Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Sun Yü-t'ing

SUN Yü-t'ing 孫玉庭, Jan. 14, 1753–1834, Nov. 16, official, was a native of Tsining, Shantung. His father, Sun K'uo-t'u 孫擴圖 (T. 充之, 靈匯, H. 適齋, 1717–1787), was a chü-jên of 1736 who served as a magistrate in Chekiang for five years—his last post being at Ch'ien-t'ang (Hangchow) 1762-63. Sun Yü-t'ing became a chin-shih in 1775, was selected a bachelor of the Hanlin Academy, and later was made a corrector (1778). After several promotions he was sent to Shansi as intendant of the Ho-tung Circuit (1786) but retired a year later to mourn the death of his father. In 1790 he was appointed salt intendant of Kwangsi, and six years later was made provincial judge of that province. In 1797 a rebellion of the Miao tribesmen on the Kweichow border was quickly suppressed by provincial troops and Sun Yü-t'ing attracted notice by his efficient dispatch of supplies to the front. In 1799 Emperor Jên-tsung appointed him financial commissioner of Hupeh to look after supplies for the troops of that province who were then combating the Pai-lien-chiao rebels (see under Ê-lê-têng-pao). He performed this task so well that in 1802 he was promoted to be governor of Kwangsi. There he supervised the sending of the documents granting the title of King of Yüeh-nan to Juan Fu-ying (see under Sun Shih-i). In 1803 he was transferred to Canton as governor of Kwangtung where he maintained a strong policy against pirates and caused the removal of the governor-general, Na-yen-ch'êng [q. v.], who favored pacifying them. In 1808, because of the occupation of several forts at Macao by a British landing party (see under Yung-yen), Sun Yü-t'ing was reprimanded and was transferred to Kweichow. The governor-general of Kwangtung, Wu Hsiung-kuang 吳熊光 (T. 望崑, H. 槐江, 1750–1833), was blamed for not having used force to expel the British from Canton and was recalled to Peking. In 1809 the case was closed when Wu was sent into exile and Sun was cashiered for failure to report against Wu. However, later in the same year, Sun was given the rank of a compiler of the Hanlin Academy and a year after that (1810) was made governor of Yunnan. After serving in Yunnan for five years he was transferred to Chekiang (1815).

In 1816 Sun was promoted to be governor-general of Hunan and Hupeh and was summoned to Peking for an audience. He arrived at the time when the Amherst Mission to Peking was, for various reasons, turned back, one reason being the refusal of the British commissioners to perform the kowtow ceremony (see under Yung-yen). The Emperor, feeling that he had been slighted, questioned Sun regarding his past experience in dealing with Englishmen at Canton. Sun reported that in 1804 he was in charge of handing over to Staunton the Emperor's gifts to the King of England. On that occasion, he said, Staunton took off his hat and bowed while listening to the edict, and bowed again before he left. Sun asserted that this bowing was equivalent to the kowtow in China. In his opinion the British by refusing to kowtow, intended no disrespect to the Emperor, and that furthermore, their tight trousers made it inconvenient for them to kneel. Sun also asserted that Englishmen were in such dire need of tea that they would not venture to open hostilities; that English ships were too large to sail into inland waters; and that an attack with fire would surely destroy their fleet. These reports pleased the Emperor and dispelled his worry about British reprisals. The same erroneous argument, that tea was essential to health in England, was used by Lin Tsê-hsü [q. v.] two decades later.

Late in 1816 Sun Yü-t'ing was transferred to Nanking as governor-general of Kiangsu, Kiangsi and Anhwei—a post he held for nearly nine years. In the meantime he was concurrently an Associate Grand Secretary (1821–24) and then a Grand Secretary (1824–25). In 1824 the Yellow River overflowed into Kiangsu, and Sun, for his "negligence", was deprived of all ranks but was allowed to retain his offices. Because floods delayed transport of rice to Peking by way of the Grand Canal, he was told to find ways of hastening traffic on this waterway. By the autumn of 1825 transport by this route was feasible, but an edict had already been issued to have him cashiered. Thereafter he lived at his home in Tsining for nine years. In 1834 he was given the rank of a fourth grade official to celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of his becoming a chü-jên, but he died that year.

Sun Yü-t'ing left a collection of works, entitled 延釐堂集 Yen-hsi t'ang chi, 8 chüan, printed in 1872, which includes his memorials in 4 chüan, his poems in 2 chüan, his miscellaneous prose works in 1 chüan, and a work about salt administration, 鹽法隅說 Yen-fa yü-shuo, in 1 chüan. He wrote his autobiography, entitled Sun Yü-t'ing tzŭ-ting nien-p'u (自訂年譜), which was printed in 1834. He served from 1778 to 1780 as a collator for the compilation of the Ssŭ-k'u ch'üan-shu (see under Chi Yün), and as a compiler in the State Historiographer's Office (1782–86). In the latter capacity he served as one of the supervisors for the compilation of the early history of the Manchus, entitled (皇清)開國方略 (Huang-Ch'ing) K'ai-kuo fang-lüeh, 32 + 1 chüan, which was commissioned in 1774, completed in 1786, and printed in 1789. This work was translated into German by Erich Hauer under the same title, with notes, and printed in 1926.

The eldest son of Sun Yü-t'ing, named Sun Shan-pao 孫善寶 (T. 楚珍, d. 1853), was a chü-jên of 1807 who served as governor of Kiangsu from 1843 to 1845. He assumed office just after the Treaty of Nanking was concluded and did much to reconstruct Kiangsu after the First Anglo-Chinese War. The third son, named Sun Jui-chên 孫瑞珍 (T. 儲英, H. 符卿, a chin-shih of 1823, d. 1858), served as president of the Board of Revenue from 1850 to 1854, at a time when the national treasury was exhausted by expenditures for war. He served for many years as tutor in the Palace School for Princes and in 1852 became chief tutor. In that year he and Tsai-ch'üan [q. v.] led other officials in contributing silver to the national treasury. He was canonized as Wên-ting 文定.

A Son of Sun Jui-chên, named Sun Yi-wên 孫毓汶 (T. 滙溪, H. 萊山, d. 1899), was a chin-shih of 1856 who rose to be president of the Board of War (1894–96). He was a Grand Councilor after 1884 and a member of the Office of Foreign Affairs after 1885. In the politics of those days he sided with I-huan [q. v.] and Shih-to (see under Chao-lien) in opposition to I-hsin [q. v.]. Being an intimate friend of Li Hung-chang [q. v.], he advocated ratification of the Treaty of Shimonoseki in 1895 when many courtiers opposed a peace on such humiliating terms. He is regarded as one of the officials responsible for the corrupt practices in government after 1884. He retired in 1896 and after his death was canonized as Wên-k'o 文恪.

In addition to these descendants, Sun Yü-t'ing had a grandson, Sun Yü-kuei 孫毓淮 (T. 犀源, H. 梧江, d. ca. 1856), who was chuang-yüan (chin-shih with the highest honors) of 1844. A great-grandson, Sun Chi 孫楫 (T. 濟川, H. 駕航), was a chin-shih of 1852 and also a member of the Hanlin Academy.


[1/372/1a; 3/36/1a; 7/21/10a; 1/442/4a; 2/62/45b; 濟寧直隸州續志 Tsining chih-li-chou hsü-chih (1927), passim.]

Fang Chao-ying