Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Kuan-wên

KUAN-wên 官文 (T. 秀峰), 1798–1871, Mar. 1, official, first Earl Kuo-wei (果威), was a member of the Chinese Plain White Banner. His surname was Wang 王 and his family belonged to the Imperial Household division, serving the emperor as bond servants. Kuan-wên was taken from a clerkship to serve as a junior Imperial Bodyguard. After various promotions, he was appointed in 1841 a deputy lieutenant-general to serve at the garrison at Canton, and six years later was transferred to serve at Ching-chou, Hupeh. When in 1853 the Taiping army marched through Hunan and Hupeh, occupied Wuchang for a time, and then turned eastward to take Nanking, Kuan-wên remained at Chingchou to look after the defense of western Hupeh. In March 1854 he was made Tartar General in command of the garrison at Ching-chou.

At this time a Taiping army was besieging Wuchang, attacking the militia in Hunan under Tsêng Kuo-fan [q. v.], and threatening Chingchou. Kuan-wên succeeded in recovering several cities and stabilizing western Hupeh and then moved eastward in unison with the northern advance of Tsêng Kuo-fan. In September, while Tsêng was recovering Wuchang, Kuan-wên took the neighboring city of Hanyang—thus for a second time clearing Hupeh of rebels. Nevertheless the great Taiping general, Shih Ta-k'ai [q. v.], soon forced Tsêng to attend only to the fighting near Kiukiang, and then sent men up the Yangtze into Hupeh. In April 1855 Wuchang was for a third time lost to the Taipings. Joint steps were then taken to recover that area. Kuan-wên was made governor-general of Hupeh and Hunan to command the troops north of the river while Hu Lin-i [q. v.] was made acting governor of Hupeh to attack from the south. Only after a year of severe fighting did Kuan-wên and Hu succeed in dislodging the rebels from the Wuchang, Hankow, and Hanyang region (December 1856). The victory was due chiefly to the joint effort of these two men. They also co-operated in sending recruits and supplies to Tsêng Kuo-fan at Kiukiang, in dispatching forces to operate in western Anhwei, and in maintaining order in Hupeh.

In 1858 Kuan-wên was made concurrently an Associate Grand Secretary and three years later, a full Grand Secretary. In the meantime he continued to send supplies to Tsêng and had his own men prepared for any emergency. His men fought the Taipings, and later the Nien banditti, not only in Hupeh but also in Hunan, Kiangsi, Anhwei, and Honan. In 1864, after Nanking was recovered by Tsêng Kuo-fan, Kuan-wên was given the hereditary rank of a first class earl with the designation, Kuo-wei, and with rights of perpetual inheritance. The reward was given in recognition of his splendid co-operation with Tsêng, Hu and other Hunan generals. In addition, his branch of the family was exempted from further service in the Imperial Household as bond servants and was honored by being raised to the Manchu Plain White Banner, though he himself was a Chinese Bannerman.

In 1866 Kuan-wên was accused of corruption by Tsêng Kuo-ch'üan [q. v.], governor of Hupeh. The charges were verified and Kuan-wên was removed from his governor-generalship. Early in 1867 he was recalled to Peking to serve as Grand Secretary. Late in the same year he was made concurrently governor-general of Chihli. He held this post until 1869 and then returned to Peking. He died the following year and was canonized as Wên-kung 文恭. A work about the Taiping Rebellion, entitled 平定粵匪紀略 P'ing-ting Yüeh-fei chi-lüeh, 18 + 4 chüan, was edited in 1865 by Tu Wên-lan 杜文瀾 (T. 小舫, 1815–1881), and others, under the sponsorship of Kuan-wên. It was first printed about the same time.


[1/394/3b; 2/45/37a; Hsüeh Fu-ch'êng [q. v.], Yung-an pi-chi; Chiao-p'ing Yüeh-fei fang-lüeh (see under I-hsin.]

Fang Chao-ying