Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Li Fu

LI Fu 李紱 (T. 巨來, H. 穆堂, 小山), Apr. 5, 1675–1750, official and scholar, was a native of Lin-ch'uan, Kiangsi, where his father who migrated from Shê-hsien, Anhwei, had settled after marrying into a family named Wu 吳. In his youth Li Fu was poor, and sometimes traveled hundreds of miles on foot to cities like Hui-chou (Anhwei) or Soochow in search of work. Despite these handicaps he managed to carry on with his studies. Fortunately he made the acquaintance of Lang T'ing-chi [q. v.] who gave him financial assistance. In 1708 Li Fu passed first in the provincial examination, and in the following year became a chin-shih. He was selected a bachelor of the Hanlin Academy and later became a compiler. In 1717 he was placed in charge of the provincial examination of Yunnan, and three years later held the same post in Chekiang. Early in 1719 he was sent to Canton to represent the Emperor in offering sacrifices to the "Gods of the South Seas" (南海之神). In 1720 he was made a sub-chancellor of the Grand Secretariat and early in the following year, vice-president of the Censorate. After serving as examiner in the metropolitan examination of 1721, he was accused of unfairness to students, and was deprived of his ranks and offices, but was given a chance to return to official life by being asked to aid in conservancy work of the Yung-ting River.

Early in 1723, soon after Emperor Shih-tsung ascended the throne, Li was summoned to Peking and appointed acting vice-president of the Board of Civil Office. In July of that year he was sent to Shantung and Kiangsu to speed up the shipment of grain which, as revenue, was annually transported by canal to Tungchow (east of Peking) where it was stored in granaries. In the later years of the K'ang-hsi reign-period this movement of grain was retarded through lack of water, and frequently boats had to winter in the vicinity of Tungchow and Tientsin. Even after the ice in the canal thawed, the boats were often delayed in returning to the south on account of the northward movement of grain for the ensuing year. Li Fu, who in the meantime was given the rank of junior vice-president of the Board of War, succeeded in remedying the difficulty. But fearing there would still not be sufficient time for the boats to return before the canal froze, he suggested that the grain should be stored in Tientsin instead of at Tungchow, thus shortening the distance to be traveled that year. Many officials at court regarded the plan as impractical, but Li volunteered to carry it out. The grain was held in Tientsin for the winter as projected, thus enabling the boats to return south before the canal froze. In the spring the grain was transported to Tungchow before the next fleet of boats from the south arrived. This feat won for Li Fu considerable gratitude and applause.

About the end of April 1724 Li was appointed governor of Kwangsi, a post he held for more than a year. There he put down a local uprising and initiated the compilation of the 廣西通志 Kwangsi t'ung-chih, which was printed about 1726 in 200 chüan, by the provincial judge, Kan Ju-lai 甘汝來 (T. 耕道, H. 遜齋, posthumous name 莊恪, 1684–1739). In 1725 Li was promoted to the post of governor-general of Chihli, assuming office in April of the following year, with headquarters at Paoting. Two months later he was secretly ordered by Emperor Shih-tsung to detain at Paoting the latter's brother, Yin-t'ang [q. v.], who had been arrested in Si-ning, Kansu, and was being transferred to Peking on a charge of insubordination and conspiracy. According to documents recently published, Li had Yin-t'ang placed in solitary confinement with hands and feet shackled, and caused food to be sent to him over the wall by means of pulleys. Yin-t'ang survived three months of this treatment, but died in September 1726. A report spread far and wide that Li had murdered Yin-t'ang at the Emperor's behest. Accused of having recommended persons unfit for office and of having falsely blamed the Emperor's favorite, T'ien Wên-ching [q. v.], of murder, Li was removed from his post, early in 1727, and appointed junior vice-president of the Board of Works. Charged two months later with having mishandled, during his term as governor of Kwangsi, two cases involving aborigines of Kwangsi, he was forced to return to that province to settle the cases. There he was arrested on the charge of misjudgment and misconduct. Tried in Peking on twenty-one counts, he was sentenced to execution and confiscation of property, but at the last moment was pardoned by the Emperor and ordered to redeem himself by serving on the editorial board for the compilation of the first edition (1739) of the general history of the Manchu Banner system, 八旗通志 Pa-ch'i t'ung-chih. He labored eight years on this work which is said to be largely his own contribution. In the meantime he compiled and edited three works on the philosophical school of Lu Chiu-yüan 陸九淵 (T. 子靜, H. 象山, 1139–1193) and Wang Shou-jên (see under Chang Li-hsiang). During the K'ang-hsi period this school had been forced into comparative obscurity by that of Chu Hsi (see under Hu Wei). Li Fu, who was born near Lu's native place, undertook to defend the Lu-Wang school by expanding Lu's chronological biography 陸子年譜 Lu-tzŭ nien-p'u, in 3 chüan, and by issuing a work on Lu's philosophy, entitled Lu-tzŭ hsüeh-p'u (學譜), in 20 chüan. In his 朱子晚年全論 Chu-tzŭ wan-nien ch'üan-lun, in 8 chüan, Li reinforced with more material Wang Shou-jên's Chu-tzŭ wan-nien ting-lun (定論) which maintains that during his last days Chu Hsi was converted to Lu's philosophy. These works were printed in the seventeen thirties and were later given notice in the Ssŭ-k'u Catalogue (see under Chi Yün).

