Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Yü Hsiao-k'o
YÜ Hsiao-k'o 余蕭客 ( 仲林, 古農), 1729–1777, native of Ch'ang-chou (Soochow), was one of the followers of the great classicist, Hui Tung [q. v.]. When Yü Hsiao-k'o was only five sui his father went to Kwangsi as private secretary to an official, but a few years later his father died and he was brought up by his mother. From youth on he was a diligent student of the Classics, but he early became dissatisfied with the traditional methods of the so-called Sung Learning (see under Ku Yen-wu) which stressed a philosophic rather than a textual and historical study of the Classics. He thus began to read the Classics with the aid of ancient commentaries, and for a time he studied under Hui Tung. Yü's method of study demanded access to an extensive library, but as he was too poor to purchase all the books he needed, he transcribed rare items from the collections of others. He is reported to have read the Taoist Canon and the Tripitaka at temple libraries in Soochow. In 1761 he lived as a tutor in the residence of a fellow townsman, Chu Huan 朱奐 ( 文游), who owned a library, called Tzŭ-lan t'ang 滋蘭堂, where Yü pored over rare books. By 1762 his excessive reading had so impaired his vision that he was unable to read books printed in small type. A few years later he was invited by Fang Kuan-ch'êng [q. v.] to Paoting, Chihli, to participate in the compilation of the Chih-li ho-ch'ü shui-li shu (see under Tai Chên). Soon, however, owing to his rapidly failing eye-sight, he left Paoting (1768) and recommended Tai Chên as his successor. During this short period he visited Peking where his scholarship was recognized by Chu Yün, Chi Yün [qq. v.] and other influential scholars. In his declining years he taught in his native town, Soochow, where he was called the "Blind Master" because he lectured solely from memory.
Though Yü Hsiao-k'o was throughout life an impecunious scholar, and therefore handicapped, he left several works on the Classics, among them the 古經解鉤沈 Ku-ching chieh kou-ch'ên, 30 chüan, a collection of fragments of ancient commentaries on the Classics extracted from various works written prior to the T'ang period. This work was published about 1762, but Yü Hsiao-k'o himself was not satisfied with it and asked his eminent pupil, Chiang Fan [q. v.], to revise it. The latter, however, had no opportunity to do so. The partially impaired printing-blocks of the above-mentioned edition later (1807) came into the possession of the Lu 魯 family of Chinkiang where the work was twice reprinted—the first reprinted edition lacking about thirty leaves of the original, the second (1840) being complete. Yü was so interested in the study of the ancient literary collection, Wên-hsüan (see under Wêng Fang-kang), that he called his studio Hsüan-yin lou 選音樓. His critical work on the text of this classic, Wên-hsüan yin-i (義), 8 chüan, was published with a preface dated 1758; and his Wên-hsüan chi-wên (紀聞), 30 chüan, was printed in the 碧琳琅館叢書 Pi lin-lang kuan ts'ung-shu (second edition 1909). He produced several other works, including a collection of verse which seems not to have been printed.
[1/487/10a; 3/419/17a; 4/133/21a; 7/36/16a.]