Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Shih I-chih

SHIH I-chih 史貽直 (T. 儆弦, H. 鐵崖), Feb. 26, 1682–1763, June 23, official, was a native of Li-yang, Kiangsu. His grandfather and father were chin-shih and members of the Hanlin Academy. Shih I-chih himself became a chin-shih in 1700 and was selected a bachelor in the Hanlin Academy. He served as commissioner of education for Kwangtung (1712–13) but held no other important official post until 1723 when he became acting junior vice-president of the Board of Civil Offices. It is said that he obtained this position through the influence of his classmate, Nien Kêng-yao [q. v.], who at that time enjoyed the favor of Emperor Shihtsung. In 1725 Shih was ordered to Shansi to investigate charges of corruption against Nien, and his testimony was instrumental in condemning that official. Whether Shih turned against his friend in an effort to save himself, or honestly believed in Nien's guilt is not clear, but certainly from this time on his promotion was more rapid. He held the following offices: senior vice-president of the Board of Civil Offices (1724–26, and 1728–30); junior vice-president of the Board of Works (1726); senior vice-president of the Board of Works (1726–27); senior vice-president of the Board of Revenue (1727–28); senior president of the Censorate (1730–31); president of the Board of War (1731–34, and 1740–42); president of the Board of Revenue (1734–38); president of the Board of Punishment (1738–40); president of the Board of Civil Offices (1742–44); associate Grand Secretary (1744); Grand Secretary (1744–63); acting governor-general of Fukien (1729–30), of Liang-kiang (i.e., Anhwei, Kiangsu and Kiangsi, 1730), of Hu-kuang (i.e., Hupeh and Hunan, 1735–37), and of Chihli (1742–45). Shih I-chih's appointment to the governor-generalship of Liang-kiang was unusual in that it was not the custom to give an official a high position in his own province. He served as special examiner at the provincial examination in Yunnan (1711), was assistant examiner at the metropolitan military examination (1723), served in the Imperial Study (1723), and was assistant director and special examiner at the metropolitan examinations of 1724 and 1746 respectively.

During his long term of office Shih I-chih took an interest in stocking the prefectural granaries with good grain, and developed a method for applying just fines against officials who were negligent of the granaries under their supervision. He was instrumental in securing immunity for those who, for economic reasons, bought salt at places not designated by the government, and he also worked for flood prevention and river conservancy. Some of his memorials to the throne are of special interest. In 1729 he recommended that responsible officials accompany soldiers and petty officers when they returned from Formosa at the expiration of their military terms—in order to prevent extortion of food, wine, cattle and fuel from the aborigines. In 1733 he memorialized concerning the private manufacture of alcoholic drinks, and advised the government to prohibit the manufacture of the "barm," or yeast, rather than the wine itself. At the same time he suggested that where sufficient grain had been stored for the sustenance of the people some of the surplus be used for the manufacture and sale of alcoholic drinks. In 1735 he also memorialized upon the importance of strict adherance to the examination method in filling secondary governmental posts—in order to avoid undue competition and over-rapid promotions.

Shih I-chih was also capable in military matters. In 1731 he was given command of an army of archers, called the Yung-chien chün 勇健軍, stationed at Barkul; and in 1737 he was in charge of a military expedition against the Miao in Hunan. Shih held the Emperor's favor until 1755 when he was ordered to retire on grounds of age. Other factors were operative, however, particularly Shih's refusal, when questioned by Emperor Kao-tsung during the "literary inquisition" of Hu Chung-tsao, to explain a letter to O-ch'ang (for both see under O-êr-t'ai) in which Shih had requested a post for one of his own sons. Two years later (1757), when Emperor Kao-tsung toured the South, he met Shih and ordered him to return to the capital. On the sixtieth anniversary of his receiving the chin-shih degree the Emperor conferred special honors upon Shih, and in the following year Shih participated in the banquet of the Nine Elderly Men (九老會) at the celebration of the Empress Dowager's seventieth birthday.

Upon the death of Shih I-chih in 1763 Emperor Kao-tsung sent his sixth son to pour libations. Shih's name was entered in the Temple of Eminent Statesmen and he was given the posthumous name Wên-ching 文靖. The second of his three sons, Shih I-ang 史弈 (T. 頡甫, 1712–1791), was for a few months in 1766 junior vice-president of the Board of War, but was discharged for impertinence.

A younger brother of Shih I-chih, named Shih I-mu 史貽謨 (T. 賡載, chin-shih of 1745, d. 1772), was the examiner of the great historian Ts'ui Shu [q. v.] for the chü-jên degree in 1762, and foresaw in Ts'ui a man of unusual promise.


[3/15/1a, 85/35; Li-yang hsien-chih (1896) 11/38b, 48a; Chu-p'i yü-chih (see under Yin-chên), t'ao 16, vol. 3.]

Rufus O. Suter