Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Yao Wên-t'ien

YAO Wên-t'ien 姚文田 (original ming 加畬, T. 秋農, H. 梅漪), Aug. 29, 1758–1827, Dec. 28, scholar and official, was a native of Kuei-an, Chekiang. He became a chü-jên in 1789 and five years later took the special examination granted by Emperor Kao-tsung when the latter was touring through Tientsin. He passed with the highest rank in this examination, and was appointed a secretary in the Grand Secretariat. In 1799 he became by transfer a secretary in the Council of State and in the same year took his chin-shih degree with highest honors, followed by appointment as a first class compiler of the Hanlin Aacdemy. In 1800 he was deputed to serve as chief examiner in the provincial examination of Kwangtung, and later served in the same capacity in Fukien (1801) and Shantung (1801). As an examiner he was noted for his ability to select promising students. He served also as commissioner of education in Kwangtung (1801–04), Honan (1810–13), and Kiangsu (1819–22). In the meantime he filled various posts in the Central Government such as libationer of the Imperial Academy (1813), sub-chancellor of the Grand Secretariat (1814), vice-president of various Boards (1815–24), and president of the Censorate (1824–27) and of the Board of Ceremonies (1827). In all of these posts he was known for uprightness, integrity of character, and diligence in the performance of his duties. He submitted some valuable memorials to the throne about prolonging the term of provincial governors, simplifying the procedure in law suits (1813), and preventing false accusations (1814) and long-standing abuses in the transport of tribute rice (1821). All these memorials were received with high consideration by the emperors. After his death he was canonized as Wên-hsi 文僖.

According to the bibliographical section of the Ch'ing Dynastic History, Yao Wên-t'ien was the author of some fifteen works of which about one third deal with philology, one third with the classics, and the remainder with poems, essays and so forth. In the philological field he compiled the 說文聲系 Shuo-wên shêng-hsi, 14 chüan (completed and printed in 1804), a rearrangement on a phonetic plan of the characters in the ancient dictionary Shuo-wên (see under Tuan Yü-ts'ai); and the Shuo-wên chiao-i, compiled in collaboration with Yen K'o-chün [q. v.]. His study on the Book of Changes, entitled 易原 I-yüan, and on the Spring and Autumn, entitled 春秋月日表說 Ch'un-ch'iu yüeh-jih piao-shuo, being charts and comments on events of the Spring and Autumn Period (722–403 B.C.) arranged chronologically, are collected in the 姚文僖公所著書 Yao Wên-hsi kung so-chu shu (undated) which also includes four other items by him. Another work, entitled 邃雅堂集 Sui-ya t'ang chi, 10 chüan (1821), is a collection of his prose and verse. The 陽宅闢謬 Yang-chai p'i-miu, 1 chüan, is a work condemning certain geomantic practices supposed to be efficacious in the location of dwellings. It was included in the third series of the 咫進齋叢書 Chih-chin chai ts'ung-shu, a collectanea of 35 titles compiled by his grandson, Yao Chin-yüan 姚覲元 (T. 裕萬, H. 彥侍, chü-jên of 1843), and printed in the eighteen-seventies and eighties.


[1/380/1a; 2/34/35a; 3/110/25a; 5/6/17b; 7/24/7a; 20/4/13; 23/55/5a; Kuei-an hsien chih (1582) 32/16b, 31a.]

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