Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Wang Ch'ang

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WANG Ch'ang 王昶 (T. 德甫, H. 述庵, 蘭泉), Jan. 6, 1725–1806, July 22, scholar and official, was a native of Ch'ing-p'u, Kiangsu. In 1749 he entered the Tzŭ-yang (紫陽) Academy at Soochow. Two years later his poems were included in the anthology of verse by seven students of the Academy (see under Wang Ming-shêng), edited by the principal, Shên Tê-ch'ien [q. v.]. In 1754 he went to Peking and was employed by Ch'in Hui-t'ien [q. v.] to assist in compiling the latter's work, Wu-li t'ung-k'ao. In the same year he passed the examination for chin-shih, but as he failed to enter the Hanlin Academy he became disheartened and, after lingering for some time in Peking and in Tsinan, returned to Ch'ing-p'u. Late in 1756 he went to Yangchow and taught the sons and grandsons of Lu Chien-tsêng [q. v.], the salt commissioner. In the following year he competed in the special examination granted by Emperor Kao-tsung at Nanking in the course of the latter's second tour of Kiangnan and Chekiang. He received the highest grade at the examination and was appointed a secretary of the Grand Secretariat, a post he assumed late in 1758.

During his stay of about ten years in Peking Wang made the acquaintance of many famous scholars of the time and participated in the compilation of several official works, particularly the 西域同文志 Hsi-yü t'ung-wên chih, 24 chüan (completed in 1766), a dictionary of the languages of the Eleuths, Mohammedans, Tibetans, and natives of Kokonor. He also served (1767) in a project for collecting all the incantations or magical formulae 咒 in the Tripitaka and editing them in Manchu, Chinese, Mongolian and Tibetan. His task was to help the lamas to choose the appropriate Chinese characters for the transcriptions. This work, entitled 滿漢蒙古西番合璧大藏全咒 Man Han Mêng-ku Hsi-fan ho-pi Ta-tsang ch'üan-chou, 88 chüan, includes the following appendices: 同文韻統 T'ung-wên yün-t'ung, 6 chüan, a list of standard works or alphabets used in transliterating from one language to another; 字母讀法 Tzŭ-mu tu-fa, 1 chüan, an aid to the pronunciation of the alphabets; and 讀咒法 Tu-chou fa, 1 chüan, about the ways to chant the charms. In the meantime he served in the Grand Secretariat, first as a secretary (1758–59) and then as an extra sub-reader (1759–63). After 1759 he served concurrently as a secretary in the Grand Council. In 1763 he was transferred to the Board of Punishments, and a year later was made a second class secretary. By quick promotion he became, within three years, director of a department (1767). However, in 1768 he was indicted and discharged for divulging state secrets to Lu Chien-tsêng when the latter was being accused of corruption. Involved in the same case were Wang's friends, Chi Yün [q. v.] and Chao Wên-chê (see under Wang Ming-shêng). Chi was banished, but Wang and Chao were permitted to redeem themselves by serving in a literary capacity on the staff of A-kuei [q. v.], the newly appointed governor-general of Yunnan and Kweichow and successor to Ming-jui [q. v.] in directing the campaign against Burma. For three years (1768–71) Wang accompanied A-kuei wherever he went, even on the expedition to Burma in 1769. When A-kuei was discharged in 1771 and Wên-fu (see under A-kuei) appointed in his stead, Wang and Chao were assigned to serve Wên-fu in the same capacity. When the army in Yunnan was transferred to Szechwan to fight against the Chin-ch'uan rebels, Wên-fu took A-kuei, Wang and Chao with him. In 1772 A-kuei was reinstated in officialdom and was made commander of the southern route army while Wên-fu commanded the main army which attacked from the east. Wang accompanied A-kuei while Chao remained with Wên-fu. This was fortunate for Wang because Chao and Wênfu and a large number of men were killed in the defeat at Mu-kuo-mu (1773). As assistant to A-kuei who then became commander-in-chief, Wang composed most of the latter's memorials to the throne. After several years of fighting, the Chin-ch'uan area was finally conquered in 1776. Wang returned to Peking with the victorious commanders who were received by the Emperor with splendid ceremonies.

While he was living in Yunnan and Szechwan (1768–76) Wang Ch'ang wrote a number of works about his experience in these provinces. The following are in diary form: 漢行日錄 Tien-hsing jih-lu, 3 chüan, written in 1770; 征緬紀聞 Chêng-Mien chi-wên, 3 chüan, written in 1770; and Shu-chao (蜀徼) chi-wên, 4 chüan, written in 1771. His account of the war against the Burmese, Chêng-Mien chi-lüeh (略), is an important source on that subject. He also wrote four other accounts of travel, namely: 商洛行程 Shang-Lo hsing-ch'êng, written in 1786; 雪鴻再緣 Hsüeh-hung tsai-lu, written in 1788; 使楚叢譚 Shih-Ch'u ts'ung-tan, written in 1791; and 臺懷隨筆 T'ai-huai sui-pi, written in 1792. These eight works, known collectively as 春融堂雜記 Ch'un-jung t'ang tsa-chi, were reprinted with several of his short articles in the Hsiao-fang-hu chai yü-ti ts'ung-ch'ao (see under Hsü Chi-yü).

