Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Ch'ên Chi-ju

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CH'ÊN Chi-ju 陳繼儒 (T. 仲醇, H. 眉公, 糜道人), Dec. 16, 1558–1639, Oct. 19, writer and artist, was a native of Hua-t'ing, Kiangsu. Never passing beyond the licentiate in his examination career, he built a home in the hills of his native district known as Shê-shan 佘山, and earned his living by private teaching, by composing books of a popular character, and by writing epitaphs and birthday congratulations. Nor did he join any party or literary society of his day. His popularity was due partly to his native ability as a writer and partly to his friendship with Tung Ch'i-ch'ang [q. v.], who praised him to high officials. He was always welcome in such influential homes as those of Wang Shih-chên 王世貞 (T. 元美, H. 鳳洲, 弇州山人, 1526–1590) and Wang Hsi-chüeh (see under Wang Shih-min). Many books printed in his day bore his name as writer of a preface or as compiler—perhaps to increase their sale. His name was even used to advertise certain brands of silk and cloth.

To him is usually attributed the editorship of the famous ts'ung-shu, 寶顏堂秘笈 Pao-yen-t'ang pi-chi, which was named after his studio and printed in five instalments by Shên Tê-hsien 沈德先 (T. 天生) of Chia-hsing, Chekiang. The first instalment, consisting of 20 monographs, was printed in 1606 under the title 尚白齋秘笈 Shang-po chai pi-chi, after the name of Shen's studio. In four subsequent instalments, differentiated by the characters hsü 續, kuang 廣, p'u 普, and hui 彙, Ch'ên's name was more emphasized in the prefaces; and most of the 206 titles printed in the four instalments are said to have been drawn from Ch'ên's library, including four works from his own hand. It is worthy of note that the third instalment, Kuang pi-chi, printed in 1615 contains the essay On Friendship, 友論 Yu-lun (elsewhere written Chiaoyu-lun), written in 1505 by the Jesuit Father Matteo Ricci (see under Hsü Kuang-ch'i). The title, Pao-yen-t'ang pi-chi, was first applied only to a collection of sixteen works, mostly miscellaneous notes, written by Ch'ên himself and printed by Shên Tê-hsien in 1616. Before long, however, the entire ts'ung-shu was known by that name as though Ch'ên were the sole editor and printer.

About the year 1630 Ch'ên served as editor of the gazetteer 松江府志 Sung-chiang-fu chih which was completed in 1631. Meanwhile he was several times recommended by local officials as worthy of being given an appointment, but he refused the offers. The Kuo-hsüeh Library of Nanking has two collections of his works in prose and verse, both entitled 陳眉公集 Ch'ên Mei-kung chi. One, in 17 chüan, was printed in 1615; the other, in 60 chüan, was printed in 1641. A few years before Ch'ên Chi-ju died ten of his works were printed under the collective title Ch'ên Mei-kung shih chung ts'ang-shu (十種藏書). This included seven titles of miscellaneous notes which had previously appeared in the Pao-yen-t'ang pi-chi, and three collections of prose and verse entitled: 白石樵真稿 Po-shih ch'iao chên-kao, in 28 chüan, 晚香堂真本 Wan-hsiang-t'ang chên-pên, in 10 chüan, and 眉公詩鈔 Mei-kung shih-ch'ao, in 8 chüan. All three were banned in the Ch'ien-lung period because of the anti-Manchu flavor of several short articles—in particular a history of the Manchus, entitled 建州考 Chien-chou k'ao. Several of his other works were likewise banned. The Ssŭ-k'u Catalogue (see under Chi Yün), nevertheless, lists 32 titles by him, or attributed to him, most of which were printed in collected works. One, printed separately, entitled 養生膚語 Yang-shêng fu-yü, a work on longevity after the Taoist manner, can be found in the Hsüeh-hai lei-pien (see under Ts'ao Jung). About the end of the Wan-li period (between 1606 and 1615) Ch'ên Chi-ju wrote a preface and commentaries to the historical novel, 春秋列國志傳 Ch'un chi'iu Lieh-kuo chih chuan, 12 chüan, which was written by Yu Shao-yü 余邵魚 (T. 畏齋). The novel was about the warring states of the Later Chou and Pre-Ch'in periods (eighth to third centuries, B.C.). Later this novel was rewritten and expanded by Fêng Mêng-lung 馮夢龍 (T. 猶龍, 耳猶, 1574?-1645?), dramatist and the editor of several very popular collections of stories. It was printed under the title, Hsin (新) Lieh-kuo chih, in 108 chapters; it is also known as Tung-Chou (東周) Lieh-kuo chih.

Most of the writings of Ch'ên Chi-ju exemplify the philosophy of the late Ming period which was dominated by the desire to enjoy life. It was said that he employed a number of poor scholars to compile books of this nature to be published under his name. Sometimes publishers attached his name to works of doubtful origin or simply reprinted his writings under different titles. This perhaps accounts for the multiplicity of the titles that appear under his name, as well as for their inconsistency and superficiality. His short essays, letters and poems had a charm of their own, though they are often vague and rambling. He also painted; but exhibited more skill in calligraphy. Living the life of the literary man who has ostensibly retreated from public life, he utilized that situation to advance his own fame and fortune. Li Yü [q. v.], a younger contemporary, and Yüan Mei [q. v.], who lived in the eighteenth century. were representative of the same type.


[M.1/298/8a; M/2/396/28a; M.64/庚7下/1a; M.84/丁下/58a; M.86/20/1a; Lu Hsin-yüan [q. v.], Jang-li kuan ching-yen-lu 27/14; Ko Chin-lang 葛金烺, 愛日吟廬書畫續錄 Ai-jih-yin lu shu-hua hsü-lu (1913) 2/16b; Tu Jui-lien 杜瑞聯, 古芬閣書畫記 Ku-fên-ko shu-hua chi (1881) 7/42a, 16/47a; T'oung Pao (1922) p. 337 (1930) p. 400; Wylie, Notes, p. 172; Chou K'o 周𢡱, 館藏清代禁書述略, p. 12, in Kuo-hsüeh Library Bulletin, 4th year; Sun K'ai-ti 孫楷第, 中國通俗小說書目 Chung-kuo t'ung-su hsiao-shuo shu-mu; Jung Chao-tsu 容肇祖, 明馮夢龍的生平及其著述 Ming Fêng Mêng-lung ti shêng-p'ing chi ch'i chu-shu in Lingnan Journal, vol. 2, no. 2 (1931).]

Fang Chao-ying