Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Liang Chang-chü

LIANG Chang-chü 梁章鉅 (T. 閎中, 茝林, H. 退菴), Aug. 1, 1775–1849, Aug. 8, scholar and official, was a native of Ch'ang-lo, Fukien. Descended from a long line of scholars and officials, he began his classical training early. In 1802 he became a chin-shih and was selected a bachelor in the Hanlin Academy, but later in that year, owing to the death of his father, Liang Tsan-t'u 梁贊圖 (T. 翼齋, 斯志, H. chü-jên of 1768), he went home to observe the customary mourning period. Returning to Peking in 1805, he received an appointment as secretary in the Board of Ceremonies. In the autumn of the same year he pleaded illness and returned to Fukien. For seven years (1807–14) he headed the Academy, Nan-p'u Shu-yüan 南浦書院 in Pu-ch'êng, Fukien. Meanwhile he was engaged for several years as secretary to Chang Shih-ch'êng 張師誠 (T. 心友, H. 蘭渚, 一西居士, 1762–1830), when the latter was governor of Fukien (1806–14). In 1814 he returned to Peking and in 1816 became a secretary in the Council of State. He was promoted in 1821 to an assistant department director in the Board of Ceremonies and a year later became eligible for appointment as a provincial official. Soon afterward he began his long and distinguished career in provincial administration.

His first official appointment (1822) was to the post of prefect of Ching-chou-fu, Hupeh. There he soon succeeded in bringing to a peaceful conclusion a bitter struggle over water rights between the inhabitants of two neighboring districts, and after only six months was promoted (1823) to be intendant of the Huai-Hai Circuit in northern Kiangsu in control of the Yellow River and the Grand Canal. While filling this position he was twice acting judicial commissioner of Kiangsu. Thus he began the years of notable service in Kiangsu for which, as an official, he is especially remembered. During his two years as intendant of the Huai-Hai Circuit he effected marked economies in the transport of tribute grain to Peking and worked out extensive plans for river control. In 1825 he left Kiangsu for Shantung where he spent a year as judicial commissioner and acting lieutenant-governor. He was then sent back to Kiangsu as lieutenant-governor, and remained at this post until 1832, occupying himself especially with river conservancy, improvement of irrigation systems, and flood relief. He won high praise for his work in caring for refugees and re-establishing them in their homes during and after the great flood of 1831. In 1832 he retired because of illness.

Summoned back to the capital at the end of three years (1835), Liang Chang-chü was appointed lieutenant-governor of Kansu. Before he had been at Lanchow three months he was made lieutenant-governor of Chihli. But on his way to Chihli he received notice of his appointment as governor of Kwangsi, a post he held for five years (1836–41). Early in this period he was concerned with administrative reorganization. Then, when trouble with the British became acute in Kwangtung, he was occupied with sending troops and cannon to Canton, and with plans for defense and maintenance of peace and order in Kwangsi. Late in the summer of 1841 he returned to Kiangsu as governor of that province, and soon became also acting governor-general of Kiangsu, Anhwei and Kiangsi. His most pressing duties were in connection with defense against the English—a burden which, in addition to his regular responsibilities, proved too great a strain. He asked permission to retire, which was granted, and early in 1842 left for his home in Fukien.

The rest of his life was spent in retirement. He lived temporarily at Yangchow and then at P'u-ch'êng, until the peace with the British made it safe to return to Foochow. In the spring of 1847 he went for medical treatment to Kiangsu and to Chekiang where he lived for a time in Hangchow. His last days were spent with his third son, Liang Kung-ch'ên 梁恭辰 (T. 敬叔, b. 1814, chü-jên of 1837), who was acting prefect at Wenchow. He died in the official residence of his son at the age of seventy-five (sui).

Liang Chang-chü was respected as a scholar as well as an official. The list of his publications comprises about 70 titles, including commentaries on the Classics and ancient books, collections of essays and poems, bibliographical and literary notes, memoirs, and genealogical and historical studies. He was also an accomplished calligrapher. Six of his works were printed in 1875 under the collective title 二思堂叢書 Êr-ssŭ t'ang ts'ung-shu—a collection which contains his chronological autobiography, 退菴自訂年譜 T'ui-an tzŭ-ting nien-p'u, written in 1844. Of his numerous works perhaps the best known are the following: 三國志旁證 San-kuo chih p'ang-chêng, 30 chüan, a detailed comparative study of the official history of the Three Kingdoms (221–277 A.D.), first printed in 1850 and reprinted in the Kuang-ya ts'ung-shu (see under Chang Chih-tung); 文選旁證 Wên-hsüan p'ang-chêng, 46 chüan, first printed in 1838, a study of the famous prose anthology, Wên-hsüan (see under Wêng Fang-kang); 制藝叢話 Chih-i ts'ung-hua, 25 chüan, first printed in 1851; and 試律叢話 Shih-lü ts'ung-hua, 8 chüan (preface dated 1842)—two notable works on the literary styles and methods of composition required in the official examinations. His voluminous miscellaneous notes, such as 浪跡叢談 Lang-chi ts'ung-t'an with two supplements, 25 chüan; 歸田瑣記 Kuei-t'ien so-chi, 8 chüan; 退庵隨筆 T'ui-an sui-pi, 22 chüan; and 南省公餘錄 Nan-shêng kung-yü lu, 8 chüan, contain much valuable information on many subjects. In the Kuei t'ien so-chi, written after his retirement in 1842, he lists 41 of his works which had then been printed.


[2/38/29a; 3/202/1a; 6/14/15a; 26/3/25b; Gaskill, G. E., "A Chinese Official's Experiences During the First Opium War,” American Historical Review, v. 39, pp. 82–6; T'oung Pao, (1925–26), pp. 212, 252–53; (1928–29), p. 60; Swann, N. L., Pan Chao, p. 56 footnote; Fêng Han-yi, Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, v. 2, p. 270.]

Gussie Esther Gaskill