Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Lan Ting-yüan

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LAN Ting-yüan 藍鼎元 (T. 玉霖, 任庵, H. 鹿洲), Sept. 19, 1680–1733, Aug. 1, official and author, was born in Chang-p'u, Fukien. His father, Lan Pin 藍斌 (T. 郁人, H. 文庵, 1658–1689), was a scholar, and his mother (née Hsü 許, 1661–1713) was commended for her many virtues to the governor, Chang Po-hsing [q. v.], and to the provincial commissioner of education, Shên Han 沈涵 (T. 度汪, H. 心齋, chin-shih of 1676). About the year 1703 he ranked first as hsiu-ts'ai, but never succeeded in passing the provincial examinations. Nevertheless he was immediately taken into the office of Shên Han. In 1707 Chang Po-hsing founded the Ao-fêng (鼇峯) Academy where Lan and other scholars of the province were invited to edit the writings of former philosophers. In 1710 Lan felt it incumbent upon himself to retire from active service to his home in order to support his aged mother and his grandparents by writing and teaching. He remained in seclusion until 1720, devoting his spare time to study. When in the following year Chu I-kuei [q. v.] revolted in Formosa a cousin of Lan, Lan T'ing-chên (see under Shih Shih-p'iao), brigade general of Namoa, led a flotilla and defeated the rebels after seven days. Lan Ting-yüan was with the army during the entire campaign, and thus was able to acquire first-hand the information which he afterwards used in his writings and discussions about Formosa. In 1724 he was chosen to go to Peking as a student of the Imperial Academy and in the following year helped in the compilation of the Ta-Ch'ing i-t'ung chih (see under Hsü Ch'ien-hsüeh), his thorough knowledge of the southeast coast being of value in this work. His reputation as a geographer spread, and ministers leaving the capital to undertake duties in the provinces flocked to him for information concerning the regions in which they were to be stationed.

In 1728 Chu Shih [q. v.] introduced Lan to Emperor Shih-tsung. They discussed geographical and historical matters, river and sea transportation, and methods of governing Formosa. Shih-tsung appointed him district magistrate of P'u-ning, Kwangtung, and a month later Lan also became acting magistrate of Ch'ao-yang. In this double capacity he distinguished himself for the subtle and effective ways in which he suppressed bandits, and for his severity with the sung-shih 訟師, or lawyers who preyed upon simple folk by pretending to teach them schemes for getting money and evading the law. His wisdom in settling legal cases led the common people to believe he had supernatural aid. Zealous in furthering the interests of sound learning he personally arrested and had executed a woman who called herself "The Latter Day Leader of the Heavenly Religion" (後天教主) and her husband who was known as "The Fairy Duke," (仙公). Transforming the house which they had used as a temple for their cult into the Academy called Mien-yang Shu-yüan 棉陽書院, he there had sacrifices performed to various Sung philosophers and authorized the appropriation of a sum of money from the taxes for the employment of teachers and for scholarships.

Lan's career as district magistrate ended unfortunately. He had gained the enmity of the intendant of Hui-chou and Ch'ao-chou for examining too closely into transactions connected with the distribution of grain during a famine, whereupon the intendant brought six charges against Lan, the chief of which was bribery. As a result he was removed from office by imperial decree and imprisoned. Meanwhile the intendant was promoted to provincial judge. Lan's innocence, however, was generally recognized, both by the common people and by the officials. The prefect ordered his release and invited him to compile a history of the prefecture. The governor general, Omida 鄂彌達 (d. 1761), invited him to stay with him as secretary. In 1732 Omida addressed the throne vindicating Lan of all guilt in the P'u-ning affair. The following year Emperor Shih-tsung summoned him to Peking, honored him with gifts, and appointed him acting prefect of Canton—a place of strategic importance where Europeans were coming and going and where Lan was eager to do what he could to carry out his duties. But he died one month after entering office.

Among Lan's more important writings are the 平臺記 P'ing Tai chi, "Annals of the Pacification of Formosa," 11 chüan, published in 1723. It is an eye-witness account of the victorious campaign against Chu I-kuei, and a compendium of instructions for the control of Formosa. In his instructions on how to govern Formosa he advised agricultural exploitation, preparation against a possible invasion by the Japanese and the Dutch, the restriction of the aborigines to a special area, the building of schools, training in forestry, and diminution of taxes. His 女學 Nü-hsüeh, "Women's Culture," 6 chüan, has prefaces dated 1712, 1717, and 1718. It is divided into four sections: Virtue, Speech, Bearing, and Work, following the schematism of the Han historian, Pan Chao 班昭 (T. 惠姬), in her 女誡 Nü-chieh. Under each of these headings he gathered extracts from classical, literary, and historical works to illustrate the excellencies of famous women of the past. He contended that girls as well as boys should be educated in order the better to fulfill their function in society.

Dissatisfied with the Sung Dynastic History (Sung-shih) because of its confused treatment of geography, he resolved to "try his brush" (shih-pi) at writing history. The result was his 修史試筆 Hsiu-shih shih-pi, in 2 chüan, whose preface is dated 1728. It is a collection of 36 biographies, beginning with Fang Hsüan-ling 房玄齡 (T. 喬, 578–648) and Tu Ju-hui 杜如晦 (T. 克明, 584–629), and ending with Wang P'o 王朴 (T. 文伯, 906–959). The 棉陽學準 Mien-yang hsüeh-chun, 5 chüan, the preface of which is dated 1729, was written to educate students in Ch'ao-yang while Lan was acting magistrate of that district. It discusses such topics as rules for the intercourse of colleagues, rites to be observed in the class-room before the lecturer, rites to be observed in commemoration of various important dates in the life of Confucius, the source and the history of philosophy (道學), and the meaning of the Great Monad (太極). It also contains a list of the names of 56 of Lan's disciples. A collection of Lan's shorter writings up to the year 1726, entitled 鹿洲初集 Lu chou ch'u-chi, 20 chüan, was compiled by his friend, K'uang Min-pên 曠敏本 (T. 魯之, H. 岣嶁, chin-shih of 1736). A more complete collection of Lan's works, entitled Lu-chou ch'üan chi (全集), 42 chüan, was printed in 1865. In place of the P'ing T'ai chi this compilation contains an abridged edition known as P'ing T'ai chi-lüeh (紀略). In 1879 the collection was reprinted under the editorship of a descendant, Lan Ch'ien 藍謙, who added five of Lan Ting-yüan's memorials.


[1/483/4b; 1/290/4a; 3/227/49a; Ssŭ-k'u, 63/6a, 64/7b, 98/4b-5b; 173/11a.]

Rufus O. Suter