Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Wei Hsiang-shu

WEI Hsiang-shu 魏象樞 (T. 環極, 庸齋, H. 寒松老人), Oct. 19, 1617–1687, Sept. 6, official, was a native of Yü-chou, Shansi (now in Chahar). His family was poor, but he managed with the help of a brother-in-law to compete in the Metropolitan Examinations. Taking his chin-shih degree in 1646, he was appointed a Hanlin bachelor, and in 1647 became a supervising censor. As censor he fearlessly impeached high officials for bribery and corruption. Early in his career he memorialized the throne recommending a strict investigation of the official system with a view to the eradication of abuses carried over from the preceding dynasty. His petition was granted. In order to ease the congestion caused by large numbers of Manchus occupying houses in Peking, he advocated the sale of vacant public lands and buildings to the merchant class. Later he pleaded for clearly-defined regulations delimiting the governing powers of officials and the eradication of abuses that had arisen during the Emperor's minority. In 1653 he was reprimanded for partisanship in a faction headed by Ch'ên Ming-hsia [q. v.], and late in the following year was included in an accusation which Grand Secretary Ning Wan-wo [q. v.] brought against Ch'ên. Wei cleared himself of these charges, but when Ch'ên was indicted all the supervising censors, including Wei, were degraded on the charge of neglecting to bring the misconduct of Ch'ên earlier to the attention of the throne. Wei Hsiang-shu was reduced to the post of an archivist of the Imperial Supervisorate of Instruction, and later was transferred to the Court of Imperial Entertainment. In 1659 he begged to retire to look after his aged mother, and while at home spent his time in philosophical inquiry.

In 1672, on the recommendation of Grand Secretary Fêng P'u [q. v.], Wei was reappointed a censor. Early in 1674 he was promoted to the post of assistant president of the Censorate, and later in the same year received several more promotions, the last being to the vice-presidency of the Board of Revenue. During his service with this Board he planned the financing and provisioning of the troops engaged in putting down the San Fan Rebellion (see under Wu San-kuei), and suggested valuable reforms in methods of collecting and controlling revenue. In 1678 he was appointed President of the Censorate, and in the following year was recommended for appointment to the presidency of the Board of Punishments, but begged to remain at his post in the Censorate. On the occasion of an earthquake in 1679 he again memorialized on the evils of the period and was granted an audience with the Emperor. The next day the Emperor called all officials together and read an edict condemning official corruption and calling on them to reform. This proclamation is said to have been aimed chiefly at Songgotu [q. v.], a Grand Secretary. Wei Hsiang-shu was asked to recommend incorruptible officials for office, and submitted the names of ten persons, eight of whom were accepted, including Lu Lung-chi [q. v.]. In 1680 he was again recommended for the presidency of the Board of Punishments and accepted the post. Shortly thereafter his health failed. In 1684 he stumbled and fell while on his way to an audience with the Emperor, and on that day petitioned to be retired. The request being granted, he was invited to an audience with the Emperor, and was presented with a tablet (pien 匾) for his studio on which were the characters, 寒松堂 "Hall of the Unfading Pine", written in the Emperor's own hand. He died in 1687 at the age of seventy-one (sui).

As a man and as a censor Wei was fearless, outspoken, and unmindful of consequences to himself when denouncing corruption among high officials. He memorialized more than thirty times, advocating among other measures the employment of men of integrity and ability to fill positions of responsibility. His collected writings, comprising 12 chüan, are entitled Han-sung t'ang ch'üan-chi (全集). Two other works, entitled 儒宗錄 Ju-tsung lu, and 知言錄 Chih-yen lu, are attributed to him. He was given the posthumous name Min-kuo 敏果, and in 1730 his name was entered in the Temple of Eminent Statesmen. In recognition of Wei Hsiang-shu's services his son, Wei Hsüeh-ch'êng 魏學誠 (T. 無爲, H. 一齋, 1657–1721), a chin-shih of 1682, was promoted from the post of secretary in the Grand Secretariat to that of a Hanlin compiler.


[1/269/3b; 3/44/1a; 7/3/9b; 17/1/61a; Yü-chou chih (1877) 14/20b; Han-sung t'ang ch'üan-chi (1811) includes his nien-p'u.]

M. Jean Gates