Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Pi Kung-ch'ên

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3649354Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period, Volume 2 — Pi Kung-ch'ênWang Chung-min

PI Kung-ch'ên 畢拱辰 (T. 星伯, H. 湖目, 羼提居士), d. Mar. 16, 1644, was a native of Yeh-hsien, Shantung. He obtained the chin-shih degree in 1616, and two years later was appointed magistrate of Yen-ch'êng, Kiangsu. After concluding the period of mourning for the death of his mother, he was, in 1624, appointed magistrate of Ch'ao-i, Shensi. Some months later he retired to his native place where for the next ten years he lived the life of a private citizen.

In 1634 Pi was summoned to Peking and appointed a secretary in the Board of Revenue. Soon afterwards he was promoted to be director of the Department of Sacrificial Affairs in the Board of Ceremonies, but in 1637 was degraded to prefectural judge in Chi-an-fu, Kiangsi. Before long he was promoted to be intendant of the Huaian-Hsüchou Circuit, but owing to a reprimand from Shih K'o-fa [q. v.], was transferred to the less desirable post of intendant of the Taiyuan Circuit in Shansi. When the bandit-soldiers of Li Tzŭ-ch'êng [q. v.] crossed the Yellow River into Shansi in 1643–44, Pi and the Governor of Shansi, Ts'ai Mou-tê 蔡懋德 (T. 維立, H. 雲怡, posthumous name 忠襄, 1586–1644), a native of K'un-shan, Kiangsu, defended the provincial capital, Taiyuan, but in doing so they both lost their lives (March 16; 1644). Pi was given the posthumous name, Lieh-min 烈愍.

Having experienced some ten promotions and lowerings of rank over a period of fifteen years, Pi Kung-ch'ên can scarcely be said to have had a happy or even a successful official career, though he died in the performance of his duty. One can state unequivocably, on the other hand, that he was a true scholar. He had high literary talents and an inquiring scientific mind, attuned to the practical advantages of Western science. Upon his arrival in Peking in 1634 he at once made the acquaintance of Father Jean Adam Schall von Bell (see under Yang Kuang-hsien) whom he frequently questioned on matters about which he wished to know—particularly concerning human anatomy, of which there was not even a remotely satisfactory account in the older Chinese medical books. One day Schall showed him a Western anatomical chart of the human body and a draft copy of a medical book, entitled 人身說 Jên-shên shuo, 2 chüan, which the missionary, Jean Terrenz, had roughly put into Chinese, not long after his arrival in China while living in Hangchow at the home of Li Chih-tsao [q. v.]. Pi was so much impressed with this work that he urged Schall to prepare a more detailed account for the use of Chinese physicians. But occupied with the manufacture of cannon, by imperial order, Schall could not comply with this wish. Pi was therefore obliged to interpret Terrenz's account himself and put it into more lucid Chinese. He was advised by Schall to publish it, which he did in 1635, under the title 泰西人身說概 T'ai-hsi jên-shên shuo-kai, 2 chüan.

This first Chinese book of anatomy based on Western theories—though recorded in some Jesuit sources—has remained virtually unnoticed for three hundred years. Perhaps the only copy of the original printed edition is one preserved in the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale in Rome.

Manuscript copies are to be found in a few libraries of China and Europe. Pi's connection with the work, the interest he had in Western science, or even the bare facts of his life, have all been overlooked by Chinese and Westerners alike. One possible exception to this is a reference to a Jên-shên t'u (圖) shuo, made by Yü Chêng-hsieh [q. v.] under the date 1815 in his well-known work, Kuei-ssŭ lei-kao. It was not until the middle of the last century that other works treating the human anatomy from the Western point of view again circulated freely in China. One of the first of these was the 全體新論 Ch'üan-t'i hsin-lun, 99 leaves, compiled by the English medical missionary, Benjamin Hobson 合信 (1816–1873), and printed at Canton in 1851. It had the distinction of being incorporated in the Hai-shan hsien-kuan ts'ung-shu (see under P'an Chên-ch'êng).

Pi Kung-ch'ên obtained from Nicolas Longobardi (see under Chu Yu-lang) another draft manuscript, entitled 斐錄答彙 Fei-lu ta-hui (Answers to Questions on Natural Philosophy), 2 chüan, which had been originally translated into unpolished Chinese by Alphonse Vagnoni (see under Han Lin). This work, too, Pi put into suitable form. It will be noticed that the first two words of the title represent phonetically the first two syllables of the word "philosophy". In his preface to the work, written in 1635, Pi gives the full latinized form as Fei-lu-so-fei-ya 斐錄所費亞. The work was printed in 1636, and copies are preserved in various libraries.

Seven other works by Pi are listed in the gazetteer of his native place, of which two may be mentioned: 萊乘 Lai-shêng, a historical and geographical work on his native district, and am 蟬尾哤言 Ch'an-wei mang-yen, 6 chüan, comprising critical comments on literature. They are possibly no longer extant; we know of their character only from fragmentary quotations in the writings of his contemporaries.

[M.1/263/10b; M.2/369/11a; Yeh-hsien chih (1758) 4/42–43.]

Wang Chung-min