Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Yin-t'ang

YIN-t'ang 胤禟, Oct. 17, 1683–1726, Sept. 22, was the ninth son of Emperor Shêng-tsu. During the struggle among his brothers for the throne (see under Yin-jêng and Yin-chên), he took the side of Yin-t'i (禵) and Yin-ssŭ [qq. v.] and opposed another aspirant, Yin-chên [q. v.]. In 1709 he was made a prince of the fourth degree (貝子). Like his half brothers, he had his own retainers and supporters. One of his proponents was the Portuguese missionary, Jean Mourao or João Mourão 穆敬[經,景]遠 (T. 若望, 1681–1726), who informed Nien Kêng-yao [q. v.] during the years 1718–22 that Yin-t'ang would probably succeed to the throne. Among others who supported Yin-t'ang and his faction were Sunu [q. v.] and Yin-ê 胤䄉 (1683–1741), the tenth son of Emperor Shêng-tsu who was at one time a prince of the second degree with the designation Tun (敦郡王).

Yin-t'ang is described as possessing only moderate ability or intelligence, but his great wealth made him a desirable ally for any ambitious prince. He accumulated his fortune partly through commercial enterprises—some of them perhaps illegal. Moreover, he controlled a due share of Banner companies which were in duty bound to supply him with funds. Furthermore, his daughter was betrothed to Yung-fu 永福 who was probably a son of K'uei-hsü [q. v.] and therefore a grandson of the opulent minister, Mingju [q. v.]. According to Yin-t'ang's treasurer, Ch'in Tao-jan (see under Ch'in Huit'ien), Yin-t'ang, in consequence of this relationship, obtained from Mingju's estates a fortune of about five hundred thousand taels. This sum, together with the two hundred thousand taels he had already accumulated, enabled him to exert a powerful influence in favor of Yin-t'i, much to the discomfiture of the other aspirant, Yin-chên. When Yin-ti was favored by Emperor Shêng-tsu with appointment as commander-in-chief of the troops at Sining (1718) he received much financial aid from Yin-t'ang. At the same time he repeatedly requested Yint'ang to keep him informed of developments at Peking, particularly in the event of the aged Emperor's death.

When Emperor Shêng-tsu died unexpectedly late in 1722 Yin-chên, who was residing in Peking, was fully prepared to ascend the throne. Though Yin-t'i had a large army at his command, he was too distant to be kept informed and, moreover, was being observed by Nien Kêng-yao. In Peking Yin-chên's henchman, Lungkodo [q. v.], commanded the gendarmerie and was ready for the emergency. For this reason Yin-t'ang and Yin-ssŭ were powerless to make effective opposition and their faction was dispersed. Yin-ssŭ was nominally elevated, but was always under the surveillance of the Emperor; Yin-ê was dispatched to Mongolia on a mission; Yin-t'i was relieved of his command and was recalled to Peking; and Yin-t'ang was commanded to go to Sining in order that he might be under the close watch of Nien Kêng-yao.

Yin-t'ang did not leave immediately for Sining, as ordered, but loitered in Peking on various pretexts. In March 1723 he was sharply reprimanded and sent on his way. Several of his servants were banished to Kwangsi. For attempting to defend him, two of his supporters, sons of Sunu, were also banished to Sining. At first, Yin-t'ang enjoyed some liberties in Sining, though his movements were always reported to the Emperor. In 1724 his entire family joined him, with the exception of his son, Hung-yang 弘暘, who was allowed to remain in Peking to look after household affairs. By this time (May, 1724) Yin-ê was deprived of all ranks and sentenced to life imprisonment, ostensibly for disobeying orders, but actually because he kept up communication with Yin-t'ang. In a letter which Yin-t'ang wrote to Yin-ê, and which was found among the latter's effects, there appeared the words, "the opportunity is gone, and repining for it to come again is useless". Whatever import the words may originally have had, their disclosure doubtless confirmed the Emperor in his suspicions.

