Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Wên-ch'ing

WÊN-ch'ing 文慶 (T. 篤生, H. 孔修), Apr. 30, 1796-1856, Dec. 13 ?, official, came from the Feimo 費莫 clan which belonged to the Manchu Bordered Red Banner. His great-grandfather, Wên-fu (see under A-kuei), was a Grand Secretary who had two illustrious sons, Lê-pao [q. v.] and Yung-pao (see under Lê-pao). Wên-ch'ing, a grandson of Yung-pao, became a chin-shih in 1822 and was selected a bachelor of the Hanlin Academy. Made a compiler in 1823, he was promoted to be a sub-expositor in 1824, a subreader in 1825, libationer of the Imperial Academy in 1829, and a sub-chancellor of the Grand Secretariat in 1832. In the meantime he conducted two provincial examinations: in Shantung in 1825 and in Fukien in 1831. In February 1833 he was made junior vice-president of the Board of Ceremonies, but a month later was reprimanded for confusing at an audience the order of presentation of the envoys from the Loochoo Islands and Korea. A few months later, owing to a serious error which he made in a memorial, he was punished by being made to wear the decorations of a third-grade official, though he was allowed to remain in office. His decorations were restored in 1834 and early in 1835 he was transferred to the Board of Civil Appointments. In the meantime he served concurrently as a deputy lieutenant-general of one or another Banner, as supervisor of the Imperial Academy, and as director of the Imperial Printing Press. Early in 1836 he was transferred to the Board of Revenue, and a few months later was sent with T'ang Chin-chao [q. v.] to investigate cases of corruption in Shensi and Szechwan. In the course of the return journey he investigated similar cases in Honan. After his return to Peking, late in 1836, he was promoted to be senior vice-president of the Board of Revenue and assumed the concurrent office of a minister of the Imperial Household. In 1837 he was made concurrently a probationary Grand Councilor, and a year later full Grand Councilor. However, early in 1840 he was discharged from the Grand Council, ostensibly for involvement in a case of corruption; but he retained all his other offices. Late in 1840, after conducting the provincial examination at Nanking, he was charged with irregularities and mistakes in the examination and was deprived of all his ranks and offices.

In 1842, after the first Anglo-Chinese War, many discharged officials were recalled, and Wên-ch'ing was given the rank of an Imperial Bodyguard to serve as the Imperial Agent at Urga. Recalled in 1843, he was made a vice-president of the Board of Civil Appointments, and a year later was made president of the Censorate. Promoted to be president of the Board of Civil Appointments, he served concurrently as commandant of the Peking Gendarmerie and as a minister of the Imperial Household. In the meantime he again served on the Grand Council for a year (1847–48). In 1850, a few months after Emperor Hsüan-tsung died, Wên-ch'ing was charged with failure to apprehend a priest who was guilty of sorcery, and also of paying the priest for charms to cure his own illness. Consequently he was again deprived of all ranks and offices.

In 1851 Wên-ch'ing was given the decorations of a fifth grade official and had a share in building the tomb of Emperor Hsuan-tsung. In 1852 he was again promoted to be a sub-chancellor of the Grand Secretariat, and late in the same year was made president of the Board of Revenue. By 1855 he was again a Grand Councilor, and was promoted to be an Associate Grand Secretary. Early in 1856 he was made a full Grand Secretary, but died late in the same year. He was given posthumously the title, Grand Guardian; the name, Wên-tuan 文端; and his memory was celebrated in the Temple of Eminent Statesmen.

According to Hsüeh Fu-ch'êng [q. v.], Wên-ch'ing realized the necessity of granting power to able Chinese officials if the declining dynasty were to be rejuvenated. Though himself a Manchu, he was a statesman who put the welfare of his country above racial matters. He was conscious of the incompetence of the Manchu officials and brought that fact to the attention of Emperor Wên-tsung. At the same time he used his influence to promote the power and position of such Chinese officials as Tsêng Kuo-fan, Hu Lin-i, Yüan Chia-san and Lo Ping-chang [qq. v.], and so made easier the suppression of the Taiping Rebellion, with their help.

Wên-ch'ing had a relative who admired him greatly—namely, Wên-k'ang 文康 (T. 鐵仙, H. 悔盦), a grandson of Lê-pao. Wên-k'ang's brother (or cousin) had succeeded to the family hereditary rank of marquis, thus making it necessary for Wen-k'ang himself to attain rank by other means. He competed in the examinations, but was apparently unsuccessful. Registering as a student of the Imperial Academy, he purchased an official rank in the Li-fan yüan, or Court of Colonial Affairs. After serving for some time as an assistant director in the Judiciary Department (Li-hsing ssŭ) of the Court, he was selected, early in 1824, to serve concurrently as one of the chief editors of the collected institutes of the Court, entitled Li-fan yüan tsê-li (則例), completed in 1825 and printed in 1827. This work was revised during the years 1833–41, the new edition being printed in 1843. For his services in connection with the compilation and revision of the work, Wên-k'ang was rewarded with the rank of a department director and in 1842 was appointed intendant of the Tientsin Circuit, a post which he held for two years. It seems that for some reason he was degraded, for in 1851 he went to Anhwei and for three years (1851–54) served as second-class sub-prefect of Fêng-yang-fu.

Some sources assert that he once served as prefect of Hui-chou-fu, Anhwei, that he was promoted to the rank of an intendant, and that after retiring for some time owing to the death of a parent, he was named Imperial Agent at Lhasa but was prevented by illness from going. None of these statements are confirmed in the gazetteers or in official documents. We only know that Wên-k'ang was still living in the eighteen-sixties, and that during his last years his sons squandered the family fortune. While enduring poverty at home, he spent his time writing about an ideal family which prospered because its members did not contravene the moral law. The result was a novel, entitled 兒女英雄傳 Êr-nü ying-hsiung chuan, 41 chapters, in which many incidents in the life of the author's illustrious relative, Wên-ch'ing, were doubtless drawn on to depict the hero. Written in the clear Peking colloquial, this novel has in recent years become very popular. It must have gained some notice even before its first printing in 1878, for Tung Hsün [q. v.] was a great admirer of it and made notes and comments on a copy which then was perhaps circulating in manuscript. In 1880 another edition appeared, with Tung Hsün's comments and notes. This edition was reprinted lithographically in 1888 with five illustrations added. The novel is historically interesting because of its vivid portrayal of the thoughts and activities of the inhabitants of North China, particularly the Bannermen, in that day.

[1/392/1a; 2/40/10a; 5/4/4a; Sun K'ai-ti, "Concerning the Êr-nü ying-hsiung chuan" (in Chinese), Bulletin of the National Library of Peiping, vol. 4, no. 6 (1930); Fêng-yang fu-chih (1908) 6/hsia/17a; Hu Shih wên-ts'un (see bibl. under Li Ju-chên), third series, 6/741–65; Tientsin hsien-chih (1931), 3/33/24b; 壬午同年齒錄 Jên-wu t'ung-nien ch'ih-lu, reprint of 1833, 2/190.]

Fang Chao-ying