Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Songgotu

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3654381Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period, Volume 2 — SonggotuFang Chao-ying

SONGGOTU 索額圖 (H. 愚庵), d. 1703 ?, official, the "Sosan" of Jesuit accounts, was a member of the Hešeri clan and of the Manchu Plain Yellow Banner. His ancestors once lived at Duyêngge (都英額), but later made their home with the Hada nation (see under Wan), either as captives or to gain protection. His grandfather, Šose 碩色 joined the forces of Nurhaci [q. v.]. Šose's younger brother, Hife 希福 (d. 1652, posthumous name 文簡), was versed in Mongol and Chinese as well as in Manchu, and served Nurhaci in a literary capacity. In 1636 Hife was appointed one of the first Grand Secretaries of the Ch'ing Dynasty, but was discharged in 1644 for having antagonized Tantai (see under Yanggûri). After the downfall of Dorgon's [q. v.] faction in 1651, he was again made a Grand Secretary and in 1652 was given the hereditary rank of a viscount of the third class.

Songgotu's father, Soni 索尼 (d. 1667, posthumous name 文忠), served chiefly as a secretary, but also took part in many military campaigns. About the year 1636 Soni began to serve as a secretary in the Board of Civil Office. He was loyal to Fu-lin [q. v.], and in 1651 plotted with Suksaha (see under Oboi) and the eunuch, Wu Liang-fu (see under Fu-lin), to overthrow Dorgon's clique. For his support of Fu-lin, he was rewarded by being made an earl and by appointment as minister of the Household and a member of the Council of princes and high officials. In 1661 he was appointed one of the four regents to rule during Emperor Shêng-tsu's minority. But being then already advanced in years, Soni probably had little influence in the regency which was effectively controlled by Oboi [q. v.]. In 1667, shortly before his death, he was given, in addition to his earldom, the hereditary rank of a duke of the first class. After his death, his eldest son, Gabula 噶布拉 (d. 1681?), was given (1675) a dukedom in memory of his daughter, the Empress Hsiao-ch'êng (see under Yin-jêng). In this way Soni's family came into possession of two dukedoms and one earldom.

Songgotu was Soni's third son and for that reason was called Sosan 索三. He himself held no hereditary rank. He was educated in Chinese and Manchu, and began his career as an Imperial Bodyguard. In 1668 he was appointed junior vice-president of the Board of Civil Appointments. In general, he was opposed to Oboi who, among other things, had tried in vain to frustrate the marriage of Songgotu's niece to the young Emperor. He encouraged and assisted the young Emperor when the latter arrested Oboi in 1669 and took over control of the government. For some reason, he requested at this time to be relieved of his post as vice-president of the Board of Civil Appointments, and in July 1669 the request was granted. Two months later, however, he was made a Grand Secretary to fill the vacancy left by Bamburan (see under Oboi) who had incurred the death penalty for participation in Oboi's faction. He was concurrently made captain of a newly organized company in the third sub-division of the Plain Yellow Banner.

In 1672, when one of the revisions of the shih-lu, or "veritable records", of Emperor Shih-tsu's reign (see under Fu-lin) was completed, Songgotu, who had served as one of the directors of the project, was rewarded with the title of Grand Tutor of the Heir Apparent. A year later, when the delicate question of the revocation of the powerful South China princedoms of Wu San-kuei, Kêng Ching-chung and Shang K'o-hsi [qq. v.] arose, he, and many other courtiers, advised against it. But the young Emperor favored those who wished to force the issue(see under Misḥan and Mingju), with the result that late in 1673 all three of the above-mentioned chieftains rebelled. When news of the revolt reached Peking, Songgotu asked the Emperor to execute those ministers who had advocated the policy which had brought on the war; but again the Emperor flatly refused. Though, as the war went on, Songgotu rendered many valuable services, his previous advocacy of conciliation was several times held against him.

As uncle to the Empress, and great-uncle to the Heir Apparent (see under Yin-jêng), Songgotu became in due course very influential. He accumulated immense wealth and for a time was the leader of a governmental clique. Yet he had held this supreme position at Court for less than a decade when opposing forces appeared against him. A violent earthquake which took place in Peking on September 2, 1679 induced a censor, Wei Hsiang-shu [q. v.], to memorialize the throne that this phenomenon was a heavenly portent, warning of the corruption and misconduct of men in high places. The resulting decree, calling upon officials to reform, was widely interpreted as aimed at Songgotu. The rising power of Mingju [q. v.] and his faction was beginning to undermine the Emperor's confidence in his minister. In 1680 Songgotu resigned from his post as Grand Secretary, but his influence at Court was not yet entirely extinguished, owing to his position as great-uncle of the Heir Apparent. After his resignation he was still called upon to serve on the council of princes and high officials, but was several times reprimanded for haughtiness and loss of self-control. In 1683 he was taken to task for his failure to control the conduct of his two brothers, Hsin-yü 心裕 (inheritor of Soni's earldom) and Fa-pao 法保 (inheritor of Soni's dukedom), who were deemed guilty of improprieties and of negligence in carrying out their official duties. All three were punished: the dukedom of Fa-pao was abolished; Hsin-yü lost his offices, but retained his earldom; and Songgotu was deprived of all his offices, except the captaincy.

