Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Tsêng Kuo-fan

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3656422Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period, Volume 2 — Tsêng Kuo-fanTêng Ssŭ-yü

TSÊNG Kuo-fan 曾國藩 (T. 伯涵, H. 滌生), Nov. 26, 1811–1872, Mar. 12, statesman, general and scholar, the first Marquis I-yung (毅勇侯), was a native of Hsiang-hsiang, Hunan. He was born in a poor peasant family and in his youth was much influenced, in his characteristic tendencies and habits of thought, by his grandfather, Tsêng Yü-p'ing 曾玉屏 (T. 星岡, 1774–1849). His father, Tsêng Lin-shu 曾麟書 (T. 竹亭, 1790–1857), became a hsiu-ts'ai in 1832—a year before Tsêng Kuo-fan himself obtained the same degree. Tsêng Kuo-fan was a chin-shih of 1838 and in June of the same year became a member of the Hanlin Academy. At the capital, he pursued his studies with great tenacity of purpose and profited by his contacts with noted contemporary scholars. After routine promotions he was appointed, in 1849, junior vice-president of the Board of Ceremonies. At different times he served as acting vice-president on several other Boards and thus gained wide knowledge of state affairs. This experience enabled him, in his later memorials to the throne, to make practical proposals and to frame them with great clarity and precision. In 1852 he was sent to conduct the provincial examination of Kiangsi, but learning, on his way south, of the death of his mother, he was granted leave to return home to observe the customary mourning period.

From 1850 onward the Taiping Rebellion had spread rapidly from Kwangsi to Hunan, Hupeh and down the Yangtze River to Nanking (see under Hung Hsiu-ch'üan). For three years the pursuing imperial troops vainly followed the insurgents from Kwangsi to the outskirts of Nanking (see under Hsiang Jung). But the militia, organized in the villages by Chiang Chung-yüan and Lo Tsê-nan [qq. v.], proved to be more effective than the regulars—particularly in 1852 in the defense of Changsha (see under Lo Ping-chang). After the Taipings had abandoned the siege of Changsha (November 30, 1852) Tsêng was ordered by the emperor to recruit and drill the Hunan militia. When, after much persuasion, he decided on January 29, 1853 to assume this responsibility he swore to himself that he would not covet wealth nor fear death.

Tsêng Kuo-fan's first task was to organize the Hunan Army (Hsiang-chün 湘軍), usually referred to as the "Hunan Braves." It comprised, among other troops, Lo Tsê-nan's "Hsiang Yung" and Chiang Chung-yüan's "Ch'u Yung" (see under Lo and Chiang). These constituted Tsêng's land force. With foresight, characteristic of his later campaigns, he laid careful plans for the training of his troops and initiated methods of discipline and organization which greatly contributed to his ultimate success. He established central training camps at which those troops with previous military experience received further instruction, and opened recruiting stations in each district of Hunan where new recruits received initial preparation. He determined to send his troops first against local Bandit groups, to give them experience in fighting before taking them outside the province to war against the Taipings. For this he was severely criticized by those generals who were vainly fighting the Taipings, and even by the Emperor himself, to whom he addressed a long memorial explaining his plan for the campaign. Stubbornly refusing to be moved, either by ridicule or pleas for aid, he kept on with his organization of the poorly disciplined and untrained militia. The success of his plan depended upon funds given by Hunan officials and gentry. They proved lukewarm in their support until a victory by Chiang Chung-yüan and Lo Tsê-nan at Hêng-shan-hsien so impressed the Court that local officials found it expedient to give him the necessary funds. Tsêng was embarrassed in all his campaigns by lack of support of the officials until he finally accepted an official post himself, which placed him in control of the finances of the provinces in which his campaigns were waged. Within a few months he acquiesced in the urgent proposal of Chiang Chung-yüan and Kuo Sung-tao [q. v.] to build gunboats and to train marines under the command of Yang Yüeh-pin (see under P'êng Yü-lin) and others, in the hope of driving the Taipings off the Yangtze.

