Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Wang An-kuo

WANG An-kuo 王安國 (T. 書城, H. 春圃), June 24, 1694–1757, Feb. 25, official and scholar, was a native of Kao-yu, Kiangsu. For many generations his forefathers were scholars and teachers. After obtaining his chin-shih degree with high honors in 1724 he was appointed a compiler in the Hanlin Academy, and in the following year participated in the compilation of the first edition of the Ta-Ch'ing i-tung chih (see under Hsü Ch'ien-hsüeh and Yung-yen). In 1732 he was appointed a reviser for the compilation of the first edition (1739) of the Pa-ch'i t'ung-chih (see under Li Fu). In the same year (1732) he was in charge of the provincial examination in Fukien, and in the following year became a tutor in the Imperial Academy. In 1735 he was appointed commissioner of education in western Kwangtung, with the designation Chao-Kao hsüeh-chêng 肇高學政 as distinguished from the office in eastern Kwangtung, known as Kuang-Shao (廣韶) hsüeh-chêng. The division of the province for this purpose was put into effect early in 1730, but in 1751 the earlier practice of having one commissioner for the whole province was resumed.

Upon his return to the capital (1739) Wang An-kuo was made vice-president of the Board of Punishments (1739–40). Late in 1740, while serving as vice-president of the Censorate, he charged Wang Mu (see under Wang Yüan-ch'i) governor of Kwangtung, with having illegally appointed a magistrate; and after Wang Mu's dismissal Wang An-kuo was ordered to fill the place. By virtue of his energetic and efficient administration many old rules and traditions in the province were altered. In 1744 he was appointed president of the Board of War, but did not take the post owing to his father's death (1744) and the customary period of mourning. In 1746 he returned to Peking to take the presidency of the Board of Ceremonies, a post he held until 1755. In 1747 he was named to serve concurrently as one of the directors for the compilation of the third edition of the 大清會典 Ta-Ch'ing hui-tien or "Collected Statutes of the Empire", and the first edition of the 大清通禮 Ta-Ch'ing t'ung-li, or "Collected Rules of Ceremony". The first edition of the Ta-Ch'ing hui-tien, in 162 chüan, was commissioned in 1684 and completed in 1690. The second edition, in 250 chüan, was commissioned in 1724 and completed in 1733. The third edition, in 100 chüan (with tsê-li 則例, or regulations, in 180 chüan), was commissioned in 1747 and completed early in 1767. The fourth edition, in 80 chüan (with shih-li 事例, or precedents, in 920 chüan, and t'u 圖, or illustrations, in 132 chüan), was commissioned in 1801 and completed in 1818 (see under Yü Chêng-hsieh). The fifth edition, in 100 chüan, with shih-li in 1,220 chüan and t'u in 270 chüan, was commissioned in 1886 and completed in 1899. The Library of Congress has all five editions. As for the Ta-Ch'ing t'ung-li, the first edition, in 50 chüan, was commissioned in 1736, completed in 1759 and printed in 1818. An expanded edition in 54 chüan was commissioned in 1819 and completed in 1824.

In 1755 Wang An-kuo was appointed president of the Board of Civil Office, but was permitted to resign, late in 1756, on grounds of ill health. Upon his death he was canonized as Wên-su 文肅. He exemplified in his life a long-standing family tradition of strict morality. He was serious-minded and rigorous in the application of his principles, and led a life of extreme simplicity. Though he held many high positions, he remained to the end a poor man, devoted whole-heartedly to the service of his country. By nature a student deeply interested in the classics, he was unable to complete his studies in this field. His ambitions were fulfilled, however, and that handsomely, by his son, Wang Nien-sun, and his grandson, Wang Yin-chih [qq. v.].

[3/76/32a; 4/29/11a; 9/21/24b; 20/2/00; 肇慶府志 Chao-ch'ing fu-chih (1876) 13/2b; Lo Chên-yü 羅振玉, 高郵王氏遺書 Kao-yu Wang-shih ishu (1925); Ssŭ-k'u 68/3b, 81/5a, 82/5b.]

Li Man-kuei