Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Wu Wei-yeh

WU Wei-yeh 吳偉業 (T. 駿公, H. 梅村), June 21, 1609–1672, Jan. 23, scholar and landscape artist, was a native of T'ai-ts'ang, Kiangsu. Impressed with his talents as a youth, Chang P'u [q. v.], one of the founders of the party known as Fu-shê, voluntarily chose him as a pupil. In 1631 he became a chin-shih with high honors and was appointed a Hanlin compiler. In 1639 he was made a tutor in the Imperial Academy in Nanking. Despondent at the fall of Peking, and at the suicide of the last Ming Emperor, in 1644, he resolved to take his own life, but was prevented by his mother. In the following year he accepted a post as assistant supervisor of instruction in the government of the Prince of Fu (see Chu Yu-sung), but disagreeing with the policies of the officials in power, he soon resigned and went home.

While teaching in Kashing, Chekiang, in 1652 Wu Wei-yeh wrote the historical work 綏寇紀略 Sui-k'ou chi-lüeh, 12 chüan, which deals with the insurrections that preceded the fall of the Ming dynasty. This work went for a time under different names, such as 鹿樵紀聞 Lu-ch'iao chi-wên and Lu-ch'iao yeh-shih (野史). It was banned, together with his collected writings, in the Ch'ien-lung period, and doubts have been raised as to authorship.

Owing to official pressure and the advice of his parents, Wu Wei-yeh was induced in 1653 to accept official posts under the new dynasty, rising to the rank of libationer of the Imperial Academy. But he resigned four years later on the occasion of his mother's death. In 1660–61 he became involved in a tax delinquency case (see under Yeh Fang-ai) which resulted in the loss not only of his official rank, but also of a good share of his property.

Wu Wei-yeh was one of the foremost poets of his day. There are to be found in his verses many references to contemporary events, but never in a form that could offend the Manchus. Emperor Kao-tsung was fond of his poetry and wrote some lines in praise of it, sometime before he ascended the throne. A collection of Wu's poems and essays, entitled 梅村集 Mei-ts'un chi, 40 chüan, was printed in 1668-69. An ampler edition, entitled Mei-ts'un chia-ts'ang kao (家藏稿), 58 + 1 chüan, was edited by his sons after his death, but was not printed until 1911. This edition has appended to it a chronological account of his life, entitled Wu Mei-ts'un hsien-shêng nien-p'u, compiled by Ku Shih-shih 顧師軾 (T. 景和, H. 雪堂) and first printed independently in 1845. There are at least three annotated editions of Wu's poems: 吳詩集覽 Wu-shih chi-lan, 19 chüan, annotated by Chin Jung-fan 靳榮藩 (T. 介人, H. 綠溪, chin-shih of 1748) and printed in 1775; Wu Mei-ts'un shih-chi chien-chu (箋注), 18 chüan, annotated by Wu I-fêng 吳翌鳳 (T. 伊仲, H. 枚庵, 1742–1819) and printed in 1814; and Wu Mei-ts'un pien-nien shih (編年詩) chien-chu, 12 chüan, annotated by Ch'êng Mu-hêng 程穆衡 (T. 惟惇, chin-shih of 1737), and printed in 1929.

A son of Wu Wei-yeh, named Wu Ching 吳暻 (T. 元朗, H. 西齋, 1662–1707, chin-shih of 1688), was also a celebrated poet who left a collection of verse, entitled 西齋集 Hsi-chai chi, 10 chüan, printed in 1771.


[Ma Tao-yüan, Wu Mei-ts'un nien-p'u (1935); Suzuki Torao, Go Baison nempu, in Takase hakase kanreki-kinen Shinagaku-ronsō, 1928, pp. 795–953; T'ai-ts'ang chou-chih (1918), 20/1a; Ssŭ-k'u, 49/6b, 173/2b; 2/29/18a; 4/43/18a; 27/1/5b; W.M.S.C.K. 2/16a, 7/1a; L.T.C.L.H.M., p. 100, lists 13 paintings by Wu; Sui-k'ou chi-lüeh occurs in Chang Hai-p'êng's [q. v.] Hsieh-ching t'ao-yüan.]

Tu Lien-chê