Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Yin Chia-ch'üan

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YIN Chia-ch'üan 尹嘉銓 (了端, 隨五, 古稀老人), May 21, 1711–1781, official and writer, was a native of Po-yeh, Chihli, the eldest son of Yin Hui-i 尹會一 (元孚, 1691–1748), a scholar who shortly before his death was appointed vice-president of the Board of Civil Office. Yin Chia-ch'üan graduated as chü-jên in 1735, but failed to qualify in the chin-shih examinations. This failure, however, does not seem to have hampered his career, owing possibly to his father's eminence. He was appointed to minor offices in the Board of Punishments at Peking, and by 1763 was intendant of the Chi-Tung-T'ai-Wu-Lin Circuit in Shantung. During the ensuing years he occupied provincial posts in Shansi, Shantung, and Kansu, until 1774 when he was recalled to Peking as director of the Court of Judicature and Revision. In the following year the Emperor was urged to degrade and transfer him for failure to report on a secret society in Kansu when he was lieutenantgovernor of that province (1771–74), but the suggestion was ignored. When in 1778, owing to a Mohammedan uprising in Kansu, a second proposal for his dismissal was made, the Emperor permitted him to retire without, however, depriving him of his rank. Three years later (April 11, 1781) when the Emperor was returning from a pilgrimage to Wu-t'ai Shan by way of Paoting, Yin dispatched his son from Po-yeh to request a posthumous title for his father, the above-mentioned Yin Hui-i. The Emperor was obviously irritated by the proposal, and Yin should have taken the hint, but did not. He again proposed that the tablets of T'ang Pin, Chang Po-hsing, Fan Wên-ch'êng, Li Kuang-ti and Gubadai [qq. v.] be admitted to the Confucian temple—adding to the list, half apologetically, the name of his father. This was too much. After the court had reviewed the evidence in the case, the Emperor ordered that Yin be arrested and sentenced and that a thorough search be made for disrespectful or seditious comments in his writings. These were found in abundance, in particular, remarks on political societies which the Emperor had good reason to dread.

The sequel was a sentence (May 10, 1781) of "immediate death by strangulation" (絞立決 chiao li-chüeh) for Yin Chia-ch'üan, confiscation of his property, and complete destruction of his writings, including even those carved on monuments at various sites in Shantung, Shansi, and Kansu—but mercy for his family. According to an unsubstantiated account, this sentence was not actually carried out. It is alleged that the Emperor, despite denunciatory decrees, was really fond of him, one factor being that the ages of the two men almost exactly coincided. Hence we are informed that the Emperor privately sent a messenger to the jail and, after a brief personal interview with Yin in the Palace, took pity on him, even laughed at him, and let him return unnoticed to his home. On the other hand, it must be remembered that the sentence of li-chüeh was as a rule summarily carried out. Moreover the official record, written six days after the sentence was pronounced, speaks of Yin's brother-in-law, Li Shou-ch'ien (see under Li Tu-no), being questioned for coming to Peking on behalf of his sister (Yin's wife) to look after the funeral.

Yin Chia-ch'üan may not have been a great writer, but he was certainly a prolific one, in frequent demand for poetic effusions and prefaces. More than one hundred items are attributed to him: volumes of poetry, essays, a family genealogy, an autobiographical nien-p'u, memorials, collections of sayings of famous ministers of the Ch'ing period, comments on parts of the Confucian canon, etc. These were one and all blotted out of existence. Even a preface which his wife (née Li 李) wrote for a work originally composed in the T'ang dynasty was extracted and burned. Thus did the literary labors of one of the most cultured families of Chihli province, in the eighteenth century, go almost for naught.


[2/18/3a; Ch'ing-tai wên-tzŭ yü tang (see bibl. under Huang T'ing-kuei (no. 6; Ch'ing-pai lei-ch'ao (see bibl. under Hung-li) vol., 8 p. 130; 上諭條例 Shang-yü t'iao-li, Ch'ien-lung 46 hsia-chi 103–126; Po-yeh hsien-chih (1767) 4/7b; Lü Chih, Yin Shao-tsai kung nien-p'u (1749), chronological biography of Yin Hui-i.]

L. Carrington Goodrich