Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Sung Ying-hsing

SUNG Ying-hsing 宋應星 (T. 長庚), student of applied science, native of Fêng-hsin, Kiangsi, was born about the year 1600. His great-grandfather, Sung Ching 宋景 (T. 以賢, H. 南塘, posthumous name 莊靖, d. 1547), was president of the Censorate in the years 1546–47. In 1615 Sung Ying-hsing and his elder brother, Sung Ying-shêng 宋應昇 (T. 元孔), became chü-jên with high honors but, despite repeated attempts, both failed to qualify for the chin-shih degree. In 1634 Sung Ying-hsing was appointed director of studies in Fên-i, Kiangsi. It was while filling this post that he produced the famous illustrated work on the different industries of his time, entitled 天工開物 T'ien-kung k'ai-wu, which was first printed in 1637 by a friend who had previously printed another of his works, probably one on phonology, entitled 畫音歸正 Hua-yin kuei-chêng, 2 chüan. In 1638 Sung was promoted to the post of police magistrate of T'ing-chou-fu, Fukien, and in 1641 to department magistrate of Po-chou, Anhwei. How long he served in the latter post is not clear, but in 1642 and 1643 he was in his native district assisting the authorities financially and collaborating with them in suppressing a local rebellion. At any rate, he never resumed official life after the change of dynasty (1644). His brother, Sung Ying-shêng, rose after several promotions to be prefect of Canton, but likewise retired at the close of the Ming period and died soon thereafter.

The T'ien-kung k'ai-wu is divided into eighteen sections, each section being devoted to a special subject illustrated by beautifully executed woodcuts accompanied by texts explaining the processes involved. Among the subjects illustrated are the implements of tilling, weaving, well-drilling and hydraulics; the manufacture of salt, pottery, oil, paper, fire-arms, dyes, and wine; and the processes of coinage, mining, pearl-fishing, and work in jade. Part of the text and a few illustrations had been reproduced in the encyclopaedia, Ku-chin t'u-shu chi-ch'êng (see under Ch'ên Mêng-lei), but otherwise the work almost completely disappeared in China, owing possibly to the fact that some of the processes described, such as coinage, salt-making, and the manufacture of arms, were government monopolies.

Fortunately, a copy of the original Chinese edition is preserved in the Seikado Library, Tokyo, and of this there are photostats in the Library of Congress. Two reprints appeared in Japan: one issued by Eda Masuhide 江田益英 in 1771, and another published in 1825. In 1927 the Chinese bibliophile, T'ao Hsiang 陶湘 (T. 蘭泉, H. 涉園, 1871–1940), reprinted the work in Peking, basing the text and illustrations on the 1771 Japanese reprint, and on the sections preserved in the Ku-chin t'u-shu chi-ch'êng, in the agricultural compendium, Shou-shih t'ung-k'ao (see under Ch'ên Tzŭ-lung), and in other works. In 1929 T'ao published a revised edition in his Hsi-yung hsüan ts'ung-shu (see under Ch'ên Hung-shou) to which was added a postscript and a biography of Sung Ying-hsing, written by the well-known scientist, Ting Wên-chiang (see under Hsü Hung-tsu).


[M.1/112/9a; Fêng-hsiang hsien-chih (1871) 8/11a, 9/12a, 16/16b; Lien-l'ing shu-mu (see under Ts'ao Yin); Report of the Librarian of Congress (1930) p. 364.]

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