Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Wêng Shu-yüan

WÊNG Shu-yüan 翁叔元 (original ming 栴 T. 寶林 H. 鐵庵), Apr. 9, 1633–1701, Dec. 18, official, was a native of Ch'ang-shu, Kiangsu, but registered in the official examinations as of Yung-p'ing, Chihli. In the Palace examination of 1676 he ranked third (t'an-hua 探花) among the chin-shih of the first class, and was made a Hanlin compiler. In 1678 he had charge of the Shantung provincial examinations, and in the following year became one of the compilers of the official Ming history (Ming-shih). After various promotions, he was made in 1688 president of the Board of Works. Most incumbents of this office regarded it unfavorably and usually hoped for a speedy transfer to another post, one reason being that the cost of construction-work undertaken by this Board very often exceeded the original estimates, with the result that officials in charge delayed submission of their final reports for fear of incurring blame. When Wêng Shu-yüan took over the office, there had accumulated in the years 1678–87 at least forty-three unbalanced accounts of major enterprises. He set to work with vigor and cleared these up in half a year. Granted official leave in 1689, he returned to his home in the south, freed from public responsibilities until the autumn of 1692 when he was recalled to Peking to head the Board of Punishments. He retired in 1697 on the plea of ill health, and died four years later.

Wêng Shu-yüan was criticized for joining, in 1687, the faction of Mingju [q. v.] when it launched its unjustifiable accusations against T'ang Pin [q. v.]. The scholar and bibliophile, Ho Ch'o [q. v.], denounced him in a letter and declared that he no longer regarded himself as his pupil. Ho Ch'o's own repeated failures in the official examinations were in turn attributed by many to Wêng Shu-yüan's possible connivance and revenge.

Wêng was known as a skilled essayist, especially 制藝文, His collected essays, 鐵庵文集 T'ieh-an wên-chi, 12 chüan, were first printed in 1688. His collection of verse is entitled 梵園詩集 Fan-yüan shih-chi. A chronological autobiography, T'ieh-an nien-p'u, brought down to 1697 when he was sixty-five sui, appears in the Chieh-Yüeh shan-fang hui-ch'ao (see under Chang Hai-p'êng). One of his two sons, Wêng Shih-k'uei 翁是揆 (T. 敍百), was a department magistrate of I-chou, Shantung; the other, Wêng Shih-p'ing 翁是平 (T. 壽天), was department magistrate of Kuang-an, Szechwan, and later a secretary in the Board of Punishments. Both are reported to have achieved a measure of distinction in poetry and painting.

[1/277/3a; 3/59/1a; 常昭合志稿 Ch'ang-Chao ho-chih kao (1884) 26/19a.]

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