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

YUNG-yen 顒琰, Nov. 13, 1760–1820, Sept. 2, the fifth Emperor of the Ch'ing Dynasty, who ruled from 1796 until his death, under the reign title, Chia-ch'ing 嘉慶, was the fifth son of Emperor Kao-tsung (see under Hung-li). His mother, Empress Hsiao-i 孝儀高皇后 (née Wei 魏, 1727–1775), was a favorite secondary consort of Emperor Kao-tsung and was posthumously elevated to the rank of Empress after Yung-yen was publicly designated Heir Apparent in 1795. As a child, Yung-yen exhibited intellectual promise, and after he was six sui was tutored by such scholars as Hsieh Yung (see under Wang Chung) and Chu Kuei [q. v.]. His character, and his ability to learn, so pleased Emperor Kao-tsung that on December 21, 1773, he was secretly designated heir to the throne. No one but Emperor Kao-tsung had knowledge of this choice, for in every respect he was treated like his brothers. He accompanied his father on many trips to Jehol and the neighborhood of Peking, and made one trip to Mukden (1783), and another to Kiangsu and Chekiang (1784). In 1789 he was named a prince of the first degree with the designation Chia (嘉親王). In the meantime he and his brothers were required to attend regularly the Imperial School known as Shang Shu-fang (see under Yin-chên) where he learned to write poetry and to compose essays. When Emperor Kao-tsung announced his intention to abdicate (October 15, 1795), he proclaimed Yung-yen Heir Apparent to ascend the throne on the following Chinese New Year's Day (February 9). In order that the first character in Yung-yen's name, heretofore written 永 (a word in very common use) might not, as did all Emperors' personal names, become taboo, it was altered to 顒, a character also pronounced Yung, but rarely used.

Yung-yen's enthronement on February 9, 1796, the day on which the Chia-ch'ing reign-period began, was celebrated with splendid ceremonies which, however, stressed chiefly the fact of his father's abdication. For more than three years the reign-title, Ch'ien-lung, continued to be used inside the Palaces, and Kao-tsung and his ministers actually directed the affairs of the empire. During this period Yung-yen, then nearing forty, was "tutored" in statecraft; his opinion was rarely consulted and he was engaged chiefly in the performance of state ceremonies. As Emperor Kao-tsung approached senility the real power fell into the hands of his minister, Ho-shên [q. v.], who used it shamelessly, however, for personal ends. Yung-yen bore patiently his resentment at the manner in which Ho-shên usurped control, but on February 12, 1799, five days after his father's death, he had the minister arrested, and a few days later forced him to commit suicide. Yung-yen had doubtless long made up his mind to take this course, and had solicited the help of his brothers in effecting it. He rewarded his brothers by distributing among them a due share of the enormous wealth confiscated from Ho-shên, at the same time retaining a share for his own purse.

The empire which Yung-yen inherited from his father was in a lamentable state. At least three provinces were being devastated by rebellion of the oppressed masses, and the government was corrupt to its core. The Bannermen, weakened by luxury, were no longer the brave soldiers their ancestors had been, and the national treasury was being heavily drained to meet their wants and those of corrupt officials. The population (now about three hundred million) had nearly doubled in the preceding Ch'ien-lung period (1736–96) so that the masses suffered a shortage of food, especially in time of flood or war. In 1795-96 the rebellion of the Miao tribesmen in Kweichow and Hunan caused the movement of large bodies of troops under the command of Fu-k'ang-an, Ho-lin [qq. v.] and other wasteful and corrupt generals. The troops lacked discipline and often looted and burnt on their way to the battlefields. The farmers of Hupeh and Szechwan, inspired by members of the secret religious society known as Pai-lien-chiao (see under Ê-lê-têng-pao), rose in revolt. The officials who were sent to investigate extorted from the farmers still more and so drove them to desperation. Ho-shên had been in no hurry to end these disorders so long as he and his clique profited by them. Reports of defeat were suppressed, and victories were exaggerated, with the result that the rebellion spread westward to yet larger areas. After Ho-shên's removal it took Yung-yen four years (1799–1803) to effect a temporary peace, and then the problem of resettlement and disbandment of local militia evoked yet more disturbances. The war was costly; from 1796 to 1801 it drained the treasury of one hundred million taels. Pirates were active on the South China coast, and it required ten years (1800–10) to suppress them (see under Li Ch'ang-kêng). In 1813 the revolt of still another society was nipped in the bud (see under Na-yen-ch'êng). As if these internal difficulties were not enough, the Yellow River overflowed its banks at least seventeen times during the Chia-ch'ing reign-period. The officials in charge of river conservancy, having purchased their posts at high cost, actually depended on these inundations, and on the ensuing costly repairs, to reimburse and enrich themselves. Thus wars and floods laid waste an appreciable part of the country, greatly reduced the national income, exhausted what surplus funds there were in the treasury, and minimized the authority of the government.

