Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/O-êr-t'ai

O-êr-t'ai 鄂爾泰 (T. 毅庵, H. 西林) Mar.–Apr., 1680–1745, May 23, official, first Earl Hsiang-ch'in 襄勤伯), was a member of the Silin Gioro clan and belonged to the Manchu Bordered Blue Banner. His great-grandfather, Tumen 圖捫, died in 1631 of wounds received at the battle of Ta-ling-ho (see under Abahai) and was posthumously given the minor hereditary rank of Ch'i-tu-yü. O-êr-t'ai's father, Oboi 鄂拜, served as libationer of the Imperial Academy from 1691 to 1895. O-êr-t'ai learned both Manchu and Chinese and became a chü-jên in 1699. In 1703 he was appointed captain of the company to which his family belonged. In the same year he was made a senior Imperial Bodyguard of the third rank; but owing to his knowledge of Chinese was promoted, in 1716, to the post of an assistant department director of the Imperial Household. In this post he became known for his strict observance of custom, and once declined a summons he received from Yin-chên [q. v.], then a prince, for a private interview. After the latter ascended the throne, he appointed O-êr-t'ai an examiner in the Yunnan provincial examination. Soon after the latter returned from Yunnan he was made financial commissioner of Kiangsu, a post in which he greatly encouraged the work of the local students. He edited their best essays and poems, including some of his own, in a collection, entitled 南邦黎獻集 Nan-pang li-hsien chi, 16 chüan, printed in 1725.

In 1725 O-êr-t'ai was promoted to the governorship of Kwangsi, but when he went to Peking for preliminary instructions he was appointed instead governor of Yunnan, and acting governor-general of Yunnan and Kweichow. In March 1726 he arrived in Yunnan and at once attacked the problems confronting him, namely, disaffection among the aborigines and reform of provincial finances. The aborigines of that region, known in general as Miao, but also by other tribal names, were ruled by chieftains who had been recognized officially as hereditary administrators. Often, however, they gave concern to the authorities. O-êr-t'ai's policy, known as kai-t'u kuei-liu 改土歸流 was to abolish the hereditary chieftainships and to govern the tribes as part of the provincial administrative system. He first applied his policy to the aborigines of Kuang-shun, Kweichow, who were pacified in 1726, and their hereditary chieftainships abolished. He went to Kweichow to conduct in person the trial of the insurgent chieftains, and in November 1726 was made governor-general of Yunnan and Kweichow. Meanwhile the chieftains at Wu-mêng and Chên-hsiung in southeastern Szechwan, apprehensive of their fate, became restive. On his way back to Yunnan O-êr-t'ai cooperated with Yüeh Chung-ch'i [q. v.], governor-general of Szechwan, in forcing these chieftains to surrender. By 1727 their territory was pacified and jurisdiction was transferred to Yunnan. For this achievement O-êr-t'ai was awarded the minor hereditary rank of Ch'i tu-yü and later in the same year, for pacifying 184 groups of Miao tribesmen in the Ch'ang-chai region, Kweichow, he was elevated to the hereditary rank of Ch'ing-ch'ê tu-yü of the first class. In 1727 there broke out a rebellion of the Ch'ê-li and other tribes in southwestern Yunnan. That region was likewise stabilized (1728) and most of the land which was subject to an hereditary chieftain with the clan name, Tiao 刁, was organized into a prefecture called P'u-êr (1729).

After capturing several rebellious chieftains (1728) of the Tung-ch'uan region, O-êr-t'ai was made governor-general also of the province of Kwangsi where aborigines on the border of Kweichow had rebelled. Placed thus in control of three provinces, he was determined to put an end to trouble with the aborigines by appeasing the tribes that submitted and subduing by force those that resisted. In 1729 his rank was raised to an hereditary baron of the third class. Meanwhile, with the help of Chang Kuang-ssŭ [q. v.], he succeeded in pacifying many Miao in the Ku-chou region, Kweichow, and for this was given the title of Junior Guardian. He made it a fixed policy to confiscate, whenever possible, the land of the aboriginal chiefs. Those chiefs who offered resistance were executed or banished and the rest were either allowed to remain with an annual stipend or were shifted to other provinces. Several local uprisings were quickly extinguished, the most serious being that at Wu-mêng in 1730 (see under Ha Yüan-shêng). Thus during his term of office of more then six years in Yunnan, O-êr-t'ai succeeded in reducing the power of the aboriginal chiefs and in greatly extending the taxable lands of the state.

