Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/A-k'o-tun

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A-k'o-tun 阿克敦 (T. 立軒, 冲和, H. 恆巖), May 4, 1685–1756, Feb. 22, official, was a mem­ber of the Chang-chia 章佳 clan and of the Manchu Plain Blue Banner. He was the father of A-kuei [q. v.]. After receiving the chü-jên degree in 1708 and his chin-shih in 1709, A-k'o-tun became successively a bachelor (1709–12), a compiler (1712–15), an expositor (1715–16), and a reader (1716–17) in the Hanlin Academy. In 1717 he was sent as head of a mission to Korea, being re-appointed in 1722 and 1724. On all of these occasions he was well received, owing in part to his impressive appearance and his digni­fied bearing. From 1718 to 1726 he served, among other posts, as sub-chancellor of the Grand Secretariat (1718–22), junior vice-president of the Board of War (1722–23), chancellor of the Hanlin Academy (1722–25), and senior vice-president of the Board of Ceremonies (1726) and the Board of War (1726). When K'ung Yü-hsün 孔毓珣 (T. 東美, d. 1730, age 65 sui), was summoned for an audience with the emperor in 1726 A-k'o-tun was sent to take his place as acting governor­ general of Kwangtung and Kwangsi, and in addi­tion was made Tartar General of Canton. In the following year he was transferred to the post of acting governor of Kwangtung, and later in the same year to that of Kwangsi. Unfortunately he did not get on well with his colleagues, and in 1728 as the result of charges brought against him by K'ung Yü-hsün and Yang Wên-ch'en 楊文乾 (T. 元統, H. 霖宰, d. 1728, age 47 sui), he was deprived of his office and titles.

Three years later (1731) he was reinstated as an extra sub-chancellor of the Grand Secretariat, serving in the army of the Northwest in a cam­paign against the Eleuths. The operations proved embarrassing to the government, how­ever, and in 1734 A-k'o-tun was made assistant to Fu-nai 傅鼐 (T. 閣峯, member of the Fuca 富察 clan, d. ca. 1738, age 62 sui), in the peace negotiations held at the tribal headquarters at Ili. Failing to accomplish its aims, the Commission returned to Peking in the spring of 1735. But three years later (1738) A-k'o-tun, in charge of another Commission, succeeded in concluding a boundary agreement. After his return to Peking, early in 1739, he filled many posts, among them the following: junior and senior vice-president both of the Board of Works (1738–40) and of the Board of Punishments (1740); senior vice-presi­dent of the Board of Civil Office (1740–46), serving concurrently as lieutenant-general of the Chinese Plain White Banner (1742) and of the Manchu Bordered Blue Banner (1743); chancel­lor of the Hanlin Academy (1745–48); and presi­dent of the Censorate (1746). He was also president of the Board of Punishments (1746–48), and Associate Grand Secretary (1748). In 1748 an error was made in the Manchu translation of an edict conferring a posthumous title upon Empress Hsiao-hsien (see under Misḥan). Since the edict was framed by the Hanlin Academy of which A-k'o-tun was in charge, A-k'o-tun was deprived of his post, but remained to serve as sub-chancel­lor of the Grand Secretariat. Soon after, he was re-appointed president of the Board of Punish­ments, serving concurrently as lieutenant-general of the Chinese Bordered White Banner, and later as chancellor of the Hanlin Academy. Early in 1749 he was reinstated as Associate Grand Secretary. Thereafter he served the government without interruption until his retirement in 1755 owing to trouble with his eyes. During his last years of service, when the emperor was journey­ing to Jehol, Honan, and Fengtien, he was three times (1749, 1750, and 1754) entrusted with the conduct of affairs at the capital. He died early in 1756 and was canonized as Wên-ch'in 文勤.

A-k'o-tun was forthright in character, aligning himself with no political party. Though he and Nien Kêng-yao [q. v.] were friends and fellow members of the Hanlin Academy, he declined to join Nien when the latter was in power. He achieved high literary distinction and on many occasions was in charge of examinations. He served as vice-director for the compilation of the second edition of the Ta-Ch'ing hui-tien (see under Wang An-kuo), commissioned in 1724 and completed in 1733; of the first edition of the Pa-ch'i t'ung-chih (see under Li Fu); and of the first edition of the Ta-Ch'ing i-t'ung chih (see under Hsü Ch'ien-hsüeh). His collected works, entitled 德蔭堂集 Tê-yin-t'ang chi, 16 chüan, were published in 1778 by his son, A-kuei, and later (1816) were reprinted, together with his nien-p'u, 1 chüan, compiled by his great-grand­ son, Na-yen-ch'êng [q. v.].

[1/309/4b; 2/16/3b; 3/17/1a; 4/26/10a; 9/20/3a; 11/35/53b.]

S. K. Chang
J. C. Yang