Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Wên-hsiang

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WÊN-hsiang 文祥 (T. 博川, H. 文山), Oct. 16, 1818–1876, May 26, official, came from the Gûalgiya 瓜爾佳 clan in Mukden. His family belonged to the Manchu Plain Red Banner, he being born in Liaoyang while his father was serving as clerk in the military commandant's office. He had a wealthy father-in-law by whose assistance he purchased, in 1837, the rank of a student of the Imperial Academy. In 1840 he went to Peking to take the provincial examination, and became a chü-jên. In 1845 he became a chin-shih and was given the rank of an expectant secretary in the Board of Works, but waited four years before receiving appointment. In 1853, when the Taiping armies took Nanking and pressed northward, Peking was alarmed; banks were closed and many officials in the capital asked leave to remove to other places. But Wên-hsiang remained at his post, and for this was highly regarded by his superiors. He was named concurrently chief of the secretariat under the emergency committee for the defense of Peking, and also inspector of the armories. In 1854 he was promoted to be an assistant department director and a year later a department director. In the meantime he served as a secretary to the mission sent to Szechwan under Ch'ung-shih [q. v.] to investigate a case of corruption (1854), and again as a secretary to the commission sent to Tientsin to receive the grain transported by the sea route. His services were appreciated by his superiors and he was awarded the rank of an intendant of a Circuit. Late in 1855 he was given the higher rank of an official of the third grade.

At this time many officials in the central government preferred to take provincial posts because of the higher stipends, but Wên-hsiang expressed a desire to remain in Peking in order to be near his aged mother who was then living with him. In 1857 he was promoted to the post of junior director of the Court of the Imperial Stud and was sent to Jehol to represent the Emperor in offering sacrifices to a deceased Mongol prince of the Barin 巴林 tribe. Early in 1858 he was named chief supervisor of Imperial Instruction and in the same year was promoted to be junior vice-president of the Board of Ceremonies, and concurrently a Grand Councilor. In 1859 he became a vice-president, first in the Board of Civil Office, then in the Board of Works, and finally in the Board of Revenue. In 1860, when the British and French Allies occupied Tientsin (see under Kuei-liang), he repeatedly urged Emperor Wên-tsung to stay in Peking, but before long the Emperor fled to Jehol, entrusting the peace negotiations to I-hsin [q. v.], Kuei-liang and Wên-hsiang. For about a month Wenhsiang was concurrently in charge of maintaining order in Peking, as commandant both of the Gendarmerie and of the guards of the Yüanming Yüan; but in order that he might devote his time to peace negotiations, he was relieved, early in October, of his concurrent duties which were then given to Jui-ch'ang (see under Su-shun), Pao-yün 寶鋆 (T. 銳卿, H. 佩蘅, 1807–1891), and others.

After the Allied troops had left, Wên-hsiang, I-hsin and Kuei-liang submitted a joint memorial in which they recommended the establishment of the Tsungli Yamen for the conduct of foreign affairs, and the T'ung-wên Kuan (see under Tung Hsün and Li Shan-lan) for the study of foreign languages. Early in 1861 the Tsungli Yamen was created, with I-hsin at the head and Kueiliang and Wên-hsiang as his assistants. Later. in 1861 Wên-hsiang recommended the training of a corps of Bannermen in the use of modern firearms. This suggestion was also approved, and the army thus created was given the name, Shên-chi ying 神機營, Wên-hsiang being named one of the supervisors.