During the Chin-ch'uan war Wang Ch'ang was several times promoted, and before the war ended he held the rank of a department director (appointed in 1774). After he returned to Peking he served first as deputy commissioner of the Transmission Office (1776–77) and then as director of the Court of Judicature and Revision (1777–80). In the meantime he served as one of the three chief compilers of the official history of the Chin-ch'uan war, 平定兩金川方略 P'ing-ting liang Chin-ch'uan fang-lüeh, 136 + 17 chüan, commissioned in 1776, completed about 1779–80, and printed in 1800. In 1785 he was concurrently appointed one of the chief compilers of the revised edition of the comprehensive gazetteer of the empire, Ta-Ch'ing i-t'ung chih (see under Hsü Ch'ien-hsüeh). Early in 1780 he was made a vice-president of the Censorate. Thereafter he held the following posts: provincial judge of Kiangsi (1780), Chihli (1783) and Shensi (178386); financial commissioner of Yunnan (1787–88) and Kiangsi (1788–89); and junior vice-president of the Board of Punishments (1789–93). In the last capacity he was several times sent to the provinces to conduct important trials. In 1793, at seventy sui, he returned to Ch'ing-p'u on leave, but when he reached Peking late that year he was thought too old for service, and was allowed to retire. Thereafter he went to Peking twice: early in 1796 to attend the banquet of elderly men of the empire, and in 1799 to mourn the death of Emperor Kao-tsung. At this time his eyes and feet troubled him, but he still made some journeys to cities near Ch'ing-p'u, and headed several Academies, among them the Lou-tung (婁東) Academy at T'ai-ts'ang, Kiangsu (1796–97), and the Fu-wên (敷文) Academy at Hangchow (1800–01). In 1803, owing to a deficit in the provincial finances of Yunnan, he and all the officials who held posts in that province in the preceding twenty years were ordered to make up the arrears—the fine he was ordered to pay amounting to twelve thousand taels. After disposing of all his property he could barely raise half the amount. Hence in 1803, then eighty sui, he had to live for a time in a temple in Soochow until he was released from further payments through petition of his friends and disciples. He died three years later.

During his official career, lasting some forty years, Wang Ch‘ang took part in compiling many works for the government, among which (in addition to those already noted) may be mentioned the following: Li-tai t'ung-chien chi-lan (see under Lu Hsi-hsiung), 120 chüan, completed in 1768; 青浦縣志 Ch'ing-p'u hsien-chih, 40 chüan, printed in 1788; 太倉州志 Tai-ts'ang chou-chih, 65 chüan, printed in 1803; 陝省律例 Shan-shêng lü-li, 50 chüan, compiled about 1786; and 銅政全書 T'ung-chêng ch'üan-shu, 50 chüan, concerning the administration of the copper mines in Yunnan, compiled in 1787 but now listed as lost.

Wang Ch'ang was regarded as an efficient and conscientious official, but he is remembered especially as a poet and a man of letters. His fame as a poet won him many disciples, such as Huang Ching-jên, Ying-ho, Tai Tun-yüan [q. v.] and Yang Fang-ts'an (see under Sun Yüan-hsiang). As a poet he rivalled his contemporary, Yüan Mei [q. v.]. His collected works in prose and verse, entitled Ch'un-jung t'ang chi, 68 chüan, were printed in 1807. Attached to this collection is a biography of him, 述庵先生年譜 Shu-an hsien-shêng nien-p'u, in 2 chüan, compiled by his son-in-law, Yen Jung 嚴榮 (T. 瑞唐, chin-shih of 1795, d. 1821). Wang also edited an anthology, with biographies, of the poets of his native district, entitled Ch'ing-p'u shih-chuan (詩傳), 34 chüan; and two anthologies of contemporary writers: one of prose, entitled 湖海文傳 Hu-hai wên-chuan, 75 chüan, printed in 1839; and one of verse, entitled Hu-hai shih-chuan, 46 chüan, printed in 1803. For the anthology, Tz'ŭ-tsung, of Chu I-tsun [q. v.] he prepared a supplement, entitled Hsü (續) Tz'ŭ-tsung, 2 chüan. Relying partly on Chu's unpublished manuscripts, he compiled a Ming tz'ŭ-tsung in 12 chüan. Then he edited an anthology of tz'ŭ of the Ch'ing period, entitled Kuo-ch'ao (國朝) tz'ŭ-tsung, 48 + 8 chüan. These three anthologies of tzŭ were printed in 1803. In the same year he edited the collected works of the Ming loyalist, Ch'ên Tzŭ-lung [q. v.], whom he greatly admired.

In the field of epigraphy Wang Ch'ang won permanent fame for his collection of more than fifteen hundred rubbings of inscriptions on bronze or stone from the earliest times to the end of the Sung Dynasty (1279), entitled 金石萃編 Chin-shih ts'ui-pien, 160 chüan, printed in 1805. He made this great collection during fifty years of study and travel over the empire, and finally in 1802 asked Chu Wên-tsao 朱文藻 (T. 映漘, 1735–1806) and Ch'ien T'ung (see under Ch'ien Ta-chao) to edit them. The pre-T'ang inscriptions were reproduced in facsimile. Every item in this work is described in full with quotations from various authorities. A collection of inscriptions of the Yüan period in manuscript was found by Lo Chên-yü (see under Chao Chih-ch'ien) who identified it as Wang's supplement to his own work. This manuscript was reproduced by Lo in 1918 under the title Chin-shih ts'ui-pien wei-k'an-kao (未刊稿), 3 chüan. Many attempts have been made by later scholars to supplement or correct Wang's collection of epigraphs. Among these the best known is the 八瓊室金石補正 Pa-ch'iung shih chin-shih pu-chêng, 130 chüan, by Lu Tsêng-hsiang 陸增祥 (T. 魁仲, H. 星農, 1833–1889), printed in 1925.


[Nien-p'u in Ch'un-jung t'ang chi; 1/311/10b; 2/26/48b; 3/92/30a; 7/20/1a; 20/3/00; Ch'ing-p'u hsien-chih (1877); Ssŭ-k'u.]

Fang Chao-ying