Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Pi Yüan

PI Yüan 畢沅 (T. 纕蘅, H. 秋帆, 靈巖山人), Sept. 29, 1730–1797, Aug. 24, scholar and official, was a native of Chên-yang, Kiangsu. As a youth he was taught by his mother (née Chang Tsao 張藻 T. 于湘, d. 1780) who was the author of a collection of poems, entitled 培遠堂詩集 P'ei-yüan t'ang shih-chi, in 4 chüan. Later he studied under Hui Tung and Shên Tê-ch'ien [qq. v.]. In 1752 he went to Peking, and in the following year became a chü-jên. Made a secretary of the Grand Secretariat in 1755, he began to take an interest in governmental affairs. In 1760 he passed the metropolitan examination. At the palace examination he ranked second among the chin-shih, but Emperor Kao-tsung specially raised him to first place, or chuang-yüan 狀元, owing to his excellent exposition of a subject dealing with the occupation of the newly acquired territory in southern Sinkiang (see under Chao-hui). After serving several years in the Hanlin Academy he was sent to Kansu (1767) as intendant of a circuit, thus becoming familiar with the northwestern frontier.

In 1771 he was made financial commissioner of Shensi, and two years later governor of that province. During the campaign against the Chin-ch'uan aborigines of Szechwan (1771–76, see under A-kuei), he distinguished himself by his success in transporting troops and provisions to the adjoining provinces. He also built roads, initiated irrigation projects, repaired buildings of historical interest, and sponsored the compilation of the gazetteer, 西安府志 Hsi-an-fu chih, in 80 chüan, which was printed in 1779. Granted an audience with the Emperor in 1776, he was given the privilege of wearing the peacock feather. Meanwhile he presented to the Emperor a copy of an illustrated work describing the historical places of Shensi, entitled 關中勝蹟圖志 Kuan-chung shêng-chi t'u chih, 32 chüan, completed in 1776. This work was ordered to be copied into the Imperial Manuscript Library. Early in 1780 his mother died and he returned home. But after a few months he was specially ordered to resume his post as governor of Shensi, where he was greatly needed. When a Mohammedan uprising broke out in Ho-chou, Kansu, in 1781, he at once dispatched men and provisions, with the result that after two months the rebellion was stamped out. For his part in that episode he was given the button of the first class (頭品頂戴). When another Moslem uprising took place, in 1784, it was speedily suppressed by the forces of Fu-k'ang-an [q. v.] assisted by Pi who again assembled recruits and supplies. Early in 1785 he went to Peking and presented to the throne a copy of his illustrated handbook on Hua Shan, the sacred mountain of Shensi, entitled 華嶽圖志 Hua-yüeh t'u chih, in 32 chüan. Soon he was transferred to the governorship of Honan for conservancy work on the Yellow and Huai rivers and to supervise famine relief. When the Yangtze overflowed at Ching-chou, Hupeh, in 1788, he was promoted for similar reasons to the governor-generalship of Hu-kuang (Hupeh and Hunan) where he was commended for his swift and able administration both of river conservancy and of famine relief. While there he sponsored the compilation of the gazetteer, Hupeh t'ung-chih, under the editorship of Chang Hsüeh-ch'êng [q. v.], but this edition of that gazetteer was never printed.

In 1793 a revolutionary plot of the secret religious society known as the White Lotus Sect or Pai-lien-chiao (see under Ê-lê-têng-pao) was uncovered, and because its leaders were natives of Hupeh, Pi was charged (1794) with failure to suppress the uprising and was degraded to the post of governor of Shantung. In the following year (1795) he was again made governor-general of Hu-kuang. His experience in handling military supplies was remembered when in that year the Miao 苗 tribesmen rebelled on the Kweichow and Hunan border (see under Fu-k'ang-an and Ho-lin). Meanwhile (1796) the Pai-lien-chiao insurgents rebelled in Hupeh and Pi, with the aid of other generals, fought them for several months. For his success in recovering the city of Tang-yang, Hupeh, he was rewarded with the minor hereditary rank of Ch'ing-ch'ê tu-yü of the second class. Early in 1797 when the Miao tribesmen were subdued (see under Ê-lê-têng-pao), he went to Ch'ien-chou, Hunan, to supervise the northward transport of troops for the campaign against the Pai-lien-chiao rebels. Later in that year (1797) he died at his headquarters in Ch'ien-chou, Hunan, and the hereditary rank passed to his grandson, Pi Lan-ch'ing 畢蘭慶.

In 1799 (two years after Pi's decease) there was discovered an account-book, kept by the treasurer of his army in Hupeh, in which there were records of large sums drawn by him for personal use and for gifts to other high officers. Emperor Jên-tsung then recalled how Pi had failed to stamp out sufficiently early the Pai-lien-chiao Rebellion which up to that time had cost the national treasury about seventy million taels. In consequence of this disclosure the private property of the Pi family was ordered to be confiscated and Pi Lan-ch'ing was deprived of the hereditary rank. It is recorded that part of the confiscated land and houses was later restored. Some sources assert that Pi was not involved in these corrupt practices and that the blame lay with his subordinates with whom he was very lenient. It must be remembered that in the late Ch'ien-lung period the government was under the control of the notorious Ho-shên [q. v.] whose greed drove many officials to bribery and corruption in order to retain their posts. As head of various provincial governments over a period of more than twenty years (corresponding to the time when Ho-shên was in power) it is not likely that Pi could resist all the evil practices of the time.

