Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Ts'ao Yin

TS'AO Yin 曹寅 (T. 子清, H. 楝亭, 荔軒, 掃花人, 雪樵), Oct. 13, 1658–1712, Aug. 24, official and man of letters, was the great-grandson of Ts'ao Hsi-yüan 曹錫遠 who came from a family in Fêng-jün, Chihli, but who joined the Manchus at Mukden or Liao-yang, perhaps involuntarily as a captive. His family belonged to one of the companies of "banner-bearers and drummers" (旗鼓) of the Bond Servant Division of the Manchu Plain White Banner, under the control of the Imperial Household. His grandfather, Ts'ao Chên-yen 曹振彥, was salt controller of Chekiang from 1656 to 1659, and his father, Ts'ao Hsi 曹璽 (T. 完璧, d. 1684), was superintendent of the Imperial Textile Factory(織造) at Nanking between the years 1663 and 1684. For his service, or his contributions, to the Imperial Household Ts'ao Hsi was rewarded with honorary ranks, finally becoming president of the Board of Works.

During the Ming and Ch'ing dynasties there were three Imperial Textile Factories situated in the silk producing areas at Nanking, Soochow, and Hangchow, their function being to supply the government and the Imperial Household with silk fabrics. In the Ming period such establishments were supervised by eunuchs but in the Ch'ing period, by the bond servants of the Imperial Household. The salt controllership and the superintendency of one of these factories were among the most lucrative posts in the Empire. Thus Ts'ao Yin's grandfather and his father must have made great fortunes and it may be surmised that Ts'ao Yin was brought up in a luxurious environment.

After serving for some time as captain of his own company in Peking, Ts'ao Yin himself was appointed in 1690 superintendent of the factory at Soochow where he befriended old scholars such as Yu T'ung [q. v.], and was popular in local literary circles. In 1693 he was transferred to the factory at Nanking of which he had charge for twenty years. Concurrently he was for four terms (of one year each, in 1704, 1706, 1708, and 1710) salt censor of Liang-Huai at Yangchow—a very lucrative post which no official could legally hold for two successive years. At this time he led a luxurious life as a connoisseur of special dishes at banquets, as a collector of rare books, and as host to men of letters. He also owned an attractive garden at Nanking which later became the property of Yüan Mei [q. v.]. The expense of being host to Emperor Shêng-tsu on four of the latter's tours to South China (1699, 1703, 1705, and 1707) was easily met by him, whereas one such obligation might well have ruined a less opulent family. In Ts'ao's case, it meant building and equipping a miniature palace adjacent to the factory where the Emperor could lodge at intervals, both going and coming. In addition to appropriate gifts to the Emperor, there was the whole entourage to care for. However costly, it must have been gratifying to Ts'ao to be thus singled out, particularly when he could respond to the occasion in a lavish way.

The aesthetic taste of Ts'ao Yin is now best exemplified by the books artistically printed under his supervision. Some of these were official compilations which he was ordered to print by imperial decree. The printing establishment which he set up at Yangchow for this purpose was probably financed entirely by himself. The printing was done from beautifully carved blocks, and the books printed from them now constitute the best examples of xylography (Ching-k'o pên 精刻本) in the early Ch'ing period. The following are some of the works he printed by Imperial order: 全唐詩 Ch'üan T'ang shih—a comprehensive collection of T'ang poetry in 900 chüan, consisting of more than 48,900 poems by more than 2,200 authors; and the 佩文韻府 P'ei-wên yün-fu, a phrase-dictionary commissioned in 1704, and completed in 1711 (see also under Chang Yü-shu). The printing of the latter was begun on April 22, 1712 (as reported in a memorial by Ts'ao Yin on May 7, several months before he died), and by October 28, 1713 a number of printed copies were ready. It seems that the classified encyclopaedia, Yüan-chien lei-han (see under Wang Shih-chên), and several other works of this category, were likewise printed at Yangchow. For himself, Ts'ao printed some twenty different works, all of which are regarded as fine editions. Among them are two collections of reprints: one comprising twelve works under the general title, 楝亭十二種 Lien-t'ing shih-êr chung; the other a series of five phonetic dictionaries, Lien-t'ing wu chung (五種), all originally compiled prior to the twelfth century.

Ts'ao Yin brought together a short work in one chüan, entitled 居常飲饌錄 Chü-ch'ang yin-chuan lu, consisting of seven essays on food and beverages by various authors. His own collected works, Lien-t'ing chi (集), including 12 chüan of verse, 1 chüan of essays, and 2 chüan of tz'ŭ (poems in irregular metre), were printed in 1712. According to some accounts, he was the author of two dramas. One, entitled 後琵琶 Hou P'i-p'a, deals with the life of the Han scholar, Ts'ai Yung 蔡邕 (T. 伯喈, 133–192 A.D.), and the latter's daughter, Ts'ai Wên-chi 蔡文姬, a story which had previously been treated in the famous Ming drama, 琵琶記 P'i-p'a chi. The other drama, entitled, 虎口餘生 Hu-k'ou yü-shêng, is based on an essay with the same title, written by Pien Ta-shou 邊大綬 who describes, among other things, how, in his capacity as magistrate of Mi-chih, Shensi, he had early in 1642 caused the graves of Li Tzŭ-ch'êng's [q. v.] ancestors to be despoiled in order to negate the geomantic influences of the tombs, and so check the spread of Li's conquests. Pien later was taken captive by Li's forces, but managed to escape.

