Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Li Kuang-ti

3643632Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period, Volume 1 — Li Kuang-tiFang Chao-ying

LI Kuang-ti 李光地 (T. 晉卿, H. 厚庵), Sept. 29, 1642–1718, June 26, official, was a native of An-hsi, Fukien. He was born in a scholarly family of moderate means which became impoverished in the course of the wars and lawlessness of the early Ch'ing period. In 1655, aged fourteen (sui), he and eleven members of his family were kidnapped by bandits but were rescued a year later by an uncle. He became a chin-shih in 1670, was selected a bachelor of the Hanlin Academy and was assigned to acquire the Manchu language. He later maintained that his interest in phonetics began with his study of Manchu. He was made a compiler in 1672 and a year later was granted leave to return home. In 1674 Kêng Ching-chung [q. v.] rebelled at Foochow and summoned many noted men-of-letters to his aid. Li Kuang-ti, realizing that not to side with Kêng might bring on difficulty for his family, went from An-hsi to Foochow to interview the rebel, but managed to depart soon on the plea that his father was ill. His friend, Ch'ên Mêng-lei [q. v.], was then staying in Foochow where the two agreed to help each other—Ch'ên would seem to favor Kêng while Li would act as a spy for the Manchus. Thus, whatever the outcome of the rebellion, each would have someone to plead his case with the victor. Li's family went into hiding in the mountains of southern Fukien. In 1675 he sent to Emperor Shêng-tsu a memorial, concealed in a wax ball and carried by a trusted servant, in which he reported that the Manchu army might easily invade Fukien by way of T'ing-chou-fu. The plan was never utilized but the memorial made a deep impression on Emperor Shêng-tsu who thereafter regarded Li as thoroughly loyal. When Giyešu [q. v.] recovered Fukien (1676) and Kêng surrendered, Li went to Foochow where he learned that he had been raised to a reader of the Hanlin Academy (1677). He was about to set out for Peking when the death of his father made it necessary to observe a period of mourning. During that time the forces of Chêng Ch'êng-kung [q. v.] made inroads on southern Fukien, but Li sent (1678) relatives of his to guide by little known trails the Manchu armies in the recovery of that region. When the region was pacified he was rewarded with the rank of a sub-chancellor of the Grand Secretariat and went to Peking with his mother in 1680 to assume the post. A year later, when the emperor inquired about affairs in Formosa, which was still held by Chêng Ch'êng-kung, Li advised the emperor to subjugate the island, recommending Shih Lang [q. v.] as the man to undertake it.

Early in 1682 the trial of Kêng Ching-chung and his followers took place and Ch'ên Mêng-lei, like them, was held for treason. Li Kuang-ti made no overt efforts to help Ch'ên and consequently their friendship was severed. Ch'ên maintained that the "memorial hidden in wax" was not the work of Li alone, but was drafted by himself and Li in collaboration. Though Kêng and other rebels were executed, Ch'ên was sentenced only to exile—saved, it is said, from a more severe fate by a secret memorial from Li begging leniency. Be that as it may, the two were never reconciled.

In June 1682 Li Kuang-ti was granted leave to accompany his mother back to Fukien. After remaining there four years, he returned to Peking and was granted several audiences. The emperor was still convinced of Li's loyalty and ability, especially since Shih Lang, whom Li had recommended, succeeded in conquering Formosa (1683). Li was appointed to a high office of Chancellor of the Hanlin Academy, but finding himself the target of jealous officials, he again asked for leave. At home scarcely a year, it was incumbent on him to return to Peking in 1688 to mourn the death of Empress Hsiao-chuang [q. v.]. About this time several officials whom he had recommended as able administrators or as good writers were convicted on various charges. Li was reprimanded for these errors of judgment, but was pardoned despite the activities of his enemies, especially Hsü Ch'ien-hsüeh [q. v.], to have him discredited.

Early in 1690 Li Kuang-ti was made junior vice-president of the Board of War and early in 1694 was given the concurrent post of director of education in Chihli. In April 1694 he was informed of his mother's death and asked for the usual leave for mourning. This was granted but he was ordered to observe the mourning in Peking. Many rumors were afloat as to why Li did not return to his home on this occasion, but for not doing so he was often accused of thinking more of his rank as an official than of the obligations of filial piety. These accusations dealt a severe blow to his aspirations to be known as a true follower of the Sung philosophers whose doctrines were much in vogue and were sponsored by Emperor Shêng-tsu. During the period of mourning Li Kuang-ti edited several works of Chu Hsi and the Ch'êng brothers (see under Hu Wei), possibly to prove that he was still a loyal adherent of the Sung school.

After the mourning period, Li Kuang-ti was again appointed director of education of Chihli (1696–98) and in 1697 was concurrently made a vice-president of the Board of Works. Early in 1699 he was appointed governor of Chihli, a post he held until late in 1705. In the meantime he was given the concurrent post of president of the Board of Civil Appointments (1703–05). Late in 1705 he was made a Grand Secretary, in which capacity he served until his death in 1718. During this last term in office he headed several commissions for the official compilation of works expounding the Sung philosophy, namely: the complete works of Chu Hsi, 朱子全書 Chu-tzŭ ch'üan-shu, 66 chüan, the emperor's preface dated 1713, printed in 1714; annotations to the Book of Changes, 周易折中 Chou-I chê-chung, 22 chüan, printed in 1715; and a synthesis of the doctrines of the Neo-Confucian school, entitled 性理精義 Hsing-li ching-i, 12 chüan, printed in 1715, the emperor adding a preface dated 1717. Li Kuang-ti was known as having mastered the Book of Changes and was often asked by Emperor Shêng-tsu to explain that Classic to him. On one occasion. however, the emperor remarked that Li's interpretation left him in the dark. On another occasion the emperor requested Li to use the principles of that Classic to predict the outcome of a battle. When the prediction indicated a defeat the emperor agreed, but added that the defeat would be for the enemy and not for himself. This proved to be the case.

