Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Wên T'ing-shih

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WÊN T'ing-shih 文廷式 (T. 道希[溪], H. 芸閣, 純常子), 1856–1904, official and scholar, was a native of P'ing-hsiang, Kiangsi. After becoming a chü-jên, early in the eighteen-eighties, he went to Peking where he became acquainted with many prominent contemporaries, among them Shêng-yü [q. v.] who assisted him greatly. In 1890 he obtained his chin-shih degree with high honors and was made a compiler in the Hanlin Academy. After a brief sojourn in his native place, he returned early in 1894 to Peking and soon after was promoted to an expositorship in the Hanlin Academy—this unusual promotion being probably due to the influence of Shêng-yü, or perhaps to the Imperial concubines, Chin-fei and Chên-fei (see under Tsai-t'ien), who, as children, had studied under him. Being a member of the group of progressives known as Ch'iang Hsüeh Hui (see under T'an Ssŭ-t'ung), Wên often advised the Emperor on matters of governmental reform. It is reported that a few months after the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese war the Empress Dowager conspired to dethrone Emperor Tê-tsung, but that Wên persuaded Liu K'un-i [q. v.] and other generals on the battlefields to support the Emperor, thus frustrating her plan. After the Treaty of Shimonoseki was concluded, Wên severely critized Li Hung-chang [q. v.] for having taken a too conciliatory attitude toward Japan, but upon the advice of Shêng-yü, who feared that such outspoken criticism might bring disaster, Wên left the capital for his native place. When he reached Shanghai and was entertained by the local Tao-t'ai, Liu Ch'i-hsiang 劉麒祥 (T. 康侯, d. 1897), a relative of Li Hung-chang, Liu's attendants examined Wên's baggage and discovered several copies of his secret memorials to Tê-tsung. Liu transmitted them to Li Hung-chang who, in turn, presented them to the Empress Dowager, and at the same time caused a censor to denounce Wên. In March 1896 Wên was deprived of his rank and position. Two years later, when the coup d'état of the Empress Dowager took place, his life was in such danger that he sought refuge in Japan.

Wên T'ing-shih was one of the scholars who studied Mongol history under the influence of Shêng-yü. In this field his special contribution was his reconstruction of some parts of the 經世大典 Ching-shih ta-tien, or "Institutes of the Yüan Empire", 880 + 14 chüan, which was commissioned in 1329, completed in June 1331, and presented to the throne in the spring of the following year. A sole manuscript copy of this work was preserved in the Palace library, but was lost in the middle of the Ming period. While a member of the Hanlin Academy, Wên T'ing-shih gathered extracts from it which had been quoted in the Yung-lo ta-tien (see under Chu Yün), and edited them in five books. These treatises, all dealing with the Yüan period, were printed by Wang Kuo-wei 王國維 (T. 靜安, 伯隅, H. 觀堂, 永觀, 1877–1927) in the 廣倉學宭叢書 Kuang-ts'ang hsüeh-ch'ün ts'ung-shu (first series, 1916, known as 學術叢編 Hsüeh-shu ts'ung-pien), under the following titles: 大元官制雜記 Ta-Yüan kuan-chih tsa-chi, on the governmental organization;元代倉庫記 Yüan tai ts'ang-k'u chi, on the official granaries; Yüan-tai hua-su chi (畫塑記) on the bureaus of painting and sculpture in the Imperial Palace; Ta-Yüan chan-chi kung-wu chi ( 氈罽工物記), on the imperial weaving factories; and 元高麗紀事 Yüan Kao-li chi-shih, a history of the Mongol conquest of Korea. Wên T'ing-shih also left a short history of the political reforms in the beginning of the Southern Sung dynasty, entitled 中興政要 Chung-hsing chêng-yao, one chüan, which was printed in the Chên-ch'i t'ang ts'ung-shu (see under Wang Hsien). He was known as a writer of belles-lettres, being especially skilled in the balanced-prose style. A collection of his verse was printed in 1929 in one chüan, under the title 文道希先生遺詩 Wên Tao-hsi hsien-shêng i-shih. A collection of his poems in irregular meter (tz'ŭ), entitled 雲起軒詞鈔 Yün-ch'i hsüan tz'ŭ-ch'ao, was printed in 1907 in the collectanea, Huai-Pin tsa-tsu (see under Chih-jui).

[6/9/18b; Chin-shih jên-wu chih (see under Wêng T'ung-ho) p. 274; Ch'ing-hou wai-chuan (see bibl. under Hsiao-ch'in) p. 243; Fan-t'ien lu ts'ung-lu (see bibl. under Hsiao-ch'in) 2/9a; Appendix to 蒙古史研究 Mōko-shi kenkyū (1930) by Yanai Watari.]

Hiromu Momose