Biography in English

Chao Erh-sun (7 July 1844-3 September 1927) served the Ch'ing government in such capacities as governor general of Szechwan and of the Three Eastern Provinces. After 1912 he was editor of the bureau of Ch'ing history, responsible for the compilation of the Ch'ing-shih kao [provisional history of the Ch'ing]. A native of T'iehling, Fengtien, Chao Erhsun was a member of a distinguished family of officials belonging to the Chinese Blue Banner. The family had originally come from Manchuria. His father, a chin-shih of 1845 and a district magistrate in Shantung, had died at his post in 1854 while resisting the Taiping rebels. Of Chao Erh-sun's three brothers, two were chinshih: Chao Erh-chen (T. T'ieh-shan), and Chao Erh-ts'ui (T. Ch'ing-kung). The third, Chao Erh-feng (T. Chi-ho), rose in the official service to become governor general of Szechwan province ; he was killed in the revolution of 1 9 1 1 .

Educated in the traditional manner, Chao Erh-sun became a chü-jen in 1867 and a chinshih with the honor of being elected to the Hanlin Academy in 1874. Rising steadily in the official hierarchy, he was made a provincial censor in 1882, in which capacity he earned the reputation of being bold and forthright. After over a decade of metropolitan service, Chao in 1887 began to serve as a provincial official. His first appointment was as prefect of Shihch'ien in Kweichow, he was promoted to tao-t'ai of Kuei-tung in the same province in 1893. Then, after some three years as provincial judge of Anhwei, he became lieutenant governor of Sinkiang in 1898. However, after the death of his mother, he retired in 1899 to Shantung to observe the mourning period. When that observance ended in 1901, he was appointed lieutenant governor and then acting governor of Shansi. Two years later he became governor of Hunan. After being recalled briefly to Peking to be president of the board of revenue, he was sent to the Northeast in 1904 to be general of Mukden. In 1 907 Chao was appointed governor general of Szechwan; later he became governor general of Hu-kuang (Hunan and Hupeh), but he returned to his post in Szechwan in 1908. Early in 1911 he was sent again to Manchuria as the third and last governor general of the newly created Three Eastern Provinces. Reports of rice riots and other local disturbances had already been brought to Peking in 1910. When the revolt broke out at Wuchang in October 1911, similar outbreaks followed in Manchuria as well as in other provinces. Since he had some reliable military units, such as the troops of Chang Tso-lin (q.v.), at his disposal, Chao Erh-sun was able to outmaneuver the revolutionary leaders and to take the initiative in Manchuria: the revolutionaries had originally planned to seize power in Fengtien through an organization called the peace preservation society, but Chao succeeded in having himself elected head of this society and thereby preserved his power. When the republic was inaugurated in 1912, military governors in the provinces were given the title of tutuh, and Chao Erh-sun consequently became tutuh of Fengtien. Toward the end of that year, however, he resigned. After his retirement, Chao, like many other former officials of the Manchu dynasty, chose to make his home in Tsingtao. In March 1914 the Peking government under Yuan Shih-k'ai established the Ch'ing-shih kuan to compile a history of the Ch'ing dynasty—in keeping with Chinese tradition. Chao Erh-sun was appointed editor in chief of this project. In December 1915, when Yuan was preparing to assume the throne, he designated Chao, Chang Chien, Hsu Shih-ch'ang (qq.v.), and Ching-hsi, as the Sung-shan ssu-yu [four friends of Sungshan] to indicate that these old colleagues were to be honored as his personal friends under the new regime. At the time of the 1917 attempt of Chang Hsün (q.v.) to restore the Manchu dynasty, Chao was named an adviser to the privy council. In 1 925, under the administration of Tuan Ch'i-jui (q.v.), he was appointed chairman of the reorganization conference and then chairman of the provisional senate. In 1926 Peking experienced another of its periodic changes of power when Tuan Ch'i-jui departed for Tientsin as Chang Tso-lin's forces approached the capital. Chao Erh-sun and Wang Shih-chen (q.v.) worked to maintain peace and order in the ancient city. Chao died in Peking on 3 September 1927. The problem of the publication of the Ch'ing-shih kao was one of his dying concerns.

