Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Yü Yüeh

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Yüeh 俞樾 (T. 蔭甫, H. 曲園), Dec. 25, 1821–1907, Feb. 5, scholar, was a native of Tê-ch'in, Chekiang. His father, Yü Hung-chien 俞鴻漸 (T. 儀伯, H. 1781–1846), was a chü-jên of 1816. His elder brother, Yü Lin 俞林 (T. 壬甫, H. 芝石, 柯九老人, 1814–1873), was a chü-jên of 1843 who rose in his official career to prefect of Fu-ning, Fukien (1870–73). Precocious and studious, Yü Yüeh became a hsiu-ts'ai in 1836. In 1839 he married Yao Wen-yü 姚文玉 (1820–1879), who left a collection of poems, entitled 含章集 Han-chang chi. In 1844 Yü Yüeh became a chü-jên, and in 1850 a chin-shih and a member of the Hanlin Academy. A poem he composed for the examination was highly praised by Tsêng Kuo-fan [q. v.] who was one of the examiners. Yü Yüeh was at different times, over a period of six years, a teacher at Hsin-an, Anhwei, and there his friend, Sun Tien-ling 孫殿齡 (T. 蓮叔), printed in 1851 a collection of his prose works under the title 好學為福齋文鈔 Hao-hsüeh wei fu chai wên-ch'ao, 4 chüan. In the following year Yü was made a compiler of the second class, and in the autumn of 1855 was appointed commissioner of education in Honan. He remained at this post for about two years but, owing to certain accusations lodged against him, was dismissed in 1857 and then went into retirement in Soochow. When the Taiping Rebellion spread eastward in 1860–62 he migrated with his family from one place to another, first to the ancestral home at Tê-ch'ing, then to Shang-yü, to Shanghai, and finally to Tientsin. Except for a trip to Peking in 1862, he remained in Tientsin for three years. While there, Ch'ung-hou [q. v.], superintendent of trade for the three ports of Tientsin, Chefoo and Newchwang, invited him to direct the compilation of a new local history of the prefecture of Tientsin. But owing to lack of funds, and for other reasons, the project was not carried out, and Yü went south (1865). On the invitation of Li Hung-chang [q. v.], then acting governor-general at Nanking, he was made director of the Tzŭ-yang 紫陽 Academy at Soochow. About this time (1867) his notes on the study of the Classics, entitled 群經平議 Ch'ün-ching p'ing-i, 35 chüan, were printed. In the same year (1867) he relinquished his post at the Tzŭ-yang Academy for a similar one in the Ku-ching Ching-shê (see under Juan Yüan) on West Lake, Hangchow, where he continued to teach for more than thirty years, lecturing occasionally also in other Academies.

In 1869, when P'êng Yü-lin [q. v.] was convalescing on West Lake, Yü met P'êng and they became fast friends. Later P'êng's granddaughter, P'êng Chien-chên 彭見貞 (T. 素華, 1866–1894), married Yü's grandson, Yü Pi-yün 俞陛雲 (T. 陛青, b. 1868), who became a chin-shih in 1898 with the third highest honors, known as t'an-hua 探花. In 1870 Yü Yüeh's study notes on ancient philosophers, entitled 諸子平議 Chu-tzŭ p'ing-i, 35 chüan, were printed; and in the following year nine works by him on various subjects were printed under the collective title 第一樓叢書 Ti-i lou ts'ung-shu. In 1870, and again in 1872, Yü travelled to Fukien to visit his mother who was living with his brother, Yü Lin.

To the residence which Yü Yüeh built at Soochow in 1873 he gave the name Ch'ü-yüan 曲園 which also became his pseudonym and figures in the title of his miscellaneous notes known as Ch'ü-yüan tsa-tsuan (雜纂), 50 chüan. In 1878 a company of his pupils built him a villa, known as Yü-lou 俞樓, at the foot of Mt. Ku (孤山), at Hangchow, and for that reason another series of his miscellaneous notes was given the title Yü-lou tsa-tsuan, 50 chüan. Being now advanced in years, Yü resigned (1899) from the Ku-ching Ching-shê.

Yü Yüeh compiled two local histories: 上海縣志 Shanghai hsien-chih, completed in 1870; and 鎮海縣志 Chên-hai hsien-chih (Chekiang), completed in 1879. His fame as a teacher and as a man of letters spread beyond his country to Japan. In 1882, Kishida Ginjirō 岸田銀次郎 (popularly known as Gingō 吟香 H. 國華, 1833–1905), a well-known journalist and pharmacist, supplied him with poerns by many Japanese authors with the request that he make an anthology. This anthology was completed in the following year under the title 東瀛詩選 Tung-ying shih-hsüan, 44 chüan, and was later printed. One of his Japanese pupils, Narahara Nobumasa 楢原陳政 (original surname Inoue 井上 H. 子德) came to him in 1884. Narahara later became an interpreter and died in Peking in 1900. On Yü Yüeh's seventieth birthday Narahara. presented him with an anniversary collection of prose and verse by various Japanese authors. This contribution, entitled 東海投桃集 Tung-hai t'ou-t'ao chi, appears in the complete collection of Yü's works known as 春在堂全書 Ch'un-tsai t'ang ch'üan-shu. It should be explained that this so-called complete collection went through several editions during Yü's lifetime with the result that the contents vary. Moreover, several of the items were first printed independently. The edition of 1899 (probably the latest) contains 38 items. One chüan of poems by Yü's second daughter, Yü Hsiu-sun 俞繡孫 (T. 䋛裳, 1849–1883), entitled 慧福樓辛草 Hui-fu lou hsing-ts'ao, is also included. There appears in this collection, an autobiographical poem by Yü, entitled Ch'ü-yüan tzŭ-shu shih (自述詩) of which 199 stanzas were written in 1889, 80 more being added in 1903.

The Huang-Ch'ing ching-chieh hsü-pien (see under Juan Yüan) reprints fourteen works by Yü concerning the Classics. As a philologist and textual critic Yü Yüeh followed in the footsteps of Wang Nien-sun and Wang Yin-chih [qq. v.], father and son. It is acknowledged that his Chu-tzŭ p'ing-i was in general patterned after the former's Tu-shu tsa-chih, and that his Ch'un-ching p'ing-i was modeled after the latter's Ching-i shu-wên. Yü Yüeh was also known as -in accomplished calligrapher.


[1/488/35a; 5/75/17a; 26/4/12a; Chou Yün-ch'ing, Yü Ch'ü-yüan hsien-shêng nien-p'u (chronological biography) in 民鐸雜誌 Min-to tsa-chih, vol. 9, no. 1; Wên-lan hsüeh-pao (see under Sun I-jang), vol. 2, no. 1, portrait; Koyanagi Shigeta, "Yü Yüeh, a Great Scholar of the Late Ch'ing Period" (in Japanese), Tōyō Tetsugaku, vol. 13, nos. 2, 3 (1906), and "The Writings and Theories of Yü Yüeh" (in Japanese), Tetsugaku Zasshi, no. 228 (1906).]

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