Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Wu Ch'i

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3675190Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period, Volume 2 — Wu Ch'iTu Lien-chê

WU Ch'i 吳綺 (T. 園次, H. 聰翁, 紅豆詞人), Dec. 1619–1694, official and scholar, was a native of Chiang-tu (Yangchow), Kiangsu, where his family had migrated from Hui-chou, Anhwei. Selected a senior licentiate in 1654, he went to Peking where he entered the Imperial Academy and was made a secretary in the Grand Secretariat. In 1658 he was appointed a secretary in the Board of War. About this time his fame as a writer of musical dramas (ch'ü 曲) became known to Emperor Shih-tsu who commanded him to compose a dramatic work on the life of the Ming official, Yang Chi-shêng 楊繼盛 (T. 仲芳, H. 椒山, 1516–1555), who was murdered in prison for having dared to criticize the powerful minister, Yen Sung (see under Juan Ta-ch'êng). This drama, known as W Chung-min chi, was never printed, but apparently was acted and sung in the Palace. It so pleased the Emperor that Wu Ch'i was given the same office which Yang Chi-shêng had once held, namely, an assistant directorship of the Department of Selection in the Board of War. In 1663 he was promoted to a department director in the Board of Works.

From 1666 to 1669 Wu Ch'i served as prefect of Hu-chou-fu, Chekiang. There he severely punished several influential persons and military officers who had oppressed the common people. At the same time he encouraged education and gave much assistance to needy students. As an administrator, he was loved by the people, who called him "The Prefect with Three Attributes" (三風太守)—these attributes being energy, incorruptibility, and literary refinement. But because he ventured to antagonize men of influence, he was disliked by his superiors and was removed (1669) from office on false charges. Thereafter he was fated for a time to live in poverty in Soochow, but later, with the financial help of friends and relatives, was able to reside once more in Yangchow. In 1683 he went to Canton as guest-secretary to Governor-general Wu Hsing-tso (see under Tu Chên). After a short stay he returned to Yangchow with enough funds to purchase farm-land and build a house with a garden. In 1685 his eyesight failed—a fact that led him to give himself the sobriquet, T'ing-wêng 聽翁, "The Old Listener".

Wu Ch'i's poems and his essays in the balanced-prose or p'ien-t'i style, were printed by himself in several collections. After his death his collected works were edited by his son, Wu Shou-ch'ien 吳壽潛, under the general title, 林蕙堂集 Lin-hui t'ang chi, 26 chüan, printed in Canton in 1700. The printing was sponsored by a number of Wu Ch'i's former acquaintances, the greater share being borne by a wealthy Buddhist priest, named Ta-shan 大汕 (T. 石濂, H. 石頭陀, 1633–1702). This priest, once befriended by Shang Chih-hsin, and later by authorities at Canton, in time controlled a fourishing trade with Annam. The wealth he so accumulated he used to assist indigent writers who, it must be added, made nationally known (by their writings) the good deeds of their patron.

Wu Ch'i was the editor of a collection of selected poems of the Sung, Chin, and Yuan periods, entitled 宋金元詩永 Sung Chin Yüan shih-yung, 20 + 2 chüan, printed in 1678. He himself was noted for his poems in irregular meter, known as tz'ŭ. He left a descriptive account of Kwangtung province, entitled in 嶺南風物記 Ling-nan fêng-wu chi. His wife, whose maiden name was Huang Chih-jou 黃之柔 (T. 靜宜, H. 玉琴), was also known for her skill in poetry.

[3/217/28a; 6/21/2b; 21/1/14b; Chiang-tu hsien-chih (1729) 15/32a, (1743) 23/17a; Ssŭ-k'u 70/12a, 173/3b, 194/3a; Catalog of Chihli Provincial Library, Tientsin (1913), 27/8b; Prefaces to Lin-hai t'ang chi.]

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