Biography in English

Hsiung Hsi-ling (1870-1942), government official, is best known as the premier of the "first caliber cabinet" of 1913-14. Hsiung all but retired from public life in 1914. He later achieved considerable reputation as a philanthropist and sponsor of charitable works. A native of Fenghuang hsien, Hunan, Hsiung Hsi-ling was the son of a military officer who held the rank of tsung-ping [brigadier]. Hsiung was a brilliant student, and in 1895 he obtained the chin-shih degree at the remarkably early age of 24. Seven years before, he had married Chu Ch'i-hui, the sister of Chu Ch'i-yi [see Chu Ching-nung), then the magistrate of Hsiung's native district. Chu Ch'i-yi was greatly impressed by the young scholar, even then referred to as the "boy genius of Hunan." Hsiung's wife proved to be highly talented and was a great help to her husband in his career. In 1894 Hsiung Hsi-ling entered the political life of the capital with a three-year appointment to the Hanlin Academy. His series of memorials opposing peace with Japan during the Sino- Japanese war of 1894-95 cost him this place, however, and he was obliged to return to his native Hunan. Hsiung worked with such reform leaders as T'an Ssu-t'ung ECCP, H, 7025), T'ang Ts'ai-ch'ang (ECCP, I, 30;!!, 769), and Liang Ch'i-ch'ao (q.v.) in the Xan-hsuehhui [south China academic society] and in the Changsha Shih-wu Hsueh-t'ang [contemporary affairs school] . In the aftermath of the Hundred Days Reform, Hsiung was cashiered and permanently barred from office, but soon he gained the favorable attention of Tuan-fang (ECCP, II, 780-82) and of Chao Erh-sun (q.v.), who were successive incumbents in the governorship of Hunan, and his name Was reentered on the civil list; appointment as a tao-t'ai in Kiangsu followed.

In 1905 Hsiung accompanied his patron, Tuan-fang, on a tour of Europe and the United States to study constitutional government. Although the tour bore little fruit for the reform of the Manchu government, it did open the way for Hsiung's active and successful official career. Most notably, he won the favor of Tsai-tse (ECCP, II, 78 1', 968), one of the most powerful figures in the Manchu court, who appointed him a financial superintendent and later a salt commissioner in Manchuria, both lucrative posts and ones which enabled Hsiung to become familiar with the intricacies of fiscal administration.

Despite his official and personal ties with the Manchu establishment, Hsiung maintained and soon enhanced his political position when the republic was established, emerging in March 1912 as minister of finance in the Chin-pu tang (^Progressive party) cabinet headed by T'ang Shao-yi (q.v.). When T'ang resigned some three months later, Hsiung also left office. Almost immediately, he was appointed tut'ung [lieutenant governor] of Jehol. A scandal occurred in Jehol which permanently attached itself to Hsiung's name, the pilfering of certain Manchu treasures stored in the summer palace. Although Hsiung was thought to be guilty of complicity in the thefts, the affair remained obscure and no official action against him was taken. Many people believed, however, that his involvement, whatever it was, secured him the premiership a few months later when the necessity of appointing a progressive yet malleable premier impressed itself on Yuan Shih-k'ai. In the late summer of 1913 Yuan turned his attention to the political suppression of the Kuomintang and to the dissolution of the Parliament, Where the Progressive party had succeeded in gaining control after the murder of Sung Chiao-jen (q.v.) and the splitting of the Kuomintang into factions. Hsiung Hsi-ling, long associated with reform ideas, a leader of the Progressive party, and a native of Hunan, which was a center of anti-Yuan sentiment, was a logical choice for the office of premier. Yuan accordingly recommended Hsiung to the Parliament late in July, and on 3 1 July, with the concurrence of both houses, Hsiung was appointed premier. The appointment came as something of a surprise to Yuan, who half expected that his first choice would be rejected. The moderate wing of the Kuomintang, however, was totally opposed to Hsu Shih-ch'ang (q.v.), a member, of the Peiyang clique who was his second choice, and cooperated with the Progressive party in supporting Hsiung. The Parliament's approval must also have surprised Hsiung, for he hesitated in accepting, arriving in Peking on 28 August only after the repeated urging of Liang Ch'i-ch'ao.

