Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Yao Nai

YAO Nai 姚鼐 (T. 姬傳, 惜抱, 夢穀), Jan. 17, 1732–1815, Oct. 15, author and calligrapher, was a native of T'ung-ch'êng, Anhwei. His great-great-grandfather, Yao Wên-jan 姚文然 (若侯, posthumous name, 端恪, d. 1678); was a chin-shih of 1643 who served under the Manchus as president of the Board of Punishments (1676-78). Yao Nai owed much of his early education in the Classics to his uncle, Yao Fan 姚範 (T. 南青, H. 薑塢, 己銅, 1702–1771), a chin-shih of 1742. He also studied under the great teacher of ku-wên 古文, Liu Ta-k'uei 劉大櫆 (T. 才甫, 海峯, 1697(?)–1779), who was likewise a native of T'ung-ch'êng. Yao Nai became a chü-jên in 1750 and a chin-shih in 1763. Appointed a bachelor of the Hanlin Academy, he was detached from it in 1766 and was made a second class secretary in the Board of War and later, in the Board of Ceremonies. After several promotions he became (1771) a department director in the Board of Punishments. During this period he was appointed supervisor of the provincial examinations in Shantung (1768) and Hunan (1770), and examiner in the metropolitan examination of 1771. While in Peking he associated with such scholars as Wêng Fang-kang and Ch'ien Ta-hsin [qq. v.] and, after 1773, served for more than a year on the editorial staff for the compilation of the catalogue of the Imperial Library, Ssŭ-k'u ch'üan-shu tsung-mu t'i-yao, (see under Chi Yün). Requesting in 1774 to be relieved, he left Peking in the following year, and declined all invitations to office, preferring to teach in various Academies in such cities as Yangchow (1776–78), Anking (1780–87), Shê-hsien (1788) and Nanking (1790–1801, 1805–15). In the meantime he edited part of the Lu-chou fu-chih in 1803 (see under Sun Hsing-yen), and was the chief-editor of the 江寧府志 Chiang-ning fu-chih of 1811. In 1810, on the sixtieth anniversary of his passing the provincial examination, he was given therank of a fourth grade official in the central government. He died in the Chung-shan 鍾山 Academy at Nanking, at the age of eighty-five (sui).

During forty years as head of various academies Yao Nai gathered many disciples who exerted a powerful influence in promoting the principles of ku-wên prose-writing which he espoused, although he himself regarded Fang Pao [q. v.] and Liu Ta-k'uei as the originators of those principles. Owing to the fact that all three were natives of T'ung-ch'êng, the group came to he known—sometime in the seventeen-sixties—as the T'ung-ch'êng School. Yao, like his predecessors Fang and Liu, advocated the philosophy of the Sung Neo-Confucianists, but unlike them stressed the importance of investigation (k'ao-chêng 考證, literally "search for evidence") which was the slogan of the "School of Han Learning" (see under Ku Yen-wu). It is reported that Yao once hinted to Tai Chên [q. v.] that he would like to be a follower of the latter's school, but that Tai politely declined to receive him. Yao himself never achieved much in the scientific study of the Classics, preferring to devote his energies to the promotion of ku-wên literature. He asserted that prose literature of the best type is short, to the point, "unadorned" (平淡), and makes use of simple language. As concrete examples of such writing he edited an anthology, entitled 古文辭類纂 Ku-wên ts'ŭ lei-tsüan, 75 chüan, which was completed in 1779 and was first printed about 1820 by K'ang Shao-yung (see under Li Chao-lo). It consists of selections from the ancient histories such as the 國語 Kuo-yü, the 戰國策 Chan-kuo ts'ê, the 史記 Shih-chi and the 漢書 Han-shu; from the collected works of eight masters of the T'ang and Sung dynasties (see under Fang Pao), and from the writings of Kuei Yu-kuang (see under Kuei Chuang), Fang Pao, and Liu Ta-k'uei. The selected articles were divided according to form into thirteen classes, such as essays, letters, epitaphs, etc. This anthology has been frequently reprinted and supplemented (see under Li Shu-ch'ang). Also popular are the collection of Yao's own ku-wên essays in the 惜抱軒文集 Hsi-pao hsüan wên-chi, 16 chüan (1800), and its supplement, Hsi-pao hsüan wên hou-chi (後集), 10 chüan. Unlike Fang Pao, Yao wrote verse which appears in two collections: Hsi-pao hsüan shih-chi (詩集), 10 chüan (1798), and a supplement of the same title in 1 chüan printed in 1816. He left 8 chüan of miscellaneous notes which were printed in 1821 by a disciple, Mei Tsêng-liang 梅曾亮 (T. 伯言, 1786–1856). These and several other titles comprise Yao's collected works, known as the Hsi-pao hsüan ch'üan-chi (全集). A collection of three previously unpublished works entitled Hsi-pao hsüan i-shu san-chung (遺書三種) appeared in 1879. One of these, the Hsi-pao tsüan shu-lu (書錄), 4 chüan, is a series of bibliographical notes on old books, written while he served on the editorial board of the Ssŭ-k'u ch'üan-shu. Another work, entitled 惜抱先生尺牘續編 Hsi-pao hsien-shêng ch'ih-tu hsü-pien, 2 chüan, is a supplement to his collected letters, Hsi-pao hsien-shêng ch'ih-tu, 8 chüan, edited in 1823 by a disciple, Ch'ên Yung-kuang 陳用光 (T. 碩士, 實思, 1768–1835). These letters are widely read.

Though Yao Nai's known essays are clear and simple, they were characterized, even by his ardent admirer, Tsêng Kuo-fan [q. v.], as unsubstantial, lacking a background of solid study. His contemporaries, Chang Hui-yen and Yün Ching [qq. v.], who founded the so-called "Yang-hu School," read more deeply and therefore had more to write about.

Owing to the efforts of Tsêng Kuo-fan in the middle of the nineteenth century, the T'ung-ch'êng School became nationally known and Yao Nai, as one of its chief exponents, was highly venerated. Yao's anthology, the Ku-wên tz'ŭ lei-tsüan, contributed much to this popularity; for it served as a text-book which brought in convenient form to the reader many of the most finished and evocative writings of antiquity. Even after the abolition of the examination system (1905) his anthology was popular in many schools (see under Wu Ju-lun).

Yao Nai was also a noted calligrapher; a collection of letters and other works written in his own hand was reproduced in facsimile in 1935, under the title Yao Hsi-pao hsien-shêng wên-kao (文稿).


[Chêng Fu-chao, Yao Hsi-pao hsien-shêng nien-p'u (1868); 1/490/3a; 3/146/6a; 4/141/10a; 7/43/3a; 20/3/00; 26/2/42a; 29/6/8b; Chiang Shu-ko 姜書閣, T'ung-ch'êng wên-p'ai shu-p'ing (文派述評); Ch'ên Ping-k'un 陳炳坤, Tsui-chin san-shih nien Chung-kuo wên-hsüeh shih (1930), pp. 77–124; Wang Ch'i-sun (see Shih Yün-yü), T'i-fu wei-ting kao, 25/20a; T'ung-ch'êng wên-hsüeh yüan-yüan (see bibl, under Fang Tung-shu), 3/1a; Suzuki Torao, "The Proponents of the T'ung-ch'êng School and their Theories" (in Japanese) in Shinagaku, vol. VI, no. 1; Anhwei t'ung-chih kao (lieh-chuan), 3/28b; see bibl. under Fang Kuan-ch'êng.]

Fang Chao-ying