Although a scholar of the Hanlin Academy, Chao was not particularly noted for scholarship or literary attainments and was by no means the best choice to supervise the compilation of the Ch'ing history. Yuan Shih-k'ai, in establishing the bureau, was conforming to an established tradition, but his real intention may have been to give employment to elder statesmen of the former dynasty as a means of ensuring their support. Yet, in certain respects Yuan's choice of Chao Erh-sun to head the bureau proved to be a sound one. An editor in chief must be a man with administrative skill as well as historical scholarship. Lacking a man of Chao's official prestige and practical experience, the project might not have survived the difficult decade of political instability and financial uncertainty that followed Yuan's death. Whatever the defects of the resulting historical compilation, that it was brought to completion and published was in large part due to Chao's resourcefulness and perseverance. Chao himself was well aware of the shortcomings of the work, and for that reason named it the Ching-shih kao [provisional history of the Ch'ing], and not Ching-shih [history of the Ch'ing].

During the lifetime of Yuan Shih-k'ai, the project was well supported financially. Chao invited many noted scholars of the time to participate and kept a number of them on the payroll even though they did little or no work. Thus, during the early period, compilation work was not taken too seriously. Among the working staff members there was neither coordination nor an effective system of organization, and duplications, omissions, and discrepancies naturally occurred. As financial support dwindled and sometimes became uncertain, Chao had to economize and think of ways to raise funds himself, generally by soliciting aid from the warlords.

In 1927 Chao Erh-sun saw that the Kuomintang Northern Expedition would be successful, and he became anxious about the completion and publication of the Ching-shih kao. Shortly before his death in September 1927, he entrusted this task to Yuan Chin-k'ai (T. Chieh-shan), a native of Liaoyang, Fengtien, who had served under him in Manchuria before 1911 and was later to hold office in the Japanese-sponsored state of Manchoukuo.

However, in 1928, during the final days of preparation for publication, the editorial duties were left largely in the hands of Yuan Chin-k'ai's Manchu assistant, Chin-liang (T. Hsi-hou, H. Kua-p'u) . Chin-liang took the liberty of making alterations in the text, some of them serious, of which no one was aware until the work was printed. When the changes were discovered, certain corrections were hurriedly made, but not before 400 copies of the original printing bearing Chin-liang's alterations had been shipped to Manchuria. These circumstances have given rise to two variant texts of the Ching-shih kao, known as the kuan-nei and kuan-wai editions. The most notable difference was the addition in the kuan-wai (Manchurian) edition of the biographies (lieh-chuan) of Chang Hsün, Chang Piao, and K'ang Yu-wei, which are not to be found in the kuan-nei edition.

The printing of the Ch'ing-shih kao preceded by only a few weeks the entry of the National Revolutionary Army into Peking. On 28 June 1928 the Ch'ing-shih kuan was turned over to a committee in charge of taking over the palaces. Soon afterwards, this group petitioned the National Government in Nanking to ban the Ch'ing-shih kao, giving 19 reasons, the foremost of which was that the work was "anti-revolutionary." After 1928 the Ching-shih kao remained under a ban imposed by the Kuomintang-controlled National Government on the mainland and, after 1949, in Taiwan. Under this ban, copies of the work grew increasingly rare, and its price among booksellers soared, thus encouraging the appearance of pirated editions.

Since its publication, the Ching-shih kao has received much criticism, and a variety of opinions have been expressed with respect to the official ban. In 1945 the Historical Society in Chungking petitioned the ministry of education for permission to undertake the task of re-editing the work because of its importance to the study of modern China. However, serious work began only after the removal of the government to Taiwan in 1949, and it was not until 1961-62 that an officially approved eight-volume revision appeared in Taiwan under the title Ching-shih. Based largely on the Ching-shih kao, the Chingshih appears to differ from the earlier "provisional history" mainly in the treatment of some of the biographies of late Ch'ing personalities, such as the Taiping leader Hung Hsiu-ch'üan (ECCP, I, 361-67).

Biography in Chinese

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