WO-jên 倭仁 ( 艮峯), d. June 8, 1871, official, a Mongol of the Plain Red Banner, was born in Honan where his family, of the Wu-ch'i-ko-li 烏齊格里 clan, was a part of the garrison forces in that province. Wo-jên, however, being interested in literary pursuits, became a chin-shih in 1829 and was selected a bachelor of the Hanlin Academy. Made a compiler in 1832, he was quickly promoted through various offices until in 1844 he was made director of the Court of Judicature and Revision. In the meantime, he served as an examiner in the metropolitan examinations of 1835 and 1836, and as director of the provincial examination of Fukien in 1837. In 1850, in response to a decree of the newly-enthroned Emperor Wên-tsung soliciting suggestions on the conduct of government, Wo-jên submitted a memorial in which he advised the Emperor to study hard, and order his mind so that he could differentiate clearly between good and bad officials. Wo-jên characterized the good as likely to be clumsy in speech, generous, farsighted, unaggressive yet unbending, and predisposed to argue with and admonish the Emperor, whereas the bad could be known by their cleverness and their use of flattery. Significantly enough, the memorial was well received. It is worth noting that Ch'i-ying [q. v.], who in response to the same request laid emphasis on ability rather than on high ethical conduct, was dismissed—and officially at least, the memorial which Wo-jên wrote was the ostensible reason.
Late in 1850 Wo-jên was given the rank of a deputy lieutenant-general and was sent to Turkestan as assistant. agent at Yarkand. In 1852 he submitted a memorial advising the Emperor to be tolerant of critics and to be frugal. This time, however, he was rebuked for inadequate attention to business in his charge. Because in 1853 he had lodged accusations, without sufficient evidence, against a Mohammedan prince, he was lowered three grades in rank and recalled to Peking. The following year he was recommended to the throne as one to direct the training of recruits, but the Emperor refused to appoint him on the ground that he was not versed in military matters. He was given, however, the rank of an expectant sub-expositor of the Hanlin Academy and was ordered to serve in the Palace School for Princes as tutor to I-tsung [q. v.], receiving his appointment in 1855. After several promotions, he was made in 1866 vice-president of the Board of Ceremonies at Mukden, and a year later was transferred to the Board of Revenue, being concurrently in charge of civil affairs in the Mukden metropolitan area (Fêng-t'ien-fu). In 1861 he was sent to Korea to announce the accession to the throne of Emperor Mu-tsung (i.e. Tsai-ch'un, q.v.). Then he was summoned to Peking and made president of the Censorate. In 1862 he became president of the Board of Works and was appointed tutor to the child Emperor, holding concurrently the coveted chancellorship of the Hanlin Academy. The two Dowager Empresses (see under Hsiao-ch'in) considered him as man of upright character as well as a widely informed scholar.
At this time Wo-jên submitted to the throne some proverbs and quotations which he had edited with notes. His manuscript was given by a decree the title 啟心金鑑 Ch'i-hsin chin-chien (Golden Mirror for Instruction of the Heart) and was deposited in the hall, Hung-tê tien 弘德殿, which was the Emperor's study. In the same year (1862) he was made a Grand Secretary with supervision of the Board of Revenue. Thereafter he was given many concurrent posts and was recognized as a powerful minister and an authority on the teachings of the Sung Neo-Confucian philosophers. Being anti-foreign and opposed to the policy of Westernization begun by I-hsin and Wên-hsiang [qq. v.], he became the leader of a large group of arrogant and self-righteous officials who opposed all reforms based on foreign patterns, but who perhaps smoked opium in private or bought foreign toys for their children. In 1866, when the T'ung-wên Kuan (see under I-hsin) enlarged its foreign language curriculum to include such subjects as mathentatics and astronomy, a decree was issued encouraging officials below the fifth grade, who had chü-jên or chin-shih degrees, or who were junior members of the Hanlin Academy, to enter the College. Wo-jên protested in a memorial on the ground that it was better for a nation to be established on ceremonies and on ethical codes than on tactics and clever contrivances; that the basic need of China was not technical skill, but cultivation of the heart; and that in any case the study of mathematics under foreign teachers was unnecessary when Chinese could be found who had mastered the subject. In reply, a decree was issued ordering him to recommend some mathematicians and astronomers to teach in a separate school, but he declined the responsibility on the plea that he did not wish to make any hasty recommendations. He was then ordered to serve in the Tsungli Yamen as one of the ministers in charge of foreign affairs. In effecting this appointment, I-hsin probably wished to give Wo-jên an opportunity to inform himself on foreign relations, in the hope that he might thus come to favor reform measures. Wo-jên begged to be excused from such service on the ground that he was by nature "conservative" and was afraid of making mistakes. When these excuses were not accepted, he pleaded illness and was granted leave. Finally he was relieved of all his posts except that of tutor to the Emperor. In 1869 he memorialized that the Emperor's impending marriage should be conducted inexpensively. When the Imperial Printing Press, Wu Ying Tien (see under Chin Chien), was destroyed by fire that summer (1869) he and the other tutors submitted a joint memorial in which they interpreted the fire as a portent from Heaven and advised the Emperor to be frugal and circumspect in his conduct. In the spring of 1871 he became ill, and in June he died. He was canonized as Wên-tuan 文端 and his name was celebrated in the Temple of Eminent Statesmen.
