Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/I-chu
I-chu 奕詝, July 17, 1831–1861, Aug. 22, was the seventh emperor of the Ch'ing Dynasty who ruled under the reign-title Hsien-fêng 咸豐 (1851–62). He was the fourth son of Emperor Hsüan-tsung (see under Min-ning). His mother, Empress Hsiao-ch'üan 孝全成皇后 (née Niuhuru, 1808–1840), was for a time a concubine of Emperor Hsüan-tsung but in 1834, after the emperor's second wife had died, became Empress. At the age of six (sui) I-chu began to study with his tutor, Tu Shou-t'ien [q. v.]. After his mother's death (1840) he was cared for by Empress Hsiao-ching (see under I-hsin) and was always grateful to her for giving him the same consideration that she gave her own son, I-hsin [q. v.]. Both youths lived on very friendly terms, pursuing together their literary studies, their lancing and their swordsmanship. On August 7, 1846 I-chu was secretly chosen by his father as heir to the throne (see under Tu Shou-t'ien). Upon his father's death (February 25, 1850) he was publicly declared heir-apparent and ascended the throne on March 9, 1850, at the age of twenty (sui).
The empire which I-chu inherited was on the verge of disintegration. The government was without vitality, the officials corrupt, and the treasury depleted. famines and wars caused insufficiency of foodstuffs for the ever-multiplying population. Encouraged by secret anti-Manchu and religious societies, and incited by hatred for the dishonest and smug officials, the hungry populace of many places rose in arms. After the close of the Ch'ien-lung period uprisings of the farmers had from time to time taken place but were always ruthlessly suppressed. Finally the Anglo-Chinese War of 1840–42 exposed to the people the weaknesses of the government and encouraged them to revolt. While the regular imperial army at Canton was unable to resist the British onslaught (see under I-shan), Cantonese villagers won a battle over a detachment of British troops. However inconclusive the victory, it inspired the people with a feeling of power over the military forces of the empire and made them bold to instigate further revolt. Only a few months after I-chu ascended the throne he was confronted with the news of the Taiping Rebellion initiated by villagers in Kwangsi (see under Hung Hsiu-ch'üan). The troops he dispatched to put down the uprising proved so inefficient that the rebels were able by March 1853 to take Nanking and make it their capital. As their power increased they pressed on to southern Shansi and even to within a few miles of Tientsin (see under Lin Fêng-hsiang).
As the head of the government in Peking. I-chu was too young and inexperienced to cope with these chaotic conditions. To be sure, he asked for and received advice looking toward improvement in the conduct of the government. He foresaw the serious consequences of the Taiping Rebellion, and in 1851 sent against the rebels in Kwangsi, Sai-shang-a (see under Ch'ung-ch'i) who had been a Grand Councilor since 1841 and was one of the most capable Manchus of the period. When Sai-shang-a proved unsuccessful, I-chu removed him and put into his place Chinese of lower rank, like Hsiang Jung [q. v.]. Realizing that the Bannermen were no longer the warriors they had once been, he entrusted to Chinese officials the task of recruiting volunteer corps, and thus finally succeeded in winning back much of the conquered territory and putting the rebels on the defensive. But he did not live to see the final victory. Throughout his life he received, for the most part, only discouraging news of defeats in the field and of an exhausted treasury. As early as 1853 he forced a number of officials to surrender part of their ill-gotten wealth in order to pay the salaries of those who remained at the capital. Finally the strain became so great that he spent more and more time in the Yüan-ming Yüan (see under Hung-li) in various diversions. Though he did not entirely neglect national affairs he depended more and more upon his officials to make decisions in matters of national import.
In this weakened condition, China found herself once more at war with the English. Though five ports, including Canton, were open to foreign trade (see under Ch'i-ying), Westerners were still debarred from entering the walled city of Canton. In 1849 Hsü Kuang-chin [q. v.] was highly rewarded for refusing the request of the English to enter the city. The English government protested Hsü's decision and in May 1850 one copy of the protest, addressed to Ch'i-ying and Mu-chang-a [q. v.], was handed to the governor-general at Nanking, Lu Chien-ying 陸建瀛 ( 仲白, 立夫, d. 1853), while another was dispatched (in June) to Tientsin. Two letters were also addressed by the British to Ch'i-ying. All such efforts proved fruitless, for I-chu refused to consider the requests. He was hostile to foreigners, yet had he himself wished to compromise he could not have done so without antagonizing most of the officials at Court. The English prosest of 1850 seems to have resulted in the discharge of Mu-chang-a and the degradation of Ch'i-ying. Though I-chu did not mention the protest in his edict denouncing the two statesmen who brought about the peace of 1842, yet the fact that those documents had been addressed to them probably seemed to him sufficient proof that they were culpable. Moreover, Ch'i-ying had warned the emperor that British arms were formidable and that yielding was necessary when, as a matter of fact, the English did not immediately press their claims—thus proving to I-chu that both officials had grossly miscalculated the enemy's strength.
