Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Sun Chia-nai

SUN Chia-nai 孫家鼐 (T. 燮臣, H. 蟄生, 容卿, 澹靜老人), Apr. 7, 1827–1909, Nov. 29, official, was a native of Shou-chou, Anhwei. He became a chü-jên. in 1851 and eight years later a chin-shih with highest honors, including a first class compilership in the Hanlin Academy. In 1868, after serving as director of education in Hupeh, he was appointed a tutor in the Palace School for Princes. Ten years later he was selected a tutor to Emperor Tê-tsung. He and his senior colleague, Wêng T'ung-ho [q. v.], looked after the young Emperor's education until the latter came of age in 1887. In the meantime Sun served as a vice-president in the Boards of Works (1879–83), of Revenue (1883–87), of War (1887–89), and of Civil Appointments (1889–90). In 1890 he was made president of the Censorate and two years later, president of the Board of Works, serving concurrently as governor of the Peking Metropolitan Area (1892–99). In 1894 he strongly opposed going to war with Japan over the suzerainty of Korea, thus concurring with the opinion of Li Hung-chang [q. v.] that China, could not defeat Japan. On this matter he stood in opposition to Wêng T'ung-ho who led the war party. Both tutors exercised a great influence on Emperor Tê-tsung, but Wêng's was the stronger, owing to his eloquence and to his large number of disciples and followers.

When the war ended in 1895 the Emperor began to introduce reforms through education. Early in 1896 Sun was ordered to establish a government publishing institution which was to include a library, a printing plant, and a school. In the middle of 1896, in consequence of a memorial submitted by Li Tuan-fên 李端棻 (T. 信臣, H. 苾園, 1833–1907), a decree was issued establishing a university in Peking, the task of organizing it being entrusted to Sun Chia-nai who was given the concurrent title of Director of Educational Affairs. But owing to opposition of conservatives, the university was not opened for almost two years. In the meantime Sun was made president of the Board of Ceremonies (1896–97) and was then transferred to the Board of Civil Appointments (1897–99). In 1898 he was made concurrently an Associate Grand Secretary and was ordered to hasten the opening of the university. During the "Hundred Days of Reform", from June to September 1898 (see under T'an Ssŭ-t'ung), the university was one of the important objectives of the reformers. On August 9 the institution, then known as Ching-shih ta-hsüeh-t'ang 京師大學堂 and later as Peking University (北京大學), was founded, and Sun Chia-nai was named the first president, Dr. W. A. P. Martin (see under Tung Hsün) being made head of the faculty. The former mansion of Fu-lung-an [q. v.] was the site chosen, and repairs on the buildings began at once. But when Empress Hsiao-ch'in [q. v.] resumed control in the autumn all the reforms introduced by Emperor Tê-tsung were discarded and many officials were executed or cashiered. Only the university was allowed to carry on and Sun Chia-nai, though a noted supporter of Emperor Tê-tsung, continued in office. The university, however, could not operate smoothly owing to the strong opposition of the conservatives who were then in power. Thus, despite the favoring influence of Jung-lu [q. v.], Sun could not make its success. In 1899 a rumor of attempts to dethrone Emperor Tê-tsung was spreading and Sun, as a former tutor of the Emperor, asked to retire on grounds of ill health. After repeated pleas his request was granted, late in 1899, and he retired with full pay. He lived in Peking during the next few months until the Boxer Uprising, when his home was looted by mobs and by Kansu soldiers who regarded him as the Emperor's supporter. The university was destroyed and a professor was murdered.

Shortly after the Empress Dowager and the Emperor fled to Sian, Sun followed them to the temporary capital. In 1901 he was made president of the Board of Civil Appointments and early in 1902 was promoted to be a Grand Secretary. In the meantime the re-establishment of the university in Peking was entrusted to Chang Po-hsi (see under Wu Ju-lun) and it thrived under his direction. Yet Chang; too, had difficulty in combating the united opposition of the conservatives; and to please them he recommended Wu Ju-lun [q. v.] as head of the faculty. In 1903 Jung-ch'ing 榮慶 (T. 華卿, H. 實夫, chin-shih of 1886), a Mongol Bannerman, was ordered to assist Chang in educational affairs. But the two disagreed on many issues, so that early in 1904 Sun Chia-nai was appointed to form with them a committee of three to direct educational matters. Sun, however, was now in his late seventies; hence most of the policies were actually framed by Chang Po-hsi.

In 1906, on his eightieth birthday, Sun Chia-nai was given many honors by the Empress Dowager. A photograph of him with his sons, nephews, and grandsons probably taken in celebration of this birthday, appears in Timothy Richard's Conversion by the Million. Despite his advanced age Sun continued to serve at Court. In that same year (1906) he was a member of a commission headed by I-k'uang (see under Yung-lin) and Ch'u Hung-chi 瞿鴻禨 (T. 子玖, H. 止盦, 1850–1918) to draw up plans for governmental reform suggested by the mission sent to study the governments of foreign countries (see under Tuan-fang). But owing to opposition, the three aged statesmen recommended only minor changes. In 1907, as a preliminary step to the adoption of a constitution and the election of a National Assembly (資政院), Sun Chia-nai and Prince P'u-lun (see under I-ching) were appointed prospective chairmen of the Assembly. In 1908 Sun was given the honorary title of Grand Tutor to the Heir Apparent. He died in 1909, one year before the National Assembly convened. He was canonized as Wên-chêng 文正 and his name was celebrated in the Temple of Eminent Statesmen.

Sun Chia-nai was prudent by nature and always maintained a middle course between the radicals and the conservatives. He and Wêng T'ung-ho were two of the most influential officials of their time, but though Wêng's influence was evident to all, Sun's was less known to the public. He favored many of the reforms of 1898, but was opposed to the political theories of K'ang Yu-wei (see under T'an Ssŭ-t'ung) and memorialized the throne in opposition to them. This perhaps accounts for the fact that he could remain in the government after the reform movement failed. He is said to have been a student of the philosophy of Wang Yang-ming (see under Chang Li-hsiang). Of his writings, only a few memorials remain, for most of his works were destroyed in the Boxer Uprising. His last memorial, written when he was dying, was reproduced in facsimile late in 1909 under the title 太傳孫文正公手書遺摺稿 T'ai-fu Sun Wên-chêng kung shou-shu i-chê kao.


[1/449/1a; 2/64/27a; 6/1/15b; Chin-shih jên-wu (see under Wêng T'ung-ho), p. 66; Chin-tai Hua-kuo chiao-yü shih-liao (see bibl. under Wu Ju-lun), vol. 1, pp. 116–61; 中華教育界 Chung-hua chiao-yü-chieh, vol. XXIII, no. 1, vol. XXIV, nos. 1, 7; Richard, Timothy, Conversion by the Million (1907), vol.II, p. 95.]

Fang Chao-ying