Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Li Hung-tsao

LI Hung-tsao 李鴻藻 (T. 寄雲, H. 石孫, 蘭孫), 1820–1897, July 31, official, was a native of Kao-yang, Chihli. He became a chü-jên in 1844 and a chin-shih in 1852, followed by appointment as bachelor in the Hanlin Academy. A year later he was made a compiler, and in 1855 began to serve in the Palace School for Princes. After a term of three years (1857–60) as commissioner of education of Honan he was reappointed a teacher in the Palace School. He was ordered by Emperor Wên-tsung to Jehol where in 1861 he was made exclusively responsible for the education of the emperor's only son, Tsai-ch'un [q. v.], who was then five sui. In 1861 this child ascended the throne, and a year later the dowager empresses appointed Li Hung-tsao one of four tutors, the others being Ch'i Chün-tsao, Wêng Hsin-ts'un, and Wo-jên [qq. v.]. Li was rapidly promoted, becoming, early in 1863, libationer of the Imperial Academy. In 1864 he was made a sub-chancellor of the Grand Secretariat and concurrently a Probationary Grand Councilor. Two years later—soon after he was made a vice-president of the Board of Revenue and a Grand Councilor—his foster mother died, but he was not at once given permission to return home to observe the mourning owing to the fact that the young emperor would not concentrate on his studies except under the tutelage of Li. Li, however, insisted on going and remained at home for two years.

In 1868 Li returned to his post as a Grand Councilor, and a year later once more became a vice-president of the Board of Revenue. In 1872 he was made president of the Board of Works. In the meantime he continued as tutor to Tsai-ch'un (Emperor Mu-tsung) until the latter died in January 1875. In 1876 he became a member of the Tsungli Yamen, but from 1877 to 1880 he remained in retirement owing to the death of his own mother. In 1880, when he again served on the Grand Council and in the Tsungli Yamen, he led a group of officials who condemned Ch'ung-hou [q. v.] for concluding the treaty which ceded Ili to Russia. In the same year Li Hung-tsao and Pao-yün (see under Wên-hsiang) negotiated at Peking with three commissioners from the United States—J. B. Angell (1829–1916), J. F. Swift (1829–1891), and W. H. Trescot (1822–1898)—concerning the limitation of Chinese immigrants to America (see under Chang Yin-huan). On November 17, 1880 they signed two treaties, one conceding the right of the United States Government to "regulate, limit, or suspend the coming of Chinese laborers to the United States, but not absolutely prohibit it"; the other concerning commercial and judicial matters. The following year (1881) Li was made president of the Board of War and concurrently an Associate Grand Secretary. In 1882 he became president of the Board of Civil Appointments, but two years later—when the Grand Councilors were blamed for mismanagement of matters relating to France and Annam—he and all the Councilors were dismissed. The real cause of this sweeping change was a conflict between I-hsin [q. v.] and the Grand Council on the one hand, and Empress Hsiao-ch'in, I-huan [qq. v.], and a group of conservatives on the other. I-hsin was removed, and so were all those closely associated with him, including Li who was lowered in rank three grades.

In 1885 Li Hung-tsao was again made a sub-chancellor of the Grand Secretariat and later in the same year became junior vice-president of the Board of Civil Appointments. In 1887 he was appointed president of the Board of Ceremonies, a post he held until 1896. Early in 1888 he was sent to Honan to repair the dike at Chengchow. But he was several times reprimanded for failure to complete the work speedily, and so was recalled to Peking eight months later. From 1884 onward he was deprived of his powers as Grand Councilor, but he gradually won the favor of Empress Hsiao-ch'in. In 1894, after the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War, he was made an adviser on military affairs, and before long was re-instated as Grand Councilor. He and I-hsin thus returned to power, but both were then too old for vigorous service. In 1895 Li was again ordered to serve in the Tsungli Yamen, and in the following year once more became an Associate Grand Secretary and president of the Board of Civil Appointments, but died a year later. He was canonized as Wên-chêng 文正 and his name was entered in the Temple of Eminent Statesmen.

From 1864 to 1884 Li Hung-tsao was a potent factor in the government, being sometimes referred to as the leader of a group of officials who were natives of northern provinces—among them Chang Chih-tung, Shêng-yü, Chang P'ei-lun, and Pao-t'ing [qq. v.]. As these same men were also members of the party known as Ch'ing-liu-tang (see under Pao-t'ing) which made attacks on Li Hung-chang [q. v.] and other high officials, Li Hung-tsao was branded as the leader of that party also.

A son of Li Hung-tsao, named Li Yü-ying 李煜瀛 (b. 1882), popularly known by his tzŭ as Li Shih-tsêng (石曾), was made in 1897 a department director of a Board, but went in 1902 to France as attaché in the Chinese Legation. While there he made a study of biology, Since 1928 he has been president of the National Academy of Peiping, and a member of the Supervisory Committee of the Kuomintang.


[2/57/43a; 6/1/6b; 詞林輯略 Tz'ŭ-lin chi-lüeh; Chin-shih jên-wu chih (see under Wêng T'ung-ho); Tung-hua lu, T'ung-chih 11: 8; Portrait, and examples of his calligraphy, in Kao-yang hsien chih (1933); 清朝野史大觀 Ch'ing-ch'ao yeh-shih ta-kuan, 4/91.]

Fang Chao-ying