Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Ch'ên Hung-mou

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CH'ÊN Hung-mou 陳宏謀 (T. 汝咨, H. 榕門), Oct. 10, 1696–1771, July 14, official and educator, was a native of Lin-kuei, Kwangsi, where his family migrated from Ch'ên-chou, Hunan, at the end of the Ming period. He became a hsiu-ts'ai at twenty sui, and five years later enrolled in the Hua-chang Academy 華掌書院. He was interested in Sung philosophy, and as a student of public affairs was an ardent reader of the Peking Gazette 京報. In 1723 he passed first in the provincial examination. The same year he became a chin-shih, and a bachelor in the Hanlin Academy with appointment as corrector in 1724. In 1726 he became a department director in the Board of Civil Office. Three years later, having been given the concurrent position of a censor, he was appointed prefect of Yangchow, and thus started a long career of service in the provinces. When, in 1731, his father died, such was his usefulness that he was ordered to remain in office during the period of mourning. The same year he was promoted to the rank of intendant of couriers and of salt in Kiangsu and Anhwei. When his mother died, in 1732, he was again ordered to remain in office. Finally he succeeded in obtaining leave to return to his home in Kwangsi to bury his parents. In 1733 he was made financial commissioner of Yunnan, a post he held for four years. In a memorial of 1737 he begged that the taxes on newly cultivated land in his native province be abolished. This met with disfavor and he was lowered three grades in official rank. In 1738, however, he was appointed river intendant of Tientsin and Ho-chien prefectures. During two years he widened river-ways, built roads, and engaged in philanthropic enterprises. In 1740 he was promoted to the position of provincial judge of Kiangsu. Thereafter, until 1758, he served as governor of the following provinces: Kiangsi 1741–43; Shensi 1743–46; Hupeh 1746–48; Shensi 1748–51; Honan 1751–52; Fukien 1752–54; Shensi 1754–55; Hunan 1755–56; Shensi 1756–57; Kiangsu 1757–58. Early in 1758 he was made governor-general of Kwangtung and Kwangsi, an extraordinary appointment because, as a native of Kwangsi, he was not, according to the law of the time, eligible to a position in his native province above the rank of director of schools. After a few months in Kwangtung he was again made governor of Kiangsu. In 1762 he was transferred to Hunan. The following year he returned to the capital as president of the Board of Civil Office. In 1764 he became an assistant Grand Secretary; in 1767 a Grand Secretary. In 1769 he was attacked by illness. Two years later he retired, was granted the honorary title of Grand Tutor of the Heir Apparent, and was presented with a hat and robe by the emperor. The same year, while travelling south on the Grand Canal, he died at Han-chuang, Shantung. By imperial decree his name was celebrated in the Temple of Eminent Statesmen, and he was canonized as Wên-kung 文恭.

He distinguished himself as a local official, and later he and Yin-chi-shan [q. v.] were regarded as the ablest governors of their day. Ch'ên's work in public education is noteworthy. He established more than six hundred and fifty free schools while in Yunnan, and paid particular attention to the education of the Miao tribes in that province. The Miao were also a problem in his native province. He contributed funds for the printing of elementary text-books and distributed them among these schools. Because of his efforts in behalf of the Miao and of barbarian peoples on the borders, many individuals of these groups became able to read and even to take literary degrees.

Ch'ên compiled five treatises on moral and educational subjects, under the collective title 五種遺規 Wu-chung i-kuei. They are: the Hsün-su (訓俗) i-kuei, 4 chüan, about community life; the Yang-chêng (養正) i-kuei, 3 chüan, about the education of youth; the Chiao-nü (教女) i-kuei, 3 chüan, about rules for the education of women; and the Ts'ung-chêng (從政) i-kuei, 2 chüan; and 在官法戒錄 Tsai-kuan fa-chieh lu, 4 chüan, about morals in official life. The dates of the prefaces range from 1739 to 1743. The works themselves are collections of abstracts or quotations from different works by scholars and sages of former days. The comments of Ch'ên Hung-mou about some of these passages are translated by Evan Morgan (see bibliography). While in Hunan Ch'ên sponsored the compilation of the Hunan t'ung-chih, 174 chüan, published in 1757. His collected works, in 61 chüan, were printed under the title 培遠堂偶存稿 P'ei-yüan t'ang ou-ts'un kao. In Wylie's Notes on Chinese Literature (p. 223), reference is made to an edition by Ch'ên of a collection of legends of Taoist and a few Buddhist saints.

A great-great-grandson of Ch'ên Hung-mou, named Ch'ên Chi-ch'ang 陳繼昌 (T. 哲臣, H. 蓮史), attained the highest examination honors known as san-yüan in 1820 (see under Ch'ien Ch'i).


[1/313/8b; 2/18/37b; 3/20/1a; Morgan, Evan, A Guide to Wenli Styles and Chinese Ideals pp. 150, 164, 168, 194 ff.; Ch'ên Chung-k'o, 陳鐘珂, 先文恭公年譜 Hsien Wên-kung kung nien-p'u; 廣西通志 Kwangsi t'ung-chih 260/14b; Lin-kuei hsien-chih 29/10a.]

Rufus O. Suter