3649366Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period, Volume 2 — Po HuangRufus O. Suter

PO Huang 白潢 (T. 近薇), Jan. 26, 1660–1737, official, was a member of the Chinese Bordered White Banner. In the Ming period his ancestors emigrated to the region of Liao-yang, where they founded the village of Po-chia chai 白家寨. In 1621 Po's great-grandfather swore allegiance to the Manchus. His grandfather, Po Ch'êng-chu 白承舉, followed Emperor Shih-tsu into China and settled in Peking. Well versed in the Manchu language, Po Huang was at first a clerk, but in 1684 was made a secretary in the Grand Secretariat. Thence he was transferred successively to the posts of sub-archivist, secretary to the Court of Colonial Affairs, and assistant reader in the Grand Secretariat. In 1700 he was sent to Fukien as intendant of grain and post. His father died in 1703, and he returned to Peking where he observed the period of mourning until 1706 when he was sent to Shantung as intendant of the Têng-Lai-Ch'ing Circuit. In 1710 he was transferred to Kweichow as intendant of the Kuei-tung Circuit, but four years later was promoted to the post of provincial judge in Kweichow.

In 1716, when the governor of that province was called away on an important mission, Po was made acting governor, in which capacity he effected three reforms. The first concerned the method of compensation to soldiers. Normally soldiers were paid in grain, but since Kweichow was rocky and mountainous, grain in sufficient quantities could not be raised, and, because of difficult roads, could not easily be brought in from outside. Hence it became customary to pay the soldiers' salaries in silver in order that they might buy their own grain. The wages given would have been adequate if they had been paid in the autumn, when they were due, and when the price of grain was lowest, but owing to the delays in official procedure the silver never reached the soldiers until the following spring when the price of grain was highest. This practice amounted to a radical cut in the soldiers' wages. Po recommended that silver be advanced to them from the provincial treasury in the fall when the salaries were due, and that the amount advanced be refunded to that treasury later. The second reform concerned the postal system. There had developed among some of the prefectural officers the practice of freely using villagers for the delivery of private mail. Sometimes the number of men pressed into this unauthorized service was two thousand a year. As a result, the cultivation of the fields suffered. Ever since Po had been intendant of a circuit he had observed the evils of this practice, and now as governor was able to stamp them out. The third reform concerned the cultural status of Kweichow. Because the country was rude and remote, a native who passed the examinations and had the opportunity to leave seldom returned. The result was that there were few educated gentry in Kweichow. Po memorialized that all expatriates be forced to return to their native districts. At first the people at home thought this an imposition, but afterwards they realized its wisdom.

When the governor returned Po was appointed (1717) lieutenant-governor of Kiangsi. Before he assumed office he went to Jehol to pay his respects to Emperor Shêng-tsu and was at once elevated to the post of governor. In this capacity one of his more interesting reforms concerned the huo-hao 火耗, or depreciation allowance. It was the custom that when taxes were collected the small pieces of silver were melted and recast in more convenient form for delivery to Peking. But during this process there was always some loss for which the tax collectors demanded allowance. The allowance they demanded, however, had yearly been growing more and more exorbitant. Po recommended that it be fixed at ten percent. To revive learning in Kiangsi he rebuilt the Yü-chang 豫章 Academy in Nanchang, invited teachers to lecture, and provided many scholarships. He begged a plaque in the Emperor's handwriting for the school, and this was graciously bestowed. In connection with his educational program he memorialized (1719) for permission to allow a larger number of men to pass the provincial examination in Kiangsi, and was granted an increase of nine men. In 1718 he memorialized that the Hu-k'ou customs at Hung-ch'iao harbor be changed to the nearby harbor at Wu-ch'ü which could accommodate ten times more ships and was safer. In 1718 and 1719 he rebuilt the dike at Kao-an, the birthplace of Chu Shih [q. v.]—a dike whose stability was absolutely essential to the life of the people. In gratitude for his help it was thereafter called the Po Dike (白公隄). Chu Shih composed an account of the enterprise and its value to the neighborhood. Impressed by the gratitude of the people for the work thus accomplished, Po memorialized the throne that officials should be made to pay more attention to the construction of dikes throughout the land.

In 1720, on account of his age and ill health, Po asked to be released from office in Kiangsi and to be given a less arduous post in Peking. He was appointed (1720) junior vice-president of the Board of Revenue and at the end of the same year was promoted to the presidency of the Board of War. While occupying this office he was much concerned with the. development of a method for reducing the amount of unemployment among capable military men in the prime of life. When Shih-tsung came to the throne (1722) Po was made an associate Grand Secretary. One month later (1723) he was appointed Grand Secretary. The same year he was named a director of the bureau for compiling the "Veritable Records" of the reign of Shêng-tsu, and other literary projects. In 1725, because of ill-health, he asked to be released from office. Shih-tsung consented. Unfortunately, however, Po was not to spend his old age in peace. Soon after his retirement the charge was brought that while he was governor of Kiangsi he had sought to buy public favor by paying, from his own purse, back land taxes, a deficit of about 1,300 taels, due from the merchants of four prefectures. He had done this without asking imperial permission and without even informing the throne. Furthermore, he had falsified the reports of the merchants and others who were supposed to have paid the taxes. After due deliberation Po was divested of all titles and honors; but the year after his death Emperor Shih-tsung restored his rank.

An incomplete edition of Po Huang's memorials was edited by Li Fu [q. v.] who also wrote a history of the Po family which he presented to Po's son.

[1/295/8b; 3/15/21a; 3/15/suppl.; Cha Shên-hsing [q. v.], Ching-yeh t'ang shih hsü (續) chi 1/15a for date of birth.]

Rufus O. Suter