Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Yung-lin

YUNG-lin 永璘, June 17, 1766–1820, Apr. 25, the first Prince Ch'ing (慶親王), was the seventeenth son of Emperor Kao-tsung (see under Hung-li). His mother was Empress Hsiao-i and he was a younger brother of Emperor Jên-tsung (for both see under Yung-yen). In 1789 he was made a prince of the third degree and in 1799, after his brother ascended the throne, he was made a prince of the second degree with the designation Hui (惠郡王) which a few days later was changed to Ch'ing. After the property of Ho-shên [q. v.] was confiscated, Yung-lin was given the enormous palace which Ho-shên had occupied. It is said that in the last years of the Ch'ien-lung period (1736–96) several princes deliberated on methods of getting rid of Ho-shên, and that whereas other princes, including Yung-yen, expressed decisive views on the matter, Yung-lin said nothing. When chided for his silence he is said to have remarked that, unlike his brothers, he had no ambition in political matters, but would accept a gift of Ho-shên's magnificent residence in Peking. However this may be, when Ho-shên was removed, Emperor Jên-tsung saw to it that the wish of Yung-lin was fulfilled. About the year 1852 this palace, situated northeast of the present Catholic University, became the property of I-hsin [q. v.].

Yung-lin was a man of mediocre ability and never played a conspicuous role. When he became ill in 1820 the Emperor paid him a visit and elevated him to a prince of the first degree (親王). He died shortly therafter and was canonized as Hsi (僖). Three of his sons grew to maturity. The third, Mien-min 綿愍 (d. 1836, posthumous name 良), inherited the reduced rank of a prince of the second degree and became the second Prince Ch'ing. The other two, Mien-t'i 綿悌 (d. 1849) and Mien-hsing 綿性, were evidently out of favor with Emperor Hsüan-tsung, for when Mien-min died without a male heir, a grand-nephew of Yung-lin, named I-ts'ai (see under Yung-hsüan), was appointed his successor. Out of deference to Mien-min, Emperor Hsüan-tsung allowed I-ts'ai to inherit the princedom of the second degree instead of one of a lower rank. But in 1842 I-ts'ai was accused of having taken a concubine during a mourning period, and of having bribed a clerk in the Imperial Clan Court to have his punishment minimized. In the meantime Mien-hsing himself, hoping to inherit I-ts'ai's rank, bribed a clerk to bring to view additional misdemeanors of I-ts'ai in order that the latter might be wholly discredited. Finally all involved were punished. I-ts'ai was deprived of all ranks, and Mien-hsing, and the clerks who were implicated, were sent into exile. Mien-t'i was then appointed heir to Yung-lin's dwindling estate. It seems that about this time (1842) the descendants of Yung-lin had to leave their lavish palace and were given the confiscated residence of Ch'i-shan [q. v.] on the street named Ting-fu ta-chieh 定府大街. Whatever the original condition of this residence, it later became one of the richest in Peking, and in the last years of the dynasty was a political center.

Mien-t'i died without a male heir, and a son of Mien-hsing named I-k'uang 奕劻 (1836–1916), was in 1850 made heir to the family estate with the low title of a noble of the tenth rank. Gradually, however, I-k'uang rose to prominence. In 1884, after I-hsin was dismissed for maintaining too pacific a policy toward France, I-k'uang succeeded him as chief member of the Office of Foreign Affairs (Tsungli Yamen), and remained in that position for twenty-seven years until he became premier (1911). In 1884 I-k'uang was made a prince of the second degree to which was attached the family designation, Ch'ing. In this way he became the fourth Prince Ch'ing. In 1885 he was appointed one of the controllers of the Board of Admiralty—the other being I-huan [q. v.]. In 1894, when the Empress Dowager celebrated her sixtieth birthday, I-k'uang was raised to a prince of the first degree. His power, however, was negligible and he did not dare to oppose the Empress Dowager and her ignorant advisers when they foolishly looked for help to the Boxers. When the Court fled from Peking in 1900 he also fled to Hsüan-hua, but on August 26 was ordered to return to Peking to co-operate with Li Hung-chang [q. v.] in peace negotiations with the Allies. After he and Li signed the Protocol in 1901, ending the hostilities of the Boxer War, he continued to conduct foreign affairs. In 1903, after Jung-lu [q. v.] died, I-k'uang was given the highest official position in the empire. From 1903 to 1911 he served as chief Grand Councilor, and from May to November 1911 had the rank of premier. His conduct was such, however, that he was several times openly accused of corruption and of hoarding great wealth. It is reported that whereas other corrupt officials received bribes through intermediaries, he insisted on personally negotiating every such transaction. So long as Empress Hsiao-ch'in was living he and his strong supporter, Yüan Shih-k'ai (see under Yüan Chia-san), could do virtually as they pleased. After her death (1908), however, he could not maintain his power, being opposed by many Imperial Clansmen who themselves were eager to have it. Meanwhile his son, Tsai-chên 載振, gained notoriety in several scandals. Finally, in November 1911, I-k'uang was forced, by the rising tide of revolution; to resign and was made president of the Privy Council. A month later the young emperor, P'u-i (see under Tsai-t'ien), abdicated and I-k'uang went to Tientsin where he died in 1916. P'u-i conferred on him the posthumous name, Mi 密.


[1/171/18b; 1/227/5a; Chin-shih jên-wu chih (see under Wêng T'ung-ho) p. 219; T'oung Pao, 1916, p. 393; T'ien-chih ou-wên (see bibl. under Pao-t'ing) 4/25a.]

Fang Chao-ying