Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Shu Wei

SHU Wei 舒位 (T. 立人, H. 鐵雲), 1765–1816, poet, dramatist, and musician, was born in Soochow, his mother's ancestral home, but his paternal home was in Ta-hsing (Peking). His personal name (ming) was originally Ch'uan 佺, and it was not until 1783 that he changed it to Wei. His grandfather, Shu Ta-ch'êng 舒大成 (T. 子展), a chin-shih of 1712, served as a corrector in the Hanlin Academy (1715); and his uncle, Shu Hsi-chung 舒希忠 (T. 蔗堂, H. 澹齋), a chü-jên of 1738, served as grain intendant in Kiangsi (1783–85). In 1778 Shu Wei accompanied his father, Shu I 舒翼, to Yung-fu, Kwangsi, where the latter was assistant magistrate. There he took the hao, T'ieh-yün, after the mountain, T'ieh-yün shan, situated behind his father's yamen. In 1782 he went to Peking. Failing in the provincial examination in 1783, he remained at the capital studying in his ancestral home where his grandfather had accumulated a considerable library. He received his chü-jên degree in 1788, but failed, after nine attempts, to become a chin-shih. In the meantime he traveled or took employment as tutor or as secretary.

About the years 1791–92 he was employed at Shih-mên, Chekiang, and in 1794, at Ch'ang-shu, Kiangsu. In 1796 he became secretary to Wang Chao-wu 王朝梧 (T. 象六, H. 疏雨), a chin-shih of 1781, who was then prefect of Ho-chien-fu, Chihli. With Wang he went in the following year (1797) to Kweichow, where he became an efficient secretary and adviser to the Manchu general, Lê-pao [q. v.], who was then engaged in suppressing Miao rebels in Kweichow. Early in 1799 he left Kweichow and thereafter was employed in the military quarters at Changsha (1799–1800), in the magistrate's office at Tientsin (1801), and in the prefect's office at Sungkiang, Kiangsu (1804–08). In 1805 his family, after having sojourned at Wu-chên (ca. 1790–1803), and at Kashing (1803–05), both in Chekiang, moved back to Soochow.

In 1809 Shu Wei was in Peking where he was introduced by Pi Hua-chên 畢華珍 (T. 子筠) to Chao-lien [q. v.]. He composed a number of lyric dramas to be performed in the little theatre at Chao-lien's mansion—Pi composing the music for these plays. The joint efforts of Shu and Pi were well received and amply rewarded. In 1812 Shu returned south and resumed his post as secretary at Sungkiang. Later in the same year he left Sungkiang for Nanking, and in 1814 was employed at I-chêng, Kiangsu. In the tenth moon of 1815 his mother died. Overcome by grief at her death, he is said to have abstained from food, and died in Soochow seventy-three days later.

Shu Wei's poetical works were published in 1814 under the title 瓶水齋詩集 P'ing-shui chai shih-chi, 17 chüan, comprising his verses from 1782 to 1815, with a supplement (別集) which includes the 春秋詠史樂府 Ch'un-ch'iu yung-shih yüeh-fu, 1 chüan—140 poems written in 1786 about historical episodes in the Spring and Autumn period; and the 黔苗竹枝詞 Ch'ien Miao chu-chih tz'ŭ, 1 chüan—52 short poems written in 1797 about the customs of the Miao in Kweichow. A discourse on poetry, entitled 鐵雲鴉籐館詩話 T'ieh-yün ya-t'êng kuan shih-hua, was added to this collection in the Kuang-hsü period 1875–1909.

Six tsa-chü 雜劇, or lyric dramas in the simple style, are attributed to Shu Wei. These are: 卓女當壚 Cho-nü tang-lu, 樊姬擁髻 Fan-chi yung-chi, 博望訪星 Po-wang fang-hsing, 酉陽修月 Yu-yang hsiu-yüeh, 琵琶賺 P'i-p'a chuan, and 桃花人面 Toao-hua jên-mien. The first four were published in 1833 under the collective title 瓶笙館修簫譜 P 'ing-shêng kuan hsiu-hsiao p'u.

Shu Wei was gifted in music, and played various instruments. At times he also composed the music for his own dramas, and this may account for the lyric quality of his writings. He also had skill as a painter and calligrapher.

In the course of his wide travels Shu Wei made many literary friends, among them, Sun Yüan-hsiang [q. v.] and Wang T'an 王曇 (T. 仲瞿, 1760–1817). The latter, a chü-jên of 1794, was the nephew of Shu's wife, and author of the following works: 煙霞萬古樓文集 Yen-hsia wan-ku lou wên-chi, 6 chüan; Yen-hsia wan-ku lou shih-hsüan (詩選), 2 chüan, both printed in 1840; 仲瞿詩錄 Chung-ch'ü shih-lu 1 chüan, printed in 1851; and some ten unpublished works on various subjects.


[2/72/55b; 3/439/13a; 10/25/10b; 19/戊上/26b; 24/43/11a; 26/2/26b; 29/6/33a; Shih Yün-yü [q. v.], Tu-hsüeh lu san-kao 5/9b; Aoki, Seiji 青木正兒, 中國近代戲曲史 Chung-kuo chin-tai hsi-ch'ü shih (translated by Chêng Chên 鄭震 1933), pp. 399–401; P'ing-shêng kuan hsiu-hsiao p'u, in the 百川書屋叢書 Po-ch'uan shu-wu ts'ung-shu; Yen-hsia wan-ku lou wên-chi, 4/23a; Yen-hsia wan-ku lou shih-hsüan, 1/2a.]

Li Man-kuei