Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Oboi

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3649166Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period, Volume 1 — OboiGeorge A. Kennedy

OBOI 鼇拜, d. 1669, a Manchu of the Bordered Yellow Banner, was the third son of Uici 偉齊, one of the members of the important Solgo family of the Gûwalgiya clan. In 1634, in return for his military services, he was, granted an hereditary commission as niru i janggin (captain of a company) and appointed to the position of colonel. For bravery shown in the attack on the island fortresses of the Ming armies, he was in 1637 made a baron of the third class and given the honorary title, baturu. After further military service in 1641 and 1643 he was rewarded with the rank of viscount of the third class. In 1644 he followed Dorgon [q. v.] to Peking and continued to serve with distinction in the army. After being raised to a viscount of the first class (1645), he took part in several important campaigns during Dorgon's regency-fighting first against Li Tzŭ-ch'êng [q. v.], then against Chang Hsien-chung [q. v.], and finally against Chiang Hsiang [q. v.]. Apparently he was one of Dorgon's trusted men. However, in 1651, immediately after Dorgon's death (late in 1650), he and several courtiers assisted Emperor Shih-tsu (i.e., Fu-lin, q.v.) to get rid of Dorgon 's faction and so have more power in government. Oboi was made a marquis and a year later (1652) was raised to a duke of the second class. He also held the highest military rank, namely chamberlain of the Imperial Bodyguard. In addition to other honors, he was given in 1656 the title of Junior Tutor.

Before his death, early in 1661, Emperor Shih-tsu designated his son, then eight sui, heir to the throne. He became Emperor Shêng-tsu (Hsüan-yeh, q.v.). During his minority affairs were directed by four joint regents, namely, Soni (see under Songgotu), Ebilun [q. v.], Suksaha 蘇克薩哈 (d. 1667), and Oboi. They had all been in Emperor Shih-tsu's confidence because they had helped him to overthrow Dorgon 's clique. With the support of Ebilun, Oboi worked himself into a position of authority and ruled virtually supreme for the next eight years. He took advantage of his power to settle several personal feuds and put a number of important men to death.

Most bitterly condemned of all his policies was his plan to rearrange the settlement of some of the Banners. From the time of the organization of the Eight Banners by Nurhaci [q. v.], their relative positions in a traditional geometrical form had been fixed. This arrangement was followed in such matters as the deployment of forces for a siege, and was the order in which the Banner regiments were later settled in the Tartar City at Peking. The north side, being the position of honor, was occupied by the two Yellow Banners; the east, by the White Banners; the west, by the Red; and the south, by the Blue. In the allotment of estates and lands to the Banners, after the occupation of the province of Chihli in 1644, some attempt was made to follow the same arrangement geographically, although it was impossible to do this with precision. As an exception the regent, Dorgon, having selected Yung-p'ing in the extreme northeast as his own residence, allocated the surrounding territory to his own Banner, the Plain White. The Bordered Yellow Banner which would normally have occupied this section received territory in the central part of the province, east of Paotingfu. Although the situation had remained so for almost twenty years, Oboi began to agitate for an exchange of territory between the two groups in a manner which would be advantageous for the Bordered Yellow Banner, to which both he and Ebilun belonged. Early in the year 1667 he caused the execution of three officiaLs who opposed him in his plan of exchanging the lands of the two Banners, and a few months later was preparing to go further when the young emperor took the rule into his own hands. Oboi was then raised to a duke of the first class and his second class dukedom was given to his son, Namfe 納穆福.

By this time one of the regents, Soni, had died (see under Songgotu). Oboi and Ebilun worked together while the third, Suksaha, alone and powerless, immediately petitioned for permission to retire. As a member of the Plain White Banner he had, since the establishment of the regency, been increasingly hostile to Oboi. Before he could retire, however, Oboi found means for bringing him to trial and, overruling opposition from Emperor Shêng-tsu, ordered his summary execution. Even his sons and relatives were executed. Left alone in power with Ebilun, Oboi attempted to maintain control over Emperor Shêng-tsu who was still under fourteen years of age. In 1669 the emperor, with the help of Songgotu [q. v.], had him arrested for insolence. Prince Giyešu [q. v.], then chief of the Council of Princes and High Officials, immediately prepared a list of thirty crimes charged against him. Many of the members of his clique were executed, including Grand Secretary Bamburšan 班布爾善, a grandson of Nurhaci. Oboi himself was thrown into prison where he soon died. Both of his dukedoms were abolished and his descendants became commoners.

In 1713 Emperor Shêng-tsu, in remembrance of Oboi's early exploits, gave him posthumously the hereditary rank of a baron, which, after being held for some time by a grandnephew of Oboi, was given to a grandson, Dafu 達福 (d. 1731). In 1727, when Dafu was appointed a deputy lieutenant general, he so impressed Emperor Shih-tsung (Yin-chên, q.v.) at an audience that the emperor restored his grandfather's dukedom in order that he might inherit it. Moreover, the designation, Ch'ao-wu (超武公), was specifically given to this dukedom. In 1729 Dafu was sent to assist Furdan [q. v.] in fighting against the Eleuths. Two years later, when the expeditionary forces were defeated west of Khobdo (see under Furdan), Dafu commanded the rear guard while the main army fell back. He was killed on the battlefield.

Late in 1780, Emperor Kao-tsung enumerated the crimes of Oboi and decreed that he and his descendants were not entitled to an hereditary dukedom. It was therefore ordered that the hereditary rank of Oboi's descendants should henceforth be reduced to that of baron.

[1/255/7a; 2/6/9b; 9/2/12b; 11/5/27a; 34/137/14b.]

George A. Kennedy