Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Chêng Chên

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3634093Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period, Volume 1 — Chêng ChênFang Chao-ying

CHÊNG Chên 鄭珍 (T. 子尹, H. 紫翁, 五尺道人), Apr. 28, 1806–1864, Oct. 17, poet and scholar, was a native of Tsun-i, Kweichow. His grandfather and his father were physicians. He studied under his uncle, Li Hsün 黎恂 (T. 雪樓, H. 拙叟, 1785–1863), whose daughter he later married. In 1825 he was made a senior licentiate by the commissioner of education, Ch'êng Ên-tsê [q. v.], and in the following year, when the latter was transferred to Hunan, Chêng Chên went as his secretary and remained with him two years. For a time in 1836 he was in P'ing-i, Yunnan, where Li Hsün was acting magistrate. Finally Chêng became a chü-jên (1837) and was engaged by the local prefect as co-compiler of the gazetteer, Tsun-i-fu chih (府志), 48 chüan, printed in 1841—the other compiler being his friend, Mo Yu-chih [q. v.]. This gazetteer is regarded by some as one of the best of the Ch'ing period. About this time Chêng Chên printed a work on the chief industry of his district—sericulture—which he entitled 樗繭譜 Shu-chien p'u.

Failing to obtain the chin-shih degree, Chêng applied for an official appointment and was declared qualified to supervise district schools. After serving as acting sub-director of schools at Ku-chou (1845) and Chên-yüan (1850–51) in his native province he was appointed in 1854 sub-director of schools of Li-po, also in Kweichow. But in 1855 the Miao tribesmen rebelled and attacked Li-po. For a time Chêng helped to hold the city against the insurgents, but soon sensed the futility of further resistance. After the magistrate was killed in action, and when help promised by higher officials failed to arrive, he abandoned his post and retired. About this time (1855) his anthology of the poets of Tsun-i, entitled 播雅 Po-ya, 24 chüan, was printed by the T'ang family of that district (see under T'ang Chiung). In 1861 Chêng began to teach in the Hsiang-ch'uan Academy 湘川書院 of his native town. But at this time Kweichow, like the rest of China, was harassed by rebellions: Chêng's home was ransacked by local insurgents and a part of his library was burned. In 1863 he moved to a fort built by the civilians to withstand the bandits. In the same year he received notice that he had been recommended to the throne by Ch'i Chün-tsao [q. v.] and had qualified as magistrate. Hard-pressed by poverty, he was gladdened by the news, and by the hope of meeting his old friend, Mo Yu-chih, at Nanking. He was about to proceed to Kiangsu to receive appointment from Tsêng Kuo-fan [q. v.], but was prevented by illness from leaving home, and died the following year.

Chêng Chên is regarded as one of the greatest poets of the later Ch'ing period. While other poets were imitating great masters of by-gone days, and writing verse in archaic, not to say unintelligible, characters, Chêng was content to describe his own experiences, or the sufferings of the common people in warfare. The first collection of his verse, entitled 巢經巢詩鈔 Ch'ao-ching-ch'ao shih ch'ao, 9 chüan, appeared about 1854 and was edited by himself. Later this collection was several times reprinted. A fuller edition appeared in 1925 in the collectanea, 清代學術叢書 Ch'ing-tai hsüeh-shu ts'ung-shu, with supplements entitled hou-chi (後集), 4 chüan; i (遺) chi, 1 chüan; and 坿錄 fu-lu, 1 chüan. This same collectanea has specimens of Chêng's short works in prose, Ch'ao-ching-ch'ao wên (文) chi, 6 chüan; and a collection of poems by his son, Chêng Chih-t'ung 鄭知同 (T. 伯更), entitled 屈廬詩稿 Ch'ü-lu shih-kao, 4 chüan. About 1887 this son was engaged as chief editor of the printing press, Kuang-ya Shu-chü at Canton (see under Chang Chih-tung).

Chêng Chên produced several treatises on the classics and philology, among which may be mentioned a work on the Decorum Ritual, 儀禮私箋 I-li ssŭ-chien, 8 chüan; an illustrated study of the section on wheeled vehicles in the Record of Rites, entitled, Lun-yü (輪與) ssŭ-ch'ien (1868); and a work on family relations 親屬記 Ch'in-shu chi, 2 chüan (1892). On philological matters he produced the 說文新附考 Shuo-wên hsin-fu k'ao, 6 chüan (1878) and the 汗簡箋正 Han-chien chien-chêng, 8 chüan (1889).

[1/488/29a; 2/69/61b; 5/74/17b.]

Fang Chao-ying