Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Singde

SINGDE 性德 (T. 容若, H. 楞伽山人, original name, Cengde 成德), Jan. 19, 1655–1685, July 1, poet and official, was the eldest son of Mingju [q. v.] of the Yehe Nara clan, and a member of the Manchu Plain Yellow Banner. When he took his chü-jên degree, in 1672, one of the chief examiners was Hsü Ch'ien-hsüeh [q. v.] who later did his utmost to advance the studies and the fame of this Manchu scholar. Although he passed the metropolitan examination in 1673 at the age of nineteen (sui), Singde was hindered by illness from proceeding at once with the palace examinations. In the interval of three years before the next examination he jotted down four chüan of miscellaneous notes on his studies which he entitled 淥水亭雜識 Lu-shui t'ing tsa-chih, after the name of a pavilion in his father's garden near the Shih-ch'a hai 十剎海 in the northern precincts of Peking. This garden later became the property of Prince Ch'êng (see under Yung-hsing) and still later of Prince Ch'un (see under I-huan). In the palace examinations of 1676 Singde ranked seventh as chin-shih of the second class. But instead of appointing him to a literary post, Emperor Shêng-tsu made him an officer of the Imperial Bodyguard.

Singde's fame as a writer of tz'ŭ (poems in irregular metre), and as a scholar, spread rapidly in literary circles of Peking. By 1678 his second collection of tz'ŭ was edited and printed by his friends, Ku Chên-kuan 顧貞觀 (T. 華封, H. 梁汾, b. 1637) and Wu Ch'i [q. v.], under the title 飲水詞 Yin-shui tz'ŭ—the first collection, 側帽詞 Ts'e-mao tz'ŭ, having appeared some time earlier. Many of the Chinese scholars.who were summoned to Peking to take the special examination in 1679, known as po-hsüeh hung-tz'ŭ (see under P'êng Sun-yü), became his intimate friends, and not a few were benefited financially by him or through the influence of his father who had been made a Grand Secretary in 1677. Apparently it was Singde's hospitality to Chinese scholars which gave rise to the theory that he was the hero of Ts'ao Chan's [q. v.] famous novel, Hung-lou mêng.

In 1682 Singde joined the commission under Langtan and Pengcun [qq. v.] which was sent to investigate the activities of Russia in the Amur region. From then on he accompanied the Emperor on many tours outside the capital—once to Chekiang in 1684. When the Emperor set out in June 1685 on a trip to the Eastern Tombs, Singde was too ill to go. He died in the following month, leaving three sons and two daughters.

The collected works of Singde, in 20 chüan, were edited by Hsü Ch'ien-hsüeh and printed in 1691 under the title 通志堂集 T'ung-chih t'ang chi, after the name of his studio. This work received descriptive notice in the Ssŭ-k'u Catalog (see under Chi Yün), as did two others on the Classics which seem, however, to have been compiled by Chinese scholars and later attributed to Singde. His studio name appears in the title of the great collection of 138 treatises on the Nine Classics, entitled 通志堂集 T'ung-chih t'ang ching-chieh (經解). Hsü Ch'ien-hsüeh's preface to it states that Singde provided the funds to initiate the printing. His name appears in the margins as the editor, and there are various perfunctory prefaces attributed to him, but these were probably written by others. The work itself seems not to have been printed until after Singde's death.

Singde ranks as one of the great poets of the Ch'ing period, especially in the writing of tz'ŭ in which he followed patterns set in the period of the Five Dynasties (907–960). The tragic and passionate mood of much of his poetry, and his premature death, invite comparison with the T'ang poet, Li Ho 李賀 (790–816), or with John Keats. It is said that his poems were inspired by his frustrated love for a cousin who was taken to the Palace and whom he therefore could not marry.

Singde's eldest son, Fuge 富格 (or 福哥, 1675–1700), was selected to serve Emperor Shêng-tsu as a page, but died before he could rise to a higher position. Fuge left a son, Jandai 瞻岱 (1700–1741?, posthumous name 恭勤), who served as provincial commander-in-chief of Chihli (1737–38) and of Kansu (after 1738). Singde's second son, Furdon 富爾敦, was a chin-shih of 1700.

Singde is remembered for his part in bringing about the release of the exiled poet, Wu Chao-ch'ien 吳兆騫 (T. 漢槎, 1631–1684), a native Wu-chiang, Kiangsu, who became a chü-jên 1657 at the provincial examination in Nanking. Later in that year one of the chief examiners was accused of corruption, and the successful candidates (also under suspicion for irregularity) were examined in Peking. Though an able writer, Wu was for some reason adjudged unworthy of chü-jên degree and was exiled to Ninguta in Manchuria. He reached his destination in 1659 and endured there an exile's life for twenty-two years. Occasionally he corresponded with old friends, among them the above-mentioned Ku Chên-kuan and Hsü Ch'ien-hsüeh. In 1676 Ku wrote a poem which he dedicated to his friend in exile. Singde read it and was so moved that he promised to work for Wu's release—the method used was to make public Wu's merits as a writer. The commission which went to Kirin in 1677 to locate the highest peak of the Ch'ang-pai shan (see under Sabsu) brought back a long poem by Wu eulogizing the mountain as the place where the Ch'ing Imperial Family had originated. This poem was presented to the throne. Other poems by Wu were edited and printed by Hsü Ch'ien-hsüeh under the title, 秋笳集 Ch'iu-chia chi, 4 chüan. It was not difficult then for Singde's father to persuade the Emperor to release the exile, and in 1681 he was given his freedom. Singde helped further to rehabilitate Wu by engaging him to teach his brother, K'uei-hsü [q. v.], who later studied under Cha Shên-hsing [q. v.]. The poet's wife had voluntarily joined him in exile in 1661, and while there gave birth to a son, Wu Chên-ch'ên 吳桭臣 (T. 南榮, b. 1664), who in 1726 re-edited his father's works in 8 chüan—likewise with the above-mentioned title, Ch'iu-chia chi. This son was the author of a descriptive account of Ninguta, entitled 寧古塔紀略 Ninguta chi-lüeh, printed about 1721.


[Nien-p'u by Chang Jên-chêng in Kuo-hsüeh chi-k'an (Sinological Journal), vol. 2, no. 4, pp. 741–90; 1/489/26b; 3/327/40a; Ssŭ-k'u, 6/7a, 21/5a, 183/6a; Tung-hua lu, Ch'ien-lung 101/8a; Hu Shih wên-ts'un (see bibl. under Li Ju-chên) 1st series, vol. 3, p. 196; Ninguta chi-lüeh; Shêng-yü [q. v.], Hsüeh-chi hsün-pei lu, 13/3a; Su Hsüeh-lin, "A Study of Two Tz'ŭ Writers of the Ch'ing Period" (in Chinese), Quarterly Journal of Liberal Arts, Wuhan University, vol. 1, no. 3; Kao-tsung shih-lu (see under Hung-li), 136/13a.]

Fang Chao-ying