Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Yen Ch'ang-ming

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YEN Ch'ang-ming 嚴長明 (T. 冬友, 東有, H. 道甫), 1731–1787, man of letters, was a native of Nanking, Kiangsu. As a boy, through the recommendation of Li Fu [q. v.], he studied under Fang Pao [q. v.] and Yang Shêng-wu 楊繩武 (T. 文叔, chin-shih of 1713). In 1755 he held a position in the office of Lu Chien-tsêng [q. v.], then salt commissioner of Yangchow, and thus had an opportunity to study in the excellent library of the wealthy Ma family (see under Ma Yüeh-kuan) in that city. There he also met many of the famous scholars whom the Ma family patronized. He was granted the chü-jên degree in 1762, at a special examination convened by Emperor Kao-tsung on the latter's third southern tour, and was made a secretary in the Grand Secretariat. He participated in the compilation of the P'ing-ting Chün-ko-êr fang-lüeh (see under Fu-hêng) and the Ta Ch'ing i-t'ung chih (see under Hsü Ch'ien-hsüeh), being particularly useful in the editorial office because of his knowledge of the languages of the Mongols and other Central Asian peoples. Subsequently, as a result of good judgment in advising against a suggestion of the Board of Revenue to put aside the various headings of tax-items and include then in a lump sum under the same heading as the land-tax item, Yen came to the favorable attention of Liu T'ung-hsün [q. v.], and. was recommended by the latter to serve as a secretary in the Grand Council of State. In 1771 or 1772 he was promoted to the position of assistant reader in the Grand Secretariat. Shortly thereafter because of the death of his parents he retired, never again to return to public life.

After his retirement Yen Ch'ang-ming travelled in Shensi, remaining there for about ten years and working in the office of the governor, Pi Yüan [q. v.]. While in Shensi he helped in the compilation of a gazetteer for the prefecture of Sian, the Hsi-an fu-chih (see under Pi Yüan). In his later years, he went to Ho-fei, Anhwei, where he was director of the Lu-yang 廬陽 Academy, and where he died. In Yen's studio, the Kuei-ch'iu ts'ao-t'ang 歸求草堂, there was gathered a library of thirty thousand chüan of books and three thousand chüan of inscriptions from bronzes and stones. It is said that the margins of all his books were filled with critical comments. One of his friends was the novelist, Wu Ching-tzŭ [q. v.], whom he mentions several times in poems. Of the large quantity of his prose writings (more than 100 chüan dealing with some 20 topics, including mathematics) none have been printed. Thanks to Yeh Tê-hui (see under Chu I-tsun), some of his verse is now available in a collection entitled 嚴東有詩集 Yen Tung-yu shih-chi (10 chüan, preface 1911) appearing in the collection 觀古堂彙刻書 Kuan-ku t'ang hui-k'o shu (1902).

A son, Yen Kuan 嚴觀 (T. 子進, H. 述齋), was a specialist in epigraphy. His best-known work, entitled 江寧金石記 Chiang-ning chin-shih chi, 8 chüan, with supplement (待訪目, 2 chüan) was first printed in 1804. It deals with inscriptions on monuments in the environs of Nanking.


[1/490/12a; 3/146/1a; Chin-ling t'ung-chuan (see bibl. under Ts'ên Yü-ying) 34/1a.]

R. O. Suter