Yung-yen, having been trained only to be patient and obedient, was unable to correct these evils. Had he been as energetic as his grandfather, Yin-chên [q. v.], he might have found the necessary remedies. Twice he had the opportunity to do so—once after the removal of Ho-shên, and again during the rebellion of 1813 (see under Min-ning)—but on both occasions he compromised, expending his energies on the routine tasks of government, following too implicitly the out-moded ways of his father.

Instead of courageously eliminating the corrupt practices of his officials, he vainly supposed he could restore the national income by rigid personal economies. He reduced expenses in the central government and in his own household, and declined costly gifts from high officials. On his fiftieth birthday, in 1809, he would not tolerate an expensive ceremony, and refrained from ordering the customary tax exemptions. Only on his sixtieth birthday (1819) did he exempt the country from paying taxes in arrears—taxes which in any case could not have been collected in full. He reduced allotments to his relatives and members of the Imperial Household who were so numerous that they had become a menace to law and order in the capital. In 1813 he built a town near Mukden where he settled some seventy families of his most indigent dependants, but they had so long been habituated to the luxuries of the capital that it is not surprising they openly resented being made to till the soil. The courtiers, too, were dissatisfied, for they had been accustomed to enormous expenditures, part of which they could divert to their own uses. Particularly dissatisfied were the corrupt Bannermen and eunuchs, some of whom joined the T'ien-li chiao rebels (see under Na-yen-ch'êng) in 1813 in storming the Palaces. No wonder that there occurred in 1803 an attempt on the Emperor's life by a lunatic who had previously been in his employ. The belief of some that the Emperor was by nature a miser cannot account for these grievances; he simply embarked on a policy of economy as being, for him, the only way of correcting deep-seated maladies in the government.

His policy was at least partially successful, for in the last few years of his reign expenditures did not exceed income. But he became unpopular; and in his efforts to offset his unpopularity, he resorted to compromise, with the result that throughout his reign corruption in government remained unchecked. Another measure taken to relieve the drain on the treasury was to revive the practice of selling official posts and titles. But the purchasers of such posts extracted from the people with interest what they had paid to obtain them.

In the Chia-ch'ing reign-period English trade at Canton far exceeded in value that of all other countries combined—accounting for about seventy to eighty percent of the annual foreign customs' receipts of 1,200,000 to 1,600,000 taels. The Macartney Embassy of 1793 (see under Hung-li) had tried in vain to get the tariff reduced, to obtain better trading conditions at Canton, and to open other Chinese ports to foreign commerce. In 1816 a second Mission, that of William Pitt, Earl Amherst 阿美士德 (1773–1857), came to Peking with the same objectives, though according to a letter addressed to the Chinese authorities at Canton before the mission arrived, the purpose was to bring greetings from the Regent of England (later George IV) and to inform the Chinese Court of the victory over Napoleon. Other Westerners in the suite of Amherst were Sir George Thomas Staunton (1781–1859) who had been with his father, Sir George Leonard Staunton (1737–1801), in the Macartney mission, and Henry Ellis (1777–1855)—the second and third commissioners respectively. Robert Morrison (see under Jung Hung), the pioneer Protestant missionary to China, was one of the interpreters. The envoys sailed on five ships to Ta-ku at the mouth of the Pei Ho and proceeded to Tientsin on river boats. They were met on August 12 at Tientsin and were entertained the following day by Su-têng-ê 蘇楞額 (d. 1827, age over 80), who as Hoppo, or customs' commissioner at Canton, had received the Macartney mission, and who was now deputed to escort the Amherst mission to Peking. Su-têng-ê was instructed to detain the mission at Tientsin until the performance of the ceremony of kowtow 磕頭 had been agreed to, and to hold the British ships at Taku for the return voyage so that the government might be relieved of the trouble and expense of escorting the envoys back to Canton. He and his associate, Kuang-hui 廣惠, failed in both these objectives. The embassy set out for Peking before an agreement concerning the kotow was reached, and the British ships left Taku for Macao on August 12 or 13. The Emperor, now thoroughly angered, ordered the mission to be detained at Tungchow to "practice the ceremony [of kotow]". Su-têng-ê and Kuang-hui were degraded and replaced by two others, one of whom was Duke Ho-shih-t'ai 和世泰, a descendant of Eidu [q. v.] and a brother-in-law of Yung-yen. After eight days (August 20 to 28) of fruitless conference, Ho-shih-t'ai, who had made himself responsible for the conduct of the envoys, persuaded the Emperor to grant an audience. On the afternoon of the 28th the mission was hastily escorted from Tungchow and arrived at the Summer Palace, Yuan-ming Yüan (see under Hung-li), early the morning of the 29th. Ho-shih-t'ai had arranged to present Amherst that very morning, but the British envoy refused to comply, since he was tired, and his uniforms, presents, etc. had not yet arrived. On the other hand, the Court was assembled and the Emperor was ready to receive him. Ho-shih-t'ai, having urged Amherst to comply, begged the Emperor to wait a while, but finally had to invent the fiction that the envoy had suddenly become ill. When Yung-yen expressed a willingness to receive the second commissioner he was told that that official, too, was ill. Meanwhile the Emperor was probably informed that there was no illness. Infuriated, he bluntly commanded that the entire mission be sent back to Canton immediately. However, when he found out that Amherst was truly exhausted, he blamed Ho-shih-t'ai for concealing the truth and announced that, had he been properly informed, he would have postponed the audience. He immediately issued a statement that the British mission was not to blame and therefore should be accorded due consideration by the local officials on the return journey. A reply and some presents to the English Prince Regent were dispatched to Canton to be handed to the mission. Thus failed the second attempt of England to better trade and living conditions of her merchants in China—leaving the issues to be settled by force twenty-six years later.

