Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Wang Hsi

WANG Hsi 王熙 (T. 子雍 and 胥庭, H. 慕齋), Aug. 7, 1628–1703, Mar. 14, official, eldest son of Wang Ch'ung-chien [q. v.], was a native of Wan-p'ing (Peking). Taking his chin-shih in 1647 at the age of nineteen, he was made a bachelor of the Kuo-shih yüan 國史院 to where he was taught the Manchu language. Appointed a corrector two years later, he distinguished himself by mastering both spoken and written Manchu. After successive promotions he was appointed a sub-chancellor of the Hung-wên yüan 弘文院 at a time when his father was holding a similar sub-chancellorship in the Kuo-shih yüan. In 1658, when the Hanlin Academy was re-established along lines that prevailed in the Ming period, Wang Hsi was made its first chancellor. Thereafter he was much in Emperor Shih-tsu's councils, and in 1661 was summoned to draft his last will. The will was destroyed for political reasons (see under Fu-lin) and Wang never revealed its contents. He rose successively to the presidencies of the Censorate in 1666, the Board of Works in 1668, and the Board of War in 1673. Holding the last post when Wu San-kuei [q. v.] rebelled in south China, he persuaded Emperor Shêng-tsu, in 1674, to order the execution of Wu Ying-hsiung, son of the rebel leader, despite the fact that this son was the husband of one of the Emperor's great-aunts (for details see Wu San-kuei). This drastic action put an end to rumors of a threatened uprising in Peking, and stopped the exodus of many of the residents from the city gates. In the same year Wang Hsi was entrusted with the reading of confidential memorials on military matters.

During the latter part of this so-called San-fan Rebellion, which lasted from 1673 to 1681, he stayed at home to mourn the death of his father, which occurred in 1678. Four years later he became a Grand Secretary. After Mingju [q. v.] was stripped of his rank in 1688, Wang Hsi was recognized as the most influential official in the empire. Nevertheless, he was prudent and thoughtful and was liked by all. Only after four refusals was he permitted to retire, in 1701, with the added title of Junior Tutor. In the following year he was given an honorary tablet, or pien 扁, inscribed by the Emperor's own hand with the words, "Long Life and Abiding Virtue" (耆年舊德). He died in 1703 and was canonized as Wên-ching 文靖. His collected essays and poems in 24 chüan, entitled Wang Wên-ching kung wên-chi (also called 寶翰堂集 Pao-han-t'ang chi), were printed in 1707. In contemporary Jesuit accounts, Wang Hsi's name is spelled "Vam Hi".


[Wang Wên-ching kung tzŭ-chuan nien-p'u (自撰年譜); 1/256/5b; 3/4/1a; 4/12/1a; T'oung Pao, 1924, p. 365; Wang Wan, Tun-wêng lei-kao, 33/1a.]

Fang Chao-ying