Other achievements of O-êr-t'ai in Yunnan included reforms in the salt and copper-mining industries, and reorganization of the mints so that they yielded substantial profits. Early in 1732 he was summoned to Peking and was made a Grand Secretary, and concurrently president of the Board of War and Grand Councillor. For his success in stabilizing the Miao, he was made an Earl of the first class with rights of perpetual inheritance. In September 1732 he was sent to supervise military affairs in Shensi and Kansu, and to look after the transport of supplies for the armies campaigning against the Eleuths (see under Tsereng and Yüeh Chung-ch'i). Upon his return to Peking in the following year (1733) he advised the emperor on the futility of fighting the Eleuths and advocated a peaceful settlement. It seems that this advice was heeded, for the campaign was temporarily abandoned (see under Yin-chên and Chang T'ing-yü).

When a rebellion of Miao tribesmen at T'ai-kung, Kweichow, broke out in 1735 and presently became ominous, O-êr-t'ai was commissioned, along with Prince Pao (i.e., Hung-li, q.v.), Chang T'ing-yü [q. v.], and two other princes to supervise their pacification. He blamed himself for not having forseen this disaster when, as governor-general, he had charge of Miao affairs, and therefore offered to relinquish his hereditary rank. His request was granted, but he was allowed to retain the rank of baron of the third class.

When Emperor Shih-tsung was dying in 1735 he gave to O-êr-t'ai and Chang T'ing-yü his last command, making Hung-li heir-apparent. He ordered O-êr-t'ai, Chang and two princes to assist the crown prince in conducting affairs of state, and declared that since O-êr-t'ai and Chang had shown themselves dependable and loyal, their names should, after their decease, be celebrated in the Imperial Ancestral Temple. Shortly after Emperor Kao-tsung ascended the throne he raised the hereditary rank of O-êr-t'ai, first to viscount (1735) and later to earl of the third class (early in 1738). Thereafter O-êr-t'ai controlled several important posts and served as director-general for the compilation of several official publications of his time. Once he was dispatched to inspect conservancy work on the Yellow River (1739). In 1745 he asked to resign on grounds of illness but was granted instead leave to recover. At this time the Emperor visited him in person and gave him the title of Grand Tutor. After his death O-êr-t'ai was canonized as Wên-tuan 文端 and his name was celebrated in the Imperial Ancestral Temple and in the Temple of Eminent Statesmen.

As an able administrator, O-êr-t'ai enjoyed the full confidence of Emperor Shih-tsung. Hence he gradually became the leader of a group of officials of whom some became his disciples and others his admirers. Chang T'ing-yü enjoyed almost the same recognition as O-êr-t'ai and also had a political following. Conflict between the two groups was therefore inevitable, and the early Ch'ien-lung period is marked by their dissentions. Among Chang's supporters may be mentioned Chang Chao, Shih I-chih [qq. v.] and Wang Yu-tun (see under Yü Min-chung). O-êr-t'ai's following included not only Manchus but also Chinese, among them Hsü Pên 徐本 (T. 立人, H. 是齋, 何山, 1683–1747, posthumous name 文穆), and Hu Chung-tsao 胡中藻 (T. 翰千, H. 堅山, d. 1755). Hsü was a native of Hangchow and a son of Hsü Ch'ao 徐潮 (T. 雪崖, H. 浩軒, 青來, 1647–1715, posthumous name 文敬), one-time president of the Board of Civil Office (1708–10). A chin-shih of 1718, he served under O-êr-t'ai in Kweichow as educational commissioner (1726–29) and as provincial judge (1729–31). He highly praised his superior to the Emperor. Later he was called to Peking and served, together with O-êr-t'ai, as a Grand Secretary (1736–44). Hu Chung-tsao was a native of Hsin-chien, Kiangsi, and became a chin-shih in 1736. He proclaimed with pride that his relation to O-êr-t'ai was that of a pupil to a master. He was, moreover, an intimate friend of O-ch'ang 鄂昌 (chü-jên of 1724, d. 1755), who was a nephew of O-êr-t'ai and was one-time governor of Kansu (1754–55). Hu served as educational commissioner in Shensi (1744–47) and Kwangsi (1747–49), and was the author of a collection of poems entitled 堅磨生詩鈔 Chien-mo-shêng shih-ch'ao, printed about 1752.