In 1686 Songgotu was made a chamberlain of the Imperial Bodyguard and two years later was appointed head of a commission to negotiate with the Russians about the border conflicts in Manchuria. The Russians had for decades been encroaching in Manchuria (see under Bahai, Minggadari and Šarhûda) and hostilities on a considerable scale had taken place at Albazin (1685, 1686, see under Sabsu). In the summer of 1686, while Albazin was being besieged by Sabsu [q. v.], two Russian emissaries from Moscow arrived in Peking, and their announcement that a Russian Ambassador was on his way east to negotiate a treaty of peace induced Emperor Shêng-tsu to order the siege raised. In 1687 this envoy, Fedor Aleksi︠e︡vīch Golovīn (費要多羅 in Chinese accounts), reached Selenginsk, southeast of Lake Baikal, which was agreed upon as the place of meeting. Early in 1688 Emperor Shêng-tsu appointed Songgotu, T'ung Kuo-kang, Maci [qq. v.] and two other officials as the Chinese representatives. They, with their servants and staff, were escorted by 800 Banner soldiers commanded by Langtan [q. v.] and three officers. Since in those days each soldier was entitled to one servant, and officers more, according to their rank, the escort amounted to upwards of 2,000 men. On the st aff also were the Jesuit Fathers, Jean-François Gerbillon 張誠 (1654–1707) and Thomas Pereira (see under Ho Kuo-tsung), who acted as interpreters. One of the Chinese secretaries was Chang P'êng-ko [q. v.]. The Embassy left Peking on May 30, 1688, taking a northwestern course via Kalgan and Kweihwa. Three days after leaving the latter place (June 20) the expedition was divided, for convenience of water and forage, into three sections. On July 5, the eighth day of their journey in Outer Mongolia, Songgotu and the men of the eastern section met whole families of Mongols with herds of cattle moving southward, and from them he learned that the Mongols had just been defeated by Galdan [q. v.] and that the latter was pushing eastward, pillaging and killing. After another day of marching, Songgotu decided to turn back and wait at an oasis for the return of the men in the two other contingents who had penetrated further into the desert. Rumors that Galdan was approaching caused many soldiers to desert. A few days later the other contingents returned and the expedition halted in a state of indecision. On July 22, much to Songgotu's relief, two imperial couriers came from Peking with the message that in view of the war between the Mongols and the Eleuths, the conference should be postponed, that the expedition should return to Peking, and that a message should be sent to the Russian envoy at Selenginsk explaining the situation.

Three contemporary accounts of the embassy have come down to us: Voyages en Tartarie, by Gerbillon (in du Halde, vol. IV, p. 103); Fêng-shih Ê-lo-ssŭ hsing-ch'êng lu, by Chang P'êng-ko; and 出塞記略 Ch'u-Sai chi-lüeh, by Ch'ien Liang-tsê 錢良擇 (T. 玉友, H. 木庵) who accompanied Songgotu as a private secretary. According to Ch'ien's account this fruitless expedition cost the lives of more than 900 men, 1,000 camels, and 37,000 horses, and drained the treasury of some 2,500,000 taels silver.

In 1689 the Russian envoy urged a speedy settlement of the boundary dispute. Emperor Shêng-tsu named Nerchinsk as the place of meeting and reappointed Songgotu and T'ung Kuo-kang as chief envoys, with Gerbillon and Pereira as interpreters, and Langtan in charge of the escort which was even larger than in the preceding year. In his final instructions to Songgotu the Emperor intimated that, if necessary, Russia might be permitted to retain Nerchinsk as a trading post—a conciliatory attitude probably motivated by the hope of preventing Russia from giving aid to Galdan. The party left Peking on June 13, 1689, proceeded north through Outer Mongolia, and arrived on the bank of the Shilka River, opposite Nerchinsk, on July 31. Accompanying them on the river were boats laden with Manchu and Chinese troops and provisions which had been brought from Aigun by Sabsu, then military governor of Heilungkiang. The latter had been instructed to bring 1,500 men, but the actual number, counting servants, must have been twice that many—a display of force that astonished the Russian governor at Nerchinsk. Golovin arrived on August 18 (August 8 in the Russian calendar) and negotiations began four days later.

