Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/P'an Chên-ch'êng

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P'AN Chên-ch'êng 潘振承 (T. 遜賢, H. 文巖), July 23, 1714–1788, Jan. 10, was engaged in foreign trade and was known to Westerners as Puan Khe (Kei)-qua (P'an Ch'i-kuan 潘啓官). Born in a village in the maritime district of T'ung-an, Fukien, he spent his youth on a trading ship sailing about various ports of South China, once or twice going as far as Manila. Apparently in the seventeen-forties he became a clerk at Canton in the firm of a foreign trader, and early in the seventeen-fifties established his own firm, styled T'ung-wên (同文). Thereafter, owing to his native ability and to a working knowledge of Western languages, he carried on a prosperous business. In 1760 he and eight other foreign traders in Canton established, under the supervision of the government, their guild known as Co-hong (see under Li Shih-yao) with a view to monopolizing foreign trade. Several years later, however, the majority of the guild's members suffered severely from heavy taxes levied by supervising officials. At the same time Western merchants were anxious to abolish the monopoly of the Co-hong in order that they might deal freely with other Chinese traders. In co-operation with the British merchants of the East India Company, P'an made an effort to do away with the Co-hong system. By bribing Governor-general Li Shih-yao with some 100,000 taels which he in turn had received from British merchants, he temporarily (1771) succeeded with the plan. A few years later the Hong system, or one similar to it, was re-established and. P'an was appointed (1778) its chief, a position which he held until his death. In 1781–82, when the Superintendent of the Canton Maritime Customs revived an old regulation prohibiting any one foreign ship from exporting raw silk in excess of 100 piculs, P'an, by a bribe of 4,000 taels, caused the superintendent to relax the rule. Late in life he was decorated with the Blue Sapphire Button of a third rank official for his contribution to a fund for waging the Chin-ch'uan war (see under A-kuei).

When P'an Chên-ch'êng died early in 1788 his son, P'an Yu-tu 潘有度 (T. 憲臣, H. 容谷, formal name as Hong merchant P'an Chih-hsiang 潘致祥, d. 1821), who was also known to Westerners as Puan Khequa, inherited the T'ung-wên firm; but, as he declined to become chief of the Co-hong, the office was given to Ts'ai Shih-wên 蔡世文 who was known to Westerners as Munqua (Wên-kuan 文官). In April 1796 when the latter, owing to heavy debts, committed suicide, P'an Yu-tu accepted the position and held it for twelve years. In 1808 he retired from business, but in 1814–15, at the request of the Superintendent of Customs, he resumed leadership of the Co-hong. Though he continued in business until his death, his influence gradually declined owing, it is said, to the competition of Wu Ping-chien [q. v.]. He was succeeded by his nephew, P'an Chêng-wei 潘正煒 (T. 榆庭, H. 季彤, formal name as a Hong Kong merchant, P'an Shao-kuang 潘紹光, 1791–1850), the third Puan Khequa, who changed the firm's name to T'ung-fu 同孚. His fortune is reported to have come to some twenty million Spanish dollars, but it diminished in his son's time.

Many of the descendants of P'an Chên-ch'êng were famous for their wealth and for their official ranks which they purchased. Most of them had luxurious gardens and estates, among them the T'ing-fan Lou 聽颿樓 of P'an Chêng-wei; the Nan Shu 南墅 and the Liu-sung Yüan 六松園 of P'an Yu-wei 潘有爲 (T. 卓臣, H. 毅堂, chü-jên of 1770), a brother of P'an Yu-tu; and the famous Hai-shan hsien-kuan (see below).They also had some appreciation of literature and left a few collections of verse. A selection of their works was printed in 1893–94 in 23 chüan under the title 番禺潘氏詩略 P'an-yü P'an-shih shih-lüeh.

Among the descendants of P'an Chên-ch'êng was P'an Shih-ch'êng 潘仕成 (T. 德畬) upon whom Emperor Hsüan-tsung conferred a chü-jên degree in 1832 for his contribution to relief funds for famine sufferers in Chihli. He served for several years as a department director, a position which he purchased. During the first half of the eighteen-forties he helped Ch'i-ying [q. v.] in treaty negotiations and was engaged in building a squadron for the South China Sea. For about ten years, beginning in 1848, he was salt controller of Kwangtung. In 1858 he assisted Kuei-liang [q. v.] at Shanghai in the Sino-British negotiation on tariff and trade. Thereafter he seems to have engaged in the salt and tea business, but a few years before his death his firm failed. Some sources state that he was at one time engaged in foreign trade, but this is doubtful. His residence, styled Hai-shan hsien-kuan 海山仙館 (built in his garden, named Li-hsiang Yüan 荔香園), was famous for its luxurious architecture and for its rich collection of books, paintings and calligraphy. He was best known as the publisher of the collectanea, Hai-shan hsien-kuan ts'ung-shu (叢書), which was edited on the basis of the books in his library by T'an Ying [q. v.] whom he employed. The main part of this collectanea, consisting of 54 items, was printed during the years 1845–49, and three additional titles were printed later—two in 1851 and one in 1885. The printing blocks for the work later came into the possession of the Kuang-ya Printing Office (see under Chang Chih-tung) in Canton where it was reprinted.


[Ch'ên Shou-ch'i [q. v.], Tso-hai wên-chi 9/9a; Chang Wei-p'ing [q. v.],I-t'an lu, hsia 16a; P'an-yü hsien-chih (1871 and 1931 editions) and Kuang-chou fu-chih (1879), passim.; Liang Chia-pin, Kwangtung shih-san hang k'ao (see bibl. under Li Shih-yao) p. 259-73; Morse, H. B., The Chronicles of the East India Company Trading to China, vols. I–III (1926), passim.; Hunter, W. C. Bits of Old China (1885), pp. 78–82.]

Hiromu Momose