Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Ch'êng Chin-fang
CH'ÊNG Chin-fang 程晉芳 ( 魚門, 蕺園, original ming 廷鐄), Dec. 15, 1718–1784, Aug. 6, was a scholar and bibliophile. Though his ancestral home was in Shê-hsien, Anhwei, his family was engaged in the salt business at Yangchow and he was born and reared in that city. In the seventeen-thirties the salt merchants of Yangchow were very prosperous and the Ch'êng family was one of the most opulant. Whereas other members of the family enjoyed their wealth in the lavish manner then prevalent among the well-to-do, Ch'êng Chin-fang loved books, developed a deep interest in the classics, and early achieved distinction as a man of letters. When still in his teens he began to collect a library. Starting with some 5,600 chüan in the possession of his family, he increased the collection, after some thirty years of purchase and transcription, to 50,000 chüan. The library was named Kuei-i 桂宧 owing to the fact that there were cassia trees in front of the building. Having failed repeatedly in the provincial examinations, Ch'êng Chin-fang presented his poems to Emperor Kao-tsung when the latter made a tour to South China in 1762, and in consequence was allowed to participate in a special examination by which he obtained the chü-jên degree. Following this he secured appointment as secretary in the Grand Secretariat, and in the same year (1762) moved his family to Peking to assume the post. But by this time the family income had dwindled and he was already greatly in debt. Upon his departure from Yangchow he had to dispose of a large part of his library and other property to discharge his obligations.
In 1771 Ch'êng Chin-fang became a chin-shih and was made a secretary in the Board of Civil Appointments. When the bureau for the compilation of the Ssŭ-k'u ch'üan-shu was instituted in 1773 (see under Chi Yün) he was appointed an assistant editor, and it is reported that the works he edited were freer than any others from errors. Having been reared in affluence, and by nature sympathetic to the needs of others, he again fell heavily into debt. So pressed was he by financial difficulties that he decided in 1783 to go to Shensi to join the secretarial staff of Pi Yüan [q. v.]. There he died in the following year.
While in Peking, Ch'êng Chin-fang built up another library of some 15,000 chüan. In 1772 he made a catalogue of both his old and his new collections; entitled the Kuei-i shu-mu (書目). His own collected verse, entitled 勉行堂詩集 Mien-hsing t'ang shih-chi, 25 chüan, was printed in 1818, and his collected prose, Mien-hsing t'ang wên- (文) chi, 6 chüan, was printed in 1820. According to his own account he left the following six works on classical subjects: 周易知旨編 Chou-i chih-chih pien, 30 chüan, on the Classic of Changes; 尚書今文釋義 Shang-shu chin-wên shih-i, 40 chüan, and 尚書古文解略 Shang-shu ku-wên chieh-lüeh, 6 chüan (both completed in 1781), on the modern and ancient texts of the Classic of History; 毛鄭異同考 Mao-chêng i-t'ung k'ao, 10 chüan, on the Classic of Poetry; 春秋左傳翼疏 Ch'un-ch'iu Tso-chuan i-shu, 32 chüan (completed about 1759), on the Spring and Autumn Annals; and 禮記集釋 Li-chi chi-shih, 20 chüan, on the Record of Rites.
[1/490/7b; 3/130/32a; 20/3/xx (portrait); 徽州府志 Hui-chou fu chih (1827P'an Tsu-yin) 5/42b]11/4/52a; Yeh Ch'ang-ch'ih, Ts'ang-shu chi-shih shih (see under