In 1735 the new emperor, Kao-tsung, restored to Li Fu his rank, and not long after appointed him senior vice-president of the Board of Revenue. But in the following year Li was reprimanded for recommending too many new chin-shih to official posts, and was degraded. Early in 1737 he was appointed a vice-director of the Board which edited a collection of commentaries on the Three Rituals, entitled San Li i-shu (see under Fang Pao). In the same year he was sent to Shaohsing, Chekiang, to offer sacrifices at the tomb of the legendary Emperor Yü 禹, after which he returned to his native place to mourn the death of his mother. In 1741 he was appointed director of the Banqueting Court and was sent to Nanking as examiner of the Kiangnan provincial examinations. Later in the same year he was again promoted to the post of sub-chancellor of the Grand Secretariat. He retired in 1743 and died at his home in Lin-ch'uan seven years later. His epitaph was written by his devoted disciple, Ch'üan Tsu-wang [q. v.].

Li Fu was a famous writer in his day, both in prose and poetry. The first collection of his literary works, entitled 穆堂初稿 Mu-t'ang ch'u kao, in 50 chüan, was printed in 1740. A second collection, containing his later efforts, entitled Mu-t'ang pieh-kao (別稿) also in 50 chüan, appeared in print about the year 1747. By an edict of 1768 these collections were banned and the printing blocks destroyed, ostensibly because they contained two poems commemorating a gathering at which Tai Ming-shih [q. v.] was present. But in view of the fact that the gathering took place before Tai's case came to the attention of the throne (1711) Li's descendants were not punished. A combined reprint of both collections appeared in 1831, under the title 李穆堂詩文全集 Li Mu-t'ang shih-wên ch'üan-chi, with alteration and omission of such passages as might provoke censorship. According to Wang Ching-ch'i [q. v.], Li was ungrateful to those who helped him to fame and wealth durig his early years of distress and poverty.

One of Li's grandsons, Li Yu-t'ang 李友棠 (T. 苕伯, H. 西華, 適園, d. 1798), was a chin-shih of 1745. He was appointed associate director of the editorial board of the Ssŭ-k'u ch'üan-shu in 1773, and later in the same year was made a vice-president of the Board of Works. In 1774 he was made Commissioner of Education of Chekiang, but was removed three years later for having written a poem in praise of the dictionary 字貫 Tzŭ-kuan, which became the subject of an inquisition and resulted in the execution of the compiler, Wang Hsi-hou [q. v.].


[1/299/1a; 3/70/1a; 9/15/18b; Kwangsi t'ung-chih (1801) 212/18a; Palace Museum, Peiping 文獻叢編 Wên-hsien ts'ung-pien, vol. 2; Ch'ing-tai wên-tzŭ-yü tang (see bibliography under Huang T'ing-kuei), vol. 2; Li Fu, Memorials in 硃批諭旨 Chu-p'i yü-chih; Wang Ching-ch'i [q. v.], Hsi-chêng sui-pi, p. 28b; Lin-ch'uan hsien-chih (1870) 39/18a.]

Fang Chao-ying