Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Sunu

SUNU 蘇努, c. 1648–1725, Jan. 3, member of the Imperial Family, was a great-great-grandson of Nurhaci [q. v.] and a fourth cousin of Emperor Shih-tsung. His great-grandfather, Cuyen [q. v.], the eldest son of Nurhaci, was imprisoned from 1613 until his death for employing charms against his father. Hence this branch of the Imperial Family was less favored than others. Sunu's father, a prince of the fifth degree (鎭國公), died in 1648 and Sunu succeeded to that rank nine years later. In 1673 he was appointed senior director of the Imperial Clan Court, a post he held for more than thirty years (1673–83, 1685–1708). He served also as lieutenant-general of the Manchu Bordered Red Banner for forty-four years (1679–1723). In 1690, at the battle of Ulan-butung, he commanded the left wing and fought bravely against the Eleuths (see under Fu-ch'üan). Six years later he accompanied Emperor Shêng-tsu in the expedition to the Kerulun River in Outer Mongolia to fight against Galdan (see under Fiyanggû), and was again with the Emperor in 1697 in the expedition to Ninghsia. For his exploits in these expeditions he was raised to a prince of the fourth degree (1697). From 1699 to 1708 he served concurrently as military governor of Fengtien at Mukden.

When the Heir Apparent, Yin-jêng [q. v.], was deprived of his rank in 1708, the other sons of Emperor Shêng-tsu struggled without success to obtain the appointment. The most energetic among them was Yin-ssŭ [q. v.] whom Sunu and others supported. Nevertheless, by an unexpected move, Yin-ssŭ's opponent, Yin-chên [q. v.], ascended the throne, late in 1722. At first the new Emperor (Shih-tsung) raised the rank of Sunu to a prince of the third degree and showed other favors to his former antagonists. But finding them irreconcilable, he began to persecute them. In March 1723 Yin-t'ang [q. v.], a supporter of Yin-ssŭ, was sent virtually as an exile to Sining 西寧 on the frontier of Kokonor under the surveillance of Nien Kêng-yao [q. v.]. Sunu's sixth son, Lešiheng 勒什亨 (Christian name Louis 類思, d. 1727, age 49 sui), and his twelfth son, Urcen 烏爾陳 (Christian name Joseph 若瑟, d. 1727, age 33 sui), were found guilty of favoring Yin-t'ang and were exiled to Sining with that prince. A Catholic priest, Jean Mourao (see under Yin-t'ang), who was also banished to Sining for aiding Yin-t'ang, converted and baptised the two brothers, probably late in 1723. Three other sons of Sunu had already been baptised in Peking, one in 1719 and two in 1721.

In the meantime Sunu, still living in Peking, was blamed for taking the part of Yin-ssŭ and Yin-t'ang. The Emperor pointed out that Sunu's ancestor, Cuyen, had been a criminal and that Sunu's branch of the Imperial Family had ever after been a source of trouble. Sunu was accused of creating dissention among the Emperor's brothers in order to avenge an alleged wrong to his ancestor. On July 14, 1724 Sunu, then seventy-seven sui, was banished to Yu-wei (present Yu-yü), Shansi, together with his entire family and eight of his thirteen sons. As to the five remaining sons, two had died, and three were in confinement-one at Kanchow, the other two at Sining. Less than six months after his banishment Sunu died. It is not known whether he professed Christianity before his death, but several of his sons were baptised during the years 1724–26 (one in 1724, one in 1725 and two in 1726). Meanwhile Lešiheng and Urcen were escorted from Sining to Yu-wei in order to carry out the mourning for the death of their father. But on July 7, 1725 they were ordered to be brought to Peking and were confined in the house of Yin-chih [q. v.] where they died in 1727.

Early in 1726, when Yin-ssŭ was expelled from the Imperial Family, Sunu was given the same punishment posthumously. Yin-t'ang and Yin-ssŭ were placed in confinement where they died within a few months, and Sunu's ashes were taken to Peking and scattered (June 27, 1726). Among Sunu's ten sons then living, four—including the two already mentioned—were imprisoned in Peking. One died in 1726, probably in Yu-wei. The five remaining sons and a grandson were imprisoned, each in one of the following cities: Kaifeng, Tsinan, Nanking, Soochow, Taiyuan and Hangchow. Five of these ten sons are known to have died in 1727, presumably after much suffering. It seems that the others—if not already dead—did not live much longer. Few of Sunu's branch of the Imperial Family seem to have survived the wrath of Emperor Shih-tsung; and his descendants, if any, were never reinstated in the Imperial Clan.

The persecution of Sunu and his family is connected primarily with the question of the succession of Emperor Shih-tsung. It seems that the family was loyal to one of the princes, Yin-ssŭ or Yin-t'ang, and was opposed to the Emperor who apparently attained the throne through treachery (see under Yin-chên). Though their Christian faith possibly strengthened their belief that the Emperor was wicked, and also enhanced their loyalty to the other princes, this was not the primary cause of their persecution, as contemporary missionaries maintained. The persecution began in 1723 with Lešiheng and Urcen who were not then Christians. From 1723 to 1727 dozens of edicts were directed against Sunu and his family, but only three contained references to the Christian faith. These three were issued in 1727—four years after the accused were first condemned. The first of these edicts, dated May 28, referred to Urcen and his brothers as disloyal—stubbornly holding on to their faith when their lives were in danger. The second, dated June 8, was in answer to the courtiers' plea that Sunu's sons be executed. The Emperor responded that he would not execute them, for they would then be heralded in Europe as martyrs. The third edict, dated September 10, resulted from the discovery that Sunu had secreted certain writings of Emperor Shêng-tsu and had scribbled remarks over the imperial handwriting—an offense seized upon by Shihtsung as treasonous. The tenacity with which Sunu's sons clung to their faith is, indeed, mentioned in this edict, but seems to have impressed the Emperor as of secondary importance—the cause of the persecution of Sunu and his family was primarily Court politics. It was unfortunate, however, for the progress of Christianity, that they were condemned by the Emperor at the time that they were converted. This, and the part that Jean Mourao played against Emperor Shih-tsung, doubtless made the Emperor suspicious of the missionaries in general and hindered the cause of Christianity.

Sunu is referred to in missionary accounts under the name Sourniama. His third son, Surgiyen 蘇爾金 (d. 1727, age about 60), one of the most devoted Christians, was baptized in 1721 as Jean. Being the third son, he is sometimes referred to by the missionaries as San-kong-yê 三公爺. Several female members of the family were also converted. New light has recently been thrown on these early Christian contacts through the researches of Ch'ên Yüan 陳垣 (T. 援庵, b. 1880, chü-jên of 1898) and others.

[Ch'ên Yüan, "Imperial Clansmen who Accepted Christianity in the Yung-chêng and Ch'ien-lung Periods", article in Chinese in Fu-jên hsüeh-chih (see bibl. under Liu Pao-nan), vol. 3, no. 2; Pfister, Notices Biographiques etc., passim; 1/168/6a; 1/211/13b; 1/222/3b; Tung-hua lu, Yung-chêng, passim; Lettres Édifiantes (1843), vol. 3, p. 366–481.]

Fang Chao-ying