Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Chin Chien

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CHIN Chien 金簡 (鑑) d. Jan. 12 or 13, 1795, came from a Korean family of I-chou 義州 on the Yalu River. In 1627 an ancestor, Sandari 三達理, joined the court of Abahai [q. v.] and was appointed an interpreter. Sandari's eldest brother, Sindari 新(辛)達理, head of the family, was made (1637) captain of a newly created company composed of Korean families taken in the course of Abahai's expedition to Seoul. This company constituted the second Korean contingent of the Fourth Bond Servant's Division of the Manchu Plain Yellow Banner, but in the official biography Chin Chien is listed as a member of the Chinese Plain Yellow Banner. The captain of this company was always a member of Sindari's family. Chin Chien's father, Sanbao 三保, was a grandson of Sandari and captain of the Korean company. Sanbao served for several terms as salt censor of the Ch'ang-lu Salt District, with headquarters at Tientsin (1734–37, 1740–43). His family received imperial favors in the Ch'ien-lung period, owing to the fact that his daughter (see under Yung-ch'êng) became a concubine of Emperor Kao-tsung and between the years 1739 and 1752 gave birth to three of the emperor's sons: Yung-ch'êng, Yung-hsüan and Yung-hsing [qq. v.]. She was Chin Chien's younger sister, and because of her position Sanbao's branch of the family was in 1799 freed from the status of bond servants, was granted the clan-name Jingiya (金佳) and was incorporated in the Manchu Plain Yellow Banner.

Chin Chien began his official career by purchasing the rank of a student of the Imperial Academy and of a clerk in the Imperial Household. In the latter office he became a secretary in 1750, a department director in 1765, and a director of the Imperial Gardens and Hunting Parks in 1770. In 1772 he was made a minister of the Household, a post which, together with other concurrent offices, he probably held until his death. On April 2, 1773, he was named concurrently superintendent of the Imperial Printing Press and Bindery (Wu Ying Tien 武英殿) and thus achieved fame in the history of printing in China.

In 1772 the project for compiling the Imperial Manuscript Library, Ssŭ-k'u ch'üan-shu (see under Chi Yün), was initiated and on April 2, 1773, the emperor ordered Chin Chien to take charge of making reprints from a number of rare works, some of them copied from the Yung-lo ta-tien (see under Chu Yün and under Hsü Sung). On December 11, 1773, chin memorialized concerning a plan for printing with movable wooden type, a proceedure he regarded as much cheaper than the commonly used wooden blocks. He recommended cutting from jujube wood some 6,000 characters in common use and duplicating by tens or hundreds the ones most frequently needed. These type would be of two sizes, the smaller size to be used for footnotes or commentaries. Uncut blanks would also be prepared so that any uncommon character might he cut as needed. To this plan the emperor gave his approval, and in less than six months a set of about 253,500 wooden type in two sizes was completed. The cost of the type, trays, and other equipment totaled less than 2,340 taels. On June 3, 1774 Emperor Kao-tsung gave this method of printing—hitherto known as huo-tzŭ pan 活字版—the name, Wu-ying tien chü-chên pan (聚珍版) and wrote a poem to commemorate the initiation of the project. It was decided that twenty copies of each work would be printed for the emperor's various studios—five of these on the better grade of paper known as lien-ssŭ chih 連四紙. Some 300 other copies, printed on "bamboo paper" (chu-chih 竹紙), would be offered for sale. The enterprise progressed rapidly, the first five works being completed early in 1775. The impressions were exceptionally clear. Early in 1777, after more than thirty works had been printed, Chin Chien published, also with movable type, an illustrated treatise about the printing, which he entitled Wu-ying tien chü-chên pan ch'êng-shih (程式). This treatise contains documents relating to the enterprise. All the works thus printed, including the treatise just mentioned, were brought together in one great collectanea known as the Wu-ying tien chü-chên pan ts'ung-shu (叢書). It consists of 134 items, the last item being printed about the year 1794. Four works printed from blocks before 1774 were also included in this collectanea, making a total of 138 items. It is known that at least eight other works were printed from the movable type of the Wu Ying Tien in the Ch'ien-lung and Chia-ch'ing periods, but these are not usually regarded as parts of the collectanea.

Books printed from the chü-chên pan became so popular that in October 1774, at the suggestion of Tung Kao [q. v.], the provincial authorities of Kiangnan, Kiangsi, Chekiang, Fukien, and Kwangtung were ordered to reprint for general use the works that had come from the Imperial Press. But none of the reprints thus made include all of the 138 original items. About the year 1899, however, the Kuang-ya Shu-chü (see under Chang Chih-tung) produced an expanded edition which contains 148 titles.

While thus engaged in supervising the Imperial Printing Press, Chin Chien was made (early in 1774) an assistant director-general of the commission for compiling the Ssŭ-k'u ch'üan-shu. In this enterprise he served more or less as an administrator, since his scholastic training was limited. After 1774 he served successively as a vice-president of the Board of Revenue (1774–83) and as president of the Board of Works (1783–92) and of the Board of Civil Appointments (1792–95). In these posts he proved to be an excellent financier and an efficient administrator of building enterprises. In 1785 he was commended for his part in the construction of the Imperial Lecture Hall (Pi-yung 辟雍), the lovely square double-eaved edifice, surrounded by a moat, which stands in the center of the Imperial Academy (Kuo-tzŭ chien 國子監), adjoining the Confucian Temple in Peking. Work on the structure had begun two years previously. In the same year (1785) he was put in charge of repairing and remodeling the tombs of the emperors of the Ming Dynasty, north of Peking. In 1793 he was one of the commissioners charged with arranging in the Audience Hall the elaborate presents which the Macartney Mission had brought to Peking (see under Hung-li). He died two years later after a service at Court of more than forty-five years. He was canonized as Ch'in-k'o 勤恪. After his death no further items were added to the Palace edition of the Wu-ying tien chü-chên pan ts'ung-shu.

A son of Chin Chien, named Wên-pu 緼布 (d. about 1809), was promoted in 1764 from a clerk in the Imperial Household to be an Imperial Bodyguard. After several promotions, he was named a minister of the Imperial Household (1795), possibly with the expectation that he would succeed to his father's post. Like his father, Wên-pu supervised several building enterprises and served as superintendent of the Imperial Printing Press and Bindery. In 1799 he and his family were freed from servitude in the Imperial Household and were given the status of Manchus. His last post was that of president of the Board of Works (1801-09).

[1/327/6b; 3/90/6a; 34/5/33b; Pa-ch'i Man-chou shih-tsu t'ung-p'u (see under Anfiyanggû) 72/1a; 辦理四庫全書檔案 Pan-li Ssŭ-k'u ch'üan-shu tang-an, 1/49b; The China Review, vol. VI, pp 294–95 (1877–78); Schierlitz, Ernst, "Zur Technik der Holztypendrucke aus dem Wu-ying-tien in Peking", in Monumenta Serica, vol. I, pp. 17-38.

Fang Chao-ying