Progressive party demands for an all-Progressive cabinet and Yuan Shih-k'ai's insistence on picking all important ministers himself delayed formation of the government for nearly two weeks. Hsiung Hsi-ling, however, had determined to appoint the best cabinet he could, starting with Liang Ch'i-ch'ao, who was not a member of the Progressive party, as minister of finance. After much negotiation, Hsiung, who had characterized Yuan's slate as being only "second caliber," prevailed, and on 1 1 September he appointed a cabinet that he justly described as "first caliber." Liang Ch'i-ch'ao was named as minister of justice, Chang Chien (q.v.) as minister of agriculture and commerce, Sun Pao-ch'i (q.v.) as minister of foreign affairs, and Chu Ch'i-ch'ien as minister of the interior. Hsiung himself served as premier and as minister of finance. The formation of the "first caliber" cabinet marked not only the apogee of Hsiung's political career but also the end of responsible parliamentary rule in early republican China. A speaker of great fluency, Hsiung impressed his contemporaries with his sincere resolve to preserve the parliamentary system. In particular, he proposed such financial reforms as the abolition of the likin tax, the institution of an income tax, the standardization of currency, and the balancing of the national budget. However, on 4 November, Yuan issued an order, which Hsiung co-signed, for the dissolution of the Kuomintang and the cancellation of its membership in the Parliament. In all, 438 persons affiliated in one way or another with the Kuomintang were dismissed from the Parliament. On 5 November, there were not enough members left in either house to form a quorum, and on 10 January 1914 the Parliament was dissolved. A short time before, Hsiung had answered two long letters of inquiry from the remaining members of the two houses by stating that Yuan had been forced to dissolve the Parliament because of the exigencies of the times and that he therefore was not bound by ordinary parliamentary procedure. Hsiung's "first caliber" cabinet did not benefit from its compliance in the destruction of the Parliament. Chronically short of funds, split over deploying Peiyang forces in Hunan, and secretly ridiculed for proposing a master unification scheme which would have abolished all special provincial interests, the cabinet fell apart in February 1914 with the resignation of Liang Ch'i-ch'ao and others.

Hsiung gave up the premiership. He was appointed director of the national petroleum bureau, and he also headed the river conservancy bureau. In 1915 Yuan appointed him pacification commissioner of western Hunan, where it was hoped that Hsiung's influence would prove useful in winning popular support for Yuan's attempt to become monarch. In 1917, after Yuan had died and Li Yuan-hung (q.v.) had become president, Hsiung was named head of the P'ing-cheng-yuan [political consultative board]. Hsiung joined with Chang Chien, Ts'ai Yuan-p'ei (q.v.), and others in 1919 to promote the Shanghai peace conference, which, however, was a total failure. In the 1920's Hsiung became a popular advocate of federalism, possibly as a result of the Shanghai failure of 1919 and his own earlier failure as premier in 1913-14 to put across his plan for consolidation of power in a strong central government. Hsiung's last important political appointment was as a delegate to a national crisis conference held at Loyang in 1932 to cope with the situation resulting from the Mukden Incident of 1 8 September 1931. Hsiung also served as part of a delegation from Shanghai to persuade Chang Hsueh-liang (q.v.) to take up arms against the Japanese.

After 1914 Hsiung Hsi-ling ceased to be of major political importance in China. But as his political stature waned, Hsiung began earning a reputation for philanthrophy and charitable works. He gained prominence for his direction of famine relief activities in north China after the tragic flood of 1917 in Chihli (Hopei). In 1918 he founded a home for orphaned children, the Tz'u-yu-yuan, which was directed for a time by Ying Lien-chih (q.v.), a prominent Catholic layman. That orphanage, located in the Western Hills near Peking, became widely and favoi'ably known. Hsiung also organized or joined many other philanthropic organizations and in 1929 served on the executive board of the National Famine Relief Commission. His charities were private and personal as well as public. For example, in 1931 he paid for the funeral of his former patron Tsai-tse and provided for his family. In 1935, having lived as a widower for several years, Hsiung Hsi-ling married Mao Yen-wen (Helen Hsiung), a young and attractive graduate of Ginling College who had assisted him in running the Tz'u-yu-yuan. Hsiung's marriage to a woman half his age stirred great controversy at the time, but did not disturb Hsiung, who went so far as to shave off his twenty-year-old mustache at his bride's request. The second marriage was as happy as the first. In 1937 the Hsiungs moved from Shanghai to Hong Kong. In 1942, shortly after the Japanese occupation of that colony, Hsiung Hsi-ling died. His ^•idow resided in Taiwan after 1950. Hsiung had three children by his first wife. The son, stricken by disease in childhood, was an invalid and died early. The second child was Nora Hsiung, the wife of Lin Chu; she was a prominent educator who became the president of the Women's Normal College in Taipei, Taiwan. The third child. Rose Hsiung, was well known in Peking before the war; she remained in China after 1949.

A biographical article on Hsiung Hsi-ling, written by his relative Chu Ching-nung (q.v.), appeared in the Tung-fang tsa-chih [eastern miscellany] in January 1947.

Biography in Chinese


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