During his last years at Court, Li Kuang-ti pleaded for lenient treatment of certain officials—notably Ch'ên P'êng-nien and Chang Po-hsing [qq. v.]—when they were in distress. It is reported also that when Fang Pao [q. v.] was accused, Li saved the life of that scholar by stressing his achievements as a writer. Among those whom Li brought to fame may be mentioned Yang Ming-shih (see under Shên T'ung), Chao Shên-ch'iao, Ho Ch'o, Hui Shih-ch'i, Mei Wên-ting, and Mei Ku-ch'êng [qq. v.]. The last two were noted for their attainments in mathematics, a subject in which Emperor Shêng-tsu was interested. Li himself made some efforts to excel in this field but without success. After his death he was canonized as Wên-chên 文貞.

An early edition of the collected works of Li Kuang-ti bore the title Li Wên-chên kung (公) ch'üan-chi, but a more complete edition, entitled 榕村全集 Jung-ts'un ch'üan-chi, appeared with a preface dated 1829. This edition contains thirty-eight items by Li and ten by four of his descendants. Fourteen of the items consist of Li's treatises on the classics. One, entitled Jung-ts'un yün-shu (韻書), is a classification of Chinese words by rhyme. Another, entitled Jung-ts'un tzŭ-hua pien-o (字畫辨訛) lists characters often written in mistaken forms. A work, entitled 曆象本要 Li hsiang pên-yao, printed in 1742—though attributed to Li—was probably written by Mei Wên-ting. Li compiled two anthologies of prose, one of verse, and three of pa-ku essays used in the examinations. The Jung-ts'un chüan-chi includes Li's own verse and essays, and a collection of his sayings as recorded by his disciples, entitled Jung-ts'un yü-lu (語錄), 30 chüan, originally printed in 1729. A supplement to this collection of sayings, entitled Jung-ts'un yü-lu hsü-pien (續編), 20 chüan, printed in 1933, sheds much light on the intrigues and political cliques of the K'ang-hsi period. Being a capable politician, Li Kuang-ti emerged victorious after many other leading officials had been disgraced. Unlike others he carefully avoided being involved in the struggle of the sons of Emperor Shêng-tsu for the throne. At one time he spoke for the heir apparent, Yin-jêng [q. v.], but managed never to offend the contenders. He seems to have been particularly favored by Yin-chên [q. v.] who, after ascending the throne, honored him posthumously with the title of Grand Preceptor of the Heir Apparent (1723) and entered his name in the Temple of Eminent Statesmen (1733).

Li Kuang-ti had three sons, two of whom grew to maturity. The elder, Li Chung-lun 李鍾倫 (T. 世德[得], H. 菜園, 1663–1706), was a chü-jên of 1693 and the author of the 周禮訓纂 Chou-li hsün-tsuan, 21 chüan, printed in 1757, and three other works which are included in the Jung-ts'un ch'üan-chi. The younger, Li Chung-tso 李鍾佐 (T. 世諧, H. 允亭, 1668–1691), died young, but his son, Li Ch'ing-chih 李清植 (T. 立侯, H. 穆亭, 1690–1744), became a chin-shih in 1724 and then a Hanlin compiler, later rising to the rank of junior vice-president of the Board of Ceremonies (1744). Three works by Li Ch'ing-chih are included in the Jung-ts'un ch'üan-chi, one being a nien-p'u of Li Kuang-ti, entitled 文貞公年譜 Wên-chên kung nien-p'u, 2 chüan. A son of Li Ch'ing-chih, named Li Tsung-wên 李宗文 (T. 延彬, H. 郁齋), also became a chin-shih (1748) and a Hanlin compiler, and rose to the rank of a vice-president of the Board of Ceremonies (1773–77). One of his works is printed in the Jung-ts'un ch'üan-chi. A son of Li Chung-lun, named Li Ch'ing-fu 李清馥 (T. 根侯, H. 遜齋), was prefect of Ta-ming-fu (1737–42) and of Kuang-p'ing-fu (1742–43), both in Chihli, and the author of a revised edition of the nien-p'u of Li Kuang-ti, entitled Jung-ts'un p'u-lu ho-k'ao (譜錄合考), compiled chiefly from material in the Jung-ts'un yü-lu hsü-pien, and in unpublished letters. This and another work by Li Ch'ing-fu, entitled 道南講授 Tao-nan chiang-shou, 13 chüan, (completed 1770?) were printed in the Jung-ts'un ch'üan-chi.

[1/268/5b; 1/486/24b; 2/10/23a; 2/67/11a; 3/10/1a; 3/76/53a; 3/407/34a; 4/13/4a; 6/3/5b; 7/7/16a; 9/6/15b; 17/4/4; 18/7/10; Fukien t'ung-chih (1922) 列傳 34/1a; Ta-ming fu chih (1854), 10/24b; Kuang-p'ing fu chih (1894) 7/4b.]

Fang Chao-ying