Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Mu-chang-a

MU-chang-a 穆彰阿 (T. 子樸, H. 常軒, 鶴舫), 1782–1856, official, was a Manchu of the Bordered Blue Banner. His father, Kuang-t'ai 廣泰 (d. 1825), was a sub-chancellor of the Grand Secretariat. A chin-shih of 1805, Mu-chang-a was selected a bachelor of the Hanlin Academy and was later made a corrector. By quick promotion he became an expositor of the Hanlin Academy in 1809, chief supervisor of instruction in 1813, and sub-chancellor of the Grand Secretariat in 1814. In the same year (1814) he was appointed junior vice-president of the Board of Ceremonies. Early in 1816 he was degraded to an official of the third grade for suspending many legal cases during his tenure as acting junior vice-president of the Board of Punishments, but was soon restored to his former rank. During the period 1817–23, besides holding office as a vice-president in various Boards, he served concurrently as deputy lieutenant general of several Banners.

After 1820 Mu-chang-a gradually came to great power. When Emperor Jên-tsung died at Jehol (September 2, 1820) and the coffin was transported to Peking, Mu was rewarded with a promotion of one grade for his careful preparation of the road along the way. In the first year of Tao-kuang (1821) he was made a minister of the Imperial Household, and after Jên-tsung's funeral he was promoted three grades. Thereafter he served as president of the Censorate (1823), minister of the Court of Colonial Affairs (1824), and twice (1825, 1826) as acting director-general of grain transport.

Early in 1827, for his efficiency in managing public business, he was made president of the Board of Works, a post he held for six years. In the same year he became concurrently general commandant of the Peking Gendarmerie, a probationary Grand Councilor, and superintendent of the Ch'ung-wên Gate Octroi in Peking. During this time he was particularly active in the administration of the grain transport system.

In 1828 Mu-chang-a became a Grand Councilor, and in the following year, while serving concurrently as chancellor of the Hanlin Academy, he accompanied the Emperor on a journey to Mukden to visit the Imperial Tombs. Thereafter he became president of the Board of Revenue (1833–34), and was sent to Kiangnan and Hupeh to settle legal cases and to investigate flood control work. In 1834 he was transferred to the Board of Civil Appointments and early in 1835 was made an Assistant Grand Secretary. In 1836 he became a Grand Secretary and soon took the place of the powerful minister, Ts'ao Chên-yung [q. v.], who had died in 1835. In the same year (1836) he became chief tutor of the princes and in 1837 he was made chief Grand Councilor. In the struggle with England, which at this time was gradually moving toward the hostilities of 1840–42, Mu-chang-a became a leader of the party which favored negotiation and compromise as the best means of meeting the "barbarian" problem. After the vigorous anti-opium policy of Lin Tsê-hsü [q. v.] had been defeated by the superior arms of the British, and the latter had negotiated at Taku near Tientsin with Ch'i-shan [q. v.] in August and September 1840, Mu-chang-a urged upon the emperor the dismissal of Lin Tsê-hsü, which occurred September 28, and the appointment of Ch'i-shan to Canton in his place, to pursue a policy of negotiation. Mu-chang-a thus became the chief supporter at the capital of the unpopular but unavoidable policy of compromise and surrender, which in the provinces was carried out first by Ch'i-shan and later by Ch'i-ying and I-li-pu [qq. v.]. The consummation of this policy was checked by the failure of Ch'i-shan to make an acceptable settlement with the British in the Chuenpi Convention (January 20, 1841), which led to the renewal of hostilities a month later. Thereupon, the second British expedition went up the coast, capturing Amoy (August 26, 1841) and Ningpo (October 13), where the expedition wintered. In March 1842 a Chinese surprise attack on Ningpo failed and the campaign was reopened; the governor of Chekiang, Liu Yün-k'o (see under Yü-ch'ien), and other officials in the provinces urged the hopelessness of the military situation and the necessity for renewing negotiations, and Ch'i-ying was sent south as Imperial Commissioner for that purpose. The British continued their advance, capturing Cha-p'u (May 18), Shanghai (June 19), and Chinkiang (July 21), and finally reached Nanking, where Ch'i-ying and I-li-pu negotiated the treaty signed on August 29, 1842.

The influence of Mu-chang-a in these events is apparent from the manner in which he, as Chief Grand Councilor, recommended the approval of the documents signed by Ch'i-ying, both at Nanking and later. The imperial approval of the Treaty of Nanking, on Mu-chang-a's advice, brought upon him the hatred of the irreconcilable and irresponsible advocates of continued resistance. The Grand Councilor, Wang Ting (see under Lin Tsê-hsü), is said to have committed suicide (June 8, 1842) as a protest against Muchang-a's policy, although his dying memorial of impeachment did not succeed in reaching the Emperor. Mu-chang-a's position remained unshaken; in 1841 there had been an imperial celebration of his sixtieth (cyclic) birthday; and in 1843 and 1844 the further treaties negotiated by Ch'i-ying with Great Britain, the United States, and France, were approved on his recommendation.

During the Tao-kuang period (1821–1851) Mu-chang-a—in addition to his other posts—served many times as chief examiner of provincial, metropolitan, palace, and other high examinations, and also as editor-in-chief of the official history, the imperial genealogy, and of other official documents. By the end of the reign his influence was enormous, his followers were scattered all over the country, and he was regarded as the head of a political party. But the heir apparent—who was later Emperor Wên-tsung—had conceived a strong hatred for Mu-chang-a. After about 1848 his expressions of anti-foreign feeling became more pronounced, and ten months after he ascended the throne he issued a special decree (December 1, 1851) condemning Muchang-a for his opposition to Lin Tsê-hsü and for his support of Ch'i-ying's negotiations. Because of his service under three emperors, Mu-chang-a was excused from serious punishment, but was dismissed, never to serve again. In the same edict Ch'i-ying was also condemned and degraded. In 1853 Mu-chang-a was given a button of the sixth rank for his contribution to the military fund. He died three years later. His poems, compiled by himself, were given the title 澄懷書屋詩鈔 Ch'êng-huai shu-wu shih-ch'ao, 4 chüan, printed in 1847. A famous actor of the late Ch'ing period, Tê-chün-ju 德珺如, is reported as being a grandson of Mu-chang-a.


[1/369/7a; 2/40/29b; 3/99/30; 5/3/9a; Tsiang T'ing-fu 蔣廷黻, 近代中國外交史資料 Chin-tai Chung-kuo wai-chiao shih tzŭ-liao chi-yao (Shanghai, 1930); Ch'ing-pai lei-ch'ao (see bibl. Liu Lun) 38 yu-ling 44; Ch'ên Kung-lu 陳恭祿, 中國近代史 Chung-kuo chin-tai shih (1935).]

J. K. Fairbank

S. Y. Têng