Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Ch'ung-ch'i

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

CH'UNG-ch'i 崇綺 (T. 文山), Oct. 13, 1829–1900, Aug. 26, official, father-in-law of Emperor Mu-tsung, was a Mongol of the Alute 阿魯特 Clan. His family belonged to the Mongol Plain Blue Banner. His father, Sai-shang-a 賽尚阿 (T. 鶴汀, d. 1875), was a chü-jên of 1816 who became known in the eighteen-twenties for his excellent work as a secretary of the Grand Council. Sai-shang-a served a long time as a Grand Councilor (1835-37, 1841–52) and was for a time a Grand Secretary (1850–52). During the First Anglo-Chinese War he was twice (1841, 1842) sent to Tientsin to supervise the defense of the coast. In 1851 he was made Imperial Commissioner to command the troops in Kwangsi, then fighting against the Taiping rebels (see under Hsiang Jung). Early in the following year he was given, as a symbol of authority, a sword which two hundred years before had belonged to Ebilun [q. v.]. However, for permitting many reverses and for allowing the rebels to move from Kwangsi to Hunan, he was deprived of all ranks and was escorted to Peking for trial. He was sentenced, in the spring of 1853, to imprisonment awaiting execution and was stripped of all his property. Later in the same year he was sent to Paoting to redeem himself. Gradually he was reinstated in officialdom and by 1861, when he retired, he was serving as lieutenant-general of a Banner. Nevertheless, his house in Peking was not restored to him. It was used in 1859 to house the American envoy and his suite (see under Kuei-liang) and in later years became the campus of the T'ung-wên kuan (see under Tung Hsün).

Ch'ung-ch'i started out in official life by purchasing the degree of a licentiate. In 1848 he became a secretary in the Board of Works, and a year later a chü-jên. But in 1853, after his father was arrested for failure to suppress the Taiping Rebellion, he likewise was cashiered. He gradually redeemed himself by serving under Sêng-ko-lin-ch'in [q. v.] and others in defending Chihli against the advance of the Taiping rebels. In 1860 he assisted I-hsin [q. v.] to maintain order in Peking and was awarded the rank of secretary in a Board. In 1865, while serving as a clerk in the office of the general commandant of the Peking Gendarmerie, he took the metropolitan and palace examinations and won first honors—that is to say he became a chin-shih with the much-coveted title of chuang-yüan. According to an unwritten rule of the dynasty no bannerman should receive high honors in the civil service examinations, since he presumably had other opportunities to become an official, and at any rate should by tradition devote himself to military affairs. Thus, beginning with Ch'ung-ch'i, a long-standing tradition of the dynasty was broken.

After the examination Ch'ung-ch'i was appointed a first-class compiler of the Hanlin Academy and in 1870 was made a sub-expositor. In 1872 Emperor Mu-tsung came of age and an empress was to be chosen for him from among the daughters of high officials. A daughter of Ch'ung-ch'i received this honor, she being later known as Empress Hsiao-chê (see under Tsai-ch'un), also referred to as Empress Chia-shun 嘉順皇后. As father of the Empress, Ch'ung-ch'i was given the rank of a third class Duke, and his own branch of the family was elevated to the Manchu Bordered Yellow Banner. Late in 1873 he was made junior vice-president of the Board of Revenue and in 1874 was transferred to the Board of Civil Appointments.

Early in 1875 Emperor Mu-tsung died, leaving no son. His mother, Empress Hsiao-ch'in [q. v.], had never liked Empress Hsiao-chê and, moreover, was actively concerned to perpetuate her privileges as the Dowager Empress (see under Tsai-ch'un and Hsiao-ch'in). She adopted a son whom she elevated to the throne, namely, Emperor Tê-tsung whose personal name was Tsai-t'ien [q. v.]. To Ch'ung-ch'i's daughter, Empress Hsiao-chê, she gave the title Empress Chia-shun, hoping she would be content to live in the background as a widow. But Empress Hsiao-chê, in protest against this unjust treatment of herself and her husband, committed suicide (March 27, 1875)—seventy-four days after her husband's death. Some assert that she died in consequence of a long fast, others that she swallowed some 'metal'. Whatever the method, her action was clearly a protest against indignities suffered at the hands of Hsiao-ch'in.

As for Ch'ung-ch'i, he continued to serve at Court. In 1878 he was acting military governor of Kirin, and later military lieutenant-governor of Jehol (1879–81), military governor of Shêng-ching (1881–January 1884), and president of the Board of Revenue (1884–85) and of the Board of Civil Appointments (1885–86). He retired in 1886, apparently in consequence of a paralytic stroke. Four years later, he pleaded that since his recovery was doubtful his dukedom and other posts should be taken from him. The dukedom was allowed to go to his son, Pao-ch'u 葆初. Early in 1900, when Empress Hsiao-ch'in and Tsai-i (see under I-tsung) planned to dethrone Emperor Tê-tsung, a son of Tsai-i, named P'u-chün (see under I-tsung), was appointed heir-apparent. Presumably P'u-chün was to inherit the throne as the adopted son of Emperor Mu-tsung and Ch'ung-ch'i's daughter. Hence Ch'ung-ch'i was called from retirement and made tutor to P'u-chün. Ch'ung-ch'i is reported to have been one of the chief plotters to assist Tsai-i in the attempt to dispose of Emperor Te-tsung by any means, fair or foul. When the plot was delayed, owing to hints of opposition from some foreign Ministers in Peking, the Court became visibly more anti-foreign. Ch'ung-ch'i, as one of this group, took part in the Boxer attack on the Catholic church, Pei-t'ang 北堂, in Peking. When the Allied troops entered Peking, he (now president of the Board of Revenue) and Jung-lu [q. v.], fled to Paoting. Ch'ung-ch'i hanged himself there on August 26, 1900. The Court, then on its way to Shansi, learned of his death and ordered that he be given the posthumous name, Wên-chieh 文節.

Ch'ung-ch'i's son, Pao-ch'u, and many other members of his family committed suicide in Peking shortly after the Allies entered the city.

[1/474/1a; 2/58/24a; 6/33/18b; 2/52/1a; 樞垣紀略 Shu-yüan chi-lüeh; Hsi-hsün ta-shih chi (see under I-hsin); Fêng Shu 馮恕, 庚子辛亥忠烈像贊 Kêng-tzŭ hsin-hai chung-lieh hsiang-tsan; Chin-shih jên-wu chih (see under Wêng T'ung-ho); Pao Wên-ching kung chi (see under Wên-hsiang) 10/16a.]

Fang Chao-ying