Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/A-kuei

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3633212Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period, Volume 1 — A-kueiKnight Biggerstaff

A-kuei 阿桂 (T. 廣庭, H. 雲巖), Sept. 7, 1717–1797, Oct. 10, official and general, was a member of the Chang-chia 章佳 clan and of the Manchu Plain Blue Banner. He was the only son of A-k'o-tun [q. v.] and for a time (1736) studied under Shên T'ung [q. v.]. Owing to his father's merits, he was awarded an honorary licentiate and was appointed (1736) a secretary of the Court of Judicature and Revision. But he was not satisfied with the appointment. In 1738 he passed the examination for chü-jên, and a year later was made a second class secretary in the Board of War. In 1743 he rose to a department directorship in the Board of Revenue, but was degraded three years later to an assistant department directorship in the Board of Civil Office. In 1748 he was given his first border assignment, as a secretary in the army sent to pacify the aborigines of Chin-ch'uan in Szechwan. Unfortunately he reached his post just when the commanders, Chang Kuang-ssŭ [q. v.] and No-ch'in (see under Chang Kuang-ssŭ) were impeached for imputing to each other the blame for failure to conquer the aborigines. A-kuei, accused of taking the part of Chang Kuang-ssŭ, and of deceiving No-ch'in, was forthwith ordered to Peking for trial. Although Chang and No-ch'in were executed, A-kuei was pardoned (1749) in consideration of his lack of experience, and as a favor to his aged father. In 1750 he was reinstated as assistant department director in the Board of Civil Office. Elevated to the post of a department director in 1752, he was sent to Kiangsi as provincial judge, but was recalled in 1753 and made a reader in the Grand Secretariat. As a sub-chancellor in the latter office he was sent in 1755 to Uliasutai as quartermaster for the armies under Bandi [q. v.] which were then in the newly conquered Ili valley. For a time in 1756 A-kuei was in Peking to mourn the death of his father, but in the middle of that year was again sent to Uliasutai where he became assistant military governor. He arrived in time to take part in the subjugation of a Mongolian prince who, after Amursana [q. v.] had rebelled in Ili (see under Bandi), attempted to revolt in Mongolia. In 1757 after the rebellion of Amursana was suppressed, A-kuei was given the rank of junior vice-president of the Board of Works and sent to Khobdo to stabilize western Mongolia and prevent the Eleuths from escaping to Siberia.

In 1758 A-kuei was recalled to the capital because of Imperial dissatisfaction at his failure to prevent the escape of an Eleuth chief. During this time a rebellion of Mohammedans broke out in Eastern Turkestan and Chao-hui [q. v.], who was detailed to suppress it, was beseiged while camping before Yarkand. A-kuei was ordered to join Fu-tê [q. v.] in effecting Chao-hui's release. Early in 1759 the siege was raised and within the year the rebellion was crushed. After the armies withdrew A-kuei supervised the colonization of the Ili valley with Mohammedans from Aksu and other nearby cities, in order to provide the garrison with food. The land was fertile and, under A-kuei's able management, crops in the first year (1760) were abundant. Thus the Ili valley was made self-supporting for the garrison and for the colonists, and it remained peaceful for more than a hundred years. A-kuei returned to Peking in 1763 and began to serve as president of the Board of Works, a post to which he had been promoted two years earlier. He was also appointed to the Grand Council, and his family was enrolled in the higher Plain White Banner.

