Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/P'êng P'êng

P'ÊNG P'êng 彭鵬 (T. 奮斯, H. 九峯, 無山), 1637–1704, official, was a native of P'u-t'ien, Fukien. His childhood was made miserable by the turmoil in his native province incident to the fall of the Ming dynasty. He became a chü-jên in 1660 but failed to obtain a chin-shih degree. When Kêng Ching-chung [q. v.] revolted in Fukien (1674) he summoned P'êng to serve him, but the latter feigned illness for more than two years to avoid being involved. After the rebellion subsided, P'êng resumed his official career and was appointed (1684) magistrate of San-ho, Chihli—a difficult post, owing to the fact that in that district dwelt many Bannermen who were both influential and lawless. P'êng soon established a reputation for justice and for defending the rights of the poor against the rich and the powerful. When Emperor Shêng-tsu was traveling through San-ho in 1688 he granted P'êng P'êng an audience and learned of his loyalty at the time of the above-mentioned rebellion and of his incorruptibility as a magistrate. The Emperor ordered that three hundred taels silver be awarded P'êng from the imperial purse, remarking at the same time that a gift from himself, though small, was more to be coveted than large amounts of money illegally obtained from the people. Hence P'êng, although many times degraded, and twice recommended for impeachment, nevertheless retained his post for six years. In 1690 he was cited, along with Lu Lung-chi [q. v.] and other magistrates, as an incorruptible official and in the following year was awarded the position of a metropolitan censor.

In 1694 he memorialized the throne on alleged unfairness in the Shun-t'ien provincial examination of the preceding year—affirming at the same time that should his accusation prove to be groundless he would accept the punishment of having his head cut off with an axe. Although such language was regarded by the Emperor as inappropriate in a memorial, he tolerated P'êng, and discharged the examiners. Even so, P'êng persisted in arguing with officials at Court about the case and so continued to embarrass the Emperor. For this breach of decorum P'êng was punished by dismissal from office and by transfer to conservancy work on the lower Yellow River, but he was permitted to retain his rank. In 1697 he was recalled to be a metropolitan censor, and in the following year was promoted to the office of provincial judge of Kweichow. In 1699 he was elevated to the governorship of Kwangsi and in 1701 was made governor of Kwangtung. Although he was often accused of corruption, he always had the confidence of Emperor Shêng-tsu, and was reprimanded only for using strong language to defend himself in his memorials. He died as governor of Kwangtung and was celebrated in the Hall of Eminent Officials of that province. He left a collection of works in prose, mostly official correspondence, which was entitled 古愚心言 Ku-yü hsin-yen, 8 chüan, the author's preface being written in 1695.

P'êng P'êng was one of the idealized officials of the Ch'ing dynasty, like Yü Ch'êng-lung (1638–1700) and Shih Shih-lun [qq. v.] who are remembered for their justice and incorruptibility. The anecdotes relating to them were first utilized—or perhaps invented—by the story-tellers, especially of Peking, and later were woven together as colloquial novels in the same episodical style. These novels gained wide popularity among the common people who, having themselves endured without redress the exactions of corrupt officials and lawless Bannermen, sought satisfaction and compensation in stories which invariably made the rascals suffer in the end. The novel relating to P'êng, entitled 彭公案 P'êng-kung an, in 100 chapters, perhaps first appeared about the years 1891–94. Unfortunately it is the most poorly written and the least skillfully constructed one of its kind. Apparent overstatements in the novel may not be entirely groundless in view of the fact that the Emperor himself once said that P'êng often armed himself with a sword and led the police to the capture of robbers. Other estimates of P'êng were not so favorable. In 1724 Emperor Shih-tsung remarked that in view of P'êng's later conduct, he did not merit the fame so freely accorded to him.

[1/283/3b; 3/157/17a; 4/67/1a; Tung-hua lu, K'ang-hsi 49: 8; Shun-t'ien ju chih (1886) 74/23b; Yung-chêng chu-p'i yü-chih (see under Yin-chên), 黃國材 p. 45b, 58b; Lu-hsün 魯迅, 中國小說史略 Chung-kuo hsiao-shuo shih lüeh (1923), p. 325–26; Sun K'ai-ti (see bibl. under Ch'ên Chi-ju), Chung-kuo t'ung-su hsiao-shuo shu-mu (1932) 74/23b.]

Fang Chao-ying