Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Shêng-yü

SHÊNG-yü 盛昱 (T. 伯義[希,熙,兮], H. 韻蒔), Apr. 11, 1850–1900, Jan. 20, scholar, was a member of the Imperial Clan, his family belonging to the Bordered White Banner. His great-grandfather, Yung-hsi 永錫 (d. 1821. posthumous name 恭), was the sixth Prince Su (see under Haoge). Yung-hsi's fourth son, Ching-chêng 敬徵 (1785–1851, posthumous name 文愨), who served as Assistant Grand Secretary (1842–45), did not have a son and adopted his younger brother's son, Hêng-ên 恆恩 (T. 雨亭, d. 1866). The latter rose in his official career to the senior vice-presidency of the Censorate (1864–66). Shêng-yü was the second son of Hêng-ên. His mother, Na-hsün-lan-pao 那遜蘭保 (T. 蓮友, d. 1873), came from the Borjigit clan of the Khalkha Mongols. She was an accomplished lady and left a collection of verse. entitled 芸香館遺詩 Yün-hsiang kuan i-shih, 2 chüan, which was published by Shêng-yü in 1874. To her, Shêng-yü owed much of his early education. His ancestral residence, styled I-yüan 意園, was in the eastern part of Peking and was noted for its peony garden.

At the age of twenty-one sui Shêng-yü passed (1870) the Shun-t'ien provincial examination with highest honors. The chief examiner was Wo-jên [q. v.] whose Sung philosophy seems to have inspired Shêng-yü. In 1877 Shêng-yü graduated as chin-shih and was made a bachelor of the Hanlin Academy. Three years later (1880) he was made a compiler in the same office, and after serving as secretary of the Supervisorate of Imperial Instruction (1881) and as sub-expositor of the Hanlin Academy (1881–83) was promoted in 1883 to the post of sub-reader of the Hanlin Academy. During these years he distinguished himself by his memorials to the throne in which he denounced the unfair actions of several high officials, among them, Ch'ung-hou [q. v.], who in 1879 concluded his humiliating treaty with Russia, and Wu Ch'ang-ch'ing (see under Li Shu-ch'ang), who in 1882 forced the father of the Korean emperor to accompany him to China.

In 1883 Shêng-yü was given the privilege of memorializing the throne directly. Late in the same year he was transferred to the post of deputy supervisor of Imperial Instruction, and in the following year (1884) was made libationer of the Imperial Academy, a position he held for five years. During this period he repaired the Academy buildings, added books to the library, raised the allowance for students, and established rigid control over their study. With the assistance of his students he compiled books and reprinted rare works, including rubbings of the 石鼓文 Shih-ku wên, or inscriptions on the ten ancient stone drums which were kept adjacent to the College grounds. Thus he restored the Imperial Academy which had for more than a century lost its prestige. However, because he dernanded an exorbitant sum to carry out his reform, he was unpopular with the authorities of the Board of Revenue as well as with subordinate officers in the Imperial Academy. While he was in Shantung in 1888 as chief provincial examiner he expressed a desire to relinquish his official position. Falling ill from excessive labor in the correction of examination papers, he resigned in the autumn of 1889. Thereafter he lived in retirement at his residence which became the gathering place of promising young students and scholars of repute, irrespective of whether they were Chinese or Manchu. He therefore had a strong following in official and scholarly circles in the middle of the Kuang-hsü reign-period (1875–1909). When the Sino-Japanese war broke out in 1894, his friend, Chang Chih-tung [q. v.], urged him to resume official life, but he declined, one reason perhaps being that he did not have the good will of the Empress Dowager.