Early in 1862 Wên-hsiang was made president of the Censorate and, later in the same year, was transferred to the Board of War. When Nanking was recovered in 1864 he was given the title, Grand Guardian of the Heir Apparent. In 1865, when bandits from Manchuria were nearing Peking, he was ordered to command the newly-trained riflemen to cope with the situation. He and his men pursued the bandits beyond the Great Wall. While on this assignment his wife died in Mukden, leaving his aged mother there alone. Late in 1865, after repeated requests, he was given short leave to go to Mukden to bring his mother back to Peking, but as banditry on the western borders of Manchuria had grown to large proportions—beyond the power of local officials to handle—he was empowered to lead the Shên-chi ying troops to that area. He chose only about 2, 500 men, among them 1, 000 riflemen and 300 cavalry. Being informed, after he had set out, that the bandits numbered thirty thousand, he requested a reinforcement of 500 foot soldiers and 1, 000 riflemen, trained in Tientsin under the direction of Ch'ung-hou [q. v.]. Finally, with 4, 000 men, he reached Mukden and saved that city from threatened looting. Under his direction, these men succeeded in defeating the bandits in a number of engagements. In mid-year 1866, after the bandits were nearly subdued, he returned to Peking with his mother, and assumed the new post of president of the Board of Civil Office. In 1867 he was made concurrently chancellor of the Hanlin Academy, and in that year, on his fiftieth birthday, he was honored with special presents from the Dowager Empresses (see under Hsiao-ch'in) who were then joint regents. In 1869 his mother died and he retired for the mourning period. When he resumed his offices in the following year, he was stricken with apoplexy. He was given a brief leave and was released from several concurrent posts. Nevertheless, in 1871, he was made concurrently an Associate Grand Secretary, and in 1872 was promoted to be a Grand Secretary. But he never entirely recovered from his illness and died four years later. He was posthumously given the title, Grand Tutor, and the name, Wên-chung 文忠. His memory was celebrated in the Temple of Eminent Statesmen and he was further awarded the minor hereditary rank of Ch'i-tu-yü 騎都尉.

As an assistant to I-hsin in conducting foreign affairs from 1860 to 1876, Wên-hsiang won the respect of foreign diplomats by his straight-forwardness and honesty. Among his admirers were Sir Frederick Bruce (see under Wang T'ao) and George F. Seward 西華, 1840–1910). He took an active part in 1871 in negotiating the first treaty with Japan, and in 1874 in settling the dispute relating to the murder of Loochoo Islanders in Formosa (see under Shên Pao-chên). He was one of the enlightened officials of the time: he at least believed in trying out measures for the modernization of China. One of the firct students in the T'ung-wên Kuan reports that when he and others arrived in Peking Wên-hsiang received them personally and showed them about the grounds. W. A. P. Martin testified that Wên-hsiang "took a pride in living poor and dying so". Martin also asserts that Wên-hsiang once told him, "We shall learn all the good from you people of the West." It was Wên-hsiang who sponsored China's first national institution of Westernized education; who took charge of the training of a contingent of riflemen, and demonstrated its usefulness in suppressing bandits; who initiated the idea of sending Burlingame (see under Tung Hsün) to Western countries as China's representative; and who helped I-hsin to steer the country out of civil and foreign wars to an era of peace and prosperity.

Wên-hsiang wrote a modest and truthful autobiography, entitled 文忠公自訂年譜 Wên Wên-chung kung tzŭ-ting nien-p'u, 2 chüan, printed in 1882 in the collectanea, Wên Wên-chung kung shih-lüeh (事略), 4 chüan. This collection comprises, in addition, a series of biographies and eulogies, and two records of his travels: one to Szechwan in 1854, entitled 蜀軺紀程 Shu-yao chi-ch'êng; the other to the Barin Mongols in Northern Jehol in 1857, entitled Pa-lin chi-ch'êng.

In the last years of the Ch'ing Dynasty Wên-hsiang stood out among Manchu ministers as capable, conscientious, and not given to corrupt practices. Another Manchu of this type was the above-mentioned Pao-yün who, however, was discharged in 1884 along with I-hsin and several other officials of the Tsungli Yamen. Pao-yün left several collections of poems; the largest one, 寶文靖公集 Pao Wên-ching kung chi, 12 + 1 chüan, being printed in 1895 and reprinted in 1908. In the latter year were also reprinted four smaller collections under the collective title, Pao Wên-ching kung shih-ch'ao (詩鈔).

[1/392/2a; 2/51/48b; 5/7/1a; 張文襄幕府記聞 Chang Wên-hsiang mu fu chi-wên, shang/2b in 清人說薈 Ch'ing-jên shuo-hui; Morse, H. B., The International Relations of the Chinese Empire, vol. 2, p. 53; Martin, W. A. P., The Lore of Cathay (1901), p. 17; idem., A Cycle of Cathay (1896), pp. 360–63; Chin-shih jên-wu chih (see under Wêng T'ung-ho), p. 50.]

Fang Chao-ying