Ts'ao Yin was an accomplished calligrapher, and engaged in archery and horseback riding for recreation. Despite his long tenure in lucrative posts he left only a small estate, insufficient to cover his debts when he died. These debts were perhaps inevitable in view of his luxurious habits and the costly gifts he was expected to make to the Emperor, to princes, and to powerful courtiers. But his services were evidently satisfactory to the Emperor, who at the same time relied on him for secret information on high officials in South China, active or retired.

Ts'ao's only son, Ts'ao Yung 曹顒 (original ming 連, d. 1715), succeeded his father as superintendent of the factory at Nanking. But as the family still owed the government a large sum of money, the Emperor appointed Li Hsü 李煦 (T. 萊嵩, 1655–1729), cousin of Ts'ao Yin's wife, and superintendent of the Imperial Factory at Soochow, to serve concurrently as salt controller at Yangchow with instructions to use his income of one year to defray Ts'ao's debts. Late in 1713, a little more than a year after Ts'ao Yin's death, his debt to the government as salt-controller at Yangchow, amounting to 549,620 taels, was paid. But as Li actually turned over to Ts'ao Yung more than 586,000 taels, the latter offered, in a memorial, to present the balance to the Emperor for his stables. The Emperor was considerate, however; and took for himself only six thousand taels, returning some thirty thousand taels to Ts'ao Yung to cover any "private debts" (私債) which Ts'ao Yin may have left unpaid. When Ts'ao Yung died, another sum which his father owed to the government, as superintendent of the factory, had still not been paid in full. Ts'ao Fu 曹頫, a cousin of Ts'ao Yung, and adopted son of Ts'ao Yin, succeeded to that office in 1715 and held it until 1728 when Emperor Shih-tsung ordered the confiscation of his property to pay this second debt to the government (see under Ts'ao Chan). Ts'ao Fu's father, Ts'ao I 曹宜 (T. 子猷), was the younger brother of Ts'ao Yin. He was known as a painter who at one time held the post of captain of a company in the Imperial Household Division of the Plain White Banner.

In addition to a son and an adopted son, Ts'ao Yin had a daughter who in 1706 married the son of a prince, and a year later gave birth to a son and heir to the princedom. This prince, reported as belonging to the Bordered Red Banner, was presumably a descendant of Yoto [q. v.], the first Prince K'o-ch'in, who was the original possessor of that Banner. Yoto's great-great-grandson, Nersu 訥爾蘇 (d. 1740), inherited, in 1701, the rank of a second-class princedom with the designation P'ing (平郡王), but it was taken from him in 1726 and given to his eldest son, Fu-p'êng (see under Fang Kuan-ch'êng). It seems likely that Fu-p'êng was the son-in-law of Ts'ao Yin.

Ts'ao Yin possessed a fine library of which a catalog, entitled Lien-t'ing shu-mu (書目), was published in the Bulletin of the National Library of Peiping (vols. 4 and 5). Part of the collection later belonged to Ch'ang-ling 昌齡 (T. 晉蘅, H. 堇齋, chin-shih of 1723), a son of Fu-nai (see under A-k'o-tun). Ch'ang-ling is designated as a nephew of Ts'ao Yin, thus indicating that Ts'ao's sister or cousin was Ch'ang-ling's mother. His library bore the name Ch'ien-i t'ang 謙益堂. In the Chia-ch'ing period (1796–1821) the family became poor and sold part of the collection to Chao-lien [q. v.].

[2/71/62a; 29/3/24a; 34/7/32a, 33a; see bibliography for Ts'ao Chan; Yeh Ch'ang-ch'ih (see under P'an Tsu-yin), Ts'ang-shu chi-shih shih (1910) 4/37a; Kiangnan t'ung-chih (1736) 105; Ssŭ-k'u, 116/8a, 134/1a, 183/13b; Tientsin Chihli Library Catalogue (1913) 27/8b; Wên-hsien ts'ung-pien (see bibl. under Dorgon) 9–12, 32–34, (1937) 1–4; Li Hsüan-po, "The Family of Ts'ao Hsüeh-ch'in, a New Study," 故宮周刊 Ku-kung chou-k'an, nos. 84, 85; Chiang Jui-tsao (see bibl. under Pi Yüan), Hsiao-shuo k'ao-chêng and supplement; Chekiang t'ung-chih (1684) 22/138a; Pa-ch'i Man-chou shih-tsu t'ung-p'u (see under Anfiyanggû) 74/8b; Academia Sinica, Bulletin of the Institute of History and Philology, vol. VI, part 3 (1936), p. 382; Chao-lien [q. v.], Hsiao-ting tsa-lu (1880), 6/4a; Shêng-yü [q. v.], Pa-ch'i wên-ching 57/10b.]

Tu Lien-chê