Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Shih Shih-lun
SHIH Shih-lun 施世綸 ( 文賢, 潯江), d. 1722, age 64 (sui), official, was a native of Chin-chiang, Fukien. The second son of Shih Lang [q. v.], he belonged to the Chinese Bordered Yellow Banner, to which his father had been assigned. In 1685 Shih Shih-lun, in recognition of his father's exploits, was given the post of department magistrate of T'ai-chou, Kiangsu. He served so well that he came to be recognized by his superiors as an able administrator, and by the common people as an incorruptible and lovable official. He was made prefect of Yang-chou-fu in 1689 and of Chiang-ning-fu (Nanking) four years later. When his father died in 1696, and he was about to retire for mourning, the natives of Nanking pleaded to have him retained at his post. Failing in this, they each contributed one cash to a fund which they used for the erection of two pavilions in front of his yamen in recognition of his just and sympathetic administration. In 1699 he was appointed intendant of the circuit of Huai-an-fu and Hsü-chou-fu in Kiangsu. Two years later he was recommended for appointment to the post of provincial judge of Hunan. But Emperor Shêng-tsu disapproved, remarking that Shih Shih-lun, being always on the side of the poor and depressed classes, might be unjust in trials involving other ranks of society. Owing to his ability as a financier he was appointed instead financial commissioner of Hunan, and in 1704 was transferred to Anhwei. In 1705 he was promoted to the position of director of the Court of the Imperial Stud. But because of his inability to prevent pillaging by some soldiers in Hunan, when he was financial commissioner of that province, he was discharged from his post in 1706.
In a few months Shih was recalled and appointed Governor of Shun-t'ien-fu, retaining that position when he was promoted to the vice-presidency of the Censorate three years later. In 1710 he was made vice-president of the Board of Revenue and then placed in charge of the Peking granaries. Five years later, in recognition of his faithfulness, he was made director-general of grain transport at Huai-an, Kiangsu. To relieve a serious famine in Shensi in 1720, plans were formed to transport grain from Honan to that province. Shih was put in charge both of the transportation and distribution of the relief which he carried out efficiently. In 1721 he returned to his post as director of grain transport in Huai-an where he died in 1722. His last request that, like his father and his brother, Shih Shih-p'iao [q. v.], he be buried in Fukien, was granted, although all three were Bannermen and would normally have been buried near Peking. His official career was almost uniformly successful and brought him the name of being "the most incorruptible official of the empire" (天下第一清官), as Emperor Shêng-tsu once remarked. Everywhere he went, he was referred to by the people as Shih Ch'ing-t'ien 施青天, "Shih of the Clear Sky," because of his justice in court procedure and because of his hatred of bribery.
He became the hero of a long popular novel, entitled 施公案 Shih kung an, "The Judicial Trials Conducted by His Excellency Shih," a work in 8 chüan or 97 chapters (囘), which also goes under the title 百斷奇觀 Pai-tuan ch'i-kuan. This work which first appeared in 1838 was modeled after a Ming novel, Pao (包) kung an, which narrates similar exploits relating to a Sung official, Pao Chêng 包拯 (希仁, 999–1062). Several novels, written at the close of the last century, are based on this same theme. The Shih-kung an was written in a crude literary style, but portrays well the ideal official from the viewpoint of the common people. The character, Shih Shih-lun, of the novel was much idealized, and many of his exploits were invented to make the narrative more colorful. However, through the influence of the novel he became one of the most popular and beloved historical figures in the estimation of the common people. He was also a poet, and left a number of verses which were brought together in a collection of 13 chüan, entitled 南堂詩鈔 Nan-tang shih ch'ao, printed in 1726 by his son, Shih T'ing-han 施廷翰 ( 輯五). The printing was beautifully executed, and a copy is preserved in the Library of Congress.