Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Mêng Ch'ao-jan

MÊNG Ch'ao-jan 孟超然 (T. 朝舉, H. 瓶庵), 1731–1797, official and scholar, was a native of Foochow, Fukien. In 1759 he graduated as chü-jên with first honors, and in the following year took his chin-shih degree, entering the Hanlin Academy as a bachelor. Later he was appointed a secretary in the Board of War, and was then transferred to the Board of Civil Office. In 1765 he was appointed assistant examiner for Kwangsi, and after his return to Peking was promoted to assistant department director and later a department director in the Board of Civil Office. In 1769 he was sent to Szechwan as director of education, and while there abolished many irregularities in the examinations and won the respect of the literati. Wherever he went he encouraged education so that even old scholars with white hair were glad to participate in the examinations. He urged them to follow the example of the Sung scholar, and their fellow-provincial, Wei Liao-wêng 魏了翁 (T. 華父, H. 鶴山, 1178–1237). Observing that the families of Szechwan had a tendency to separate into small units and so fail in duty to their parents, he wrote a treatise entitled 厚俗論 Hou su lun, to exhort them to reform. When he left Pao-ning, Szechwan, the people erected a laudatory tablet in his honor, and when he left Chengtu a monument was set up to commemorate him. For thirteen years he served in official life, but did not have his family with him. In 1771 he returned home to visit his parents, and in the following year begged leave to retire.

He was invited by Hsü Ssŭ-tsêng 徐嗣曾 (T. 宛東, a chin-shih of 1763, d. 1790), governor of Fukien (1785–90), to take charge of the local Academy—Ao-fêng Shu-yuan 鼇峰書院—of Foochow, a post which he held for eight years. His sincerity in teaching attracted the gentry to him and never, since the time of Ts'ai Shih-yuan (see under Ts'ai Hsin), had the Academy been so crowded with students. In his teaching he insisted most on the importance of suppressing anger and on personal reform.

After the death of his father, Mêng Ch'ao-jan lived at home where he compiled a work on funeral rites, entitled 䘮禮輯略 Sang-li chi-lüeh, in 1 chüan. In condemnation of the superstitions of fêng-shui 風水, he wrote a work entitled 誠是錄 Ch'êng-shih lu, in 1 chüan. These two works together with six others by his disciples were printed in 1815 in the series 孟氏八錄 Mêng-shih pa-lu, in 13 chüan. There may also be mentioned the following: 焚香錄 Fên-hsiang lu, in 1 chüan, a treatise on the cultivation of moral conduct; 求復錄 Ch'iu-fu lu, in 4 chüan, a collection of sayings; 晚聞錄 Wan-wên lu, in 1 chüan, a collection of answers made by Chu Hsi (see under Hu Wei) to his disciples; 廣愛錄 Kuang-ai lu, in 1 chüan, concerning the protection of animals. His 家戒錄 Chia chieh lu, in 2 chüan, consists of instructions to his descendants; and his 瓜棚避暑錄 Kua-p'êng pi-shu lu, in 2 chüan, has miscellaneous notes on the classics and histories. His literary collection, entitled 瓶庵居士詩文鈔 P'ing-an chü-shih shih-wên-ch'ao, in 8 chüan, was published in 1815 by his disciple, Ch'ên Shou-ch'i [q. v.]. It contains two diaries: 使粵日記 Shih Yüeh jih-chi, in 2 chüan, dealing with the time when he was an assistant examiner in Kwangsi, and 使蜀日記 Shih-Shu jih-chi, in 5 chüan, on the years when he was director of education in Szechwan. The above mentioned works were later brought together in one collection and printed under the title 瓶庵先生遺書 P'ing-an hsien-shêng i-shu.

Throughout his life, Mêng Ch'ao-jan was content to live in great simplicity. Although blessed with position and influence he declined to use them to promote his own interests. When poor relatives or friends came to him for assistance he bestowed on them what he had without hesitation. In 1818 permission was granted for his tablet to be entered in the temple of local worthies.

[1/486/31b; 3/145/51a; 7/31/9b; 16/9/16a; 17/8/ 82a; Fukien t'ung-chih (1868) 238/1b; 2/67/34a; 閩賢事略初稿 Min-hsien shih-lüeh ch'u-kao, pp. 185–87.]

Y. M. Chin