Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/T'ien Wên-ching

T'IEN Wên-ching 田文鏡 (T. 抑光), 1662–1732, Dec.?, official, was a member of the Chinese Plain Blue Banner. A student of the Imperial Academy, he was appointed in 1683 assistant district magistrate of Ch'ang-lo, Fukien. He held the office of magistrate of Hsiang-ning, Shansi (1692–1705) and of the independent department of I-chou, Chihli (1705–06). In 1706 he was recalled to Peking and named assistant department director of the Board of Civil Offices, and three years later department director in the Board of Punishments. Later he served successively as a censor (1712–16), controller of salt in the Ch'ang-lu region (1716–17), and reader in the Grand Secretariat (1717–23).

In 1723 T'ien Wên-ching was sent by Emperor Shih-tsung to offer sacrifices to the sacred mountain, Hua Shan. Upon his return he was ordered to carry on relief work in a famine-stricken district in Shansi where he remained to serve as acting financial commissioner. Early in 1724 he was transferred to Honan as financial commissioner and in a few months was named governor, officiating in that province until his death eight years later. He strictly enforced the law, reduced robbery and larceny, and introduced reforms in the Yellow River Conservancy. He was exacting toward his subordinates and was currently reported as prejudiced against officials who held chü-jên or chin-shih degrees—neither of which he obtained. He was greatly favored by Emperor Shih-tsung for his achievements in Honan and, despite many complaints lodged against him, was not removed. In the years 1725–26 he dismissed several officials under him—one a magistrate whom he imprisoned awaiting trial. It happened that these officials were all chin-shih of the year 1709; and Li Fu [q. v.], likewise a chin-shih of that year, accused Tien of having murdered the imprisoned official. However, the latter was brought unharmed to Peking for trial, and Li fell into disgrace. Early in 1727 a censor submitted a memorial denouncing Tien as cruel, corrupt and unjust, and the Emperor, sensing a conspiracy against T'ien, ordered the offending censor banished to Mongolia (see under Hsieh Chi-shih). In August 1727 the Emperor lauded T'ien's administration, denounced his accusers as liars, and raised him to the rank of governor-general of Honan—a post especially created for him. The memorials and documents which T‘ien had written in the preceding three years were ordered to be published as models for other officials, under the title 撫豫宣化錄 Fu-Yü hsüan-hua lu, 4 chüan, printed in 1727; and governors were admonished to follow his example in order to avoid mistakes. At the same time T'ien's family was permitted to enroll in the more distinguished Plain Yellow Banner. In 1728 Tien was made governor-general of Honan and Shantung with the designation Ho-tung tsung-tu 河東總督. This post was also given to his successor, Wang Shih-chün 王士俊 (T. 灼三, d. 1756), but was discontinued on January 3, 1736. In 1730 T'ien reported that a flood in Honan had caused little damage, but in the following year he was reprimanded by the Emperor when it was disclosed that the damage was serious. However, he remained in the Emperor's favor until he died. The date of his death falls between December 24, 1732 and January 6, 1733, possibly December 31, 1732. He was given due posthumous honors and was canonized as Tuan-su 端肅. A special temple was built in his honor at Kaifeng, Honan.

In the official collection of memorials of the Yung-chêng period (see under Yin-chên), more examples were selected from those submitted by T'ien than from any other official. It was alleged by some that Tien relied upon a secretary, surnamed Wu 鄔, for composing memorials that would win Imperial approval. Though T'ien did have a secretary named Wu Ssŭ-tao 鄔斯道, he himself repeatedly asserted that the memorials were framed by himself. The truth of his assertion need hardly be questioned, for during his service of nearly forty years as an official, before he became governor, he is likely to have acquired ample skill in formulating such documents. But no sooner had Emperor Shih-tsung died, than a number of officials began to bring criticisms against T'ien's administration in Honan. In consequence T'ien, though dead, was branded as one of the most cruel officials of his day. Such accusations are probably unfounded, for, as governor of Honan, he seems only to have enforced the law, apprehended bandits, and curtailed the power of influential classes—landlords, literati and petty officials—who were not above evading taxes and profiting by shielding outlaws. These officials and influential men were, moreover, writers of history and in a position to magnify the failings of one who, unlike them, had never taken a higher degree.

Aside from Tien Wên-ching, two other provincial officials were highly favored by Emperor Shih-tsung, namely, O-êr-t'ai [q. v.] and Li Wei 李衛 (T. 又玠, 1687?–1738, posthumous name 敏達). Unlike the first two, Li Wei was not a Bannerman. A native of Hsuchow, Kiangsu, he became a student in the Imperial Academy and purchased the rank of an assistant department director. In 1717 he was assigned to the Board of War and two years later was promoted to be a department director in the Board of Revenue. His ability and courage were recognized by Emperor Shih-tsung who sent him to Yunnan, early in 1723, with the rank of salt intendant of that province. His real mission was to spy on, and report to the Emperor, the activities of the governor-general, Kao Ch'i-cho (see under Ts'ai Yü-jung). In 1724 he became lieutenant-governor of Yunnan. A year later he was promoted to be governor of Chekiang, and in 1727 he was made governor-general of that province—a post specially created for him. He executed the Emperor's wishes so well that in 1728 he was given the additional task of governing southeastern Kiangsu. In 1732 he was transferred to Chihli and served there until his death.

Being a man of unusual height and strength, Li's appearance was commanding, although he had a pock-marked face. Unlike T'ien Wên-ching, he was hospitable to scholars and sponsored their literary projects, but he was uncompromising toward corrupt officials and cruel landlords, irrespective of their status or political connections. He was, therefore, loved by the common people, but hated by many persons of influence. On occasion, however, he showed evidences of vanity, and insensibility to the normal Confucian restraints. Although in his term at Hangchow he improved greatly the architecture and scenic beauties of West Lake, he saw nothing incongruous in having an image of himself placed in the main hall dedicated to the Spirit of the Lake, a divinity known also as the Spirit of Flowers. In a smaller structure to the rear of this image was placed a group of figures representing himself and his wives. When, some five decades later (in 1780), Emperor Kao-tsung visited Hangchow he ordered these figures removed and replaced by others more in harmony with the Spirit of the Lake.


[1/300/3a; 1/300/9b; 2/13/37a; 3/162/31a; 9/18/6b; Honan t'ung-chih (1869) 54/60a; Yung-chêng chu-p'i yü-chih; Tung-hua lu, Yung-chêng 5:7, 6:5, 10:11; Ch'ing-pai lei-ch'ao (see bibl. under Liu Lun), vol. 11, mu-liao, p. 6; Hsuchow fu-chih (1919) 57/1b.]

Fang Chao-ying