Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Yen K'o-chün

YEN K'o-chün 嚴可均 (T. 景文, H. 鐵橋), 1762–1843, scholar, was a native of Wu-ch'êng, Chekiang. Finding himself unable to advance in the examinations in his native province, owing it is said, to delinquency in taxes, he went to the capital in 1795 and registered as from Wan-p'ing (Peking). There, in 1800, he passed the Shun-t'ien provincial examination and became a chü-jên. Beginning about 1796, he became interested in the study of the Shuo-wên (see under Tuan Yü-ts'ai) and related philological subjects, which he pursued, together with his friend, Yao Wên-t'ien [q. v.]. Yen was one of the pioneers in this field, for at that time interest in the study of the Shuo-wên was slight and few of its numerous collated texts had appeared. The great works on the subject (see under Tuan, Niu Shu-yü, Fêng Kuei-fên et. al) had not yet been published. Yen's first publiished work on the Shuo-wên was the Shuo-wên ting-ting (訂訂), printed in 1800 (see Tuan Yü-ts'ai); the second was the Shuo-wên shêng-lei (聲類), 2 chüan, completed in 1802; and the third was entitled Shuo-wên i (翼), 15 chüan, completed in 1807, which dealt with variant forms of the ancient characters, collected from inscriptions on metal or stone. The fourth, and most important, study was the Shuo-wên chiao-i (校議), 30 chüan, with a sketch of the life of Hsü Shên (see Tuan Yü-ts'ai). It was printed about 1818 and was compiled in collaboration with Yao Wên-t'ien and Sun Hsing-yen [q. v.]. This last work sets forth correctives in the text of the Shuo-wên as edited by Hsü Hsüan 徐鉉 (T. 鼎亞, 916–991), by imperial order in 986, but it contained so many errors that a cousin, Yen Chang-fu 嚴章福 (T. 雲[音]甫, H. 秋樵), revised it in 1861, and it was published later under the title Shuo-wên chiao-i i (議).

When Yao Wên-t'ien became commissioner of education in Kwangtung (1801–1804), Yen K'o-chün also went in 1802 to that province, apparently on Yao's invitation. In 1803 Yen was head of an Academy in the Hsiang-shan district (Kwangtung), and during his stay there made a study of the texts of the classics carved on stone (shih-ching 石經), particularly those of the T'ang dynasty—collaborating in the task with a friend, Ting Jung 丁溶 (T. 秋水, chü-jên of 1778). One result of these studies was the 唐石經校文 T'ang shih-ching chiao wên, in 10 chüan, printed in 1804.

When the government instituted, in 1808, the bureau for the compilation of the Ch'üan t'ang-wên, (see under Tung Kao), Yen K'o-chün decided to compile, on his own responsibility, a. similar thesaurus of prose literature written prior to the establishment of the T'ang dynasty (618 A.D.). He included in it inscriptions from stone and bronze, quotations from lost works that survived in other records—in fact all that he could find outside well-known classical, historical, philosophical, and gazetteer literature. In its final form the title reads全上古三代秦漢三國六朝文 Ch'üan shang-ku San-tai Ch'in Han San-kuo Liu-ch'ao wên, "Complete Collection of Prose Literature from Remote Antiquity through the Ch'in and Han Dynasties, the Three Kingdoms, and the Six Dynasties." He began to work on it in the autumn of 1808. His preface states that after nine years (1817) the material was roughly in shape and after another eighteen years (1836) his task was ended. The work, therefore, is the product of twenty-seven years of continuous labor. It cites from, and gives biographical sketches of, some 3,400 authors. It was about to be printed in 1815 when the material only covered the dynasties from the Han to the Sui inclusive. But the printing was abandoned and was not carried out during the author's lifetime. The table of contents and the biographical sketches were compiled by a fellowtownsman, Chiang Jui 蔣壡 (original ming, 維培 T. 季卿, H. 奇嶔, d. c. 1860), and were printed in 1886 in 103 chüan. Printing of the text—without the index of five chüan referred to in the original table of contents—was undertaken in 1887 at the Kuang-ya Shu-chü (see under Chang Chih-tung) by Wang Yü-tsao 王毓藻 (chin-shih of 1863) and was completed in 1893, in 741 chüan. An index of five chüan, arranged according to rhyme, was made by Min Sun-shih 閔孫奭 in 1925, and was printed in 1931. Another index to the authors whose works are cited was printed in 1932 as the Harvard-Yenching Sinological Index Series, No. 8. The above-mentioned Canton edition, collated by Shên Ch'ien-i 沈乾一 with Yen K'o-chün's original draft, was recently reproduced in facsimile by the I-hsüeh Shu-chü 醫學書局, Shanghai.

Yen K'o-chün assisted Sun Hsing-yen in editorial tasks at Nanking after the latter retired from official life in 1811. One product of their joint labors was a collection of sayings of Confucius, entitled 孔子集語 K'ung-tzŭ chi-yü, 17 chüan, which was printed in the P'ing-ching kuan ts'ung-shu (see under Sun Hsing-yen). When Sun died, early in 1818, some of his unpublished essays were edited by Yen under the title 孫淵如外集 Sun Yüan-ju wai-chi, 5 chüan. In 1822 Yen obtained a position as director of the district school of Chien-tê, Chekiang, where he remained until 1835. In a letter to a friend, dated 1826, he describes the post as very unattractive, with a stipend of but forty taels annually which scarcely covered his house-rent and his fee for sedan chairs. He spent the remainder of his life at his home in Wu-ch'êng.

Early in 1835 Yen K'o-chün sent a letter to Hsü Sung [q. v.] in which he listed the works which he had written, compiled, or collated, or in which he had collaborated with others. The list contains more than seventy items in some 1,250 chüan. with the titles arranged under four categories. To all these works he gave the general title 四錄堂類集 Ssŭ-lu t'ang lei-chi. He adds that thirteen of these works had already been printed. A study of the classic, Êr-ya, entitled 爾雅一切注音 Êr-ya i-ch'ieh chu-yin, 10 chüan, was printed in 1887 in the Mu-hsi hsüan ts'ung-shu (see under Liu Hsi-hai). There the name of the author is given as Yen Wan-li 嚴萬里 instead of Yen K'o-chün, though with the same hao. This would seem to indicate that at some time in his life, or on some occasions, he used the name Wan-li.

Like his friend, Sun Hsing-yen, Yen took a keen interest in establishing more satisfactory texts for works of antiquity that had suffered through centuries of copying or misprinting. His literary collection, 鐵橋漫稿 T'ieh-ch'iao man-kao, 8 chüan, consisting of 2 chüan of verse and 6 of prose, was reprinted in 1885 in the 心榘齋叢書 Hsin-chü chai ts'ung-shu. A collection with the same title, in 13 chüan, had been printed by Yen Chang-fu in 1838. As a bibliophile, Yen K'o-chün managed eventually to accumulate some 20,000 chüan.


[1/448/10a; 2/69/20b; 5/72/25a; 6/27/5a; 湖洲府志 Hu-chou fu-chih (1874) 76/31a; Yü Chêng-hsieh [q. v.], Kuei-ssŭ ts'un-kao (1884) 12/21a; Hsü-hsüeh k'ao (see bibl. under Niu Shu-yü) 2/166, 3/la, 9/17b, 13/la, 26/36a; Yen Ch'i-fêng, 傳家琬琰錄 Ch'uan-chia wan-yen lu (biographies of the Yen Family of Wu-ch'êng) manuscript copy in Library of Congress.]

Tu Lien-chê