In 1764 A-kuei served for a time as acting governor-general of Szechwan to investigate disturbances among the aborigines. In the following year he was again dispatched to Turkestan to direct the subjugation of the Mohammedans of Wu-shih (Ush) who had rebelled. After a siege of more than half a year the city was taken and the revolt suppressed. Nevertheless A-kuei was reprimanded for not prosecuting his campaign with more vigor and was ordered to assist the military-governor of Ili, Ming-jui [q. v.], in systematizing colonial affairs. When Ming-jui was recalled (1766) and sent to Yunnan (1767) in command of an army that was to subjugate Burma, A-kuei succeeded him as military-governor. In 1768 Ming-jui's campaign into Burma met with overwhelming defeat and a new army was assembled in Yunnan with Fu-hêng as commander-in-chief and A-kuei and A-li-kun (see under Fu-hêng) jointly second in command. A-kuei hastened back to Peking in the middle of 1768 and, now president of the Board of War, proceeded to Yunnan where for a time he served as governor-general, a post he relinquished in 1769 to devote himself to military matters. Emperor Kao-tsung was determined, despite the previous disaster, to bring Burma to terms and therefore authorized a new expedition in 1769 under the three commanders. But climate and tropical diseases proved inhospitable to the armies which, while victorious in several engagements, had finally to withdraw. With the death of A-li-kun and the retirement of Fu-hêng on account of illness, A-kuei was left in supreme command. A truce was arranged with the Burmese who promised tribute, and A-kuei returned to Yunnan. But soon (1770) the truce was broken, for the officer sent by A-kuei to demand the tribute was detained. Held responsible for this turn of events, A-kuei was deprived (1771) of his rank and offices, and was ordered to serve in the army under his successor, Wên-fu 温福 (T. 履綏, d. 1773) who had been detailed to guard the Yunnan border. That border, however, was comparatively quiet, owing to the fact that the Burmese were then concerned with nearer neighbors, the Siamese.

Even before the above-mentioned retreat from Burma, uprisings took place among the aborigines of the wild and almost inaccessible part of western Szechwan, known as Ta Chin-ch'uan and Hsiao Chin-ch'uan. The chieftains of those regions were powerful, and knew how to make the best use of their advantageous locations which they defended with stone forts at strategic passes in the mountains. About the close of the year 1771 Wên-fu was ordered to transfer his forces from Yunnan to Szechwan to subdue these regions. A-kuei accompanied the army and, by dint of vigorous fighting, was made second in command to Wên-fu. While the latter attacked (1772) Hsiao Chin-ch'uan rebels from the east, A-kuei led an army against them from the south. By the close of that year Hsiao Chin-ch'uan was virtually subdued, but the chief rebel of the region took refuge in Ta Chin-ch'uan, and the campaign had to be pushed on into the latter area. In the middle of 1773 a new rebellion broke out among the Hsiao Chin-ch'uan aborigines, and in the engagement Wên-fu's army at Mu-kuo-mu was almost wholly annihilated. Wên-fu himself and many other generals forfeited their lives. A-kuei retreated to safer zones and evacuated most of the conquered area, taking care to leave strong garrisons at strategic points for use as bases in future operations. Soon he was made commander-in-chief with orders to operate from the east, his former army on the southern route being left to the command of Fu-tê and Ming-liang [q. v.]. Within the year (1773) Hsiao Chin-ch'uan was recovered, but Ta Chin-ch'uan, while defended by only a few thousand men, withstood the attack for three years, every mountain and every pass being relinquished only after the most severe fighting. Their stone forts would perhaps have been impregnable had A-kuei not made use of cannon, constructed under the direction of the Portuguese missionary, Felix da Rocha (see under Ho Kuo-tsung), who reached A-kuei's headquarters in the autumn of 1774. The rebel capital was finally surrounded and So-no-mu 索諾木, chief of Ta Chin-ch'uan, surrendered (Mar. 23, 1776). According to a prearranged plan a select group of captives was escorted to Peking where A-kuei arrived two months later at the head of his victorious army. He was personally welcomed by the emperor outside the gates of the capital, and was fêted in the Palace.

The conquest of Chin-ch'uan was completed after five years of fighting and at the expenditure of seventy million taels of silver—more than twice the sum consumed in the conquest of the Ili valley and Turkestan, although the latter comprised an area twenty times that of Chin-ch'uan. Only by patient and laborious fighting with the aid of cannon, and by cutting off the supplies of both food and ammunition could the inhabitants of Chin-ch'uan be subdued. The conquered territory was re-peopled with loyal tribesmen and military colonists, and did not cause trouble again.

