Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Yü Ch'êng-lung (1638–1700)

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Ch'êng-lung 于成龍 (T. 振甲 H. 如山), Aug. 14, 1638–1700, Apr. 16, official, was a native of Kai-p'ing, Liaotung. His family, which belonged to the Chinese Bordered Red Banner, migrated to Chihli in 1648 and, after several removals, settled in the Ku-an district of that province in 1653. In 1667 Yü Ch'êng-lung was adopted as an heir by a relative, Yü Tê-shui 于得水 (d. 1695), for whose meritorious military service the adopted son was given in 1668 the post of magistrate of Lo-t'ing, Chihli. His upright and just administration made him popular with the natives of the district, who were successful on several occasions in securing the renewal of his term of office. Given the post of department magistrate of Tungchow in 1679, his popularity grew, and three years later, on the recommendation of his namesake and contemporary, Yü Ch'êng-lung [q. v.], then governor-general of Kiangnan and Kiangsi, he was made prefect of Chiang-ning-fu (Nanking). In 1684, when Emperor Shêng-tsu was sojourning at Nanking on his first tour of the South, he was pleased with Yü's incorruptibility and appointed him provincial judge of Anhwei. When the Emperor returned to Peking he summoned Yü's adoptive father to Court and presented him with an imperial fur robe. All officials were told to instruct their sons to follow his example.

About this time Yü Ch'êng-lung was ordered to assist Chin Fu [q. v.], the director-general of Yellow River Conservancy, in a project for deepening the outlet of the Yellow River in order to release the flood waters in that region. The river was then following its old course past Kaifeng, Honan, sharing part of the bed of the Grand Canal and emptying into the sea south of the Shantung promontory. Its shallow and narrow mouth caused constant floods in northern Kiangsu, and Yü planned to deepen the last section of its course. However, owing to objections interposed by Chin Fu at a conference in Peking the project was not carried out and Yü Ch'êng-lung was appointed governor of Chihli (1686). In 1690 he was made president of the Censorate and later was given the concurrent duties of lieutenant-general of the Chinese Bordered Red Banner. Early in 1693 he was appointed director-general of the Yellow River Conservancy to succeed Chin Fu who had died late in the previous year. Two years later he retired to mourn the death of his adoptive father, but in 1696, when the Emperor went on his expedition against Galdan [q. v.] in Outer Mongolia, Yü was placed in charge of the transport of food and arms for the central route army (see under Fiyanggû and Hsüan-yeh). Unfortunately his caravan reached the scene after the prearranged schedule. As Galdan fled from the Kerulun River, the Emperor ordered Maska [q. v.] to pursue him with a small detachment while the Emperor and most of the army, having only a few days' rations, turned back to meet Yu and his supplies. For their tardiness Yü and other officials in charge of transport were ordered, in 1697, to transport supplies on their own account for the expedition to Ninghsia, Kansu. The death of Galdan put an end to the military operations, and Yü Ch'êng-lung on his return was rewarded with a minor hereditary rank.

In 1698 he was reappointed Governor of Chihli and was given the task of repairing the dykes and deepening the bed of the Lu-kou River 盧溝河 (also called Hun Ho 渾河 or Sang-kan Ho 桑乾河). This river, which flows south of Peking, had caused damage throughout the Liao, Chin, Yüan and Ming periods, and was called by the natives "the river of varying courses" (無定河 Wu-ting Ho). Yü Ch'êng-lung built strong dykes along its course between Peking and Tientsin and had it deepened in many places. The Emperor was pleased and gave the river its new name, Yung-ting Ho 永定河, "Permanently Stabilized River". For forty years it did not alter its course, but thereafter it overflowed from time to time. In the year 1698 Yu was again placed in charge of Yellow River Conservancy. He died two years later and was canonized as Hsiang-ch'in 襄勤. In 1730 his name was placed in the Temple of Eminent Statesmen.

He was one of the famous officials of the Ch'ing period and, like P'êng P'êng and Shih Shih-lun [qq. v.], was idealized by the common people. From verbal legends, partly true but mostly imaginary, their life stories were written by anonymous authors in the form of narratives known as Kung an 公案, or records of interesting judicial cases, which bear a remote resemblance to the detective stories of the West. The tale relating to Yü Ch'êng-lung, entitled Yü kung an ch'i-wên (奇聞), 8 chüan of 292 chapters (囘), was probably written in the middle of the eighteenth century.


[Yü Hsiang-ch'in kung nien-p'u (chronological biography); 1/134/9a; 1/285/10a; 2/8/43a; 3/160/14a; 4/75/7b; 4/76/13a; 34/204/26a; Yung-ting ho chih (1815), chüan 2 and 4.]

Fang Chao-ying