Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Sung Lao

SUNG Lao 宋犖 (T. 牧仲, H. 漫堂, 緜津山人, and 西陂居士), Feb. 23, 1634–1713, Nov. 3, official, poet, bibliophile, and painter, was a native of Shang-ch'iu, Honan. When his father, Sung Ch'üan [q. v.], was serving as a Grand Secretary, Sung Lao was made an officer of the guards—an honor then extended to sons of high officials—although at this time (1647) Sung Lao was only fourteen sui. He attracted the attention of Emperor Shih-tsu by his skill in horsemanship, and in 1648 won the highest honors in a literary examination held for young guards. When his father retired in 1651, Sung Lao returned home with him, devoting his time to study and to laying the foundations for his broad scholarship. He was appointed assistant sub-prefect of Huang-chou, Hupei, in 1664. After the completion of the period of mourning for the death of his mother he became, in 1677, a judge in the Colonial Office, a post from which he was relieved a year later when Chinese ceased to be eligible for it. After various promotions he became governor of Kiangsi (1688). When he arrived at his post in the summer of that year he had to quell an incipient mutiny of Kiangsi troops who had been aroused by an uprising under Hsia Fêng-lung (see under Yeh Ying-liu), in the adjacent province of Hupeh. With quick determination and complete composure, he had the two leaders executed and so saved the situation. In his four years as governor of Kiangsi he improved the condition of the province, both educationally and economically.

In the summer of 1692 he was transferred to the governorship of Kiangsu, a post he administered with distinction for fourteen years. While there he welcomed Emperor Shêng-tsu on three of his tours of the south—namely in 1699, 1703, and 1705. The Emperor bestowed on him many favors, remarking that under his administration Kiangsu had become the most peaceful province in the empire. At the close of the year 1705 Sung Lao was called to the capital to take up the presidency of the Board of Civil Office, but retired three years later on account of old age. He built in his native place a retreat known as Hsi-p'o lao-p'u 西陂老圃 "Old Garden of the Western Slope," where he held literary gatherings and enjoyed his advanced years. When he went to Peking in 1713 to take part in the celebration of Emperor Shêng-tsu's sixtieth birthday he was given the honorary title of Junior Preceptor of the Heir Apparent.

As a poet Sung Lao is sometimes compared with his great contemporary, Wang Shih-chên [q. v.]. He himself took for his model the famous Sung poet, Su Shih 蘇軾 (1036–1101), better known by his hao, [Su] Tung-p'o. Hence it was by a happy coincidence that he was appointed to Huang-chou, Hupeh, where Su Shih had served as an official and where in 1082 he wrote his poem, "The Red Cliff" (赤壁賦 Ch'ih-pi-fu), to commemorate the defeat of the army of Ts'ao Ts'ao 曹操 (155–220) in 208 A.D.—mistakenly assuming that the Ch'ih-pi of Huang-chou was the site of the ancient battle. While governor of Kiangsu, Sung Lao purchased an incomplete edition of the poems of Su Shih as annotated by a Sung scholar, Shih Yüan-chih 施元之. This work, re-edited and supplemented by Shao Ch'ang-hêng [q. v.], was reprinted by Sung under the title, 施注蘇詩 Shih chu Su shih.

The summer home, Ts'ang-lang t'ing 滄浪亭, of another Sung poet, Su Shun-ch'in 蘇舜欽 (1008–1048), was located at Soochow. This retreat Sung Lao rebuilt for the use of literary gatherings. For the encouragement of younger scholars of the province he compiled an anthology of verse by fifteen natives of Kiangsu and had it printed in 1703 under the title 江左十五子詩選 Chiang-tso shih-wu-tzŭ shih-hsüan. He accumulated a library of nearly 100,000 chüan, part of which he purchased from the famous Chi-ku ko (see under Mao Chin and Mao I). A collection of verse composed by him in his younger days, entitled 緜津山人詩集 Mien-ching shan-jên shih-chi, was printed early in 1688. In 1708 he arranged an edition of the Mirror of History (通鑑綱目 T'ung-chien kang-mu), with comments attributed to Emperor Shêng-tsu. His collected works, 西陂類稿 Hsi-p'o lei-kao, with miscellaneous notes, 筠廊偶筆 Yün-lang ou-pi and Yün-lang êr-pi (二筆), were printed in 1711 and were later copied into the Imperial Manuscript Library (see under Chi Yün).

Sung Lao had six sons, two of whom died young. The eldest, Sung Chi 宋基 (T. 維德, H. 似齋, 1651–1695), became prefect of Pao-ting-fu, Chihli; the second, Sung Chih 宋至 (T. 山言, H. 方庵, 1656–1726, Jan.), a chin-shih of 1703, was a poet, as was also the latter's son, Sung Hua-chin 宋華金 (T. 西羾), a chin-shin of 1721; the fifth, Sung Chih 宋致 (T. 穉佳, b. 1671), became lieutenant-governor of Szechwan province; and the youngest, Sung Yün 宋筠 (T. 蘭揮, H. 晉齋, 1681–1760), a chin-shih of 1709, became vice-governor of Fêng-t'ien-fu. Sung Yün carried on his father's tradition as a bibliophile, and compiled the catalogue of the family library, entitled 青綸館藏書目錄 Ch'ing-lun kuan ts'ang-shu mu-lu.

[1/280/5b; 3/46/37a; 123/22a; 4/67/20b, 69/19b; 20/1/00 (portrait); 27/5/4a; Kuei-tê fu-chih (1893) 25/8b, 10b; Ts'ang-shu chi-shih shih (see under P'an Tsu-yin) 4/30b; Ssŭ-ku, passim; Sung Man-t'ang nien-p'u (autobiography).]

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