But early in 1755 the Emperor came across several poems in which Hu is alleged to have referred disrespectfully to the Manchus. It was ordered that he be arrested and all his writings investigated. On April 23 a long decree was issued allegedly showing by quotations from his writings that he had offended the Manchus, had shown disrespect to the Emperor, and had condemned Chang T'ing-yü and his faction. On May 21 he was sentenced to decapitation. Several of Hu's friends who had contributed toward the printing of his works or had exchanged poems with him were also punished. O-ch'ang was ordered to commit suicide for having written poems allegedly unfavorable to the Manchus and for corrupt practices. O-êr-t'ai was posthumously blamed for having fostered factional disputes, and his name was removed from the Temple of Eminent Statesmen.

The hereditary rank of earl of the third class was inherited by O-êr-t'ai's eldest son, O-jung-an 鄂容安 (T. 虛亭, posthumous name 剛烈, chin-shih of 1733), and in 1749 the designation Hsiang-ch'in 襄勤 was prefixed to the earldom. After O-jung-an lost his life at the hands of the Eleuths in 1755 (see under Bandi), O-êr-t'ai's second son, O-shih 鄂實 (posthumous name 果壯), volunteered to go to the front, but was killed in action near Yarkand in 1758 (see under Chao-hui). Both brothers were celebrated in the Temple of Zealots of the Dynasty, their portraits being hung in the hall, Tzŭ-kuang ko (see under Chao-hui).

O-êr-t'ai left a collection of prose writings, entitled 西林遺稿 Hsi-lin i-kao, 6 chüan, which was first published only in part, but was printed in full in 1774. A collection of his poems, 文蔚堂詩集 Wên-wei-t'ang shih-chi, 8 chüan, seems to exist only in manuscript.

Of various government publications compiled under O-êr-t'ai's direction, the following may be mentioned: commentaries to the classics on ceremony, entitled San-Li i-shu (see under Fang Pao and Li Fu); a history of the Manchu Banner System, entitled Pa-ch'i t'ung-chih (see under Li Fu); a genealogy of the Manchu clans and families, entitled Pa-ch'i Man-chou shih-tsu t'ung-p'u, 80 + 2 chüan, printed early in 1745 (see under Anfiyanggû); on the laws governing Bannermen, entitled Pa-ch'i tsê-li (則例), 12 chüan, printed in 1746; on the laws governing the military affairs of the empire, entitled 中樞政考 Chung-chü chêng-k'ao, 31 chüan, printed in 1746; an illustrated treatise on agriculture, entitled Shou-shih t'ung-k'ao, 78 chüan, completed in 1742 (see under Ch'ên Tzŭ-lung and Sung Ying-hsing); and a general treatise on medicine, entitled 醫宗金鑑 I-tsung chin-chien, 90 + 1 chüan, completed in 1743 and printed about the same time.


[1/294/1a; 1/318/5a; 1/321/1a; 3/18/12a, 補; 19/乙下/19a; T'ieh-pao [q. v.], Hsi-ch'ao ya-sung chi, 19/1a; Yin-chên [q. v.], Yung-chêng chu-p'i yü-chih (O-êr-t'ai); Pa-ch'i t'ung-chih, 120/85b, 181/1a; Shêng-yü [q. v.], Pa-ch'i wên-ching, 58/1a; Pa-ch'i Man-chou shih-tsu t'ung-p'u, 17/1a, 2a; Chang T'ing-yü, Nien-p'u, 5/10b; Hsü Ch'i 徐琪, 頌芬詠烈編 Sung-fên-yung-lieh pien (records of Hsü Pên's family) ; Ch'ing-tai wên-tzŭ-yü tang (see bibl. under Huang T'ing-kuei), vol. 1; Goodrich, L. C., Literary Inquisition of Ch'ien-lung, pp. 94–96.]

Fang Chao-ying