Early in 1725 a Manchu official, Cujung 楚宗 (仲), was sent by imperial decree to Sining to guard Yin-t'ang, at a time when Nien Kêng-yao was found to have secretly communicated with him. One reason for Yin-t'ang being guarded more closely was the fact that he soon established, in the region where he lived, a reputation for fair-dealing. Upon his arrival, Cujung reported that Yin-t'ang was infuriated by the edict, did not show due respect when the edict was read to him, and declined to admit having conducted himself in a way to warrant such treatment. A few months later, the Emperor, after listing his grievances against Yin-t'ang, ordered all his ranks to be taken from him and the Bannermen allotted to his service recalled.

Among Yin-t'ang's followers who were banished with him was the missionary, Mourao, who lived in a courtyard adjoining that of Yin-t'ang. Taking the precaution not to communicate with him through the front gates, Mourao sometimes joined him by climbing through a window. From the missionary, Yin-t'ang learned the Latin or Portuguese alphabet, and used it either to romanize Chinese words or to devise a code with which to communicate with his son, Hung-yang. Early in 1726 such a letter from Hung-yang was intercepted by the Emperor's agents. The Emperor, alert for such evidence, issued a long edict concerning the conduct of Yin-t'ang, designating his activities as treasonous. At the same time an edict was issued against Yin-ssŭ. The two were then expelled from the Imperial Clan, and thus made liable to the punishment meted out to commoners. Ordered to change their names, Yin-ssŭ complied by taking the name Acina, a Manchu word meaning 'cur', a chastisement supplemented by imprisonment in Peking. Because the Emperor was not satisfied with the name which Yin-t'ang suggested for himself, a grand council of princes decided to confer on him the name Sesḥe 塞思黑, meaning "pig". In the meantime Yin-t'ang was brought in irons from Sining to Paoting, Chihli, where on June 14, 1726 he was put under the custody of Li Fu [q. v.], the governor-general. There he was confined in a small three-room house surrounded by high walls with the gate locked and sealed, food being delivered by means of pulleys. At first four servants were permitted to remain with him but on July 25 the servants were imprisoned elsewhere. On August 12 he had an attack of dysentery and less than a month later showed weakness and lack of appetite. On September 20 he lapsed into a coma, and two days later he died. To Li's memorial concerning this event the Emperor added the comment that Yin-t'ang had been "called to justice by the nether world", and that anyone who came to mourn his death should be arrested and investigated. A few days later (September 30), Yin-ssŭ also died in confinement.

Yin-t'ang and Yin-ssŭ were never allowed to speak in their own defense. They were convicted on evidence proffered by the Emperor himself or extracted from their former supporters. The testimony against Yin-t'ang, given by Mourao, Ch'in Tao-jan, and others was the basis of an edict (issued on July 2, 1726) listing twenty-eight "crimes" of Yin-t'ang. The same edict also lists forty "crimes" of Yin-ssŭ. The courtiers recommended that they be executed, but the Emperor, unwilling perhaps to be branded as having decreed the execution of his own brothers, preferred to let them die in prison. What they endured during those summer months was probably less tolerable than outright execution. Even during his exile at Sining Yin-t'ang had told Mourao that the indignities he was subjected to were worse than death by the sword.

The followers of Yin-t'ang were convicted separately. Mourao died in confinement on August 18, 1726, in far-distant Kansu. Ch'in Tao-jan was convicted, not only for having been associated with Yin-t'ang, but on the charge that he had obtained a large sum of money unlawfully. He was imprisoned, but was released early in the Ch'ien-lung period. In like manner Yin-ê was released in 1737. Little is known of the fate of other members of Yin-t'ang's faction. Yin-t'ang's family remained commoners until 1778 when Emperor Kao-tsung re-instated them in the Imperial Clan. In 1782 Yin-t'ang's eldest son, Hung-chêng 弘晸, was made a prince of the eighth degree, but was deprived of the rank in the following year.


[See bibliography under Yin-ssŭ].

Fang Chao-ying