After the conquest of Nanking in 1853 the Taipings were pressing two major campaigns: one to North China (see under Sêng-ko-lin-ch'in and Lin Fêng-hsiang), the other westward to Anhwei, Kiangsi and Hupeh. At that time Tsêng Kuo-fan, though again besieged by requests for aid, had no force which he could spare for the defense of Hupeh. A large part of the Hunan Braves already had been sent to the rescue of Kiangsi, and the rest were occupied in quelling local uprisings in Hunan, while the "navy" was still in process of organization. When, however, a few months later the Taipings from Hupeh pressed upon his forces in Hunan, Tsêng mobilized (February 25, 1854) his new flotilla of 240 boats with 5,000 marines, and a still larger army under the command of T'a-ch'i-pu [q. v.], to stem their advance. But owing to a storm which rendered many boats unfit, and to the inexperience of his troops in fighting, Tsêng was twice defeated in Hunan—once in Yochow and again at Ching-chiang 靖港. So mortified was he that he ittempted to commit suicide. Fortunately T'a-ch'i-pu and P'êng Yü-lin triumphed over tbr Taipings at Hsiang-t'an (May 1, 1854), forcing them to retreat to Yochow, which was finally taken on July 25, 1854—a victory which much encouraged Tsêng. On January 12, 1852 the Taipings had taken Wuchang—the first of three occupations—but had lost it to the government forces in February of the same year. They again seized the city on June 26, 1854, and successfully defended it until October 14 when they were oten come by Tsêng's forces under Lo and Chiang—a severe blow to their plan of conquest. On December 2, 1854 Tsêng also won (see under P'êng Yü-lin) a signal victory over the strong defense which the Taipings made at T'ien-chia-chên. Meanwhile the city of Shanghai, which had been taken by a band of local rebels in 1855, was recovered in February 1855 (see under Chi-êr-hang-a). By the end of May 1855 the northern expedition of the Taipings was finally suppressed (see under Sêng-ko-lin-ch'in).

The victorious advance of Tsêng Kuo-fan's forces was stemmed at Kiukiang, however, by the stubborn resistance of the rebel chief, Lin Ch'i-jung 林啓容 (d. 1858), who had fought for the Taipings from the beginning of their activities. A part of Tsêng's navy was bottled up in Po-yang Lake; that part which was in the Yangtze was defeated, even Tsêng's flagship being captured by the rebels; and a storm damaged many of the remaining boats. The morale of Tsêng's troops, disheartened by these reverses was now at a low ebb. After making the required adjustments, he went to Nanchang, capital of Kiangsi, to rehabilitate the imprisoned fleet which was on the west shore of Po-yang Lake. The Taipings, on the other hand, hoping to weaken the attack which the government troops were making on Kiukiang, retook Wuchang for the third time on April 3, 1855. Despite this threat, Tsêng ordered T'a-ch'i-pu to keep an assaulting Kiukiang while Lo Tsê-nan and Hu Lin-i [q. v.] were sent to attack Wuchang, he himself remaining at Nanchang. The situation became all the more grave when T'a-ch'i-pu and Lo Tsê-nan both died and Tsêng himself was harassed by the almost invincible Taiping leader, Shih Ta-k'ai [q. v.]. But thanks to Tsêng's farsighted planning, his patience and his perseverance against great odds, coupled with his ability to select and inspire able commanders, Wuchang was recovered for the last time, December 19, 1856, by the forces under Hu Lin-i and Li Hsü-pin [q. v.]. Owing to the help of P'êng Yü-lin and the reinforcements sent to Kiangsi from Hunan by Tsêng's younger brother, Tsêng Kuo-ch'üan [q. v.], Tsêng's difficult position in Nanchang was alleviated.

Though at this time (1856) the Taipings failed in Hupeh and Kiangsi, they succeeded in crushing Hsiang Jung's large army at Nanking. Thereafter their forces were greatly weakened by a series of murders among their leaders (see under Hung Hsiu-ch'üan), and so they failed to press the advantage their victory offered. Tsêng Kuo-fan's father died on February 27, 1857, making it necessary for him to retire temporarily for mourning, but his capable generals were able to carry out his plans and recover Kiukiang on May 19, 1858. He was recalled from retirement before the period of mourning elapsed, and resumed his task—the working out of a careful plan to take Anking as a first step in the final recovery of Nanking. To accomplish these objectives he again declined to go to the relief of other cities still in the hands of the Taipings, although implored to do so. In pursuance of his plan to retake Anking he encamped at Ch'i-mên in southern Anhwei (1860–61). In 1860 he was appointed governor-general of Kiangnan and Kiangsi and Imperial Commissioner for the suppression of the Taipings in South China. He thus was given full power to deal with all matters relating to the campaign, including the levy of funds for this purpose.