Shêng-yü had an encyclopaedic knowledge of the history of the Ch'ing period. But in this field he left only one work, a collection of prose writings by 197 bannermen, entitled 八旗文經 Pa-ch'i wên-ching, 57 + 3 chüan. It was completed late in his life and was printed in 1902 by Chang Chih-tung who wrote a preface for it. In the compilation of this work he was assisted by a cousin, Yang Chung-hsi 楊鍾羲 (H. Hsüeh-ch'iao 雪橋, 1865–1940, chin-shih of 1889), who wrote an appendix giving biographies of the writers. This cousin was the author of four series of anecdotes relating to poets of the Ch'ing period, entitled Hsüeh-ch'iao shih-hua (詩話), 12 + 8 + 12 + 8 chüan, printed in 1914, 1917, 1919 and 1925 respectively. He also wrote a biography of Shêng-yü, entitled I-yüan shih-lüeh (事略), which was published in the 亞洲學術雜誌 Ya-chou hsüeh-shu tsa-chih (No. 4).

Shêng-yü was an able and intelligent collector of inscriptions on stone and bronze, and of books, paintings and writings. His collections were preserved in the Yü-hua ko 鬱華閣, in his residence, but were dispersed at the beginning of the Republic. As an epigraphist Shêng-yü was on intimate terms with Wang I-jung [q. v.]. A set of rubbings of inscriptions on bronze in 40 ts'ê, entitled Yü-hua ko chin-wên (金文), compiled by Shêng-yü, was not printed, but is preserved in the library of Yenching University in Peiping. As a bibliophile he was an intimate friend of Lu Hsin-yüan [q. v.], and is said to have acquired many rare books from the Ming shan t'ang (see under Yin-hsiang). A valuable manuscript copy of the Yüan-ch'ao pi-shih, collated by Ku Kuang-ch'i [q. v.], was preserved by him. On the basis of this text Naka Michiyo 那阿通世 (H. 轉輪居士) translated the Mongholum Niucha Tobchiyan into Japanese. This authoritative translation was published in 1907 under the title 成吉思汗實錄 Jingisukan jitsuroku. During his declining years Shêng-yü traveled in the environs of Peking, collecting inscriptions on stone, composed chiefly by Manchus. A collection of these, entitled 雪屐尋碑錄 Hsüeh-chi hsün-pei lu, was printed (1935) in 16 chüan in the ninth series of the 遼海叢書 Liao-hai ts'ung-shu. He also took an interest in Mongol history and attempted to collect inscriptions on stones in Mongolia. In this connection he is said to have compiled genealogical tables of Mongol tribes, entitled 蒙古世系表 Mêng-ku shih-hsi piao. Among the students of Mongol history influenced by him were Li Wên-t'ien [q. v.] and K'o Shao-min 柯劭忞 (T. 鳳孫, 1850–1933). The latter is known as the author of the New History of the Yüan Dynasty (新元史 Hsin Yüan-shih), 257 chüan, printed in 1922.

The majority of the poems of Shêng-yü were lost because he made no attempt to keep them, but in 1905, a few years after his death, his descendants collected some of his verses and published them in 4 chüan, with a preface by K'o Shao-min, under the title Yü-hua ko i-chi (遺集). Another edition (1902) of this collection by Yang Chung-hsi differs a little from the former. The Yü-hua ko i-chi, however, contains a few poems in the wu-ku 五古 style in which Shêng-yü is said to have excelled. Certain prose works and memorials by Shêng-yü were edited and printed (1909–10) by Yang Chung-hsi in 2 chüan under the title I-yüan wên-lüeh (文略).


[1/450/3b; 5/17/24a; Naitō Torajirō (see under Chang Hsüeh-ch'êng), 盛伯羲祭酒 and 盛伯羲遺事 in 支那學 Shinagaku, vol. I, no. 11 (1921) and vol. II, no. 11 (1922); Yeh Ch'ang-ch'ih (see under P'an Tsu-yin). Ts'ang-shu chi-shih shih (1910) 7/9b; Ku T'ing-lung, "A Few Comments on the Yü Hua Ko Collection of Bronze Inscriptions", an article in Chinese in Yenching Journal of Chinese Studies (Yenching Hsüeh Pao), no. 14 (1933); 中和 Chung-ho, vol. 1, no. 10 ff., chronological biog. of Yang Chung-hsi.]

Hiromu Momose