The writings of Wo-jên, printed in 1875 under the title Wo Wên-tuan kung i-shu (公遺書), 5 + 1 chüan, contain his memorials, his poems and short articles in prose, excerpts from hidiaries on philosophical and ethical topics, and the above-mentioned Ch'i-hsin chin-chien. He also produced a work concerning his journey to Yarkand, entitled 莎車紀行 So-ch'ê chi-hsing.
A son of Wo-jên, named Fu-hsien 福咸 (d. 1860), when acting as intendant of Southern Anhwei, defended, for three months in 1860, the city of Hsüan-ch'êng against an attack of the Taipings, but was killed after the city surrendered. Another son, Fu-yü 福裕 (d. 1900), was at one time governor of the Mukden metropolitan area (1894–95), but was cashiered. When the Allied Forces took Peking, after the Boxer Uprising in 1900, he committed suicide by taking poison, and with him died his family and the families of several cousins. One cousin who then committed suicide was Fu-jun 福潤 (I-huan), the second Prince Ch'un, and after her death the prince was free to marry a daughter of Jung-lu [q. v.]. This seems to have been the episode which a Manchu lady once narrated to Mrs. Conger, the wife of the American Minister in Peking (reference in bibliography).餘庵) who had served as governor of Shantung (1891–94) and of Anhwei (1894–96). The wife and daughter of another cousin, named Fu-mou 福楙, onetime sub-chancellor of the Grand Secretariat, also committed suicide. This daughter of Fu-mou was betrothed to Tsai-fêng (see under
Wo-jên was widely known for his emphasis on frugality. To promote this virtue, he is reported to have organized a club known as the "Bran Eating Society" (吃糠會). Whether he himself observed the injunction to eat bran instead of white flour is not clear, but a story gained currency that when neighbors looked over his back wall, which had collapsed after a heavy rain, they observed that very tasty food was being prepared in his kitchen. It cannot be doubted that his professed advocacy of the strict moral injunctions of the Sung Neo-Confucianists was a factor in raising him to high offices and to wealth. His opposition to the introduction of Western knowledge was due in part to his ignorance, and in part to a general feeling among the Hanlin group—of whom he was a leading member—that their private interests would be jeopardized if newer ideas were not checked at the source. Men of this type were superstitious and believed in geomancy, in ghosts and in astrology. They despised foreigners because China had several times been humiliated by them. But instead of investigating foreign mays and studying how to meet them, they banned these things indiscriminately, opposing all things of Western origin and all persons who knew about them. Of such a group Wo-jên was the ideal leader, and after his death Hsü T'ung and Lien-i (for both see under Jung-lu) and other sponsors of the Boxers took his place. Much of the obscurantism which led to the Boxer Uprising, and all but ruined China, may he laid at the door of Wo-jên. If this conclusion seems harsh, it must be remembered that the sons of I-tsung were all notorious sponsors of the Boxers and that I-tsung was a pupil of Wo-jên.
[1/397/1a; 2/46/17b; 5/5/23a; Wo-wên-tuan kung i-shu; Hsieh Chang-t'ing [q. v.], Tu-ch'i-shan-chuang wên-chi, 7/11a; Fêng Shu, Kêng-tzŭ hsin-hai chung-lieh hsiang-tsan (see bibl. under Ch'ung-ch'i); 庚子京師褒䘏錄 Kêng-tzŭ Ching-shih pao-hsüeh lu 1/7a; Conger, Sarah Pike, Letters from China (1909), p. 279; Chin-shih jên-wu chih (see Wêng T'ung-ho), p. 68.]