In the period 1860–61 Tsêng faced a difficult situation. The Taipings, who had earlier in 1860 crushed the reorganized imperial force near Nanking (see under Hsiang Jung), again became very strong and active under the leadership of Li Hsiu-ch'êng [q. v.]. A large part of Kiangsu and Chekiang were still in the enemy's hands—only Shanghai was never fully occupied by the rebels, their assaults in that area being repeatedly repulsed (see under Li Hung-chang). At the same time (1860) British and French forces were fighting their way to Peking, while the Court rook refuge in Jehol. Appeals for help came to Tsêng from all sides, though after September 1860 he himself was so harried by the Taipings at Ch'i-mên as to be unable, had he wished, to render aid to others. His difficulties reached a climax in April 1861, but by this time he was determined to die rather than retreat. The tide finally turned in his favor when Tso Tsung-t'ang [q. v.] and others came to the relief of Ch'i-mên. Moreover, Anking was taken (September 5,1861) by his brother, Tsêng Kuo-ch'üan, after long and murderous attacks. Tsêng Kuo-fan then made that city his base of operations for the conquest of Nanking. Fearing to concentrate too large an army at Nanking lest the Taipings retake districts already under government control—as had repeatedly happened in the past—he set up three military areas: one in Kiangsu under Li Hung-chang [q. v.], another in Chekiang under Tso Tsung-t'ang, and a third in Anhwei under his own command. In all these areas active campaigns were carried out against the Taipings who were gradually encircled as Nanking was being besieged. Tsêng Kuo-ch'üan, who had proved himself an indomitable commander, volunteered for the difficult task of taking Nanking, the Taiping capital since March 19, 1853, where large government armies had several times been crushed, particularly in August 1856, November 1859, and August 1860. Though he was offered the aid of foreigners, he declined their help, and after a long siege and desperate fighting took Nanking on July 19, 1864 (see under Tsêng Kuo-ch'üan). The last remnants of the Taipings, however, were not cleared away until the beginning of 1866 (see under Pao Ch'ao). The chief credit for the suppression of this long and bloody Rebellion naturally went to Tsêng Kuo-fan who was made a Marquis of the first class with the designation I-yung—the first civil official to obtain such a rank.

After the Taiping Rebellion ended Tsêng Kuo-fan resumed his post as governor-general of Kiangnan and Kiangsi—thus remaining in Nanking for several months. His main objective was to restore peace and order and to promote the rehabilitation of learning in South China after a terribly destructive war lasting fifteen years. At his headquarters at Anking he established, early in 1864, an official printing office to reprint important works, chiefly classics and histories; and he now invited celebrated scholars, such as Wang Shih-to, Mo Yu-chih [qq. v.] and others, to be the chief editors. He disbanded a majority of the Hunan army, sending the soldiers home to their farms and employing the officers (many of whom were students) in proof-reading. In 1864 he issued regulations for printing establishments in each of the cities of Nanking, Soochow, Yangchow, Hangchow and Wuchang. These were known as "the five official printing offices" (五局). At the same time he restored (December 20, 1864) the provincial examinations at Nanking where, owing to the Taiping occupation, they had been for many years discontinued.

In June 1865 Tsêng Kuo-fan was ordered, by hurried mandate, to Shantung where Prince Sêng-ko-lin-ch'in had been killed in battle (May 1865) while fighting the Nien Bandits. Tsêng, now in supreme command of military affairs in Shantung, Chihli, and Honan, at once reorganized his forces, distributing them at four points in order to draw a net about the elusive rebels. After more than a year in the north in an unsatisfactory campaign to exterminate these rebels, and increasingly conscious of the criticism of his enemies, he recommended Li Hung-chang as his successor (December 12, 1866), he himself returning to his former post as governor-general at Nanking.

In 1863 Jung Hung [q. v.] had recommended to Tsêng the establishment of ironworks at Shanghai—works which later became the Kiangnan Arsenal—and Jung had purchased the machinery for it from abroad. In 1868 the first steamship was built there by Chinese and brought to Nanking for Tsêng's inspection. The opening of these ironworks was one of the most important contributions Tsêng made to the future welfare of China.

In 1867 he was appointed a Grand Secretary, and in September 1868 was made governor-general of Chihli province. In the latter capacity he cleared up a large number of long-pending legal cases, improved administrative efficiency, and set up a plan for a standing army which, however, was not carried out. In 1870 he was ordered to investigate and settle the case of the Tientsin Massacre (see under Ch'ung-hou). Fully conscious of China's military weakness, he pressed for a policy of justice and conciliation toward the Western powers involved, and so incurred the ill-will of many officials in Peking who desired war. The case was nearly settled when, aged and ill, he was transferred (1871) to his old post at Nanking, made vacant through the assassination of Ma Hsin-i [q. v.]. He was succeeded in Tientsin by Li Hung-chang. On August 18, 1871 he sent a joint memorial with Li, recommending the dispatch of young students to study abroad (see under Jung Hung). Their plan was put into effect in 1872, but Tsêng died a few months before the students actually set sail. He was given posthumously the title of Grand Tutor, and was canonized as Wên-chêng 文正.