Yung-yen was of medium height, stout and well-proportioned. He was fond of hunting and shooting and excelled in archery. He was diligent, rose early, and attended conscientiously to affairs of state. He enjoyed good health almost to the end of his life. On August 26, 1820, he left Peking for the summer palace at Jehol. During the journey the weather was hot and when he arrived at Jehol on September 1 he was stricken, probably with apoplexy, and died the evening of the following day. Before his death he designated Min-ning [q. v.], his favorite second son, his successor. His remains were brought back to Peking and interred in a tomb named Ch'ang-ling 昌陵, the second to be built in the Western Mausoleum (see under Yin-chên). He was given the temple name Jên-tsung 仁宗 and the posthumous, name Jui Huang-ti 睿皇帝.

His edicts were classified and edited tinder the title, Jên-tsung shêng-hsün (聖訓), 110 chüan (printed in 1829); and the chronicle of his reign, entitled Jên-tsung shih-lu (see under Wang Yin-chih), was completed in 1824. Yung-yen's own writings were printed in several collections—the first, containing his works written before he ascended the throne, being printed in 1800 under the title, 味餘書屋全集定本 Wei-yü shu-wu ch'üan-chi ting-pên, 40 chüan, with a supplement of miscellaneous notes (Sui-pi) in 2 chüan. During his reign he issued three collections of his verse: the first in 48 chüan, printed in 1803; the second, in 64 chüan, printed in 1811; and the third, in 64 chüan, printed in 1819. He assembled two collections of his prose, the first in 10 chüan, printed in 1805 and the second, in 14 chüan, printed in 1815. Sometime between 1815 and 1819 he made a complete collection of his works, in 178 chüan. After his death, a supplement in 8 chüan was added to the five collections.

During his reign, Yung-yen ordered the compilation of several official works, among which may be mentioned the complete collection of T'ang prose, Ch'üan T'ang wên (see under Tung Kao), and the illustrated treatise on cotton planting and weaving, Shou-i kuang-hsün (see under Fang Kuan-ch'êng). He also authorized the compilation of the third edition of the General Gazetteer of the Ch'ing Empire, Chia-ch'ing ch'ung-hsiu i-t'ung chih (重修一統志), 560 chüan, completed early in 1843 and reproduced in facsimile, from the original manuscripts, in 1934. His other official publications are mostly continuations or enlargements of previous works, among which may be mentioned: the third series of the Shih-ch'ü pao-chi (see under Chang Chao); the second collection of selected literary works of the dynasty, Kuo-ch'ao wên-ying hsü-pien (see under Fa-shih-shan and Tung Pang-ta); the Ta-Ch'ing hui-tien (see under Wang An-kuo); the 詞林典故 Tz'ŭ-lin tien-ku, 64 chüan, completed in 1805, being an enlargement of a work of the same title in 8 chüan, completed in 1748; and the Kuo-ch'ao kung-shih hsü-pien (see under Fa-shih-shan). There is also an account of his tour to Wu-t'ai shan, Shansi, in 1811, entitled 西巡盛典 Hsi-hsün shêng-tien, 24 + 1 chüan, printed about 1812.

