Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Yüan Ying-t'ai
YÜAN Ying-t'ai 袁應泰 ( 大來), d. May 11, 1621, Ming general, was a native of Fêng-hsiang, Shensi. He took the degree of chin-shih in 1595 and became district magistrate of Linchang, Honan. Here he distinguished himself by successfully carrying out a reclamation project involving the building of forty li of dikes along the Chang river, and so bringing irrigation to several hundred thousand acres of land. Transferred to the Board of Works as a second-class secretary, he rose to be a department director in the Board of War and then secretary to the military administrator of northern Kiangsu. After a period of retirement, he was appointed judicial commissioner for Honan with oversight of military affairs, and was active in furnishing troops, supplies, and ammunition to the armies of Hsiung T'ing-pi [q. v.] in Liaotung. In the autumn of 1620 he was sent to Liaotung as governor, replacing Chou Yung-ch'un 周永春 ( 孟泰, 毓陽, chin-shih of 1601), and a month later, while holding concurrently the post of junior vice-president of the Board of War, he took the place of the generalissimo, Hsiung T'ing-pi, who had been recalled.
Yüan was an inferior disciplinarian, quite unfitted for the problems he faced. One of his greatest errors was in accepting the submission of Mongol tribes who, driven by hunger, came pouring over the border, and in settling them extensively in Shên-yang and Liao-yang to keep them from joining the Manchus. The hostility which developed between them and the Chinese population had disastrous consequences. After the Manchus took Shên-yang through Mongol treachery, May 4, 1621, Yüan attempted to defend Liao-yang. On May 11 the army sent to meet the Manchus was routed, and two days later the enemy entered the city—again, it was suspected, with Mongol connivance. Yüan, carrying out a vow to remain in Liaotung, dressed himself in full regalia and committed suicide. When the report of his death reached the Court he was posthumously elevated to the post of president of the Board of War. In 1776 he was canonized as Chung-chieh 忠節.
[M.1/259/4b; Fêng-hsiang hsien-chih (1767) 6/17b; text of memorial tablet in Lin-chang hsien-chih (11907) 12/37a].
George A. Kennedy