In 1854, however, the English demanded a revision of the Treaty of 1842, and the American and French envoys wished to negotiate on the same lines. As Yeh Ming-ch'ên [q. v.] declined to negotiate at Canton with the ministers of the three powers, the three foreign envoys presented their demands to Chi-êr-hang-a [q. v.] at Shanghai. The latter forwarded their requests to Peking, but the ministers—impatient for a satisfactory reply—sailed north to Taku and started negotiation with the salt controller, Ch'ung-lun 崇編 ( 沛如, surname Hsü 許, posthumous name 勤恪, 1792–1875). The British demands included the right to place a resident minister at Peking, to travel in the interior, to open Tientsin to foreign trade, and to lift the ban on opium. The emperor told Ch'ung-lun to refuse all these major demands and to grant conditionally only a few minor ones. Deeming the situation hopeless, the envoys returned to Hong Kong to await instructions from their respective governments. Finally the "Arrow" case afforded a pretext to start the war of 1857–58 which resulted in the occupation of Canton by the English and French troops (see under Yeh Ming-ch'ên) and also in the treaties of Tientsin (1858) with the four powers, England, France, the United States, and Russia (see under Kuei-liang). I-chu was misled, however, by the victory of Sêng-ko-lin-ch'in [q. v.] in 1859 at Taku when the British and French fleets were forced to withdraw with heavy losses. Hence, when the allies returned in 1860 and advanced on Peking, he would not believe that they could actually reach the capital, and even talked of personally taking charge of his forces at the front. In the end, however, he fled to Jehol and left the settlement of the disastrous war to I-hsin.
From this time on I-chu completely lost heart in national affairs and entrusted them to a few favorites, of whom the chief was the able Su-shun [q. v.]. Ashamed of his flight, the emperor would not return to the capital even after the allies had evacuated the city. He could not find the courage to face the officials and the people or, most humiliating of all, the foreign envoys who would press for an audience—this being one of the conditions upon which the peace of 1860 was based. Nor could he bring himself to grant such an audience, particularly as the terms of both the peace of 1858 and that of 1860 relieved the Western envoys of the necessity of performing the ceremony of the kotow (see under Yung-yen) to the emperor—a loss of prestige difficult for I-chu to face. He thus remained at Jehol and gave himself to excesses, probably with a view to self-destruction. He died on August 22, 1861. On his death-bed he was too ill to write the edict naming his son, Tsai-ch'un [q. v.], then a child of six sui, as heir-apparent. Su-shun and seven other ministers composed and proclaimed the edict of succession which led to long disputes concerning the regency, and to the coup-d'état of Empress Hsiao-ch'in [q. v.]. I-chu was canonized as Hsien Huang-ti 顯皇帝 with the temple name, Wên Tsung 文宗. He was buried in the Imperial Mausoleum east of Peking, his tomb being known as Ting-ling 定陵.
I-chu left a literary collection, entitled 履信書屋集 Li-hsin-shu-wu chi, which was later edited and printed under the title, Wên-tsung shih wên chi (詩文集), 10 chüan. His edicts were edited under the title, Wên-tsung Hsien Huang-ti shêng-hsün (聖訓), 110 chüan, completed in 1866; and the "veritable records" of his reign, entitled Wên-tsung Hsien Huang-ti shih-lu (實錄), 356 + 4 chüan, were completed in 1867.
I-chu had two sons and one daughter. The elder son, Tsai-ch'un, succeeded him; the younger died in infancy. The daughter, Princess Jung-an 榮安公主 (1855–1875), the child of a concubine, married (1873) Fu-chên 符珍 (original name 瑞煜 d. 1910), who was a descendant of Tulai (see under Fiongdon) and was the tenth Duke Hsiung-yung.
[1/20/1a; Tung-hua lu, Hsien-fêng period; 清帝后外紀 Ch'ing ti hou wai-chi; Ch'ing Huang-shih ssŭ-p'u (see under Fu-lung-an); Ch'ou-pan i-wu shih-mo (see under I-hsin), Hsien-fêng period; Hsüeh-ch'iao shih-hua (see under Shêng-yü), 12/43a; see also bibl. under Kuei-liang, I-hsin and Su-shun.]