; Juan Yüan [q. v.], Liang Chê yu-hsüan lu, 5/34a; P'ing-hu-hsien chih (1886) 16/9b, 15a, 21b, 17/15b; L.T.C.L.H.M., p. 254; 書畫書錄解題 Shu-hua shu-lu chieh-t'i, 6/16b, 34a; Chang-ku ts'ung-pien (see under Hung Ch'êng-ch'ou), no. 4, April 1928; Li Kuang-ti, Jung-ts'un yü-lu hsü-pien.]

Fang Chao-ying