Tsêng was a man of great foresight, as evidenced not only in his preparation for military campaigns but in many other matters as well. Several times the Shanghai and Kiangsi gentry suggested to the Court that foreign troops, who had successfully defended Shanghai against the rebels, be sent inland in an effort to bring the Taiping rebellion to a speedier close. Tsêng, whose opinion in the matter was asked by the Emperor, pointed out that though there was justification for using foreign troops at Shanghai and Ningpo, where in reality they were defending their own interests, the situation in the interior was different. Here, should joint Chinese and foreign troops be victorious, complications would surely arise and the "guest-soldiers" might seize the land and become a danger to the empire. He urged that, even in the use of foreign troops at treaty ports, a careful understanding should be reached before any fighting was undertaken. la addition to being a man of great foresight and indomitable perseverance, he showed an extraordinary ability to select men of promise, train them for their posts, and to retain their loyalty. He had on his staff more than eighty able men—many of whom, like Li Hung-chang and P'êng Yü-lin, later became famous in history. He learned a great deal from personal experience in drilling soldiers, controlling subordinate officers, and co-ordinating troops from different parts of the country—and so finally was able to develop far-reaching plans which he carried out regardless of obstacles. Sometimes he is criticized for his loyalty to the Manchu dynasty for conservatism and obstinacy, and for cruelty in his treatment of the rebels. Yet the times in which he lived called for stern action, and however strict he may have been with others, he was even more strict with himself. He sought daily to improve himself by constant examination of his own mistakes and short-comings, as shown vividly in his diary which he kept from January 1, 1839 to March 11, 1872—the day before he died. The same habits of rigid self-examination are shown in the letters which he wrote to his parents, to his brothers, and to his sons; and in the admonitions he gave to the young to live lives of frugality, diligence, and integrity.

Tsêng was an honest and upright official. We are told in the nien-p'u (see below) of his young daughter, that during the years he lived in Peking, he was always poor; and that even when he held high command in the army, he sent home annually to his family not more than ten to twenty taels silver. It was not until he became governor-general of Chihli that he was able to save 20,000 taels from his salary. Throughout his life, no matter under what stress of war or governmental activity, he seldom passed a day in which he did not seek consolation or self-improvement by reading selections from the classics, history, or poetry. He found in the Sung philosophers, rather than in the writings of the School of Han Learning (see under Ku Yen-wu), the solace and encouragement which the times required. It is therefore no wonder that he was instrumental in reviving Sung philosophy in his day. Like some of the great Neo-Confucianists, he became master of a lucid, emotive style, interspersed with wise mottoes and sententious sayings concerning political, social, military, academic, and family affairs.

According to a bibliography of his works, compiled by Liu Shêng-mu (see under Chang Yü-chao), Tsêng Kuo-fan himself compiled or wrote some thirty-seven works. The more important of these are easily accessible in the so-called complete collection known as 曾文正公全集 Tsêng Wên-chêng kung ch'üan-chi, 174 chüan, printed in 1876. This comprises fifteen titles, including his memorials to the throne, in 36 chüan; his essays and verse, each in 3 chüan; his official correspondence in 33 chüan; and two anthologies of prose and verse. Appended to the collection are his nien-p'u in 12 chüan, and a record of the outstanding events of his life (大事記 Ta-shih chi)—both compiled by his pupils. In addition, there is his diary, 手書日記 Shou-shu jih-chi, in 40 volumes, printed in 1909; his letters to his family, Tsêng Wên-chêng kung chia-shu (家書), 10 chüan, printed in 1876; instructions or admonitions to members of his family, 家訓 Chia-hsün, 2 chüan, also printed in 1876; and a collection of other essays, Tsêng Wen-chêng kung chi wai-wên (集外文), 1 chüan, printed in 1929. His mottoes and sayings on many subjects have been collected from his writings and published under various titles, such as: 曾胡治兵語錄 Tsêng-Hu chih-ping yü-lu (1911), sayings of Tsêng and of Hu Lin-i on military matters; Tsêng Wên-chêng kung chia-yen ch'ao (嘉言鈔 1916), a collection of Tsêng's famous sayings; and Tsêng Wên-chêng kung hsüeh-an (學案 1925) sayings on character-building and methods of study. Many other works were compiled under the general editorship or direction, such as the 江蘇減賦全案 Kiangsu chien-fu ch'üan-an (1866) on the reduction of taxation in the Soochow area (see under Fêng Kuei-fên); and 江西全省輿圖 Kiangsi ch'üan-shêng yü-t'u (1868), 14 + 1 chüan, an atlas of Kiangsi province.