Yung-yen had five sons and nine daughters. His eldest son, and all his daughters except two, died in infancy. His second son, Min-ning, succeeded him on the throne. His third son, Mien-k'ai [q. v.], and his fourth, Mien-hsin (see under I-chih), were children by his second wife, Empress Hsiao-ho 孝和睿皇后 (1776–1850, Jan. 23, née Niuhuru), whose brother, Ho-shih-t'ai, was the Duke who spoiled the welcome of the Amherst Embassy. The fifth, Mien-yü 綿愉 (1814–1865, Jan 9), was made, in 1820, a prince of the second degree with the designation Hui (惠郡王). In 1839 his princedom was raised to the first degree. He was perhaps more interested in national affairs than were his half brothers. In 1853, when the Taiping rebels invaded Chihli, Mien-yü was made commander-in-chief of all the forces defending Tientsin and Peking, with the title Fêng-ming ta-chiang-chün 奉命大將軍. But he stayed in Peking while his assistant, Sêng-ko-lin-ch'in [q. v.], and others fought and drove back the insurgents. After these insurgents, in the northern provinces, were suppressed (1855, see under Lin Fêng-hsiang), Mien-yü was released from military duties. He had a studio named Ch'êng-hui t'ang, 承暉堂, and his garden, Ming-ho Yüan 鳴鶴園, was situated very close to the Yuan-ming Yüan. He was canonized as Tuan 端. He left a collection of verse, entitled 愛日齋集 Ai-jih chai chi (1871). His grandson, Tsai-tsê 載澤, served as Minister of Finance from 1907 to 1911 (see under Tuan-fang). Yung-yen's third daughter, Princess Chuang-ching 莊敬公主 (1781–1811), married in 1801 So-t'ê na-mu to-pu-chi 索特那木多布濟 (d. 1825), a prince of the Korchin Mongols. Having no son of their own, the couple adopted Sêng-ko-lin-ch'in, son of the prince's cousin.

It is reported that Yung-yen's mother, Empress Hsiao-i, was an actress from Soochow who was either bought or employed by the bureau in the Imperial Household, known as Shêng-p'ing Shu 昇平署 which had charge of theatrical entertainments. It is even asserted that in the Shêng-p'ing Shu area there is a small temple erected to a female divinity known as Hsi-yin shêng-mu 喜音聖母, "Sacred Mother Who Loved Music", and that at her feet were once placed two tablets bearing the temple and posthumous names of Yung-yen and his son, Min-ning, as if they were her descendants. However this may be, the official accounts state the Empress Hsiao-i came from a family listed in the Pa-ch'i Man-chou shih-tsu t'ing-p'u (74/9a, see under Anfiyanggû) as having been for at least there generations bond-servants in the Imperial Household. She appears to have been the favorite concubine of Emperor Kao-tsung—her residence in the summer palace, Yüan-ming Yüan, being the famous court known as T'ien-ti-i-chia ch'un 天地一家春 where Yung-yen was born.

[1/16/1a; 1/173/8a; 1/227/8b; 1/160/1b; Ch'ing Huang-shih ssŭ-p'u (see under Fu-lung-an); Grantham, A. E. A Manchu Monarch, an Interpretation of Chia-ch'ing (1934); 清代外交史料 Ch'ing-tai wai-chiao shih-liao, Chia-ch'ing period (1932); 3/190/1a; Ellis, Henry, Journal of the Proceedings of the Late Embassy to China; Shih-liao hsün-k'an (see bibl. under Ch'ên Mêng-lei) vols. 3, 6–8, 14; Wên-hsien ts'ung-pien (see bibl. under Dorgon) vols. 10–12; Chang-ku ts'ung-pien (see under Hung Ch'êng-ch'ou) vol. 9; Ku-kung tien-pên shu-k'u hsien-ts'un-mu (see bibl. under Ch'ên Mêng-lei); Chü-hsüeh yüeh-k'an (The Dramatic Study Monthly) vol. 2, no. 9 (Sept. 1933) p. 90; Ch'ing lieh-ch'ao Hou-fei chuan-kao (see under Su-shun) hsia 18b.]

Fang Chao-ying