Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Wang Chung

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WANG Chung 汪中 (T. 容甫, original ming 秉中), Jan. 22, 1745–1794, Dec. 11, scholar and bibliographer, was a native of Chiang-tu, Kiangsu. His great-grandfather, Wang Hao-ching 汪鎬京 (T. 快士, H. 西谷, 1634–1702), was a poet and calligrapher whose work, 紫泥法 Tzŭ-ni fa, on the method of making red ink for Chinese seal impressions, was printed in 1697 in the 檀几叢書 T'an-chi ts'ung-shu and was later reproduced in several other collectanea. At the age of seven (sui) Wang Chung lost his father, Wang I-yüan 汪一元 (T. 兆初, 1708–1749), who was known for his filial piety. The family was poor and had no means to send Wang Chung to school, so it was necessary for him to obtain his early education at home with his mother. During his teens he was employed in book stores, and this experience gave him a familiarity with literature which perhaps compensated for his lack of formal education. In 1763, owing to his unusual literary ability, he took highest honors in the Chiang-tu district examination and was made a licentiate of the first class. Hang Shih-chün [q. v.], who was at this time director of the local Academy known as An-ting Shu-yüan 安定書院, encouraged him in the study of the classics and history. He failed, however, to pass in the provincial examination held at Nanking in 1768. His reluctance to compete again for a higher degree, he attributed to a certain nervousness.

Wang Chung then secured employment as secretary on the staffs of various officials. In 1770 he was with Shên Yeh-fu 沈業富 (T. 既堂, 1732–1807, chin-shih of 1754), then prefect of T'ai-p'ing, Anhwei. Later he served on the secretarial staff of Chu Yün [q. v.] at Tang-t'u, Anhwei, where many scholars of note gathered and where, in 1772, he made the acquaintance of Wang Nien-sun [q. v.]. About the years 1774–75 he was in Ningpo with Fêng T'ing-ch'êng 馮廷丞 (T. 均弼, H. 康齋, 1728–1784, chü-jên of 1752) who was tao-t'ai of the Ning-Shao-T'ai Circuit, Chekiang. Later he was in Nanking for a time and then at Huai-an, Kiangsu (1782). During his sojourn in Nanking his scholarship was regarded highly by Hsieh Yung 謝墉 (T. 崑城 H. 金圃, 東墅, 1719–1795, chin-shih of 1716), commissioner of education of Kiangsu; and in 1777 he was made a pa-kung, or senior licentiate of the first class. In 1783 he was again in Nanking assisting in the preparation of the account of Emperor Kao-tsung's trip to the South in 1780. This work, entitled 南巡盛典 Nan-hsün shêng-tien, in 100 chüan, compiled under Sa-tsai 薩載 (d. 1786, governor-general of Liang-Kiang, 1779–86), was presented to the throne in 1784, but apparently was never printed; the Palace Museum in Peiping possesses the original manuscript copy. While on a visit to Chu Kuei [q. v.] in Hangchow, early in 1787, Wang Chung was asked about the history of Kuang-ling (Chiang-tu). In reference to this inquiry he wrote a famous essay, entitled 廣陵 Kuang-ling tui, which he later expanded into a work, entitled Kuang-ling t'ung-tien (通典), 10 chüan, first printed in 1823. In 1789 he went to Wuchang, Hupeh, to join the secretarial staff of Pi Yüan [q. v.]. Upon his return home from Wuchang in the summer of the following year he was invited to check for accuracy that copy of the Ssŭ-k'u ch'üan-shu which was deposited in the Wên Tsung Ko at Chinkiang—other sets being deposited about the same year (1790) in the Wên Hui Ko at Yangchow and in the Wên Lan Ko at Hangchow (for details see under Chi Yün and Lu-fei Ch'ih). For about two years Wang Chung carried on this work in the Wên Tsung Ko and it seems that he also did the checking for the Wên Hui Ko at Yangchow. Meanwhile, in 1792, his collected prose, entitled 述學 Shu-hsüeh, in 4 chüan, (a supplement of 2 chüan was added later by his son), was first printed. The Shu-hsüeh is regarded highly by scholars, not only for its literary quality but for its contributions to many lines of scholarship, such as the classics, ancient philosophy and etymology. In 1794 he was invited to go to Hangchow to undertake similar work at the Wên Lan Ko. He set out for this new task on October 22, 1794, but died in Hangchow on December 11 at the age of fifty-one (sui).

Wang Chung produced several works which are not extant—among them a catalogue of his library, 問禮堂書目 Wên-li t'ang shu-mu, and an historical atlas of Nanking, 金陵地圖考 Chin-ling ti-t'u k'ao, which was probably never completed. He was a collector of inscriptions copied from stone and bronze, and of these he is said to have possessed a large number. He was also an accomplished calligrapher. It was once supposed by some critics of the novel, Ju-lin wai-shih (see under Wu Ching-tzŭ), that the character K'uang Ch'ao-jên 匡超人 of that novel refers to Wang Chung, but this identification is rejected by Hu Shih (see under Ts'ui Shu) in his nien-p u of Wu Ching-tzŭ [q. v.].

Wang Chung's only son, Wang Hsi-hsün 汪喜荀 (T. 孟慈, original ming 喜孫, 1786–1847, chü-jên of 1807), who was only nine sui when his father died, also achieved fame as a scholar. This son edited and printed his father's works and wrote several books himself, including a chronological biography of his father, entitled 汪容甫先生年譜 Wang Jung-fu hsien-shêng nien-p'u. The collectanea, 江都汪氏叢書 Chiang-tu Wang-shih ts'ung-shu, printed in 1915, contains 13 titles—8 by the father and 5 by the son.

[1/487/29; 3/420/37a; 4/134/7a; 20/4/00 (portrait); 29/6/11a; Yangchow fu-chih (1810) 51/37b; Ts'ang-shu chi-shih shih (see under P'an Tsu-yin) 5/50; Huang Hsien-chün, "The Life and Scholarly Activities of Wang Chung" (in Chinese) in Kuo-wên chou-pao (see bibl. under Ting Pao-chên) vol. 8, nos. 35, 36.]

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