At first the conference seemed destined to fail because opinions differed widely on the boundary question. Nevertheless, a settlement was reached and the Treaty of Nerchinsk was signed on September 7 (August 27 in the Russian calendar), 1689—the first to be signed by China with a European power. It contained six articles and had versions in five languages: Latin (the copy which was signed), Manchu, Chinese, Mongolian, and Russian. The rivers, Kerbechi 格爾必齊 and Argun 額爾古訥 and the Hsing-an 興安 mountains were taken as demarking the boundary between the two empires. Albazin was to be vacated by the Russians, and no hunters of either nation were to cross the frontier. Songgotu was the first to attach his signature, which was followed by those of T'ung Kuo-kang, Langtan, Bandarša 班達爾沙, Sabsu, Mala 瑪喇 (1632–1692), and Unda 温達 (d. 1715). Songgotu and his staff left Nerchinsk on September 9, two days after signing, and arrived in Peking on October 18. Thereafter Songgotu was for several years in charge of Russian affairs, carrying on correspondence with the Russian governors of Nerchinsk and Irkutsk—a task which was later transferred to Maci [q. v.].

After playing a part in the campaigns against Galdan (in 1690, 1695, 1696, see under Fu-ch'üan and Fiyanggû), Songgotu retired in 1701 on the plea of advanced age, but actually perhaps to avoid a Palace controversy in which he was deeply involved. When the Emperor started on a tour of South China in the following year, his party was detained at Tê-chou, Shantung, by the illness of the Heir Apparent, Yin-jêng [q. v.]. The journey southward was cancelled and Songgotu was summoned by the Emperor to keep the Heir Apparent company while he himself returned to the capital. The seriousness of the contention among his sons for the throne began now to weigh on the Emperor, and the part which Songgotu had taken in the controversy came privately to his attention. He blamed Songgotu for the unaccountable conduct of Yin-jêng, though Songgotu, as great-uncle of the Heir Apparent, was probably only doing what he could to maintain Yin-jêng's position which was threatened by the other princes (see under Yin-ssŭ). In June 1703 the Emperor ordered Songgotu confined for interference in state affairs, and saw to it that most of the members of his faction were punished. He charged him with a breach of decorum at Tê-chou in the preceding year—namely, riding on horseback through the main gateway of the Heir Apparent's yamen when he should have alighted and entered by a side door. The Emperor was convinced that Songgotu had encouraged unruliness in the Heir Apparent when, as Grand Secretary, he had stipulated that the uniform and certain prerogatives of Yin-jêng should be similar to those of the Emperor. Songgotu was therefore allowed to die in confinement, probably within the year 1703.

In 1708 Yin-jêng was deprived of his rank as Heir Apparent and was also placed in confinement. One of the charges brought against him was that he had threatened his father, the Emperor, with a sword—an act which the father interpreted as an attempt on the part of his son to avenge the death of Songgotu. According to Wang Ching-ch'i [q. v.], it was Kao Shih-ch'i [q. v.] who brought to the Emperor's attention the full import of Songgotu's interference in matters of state. Having been recommended to the Emperor by Songgotu, Kao owed much to his patron, but when Kao himself rose to power Songgotu apparently treated him as an upstart. Unable to endure his humiliation longer, Kao privately informed the Emperor. Whatever truth there may be in Wang's assertions, it is known that Kao was in Peking as the guest of the Emperor in May 1703 and that Songgotu was imprisoned a month later.

According to Chao-lien [q. v.], Songgotu was a connoisseur of bronzes and other antiques—an avocation he had in common with the powerful Grand Secretary, Mingju, who was a collector of paintings and calligraphy. Each had powerful and trusted slaves to manage their vast fortunes. Songgotu, it may be added, had a fondness for men of letters and once (1673) entertained Li Yü [q. v.] in his home when the latter was Peking.

[1/275/2a; 34/4/22b; 34/147/34b; Chao-lien, Hsiao-t'ing tsa-lu, 10/61, 8b; Wang Ching-chi, Hsi-chêng sui-pi; Tung-hua lu, K'ang-hsi, 47:9; Ch'u-Sai chi-lüeh in Chao-tai ts'ung-shu; P'ing ting Shuo-mo fang-lüeh (see under Chang Yü-shu, 1708) 6/19a, 23a; Du Halde, J. B., Descriptia de l'Empire de la Chine (1736), T.4, pp. 103–96 ; Li Yü [q. v.], I-chia-yen êi-chi, 7/7a; Fuchs, Walter, "Der Russisch-chinesische Vertrag von Nertschinsk vom Jahre 1689", Monumenta Serica, vol 4, p. 546-93; see bibliography under Sabsu.]

Fang Chao-ying