Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Yao Ch'i-shêng

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YAO Ch'i-shêng 姚啟聖 (T. 熙止, H. 憂庵), 1624–1684, Jan., Ch'ing official, was a native of K'uai-chi, Chekiang. As a youth he was daring and ambitious. Having killed two Manchu soldiers who had kidnapped a commoner's daughter, he changed his name and in 1659 joined the family of a related clansman with whom he enlisted in the Chinese Bordered Red Banner. He took first place in the examination for the chü-jên degree which, in 1663, was again open to members of Banner families after having been closed to them in the six preceding years. As a chü-jên, he was appointed to the post of magistrate of Hsiang-shan, Kwangtung. Finding his predecessors in jail, owing to a large deficit in the official accounts, he evinced extraordinary generosity by offering to help pay off their debts. In 1669 he was removed from office on the apparently false charge of higher officials that he had broken certain prohibitions of the coastal trade.

When Kêng Ching-chung [q. v.] revolted from the Manchus in 1674 and invaded Chekiang from Fukien, Yao Ch'i-shêng rushed to the camp of the Manchu commander, Giyešu [q. v.], and placed at his disposal a horde of ruffians whom he and his son, Yao I 姚儀 (T. 長文, d. 1696), had gathered. Appointed acting magistrate of Chu-chi, Chekiang, he rose rapidly, and when the rebel, Kêng, finally surrendered in 1676, Yao was made commissioner of finance of Fukien, and two years later governor-general of the same province. After Kêng's surrender he was engaged mainly in sweeping the forces of the Chêng family from China proper, and finally succeeded, in 1680, when Chêng Ching [q. v.] was compelled to retreat to the Pescadores and Formosa. For this exploit he was rewarded with the honorary presidency of the Board of War and in the same year with the title of Junior Guardian of the Heir Apparent. Chêng Ching was on the point of signing an agreement with the Manchu commander of the Fukien garrison, but Yao objected to Chêng's terms of peace, particularly to his demand for the retention of Hai-ch'êng, a few miles up the estuary from Amoy, as a permanent trading port with Formosa.

In the meantime Yao Ch'i-shêng had been trying to get control of a formidable fleet of ships—manned by sailors upon whom he felt he could rely—for a naval expedition against Formosa. Chêng Ching died in 1681, and soon thereafter his eldest son, Chêng K'o-tsang (see under Chêng Ching), who was selected to succeed him, was strangled. Chêng's younger son, Chêng K'o-shuang (see under Chêng Ching), was then nominally put in power but the real ruler of Formosa was Chêng K'o-shuang's father-in-law, Fêng Hsi-fan (see under Chêng Ching). Yao Ch'i-shêng regarded this chaotic interval as the psychological moment for an attack on Formosa and entrusted the execution of his plan to Shih Lang [q. v.]. Thus a powerful fleet with a well-trained landing force finally brought Formosa to capitulate (September–October 1683, see under Shih Lang). Yao's report of the victory, which was dispatched by land, reached the Court about twenty days later than Shih's which was sent by sea. This is said to be the reason why Yao's real merits as the co-ordinator and supporter of the campaign were suppressed, and he was left unrewarded. His death occurred early in the following year—hastened, it is said, by disappointment and chagrin.


[1/266/1a; 3/159/15a; 4/15/1a; 香山縣志 Hsiang-shan hsien-chih; 5/68b; Fukien t'ung-chih (1737) 29/57a; see bibl. under Chêng Ch'êng-kung; Haenisch. E., T'oung Pao, 1913, p. 110.]

E. S. Larsen

Tomoo Numata