Tsêng Kuo-fan had four younger brothers: Tsêng Kuo-huang 曾國潢 (T. 澄侯, 1820–1885), Tsêng Kuo-hua 曾國華 (T. 温甫, posthumous name 愍烈, 1822–1858), Tsêng Kuo-ch'üan, and Tsêng Kuo-pao 曾國葆 (T. 季洪, name later changed to 曾貞榦 T. 事恆, posthumous name 靖毅 1828–1863)—all of whom served in the army which fought against the Taiping Rebels. He had four sisters: Tsêng Kuo-lan 曾國蘭 who married Wang P'êng-yüan 王鵬遠; Tsêng Kuo-hui 曾國蕙 who married Wang Tai-p'in 王待聘; Tsêng Kuo-chih 曾國芝, who married Chu Yüng-ch'un 朱詠春, and a sister who died in infancy. He had two sons: Tsêng Chi-tsê [q. v.], the inheritor of his hereditary rank of Marquis; and Tsêng Chi-hung 曾紀鴻 (T. 栗諴, 1848–1881) who was skilled in mathematics—especially algebra. He had five daughters: Tsêng Chi-ching 曾紀靜 who married Yüan Ping-chên 袁秉楨; Tsêng Chi-yao 曾紀耀 who married Ch'ên Yüan-chi 陳遠濟; Tsêng Chi-ch'ên 曾紀琛 who married Lo Chao-shêng 羅兆升, son of Lo Tsê-nan [q. v.]; Tsêng Chi-ch'un 曾紀純 who married Kuo Kang-chi (see under Kuo Sung-tao); and Tsêng Chi-fên 曾紀芬 who married Nieh Ch'i-kuei 聶緝槼. Tsêng Chi-fên, born in 1852, edited her own nien-p'u under the title, 崇德老人八十自訂年譜 Ch'ung-tê lao-jên pa-shih tzŭ-ting nien-p'u, with portrait and calligraphy, first edition 1931, revised edition, 1935.

[1/411/1a; 2/45/11a; 5/5/11b; 8/1/1a; 26/4/5a; 29/10/5b; Li Yüan-tu [q. v.], T'ien-yüeh shan-kuan wên-ch'ao 14/1; Kuo Sung-tao, Yang-chih shu-wu wên-chi 19/1a; Li Shu-ch'ang [q. v.], Cho-tsun-yüan ts'ung-kao 3/la; Hsüeh Fu-ch'êng [q. v.], Yung-an wên-pien 4/17; Yü Yüeh [q. v.], Ch'un-tsai-t'ang tsa-wên 2/10b; I-hsin [q. v.], Chiao-ping Yüeh-fei fang-lüeh; Kuan-wên [q. v.], P'ing-ting Yüeh-fei chi-lüeh, 18 chüan (1869); Wang K'ai-yün 王闓運, 湘軍志 Hsiang-chün chih, 16 chüan (1886); Wang Ting-an 王定安, 湘軍記 Hsiang-chün chi, 20 chüan (1889), 求闕齋弟子記 Ch'iu-ch'üeh-chai ti-tzŭ-chi, 32 chüan (1876); 咸豐三年以來兵事月日 Hsien-fêng san-nien i-lai ping-shih yüeh-jih, in the 同治上江兩縣志 T'ung-chih Shang Chiang liang-hsien chih, chüan 18 (1874) ; Li Hsiu-ch'êng, Li Hsiu-ch'êng kung-chuang; McClellan, J. W., The Story of Shanghai (Shanghai, 1889); Yung Wing, My Life in China and America (New York, 1909); Morse, H. B., The International Relations of the Chinese Empire, Vol. II (London, 1918); Hail, William James, Tsêng Kuo-fan and the Taiping Rebellion (1927); Liu Shêng-mu, 直介堂叢刻 Chih-chieh-t'ang ts'ung-k'o (1929); Chiang Hsing-tê 蔣星德, 曾國藩之生平及事業 Tsêng Kuo-fan chih shêng-p'ing chi shih-yeh (1936); Ta-kung pao (daily), Wên-hsüeh fu-k'an (Literary Supplement) no. 253 (November 7, 1932); 文哲季刊 Wên-chê chi-k'an, vol. III, No. 4, pp. 691–728 (Wuhan University, Wuchang, China, 1934); 師大月刊 Shih-ta yüeh-k'an, no. 28, pp. 149–67 (National Normal University, Peiping, November, 1936).]

Têng Ssŭ-yü