Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Wu Hsi-ch'i

WU Hsi-ch'i 吴錫麒 (T. 聖徵, H. 穀人), 1746–1818, man of letters, was a native of Ch'ien-t'ang (Hangchow). A chin-shih of 1775, he first was appointed a sub-reader in the Hanlin Academy. After having passed through several positions, including that of second-class compiler, he finally became a libationer. In 1796 he served in the Imperial Study as tutor to the imperial great-grandson. He was on particularly good terms with Yung-hsing [q. v.] for whom he often wrote colophons, and for whom on one occasion he wrote a plaque. Having asked permission of the authorities to return home to support his parents, he went to Yangchow (1798) where, aside from other duties, he was director of the An-ting 安定 Academy. He then went to Peking and was re-instated in his original position, but he again asked permission to return home to support his parents. Later he once more became director of the An-ting Academy where he assisted in collating the Ch'üan T'ang wên (see under Tung Kao). He is pictured as a man without personal ambition who enjoyed discussing literary topics with his friends. The publication of his poetry and prose, nevertheless, brought him great fame. Even the emissaries from Korea and the Loochoo Islands, bringing tribute to Peking, vied with each other to buy up as many copies as possible and to take them back to their homes.

Wu's collected works are entitled 有正味齋集 Yu-chêng-wei chai chi, 52 chüan. The preface is dated 1808. This collection is divided into four smaller collections, comprising his verse, his balanced-prose essays, his poems in irregular meter, and miscellaneous items. The poet and essayist, Wu Tzŭ 吳鼒 (T. 山尊, H. 抑庵, 1755–1821), incorporated some of the prose of Wu Hsi-ch'i in a collection of the p'ien-t'i, or "balanced-prose essays", of eight Ch'ing writers, entitled 八家四六 Pa-chia ssŭ-liu. Wu Hsich'i is commended as having inherited from Hang Shih-chün and Li Ê [qq. v.] the sceptre in the field of belles-lettres, in the province of Chekiang.

Wu's younger brother, Wu Hsi-lin 吳錫麟 (T. 洛書), was also a poet; his son, Wu Ch'ing-kao 吳清皋 (T. 鳴九, H. 小穀, 1786–1849, a chü-jên of 1813), was prefect of Fu-chou (1837–42) and Nanchang (1843–49), both in Kiangsi. Another son, Wu Ch'ing-p'êng 吳清鵬 (T. 西穀, H. 笏庵, 1786–185?, chin-shih of 1817), was a conscientious vice-governor of Shun-t'ien-fu (1834–41) and director of the An-ting Academy after his retirement from official life. He and Wu Ch'ing-kao were twins.


[1/490/8b; 3/132/1a; Hangchow fu-chih (1922), 146/14a; 20/3/00 (portrait); 吳氏一家稿 Wu-shih i-chia kao, writings by members of the family, edited by Wu Ch'ing-p'êng and printed about 1855.]

Rufus O. Suter