Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Huang Ching-jên

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HUANG Ching-jên 黃景仁 (T. 仲則, 漢鋪, H. 悔存, 鹿菲子), Feb. 20, 1749–1783, May 25, one of the foremost poets of the Ch‘ing period, was a descendant of the Sung poet and calligrapher, Huang T'ing-chien 黃庭堅 (T. 魯直, H. 涪翁, 1045–1105). In the fifteenth century a branch of the family settled in Wuchin, Kiangsu. Huang Ching-jên, a fourteenth generation descendant of this branch, was born at Kao-ch'un, Kiangsu, where his grandfather was a sub-director of the district school. When he was three years old his father died, and his early education devolved on his mother and grandfather. At seven sui he moved to Wu-chin and then first met Hung Liang-chi [q. v.], a neighbor three years his senior, who later became a famous writer and a life-long friend. In 1760 Huang's grandfather died, and the family became poor. About the year 1763 he began to concentrate on the writing of verse and in 1765 took his hsiu-ts'ai degree. In the following year he and Hung Liang-chi began to take an interest in each other's poems, and in 1767 both became pupils of the scholar, Shao Ch'i-tao 邵齊燾 (T. 荀慈, H. 叔宀, 1717–1768), a chin-shih of 1742, who was the head of the Lung-ch'êng Academy 龍城書院 in Wu-chin. Shao was very fond of both pupils. Finding Huang Ching-jên depressed in spirit because of poverty, and devoted in his writing to pessimistic themes, Shao encouraged him to look at the brighter side of life. In 1768 Huang went to Shê-hsien, Anhwei, and thereafter travelled in Chekiang, Kiangsi, and Hunan. During his stay in Hunan (1769–1770) he was a guest of the Provincial judge, Wang Tai-yüeh 王太岳 (T. 基平, H. 芥子, 1722–1785, chin-shih of 1742), who was also a poet.

In 1771 Huang was engaged as a secretary by Chu Yün [q. v.], then commissioner of education of Anhwei. Among his secretarial colleagues were such scholars and poets as Hung Liang-chi, Wang Nien-sun, Shao Chin-han, Chang Hsüeh-ch'êng, Tai Chên, and Wang Chung [qq. v.]. Huang's poems won him fame even in this galaxy of talented men. In 1775, after teaching for a time in the Chêng-yang Academy 正陽書院 at T'ai-p'ing, Anhwei, he went to Peking. In the following year Emperor Kao-tsung summoned a group of licentiates (諸生) to Tientsin for competition in a special examination to commemorate the subjugation of the Chin-ch'uan aborigines (see under A-kuei). Huang Ching-jên passed as one of the second class and obtained a post as copyist in the Imperial Printing Establishment (see under Chin Chien). He remained in Peking, became a pupil of Wang Ch'ang [q. v.], established friendships with a large number of writers, including Wêng Fang-kang and Chi Yün [qq. v.], and won fame not only by his verses but also by his calligraphy and painting. In 1777 his mother, wife, and children joined him in Peking and remained there three years.

Although Huang had become a hsiu-ts'ai, he failed repeatedly in the provincial examinations. Unable to obtain a lucrative post, he became poorer, and finally was forced to send his family home (1780) while he himself accepted a position as secretary to Ch'êng Shih-ch'un 程世淳 (T. 端立, H. 澂江, 1738–1823), commissioner of education of Shantung. In 1781 he went to Sian, Shensi, where he sought financial help from the scholarly governor-general, Pi Yüan [q. v.]. His friends, Hung Liang-chi and Sun Hsing-yen [q. v.], were then also in Sian and the three enjoyed a happy reunion. Upon his return to Peking he chafed at the prospect of further competition in the civil service examinations. He had worked in the Imperial Printing Office and had passed a special examination and therefore was entitled to a registrarship in a district. In accordance with government regulations of that time, his rank was raised, upon payment of a fee, to that of assistant district magistrate, but even for this rank he had to wait until there was a vacancy. Sensitive by nature, he could not easily endure the hardships of poverty, and for a time (1782) indulged in wine and voluptuousness. Although ill, he was forced by his creditors again to seek help in Sian, but died on the way at Yün-ch'êng, in An-i, Shansi. The expenses of his funeral, and removal of his body to Wu-chin, were undertaken by his friend, Hung Liang-chi.

Although Huang Ching-jên died at thirty-five sui, his achievement in poetry made him the idol of many a sympathetic reader. From youth on he admired the spontaneity of the Tang poet, Li Po 李白 (T. 太白, d. 762), but himself lived at a time when scholars overloaded their verses with terms taken from epigraphy and history and so made them uninspiring and almost unreadable. Huang was one of the few poets of his day to write lyrically about love, the beauties of nature, poverty, hate, and other themes in which the emotions can feature. This is especially true of his poems in irregular metre (tz'ŭ 詞). Selections of his verses were first printed by Pi Yüan in the anthology, 吳會英才集 Wu-k'uai ying-ts'ai chi. Another collection of about five hundred poems was made by Wêng Fang-kang and printed in 1796 under the title, 悔存詩鈔 Hui-ts'un shih-ch'ao. A larger collection, entitled 兩當軒詩鈔 Liang-tang hsüan shih ch'ao, in 14 chüan, appeared in 1799. It was reprinted in 1817 and 2 chüan of tz'ŭ were added. Several more editions appeared; the most complete one was edited by the author's grandson, Huang Chih-shu 黃志述 (T. 仲孫), and was printed in 1858 under the title Liang-tang hsüan ch'üan-chi (全集). Huang Chih-shu, having access to the original manuscripts, corrected many errors in other editions and compiled 2 chüan of collation notes as a supplement to the collection. In this supplement are prefaces to previous editions, sketches of the life of Huang Ching-jên, and a life in chronological order entitled, 黃仲則先生年譜 Huang Chung-tsê hsien-shêng nien-p'u, by Mao Ch'ing-shan 毛慶善 (T. 叔美) and Chi Hsi-ch'ou 季錫疇 (T. 菘耘, H. 範卿). During the Taiping Rebellion (see under Hung Hsiu-ch'üan) the blocks of this edition were damaged, but in 1876 the wife of Huang Chih-shu (née Wu 吳), then a widow, had them repaired.


[1/490/11b; 3/438/36a; 4/141/5a; 20/3/00; 25/6/1a; Mao and Chi (vide supra) Huang Chung-tsê hsien-shêng nien-p'u (1858); Huang I-chih 黃逸之, 黃仲則年譜 Huang Chung-tsê nien-p'u (1934); Chang I-p'ing 章衣萍, 黃仲則評傳 Huang Chung-tsê p'ing-chuan (1930); appendices to the 1858 edition of Huang's collected poems.]

Fang Chao-ying