Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Tu Shou-t'ien

TU Shou-t'ien 杜受田 (T. 芝農), 1787–1852, Aug. 23, official, was a native of Pin-chou, Shantung. His father, Tu Ê 杜堮 (T. 次崖, H. 石樵, posthumous name 文端, d. 1858, age 95 sui), was a chin-shih of 1801 who served as a vice-president of the Board of War (1821–22), of the Board of Civil Appointments (1822–35), and of the Board of Ceremonies (1835–36). After his retirement in 1836, Tu Ê remained in the capital and enjoyed a prosperous and honored life for twenty-two years. Tu Shou-t'ien became a chin-shih with high honors in 1823, was selected a bachelor in the Hanlin Academy, and was later named a compiler. For the next thirteen years he filled various posts, including a term as commissioner of education in Shansi (1833–35). In 1836 he was appointed tutor to Emperor Hsuan-tsung's eldest son, I-chu [q. v.], thus beginning an intimate and devoted association with the future Emperor. In the meantime he was promoted through several offices until he became president of the Board of Works, early in 1845. In 1849 he was concurrently made chief tutor in the Palace School for Princes and a year later was highly honored in various ways by his pupil, I-chu, who succeeded to the throne.

It is said that I-chu owed to his teacher his chance of becoming Emperor. The story has it that one spring when Emperor Hsüan-tsung was on a hunting party he was undecided which of his sons, I-chu or I-hsin [q. v.], should be made Emperor. Tu instructed I-chu beforehand not to kill any of the animals or fowls, and that if the Emperor asked why, he was to say that he had no heart to terminate life in the springtime when all life was meant to thrive. Thus I-chu remained inactive while I-hsin rode happily, shooting and killing. When I-chu's motive was questioned he replied as he was told, and his remarks so pleased the Emperor that the latter decided to make him his successor. Whether the story is true or apocryphal, I-chu certainly displayed unusual gratitude to his teacher.

Early in 1850 Tu Shou-t'ien was given the honorary title of Grand Tutor of the Heir Apparent and his father, Tu Ê, then in retirement, was given the title of Grand Guardian of the Heir Apparent. Later in that year Tu Shou-t'ien was made president of the Board of Punishments and an Associate Grand Secretary, and was entrusted with editing the records of the deceased Emperor. In 1851 he was transferred to the Board of Ceremonies and was ordered to edit the Emperor's (I-chu's) literary collection. In 1852 he and I-liang [q. v.] were sent to northern Kiangsu to inspect a flooded area and to report on relief measures. While on this mission, Tu was stricken with fever and died. The young Emperor greatly lamented his death and raised him posthumously to the ranks of Grand Preceptor and Grand Secretary. His name was entered in the Temple of Eminent Statesmen, and he was given the much coveted posthumous name, Wên-chêng 文正. His son was raised in rank and his three grandsons were made chü-jên. His father, Tu Ê, who outlived him, was given various honors up to the time of his death.

Tu Shou-t'ien was not a man of talent, but was careful and worked conscientiously. In 1850 he recommended the recall to service of the retired officials, Lin Tsê-hsü [q. v.] and Chou T'ien-chüeh 周天爵 (T. 敬修, chin-shih of 1811, d. 1853, posthumous name 文忠). It is said that, as a result of Tu's private pleas to the Emperor, Hsiang Jung [q. v.] was not severely punished after his failure to stem the advance of the Taiping Rebels in Kwangsi and Hunan, Hsiang being thus enabled to lead his men in pursuit of the rebels to Nanking. Tu's influence over Emperor Wên-tsung was so great that the history of the critical decade after 1850 might have been different had he lived a few years longer (see under I-chu).

Tu Shou-t'ien had two sons and a grandson, all of whom became chin-shih and members of the Hanlin Academy. Thus four generations of the family had representatives in that high literary institution. Of the two sons, the younger one, Tu Ch'iao 杜䎗 (T. 筠巢), was a chin-shih of 1835 who rose to the post of a vice-president of the Board of Revenue (1856–58). A son of Tu Ch'iao, named Tu T'ing-ch'ên 杜庭琛 (T. 芸皋), was a chin-shih of 1860 and a Hanlin compiler. The eldest son of Tu Shou-t'ien, named Tu Han 杜翰 (T. 鴻舉, H. 寄[繼]園, d. 1866), was an important official of the Hsien-fêng period (1851–62). He became a chin-shih in 1844 and later, a Hanlin corrector. From early in 1854 to 1858 he served as senior vice-president of the Board of Works, and as a Grand Councilor. After mourning the death of his grandfather (1858–59), he was again made a Grand Councilor, and from 1859 to 1861 acted several times as vice-president of a Board. In 1860 he accompanied Emperor Wên-tsung to Jehol and was one of the eight regents appointed by the Emperor in 1861 to look after his son (see under Su-shun). Tu Han took the side of Su- shun in opposing the claim of the two Empresses to be supreme regents. When Su-shun fell, Tu Han was cashiered and was sentenced to exile, but the sentence was not carried out. With him ended the power of one of the most influential families in China in the nineteenth century.


[1/391/1a; 2/41/1a; 7/25/12a; Pin-chou chih (1860) 10/14a, 11/御製 10b, 行狀又 13a; Tz'ŭ-lin chi-lüeh (see under Shên T'ing-fang); Ch'ing-ch'ao yeh-shih ta-kuan (see bibl. under Li Hung-tsao), p. 64; see bibl. under Su-shun.]

Fang Chao-ying