For his exploits A-kuei was handsomely rewarded. Early in 1776 he was raised to Duke of the first class with the designation Ch'êng-mou ying-yung 誠謀英勇公. He was also made assistant Grand Secretary, president of the Board of Civil Office, and was concurrently in charge of other offices. In 1776 he was once more dispatched to Yunnan to prepare for another expedition into Burma. While there he was elevated to the rank of Grand Secretary, and in 1777 was recalled to Peking. Burma, having in the meantime been weakened by internal strife and by conflict with Siam, began in 1788 to send tribute to Peking—a relation that existed until 1886 when that country was absorbed by Britain.

A-kuei led troops in two more campaigns against rebellious Mohammedans in Kansu. Both disturbances were caused by a new sect of Mohammedans which rose against the old order recognized by the government. The first rebellion took place in 1781, in the Ho-chou and Lan-chou region, and was suppressed in six months. Remnants of the new sect revolted three years later (1784), but were put down in four months (see under Li Shih-yao). For the latter victory, A-kuei was given the additional hereditary rank of Ch'ing-ch'ê tu-yü.

From 1779 to 1789 A-kuei, though a senior member of the Grand Council and the Grand Secretariat, spent most of his time in the provinces, repairing broken dikes along the Yellow River in Honan, inspecting conservancy on the waterways, or investigating cases of official corruption in the provinces. At the same time he directed the above-mentioned Mohammedan campaigns. During these and the ensuing years of active service in Peking (1789–96), he was usually entrusted with affairs in the capital while the emperor was in Jehol or on other tours. This responsibility naturally came to A-kuei in view of his unquestioned integrity. But it is probable also that the powerful Ho-shên [q. v.] fearing, on his own account, to have such a trustworthy official near the emperor, saw to it that he was sent away from the capital as often as possible. Nevertheless, A-kuei continued to hold his posts, and with them the esteem of the emperor, until his eightieth year (1796) when he was relieved on grounds of illness. After his death in the following year, he was posthumously given the title of Grand Guardian, the designation Wên-ch'êng 文成, and the right to have his name celebrated in the Temple of Eminent Statesmen. For his share in the four major military achievements of the Ch'ien-lung period—the conquest of Ili and Turkestan, the pacification of Chin-ch'uan, the stabilization of Taiwan, and the campaign in Nepal—his portrait was hung in the Tzŭ-kuang ko (see under Chao-hui). The last two campaigns—the ones in Taiwan and Nepal—were conducted in the field by Fu-k'ang-an [q. v.], but A-kuei was given credit for the assistance he lent the emperor in directing the operations from the capital. Following the example set after the conquest of Ili and Turkestan, sixteen scenes depicting memorable events of the Chin-ch'uan war were painted on the walls of the Tzŭ-kuang ko and were later engraved. A complete set of these sixteen engravings, known as 平定兩金川戰圖 P'ing-ting liang Chin-ch'uan chan-t'u, is preserved in the Library of Congress. The engraving was done in China some time between 1776 and 1786.

Of the descendants of A-kuei the most illustrious was Na-yen-ch'êng [q. v.] who, in the course of his official career, won the rank of viscount.

[ Na-yen-ch'êng [q. v.], A Wên-ch'êng kung nien-p'u; 1/324/1a; 3/27/23a 補錄; 7/18/7a; 18/16/10a; Chao-lien [q. v.], Hsiao-t'ing tsa-lu and Hsü-lu, passim ; Shên T'ung [q. v.], Kuo-t'ang chi 6/5a, 8/15a; Yung-yen [q. v.], Chia-ch'ing ch'ung-hsiu i-t'ung-chih, chüan 423; P'ing-ting Chun-ko-êr fang-lüeh chêng-pien, and hsü-pien (see under Fu-hêng); P'ing-ting liang Chin-ch'uan fang-lüeh (see under Wang Ch'ang).]

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