Pi Yüan is remembered, not so much for his official career, as for his hospitality to young scholars and for his own contribution to several fields of knowledge. During his governorship of Shensi and Honan he had among his secretaries young men like Sun Hsing-yen and Hung Liang-chi [qq. v.] whom he helped to fame. Later, other gifted men enjoyed his help, among them Chang Hsüeh-ch'êng and Shih Shan-ch'ang 史善長 (T. 誦芬, H. 赤崖). Meanwhile most of Pi's own work on history, epigraphy, or in the re-editing of ancient books was done with the help of these scholars. He thus compiled a supplement to the Mirror of History (covering the Sung and Yüan periods) which was entitled 續資治通鑑 Hsü Tzŭ-chih t'ung-chien, in 220 chüan, and was finally edited by Shao Chin-han and Ch'ien Ta-hsin [qq. v.]. The preparation of the printing blocks for this work was about half completed when Pi died. The manuscript of the entire work was then purchased by Fêng Chi-wu 馮集梧 (T. 軒圃, H. 鷺庭), a chin-shih of 1781, who had it printed as a whole in 1801.

In epigraphical studies Pi is credited with two works: the 關中金石記 Kuan-chung chin-shih chi, in 8 chüan, printed in 1781 in Shensi; and the 中州金石記 Chung-chou chin-shih chi, in 5 chüan, printed in 1787 in Honan. Both works deal with ancient inscriptions on metal or stone found in central and northwest China. He initiated similar works on Shantung and Hupeh; the former was completed by Juan Yüan [q. v.], but the latter was never printed. Pi was one of the first scholars of the Ch'ing period to make a study of inscribed roof tiles of antiquity. Specimens of those he found in Shensi were brought together at the close of the nineteenth century under the title 秦漢瓦當圖 Ch'in Han wa-tang t'u.

Another of his interests was the collation of old texts which, after centuries of misprinting, had become difficult to read. The best of the ancient works which he thus restored were those of Mo Ti 墨翟 which he collated with the help of Lu Wên-ch'ao [q. v.] and Sun Hsing-yen, and printed in 1783. This marked the beginning of a new interest (see under Sun I-jang) in that ancient philosopher who had been consigned to comparative oblivion at the hands of orthodox Confucianists. Other works, similarly collated, were the Lü-shih ch'un-ch'iu (see under Liang Yü-shêng), in 26 chüan (1789); the 老子道德經考異 Lao-tzŭ Tao-tê-ching k'ao-i, in 2 chüan (1781); the 山海經新校正 Shan-hai ching hsin chiao-chêng, in 18 chüan (1783); the 夏小正考註 Hsia-hsiao-chêng k'ao-chu (1783); the 三輔黃圖 San-fu huang-t'u in 6 chüan (1784); and the 長安志 Ch'ang-an chih, in 23 chüan, by Sung Min-ch'iu 宋敏求 (T. 次道, 1019–1079). The last two works deal with the geography of Shensi. Most of Pi's works on geography, including two on the historical geography of the Chin Dynasty (265–419 A.D.), were done with the assistance of Hung Liang-chi. With the help of Chiang Shêng [q. v.] he re-edited with annotations the ancient dictionary, 釋名 Shih-ming, under the title Shih-ming shu-chêng (疏證). A few months after this work was printed (1790) Chiang wrote with his own hand a copy in the ancient chuan 篆 script which was reproduced in facsimile, as another edition, by Pi Yüan. Most of the above-mentioned works, including several by Hui Tung and Sun Hsing-yen, were brought together under the title, 經訓堂叢書 Ching-hsün t'ang ts'ung-shu. and printed by Pi Yüan. The blocks for this ts'ung-shu were destroyed in 1860 during the Taiping Rebellion, but it was reprinted in 1887. Pi composed 8 chüan of short prose essays which seem not to have been printed. His collected poems in 40 chüan, entitled 靈巖山人詩集 Ling-yen shan-jên shih-chi, were edited by himself in 1793. He also selected and published the poems of sixteen younger contemporaries, natives of his own province, under the title 吳會英才集 Wu-k'uai ying-ts'ai chi, in 24 chüan. He and Chang Hsüeh-ch'êng attempted to compile a complete bibliography of historical works, entitled Shih-chi k'ao (see under Chang), after the manner of the Ching-i k'ao by Chu I-tsun [q. v.], but the work was never printed. His daughter, Pi Hui 畢慧 and his sisters, Pi Fên 畢汾 and Pi Mei 畢湄, were known as poets.

Pi Yüan is believed by some to be the figure, T'ien Ch'un-hang 田春航, in the salacious novel 品花寶鑑 P'in-hua pao-chien, about the life of boy actors in Peking.

[Shih Shan-ch'ang, 弇山畢公年譜 Yen-shan Pi kung nien-p'u (1798); 1/338/13; 3/185/8a; 4/73/12b; 20/3/00; 21/6/11b; Wang Ch'ang [q. v.], Ch'un-jung t'ang chi 32/10b, 40/8a, 52/10a; Chên-yang hsien-chih (1919) 10/68b; Chiang Jui-tsao, 小說考證 Hsiao-shuo k'ao-chêng (1919) 8/130; Tung-hua lu, Chia-ch'ing 3: 6, 8, 9, 10.]

Fang Chao-ying