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Chao Chih-hsin

Chao Chih-hsin 趙執信 (T. 伸符 H. 秋谷, 飴山), Dec. 1, 1662-1744, Dec. 27, poet and calligrapher, was a native of I-tu, Shantung. He became a hsiu-ts'ai at the age of fourteen [sui]and took his chin-shih degree in 1679 at the early age of eighteen [sui]. Selected a bachelor of the Hanlin Academy, he soon gained the friendship of such older contemporaries as Chu I-tsun and Mao Ch'i-ling [qq.v. ]who were then serving in the same institution in Peking. He was made a compiler of the Hanlin Academy in 1682, and later served as an editor of the Ming-shih (see under Chang T'ing-yü) and of the first edition of the Ta-Ch'ing hui-tien (see under Wang Ankuo), and is reported to have written for the latter work the chapter on the Office of Colonial Affairs. In 1684 he was provincial examiner for Shansi, and later was promoted to an assistant secretaryship in the Supervisorate of Imperial Instruction. He was one of a group of some fifty officials and literary men who in the autumn of 1689 attended a special performance of the recently completed drama, 長生殿 Ch'angsheng tien (for details see under Hung Shêng). Unfortunately the play was enacted during the period when no merry making was allowed because of mourning for a female member of the Imperial household. A censor reported the names of all those who were present at the play. As a result Hung Shêng, author of the drama in whose honor the performance was held, was dismissed from the Imperial Academy and debarred from further examinations. Cha Shênhsing [q.v.] , a spectator, was likewise debarred, but by changing his name managed to proceed in his examination career. It is said that the censor who memorialized on the episode aimed mainly at Chao Chih-hsin who had previously aroused his resentment by refusing to read his poorly composed verses. Chao, then twenty eight sui, was dismissed from his post and was never called to public office again.

During his years of retirement he taught both in his native town and in different parts of South China which he visited five times. Although he travelled as far south as Canton, he sojourned mostly in Kiangsu, remaining in Soochow from 1720 to 1724. In the latter year he returned home and built a garden named Yin yüan 因園in which he spent his last years. Believing in Seomancy, he annotated several works on that subject. He is said to have been a humorist and a connoisseur of wine. About 1733 he lost his eyesight. In the following year there was created, in accordance with his suggestion, the
new district of Po-shan which included his own home. In 1739, sixty years after his attainment of the chin-shih degree, he and Wang Ts'aijen 王材任 (T. 西澗, b. 1653?) were the only graduates still living. Chao died five years later, revered both for his age and as a poet.

Spoiled by his youthful success in the examinations, his pride brought about the early collapse of his official career. This, in turn, made him bitter toward life and toward those more successful than himself. Although a relative of Wang Shih-chên [q.v.] , he severely criticised the latter's poetry and theories of poetic criticism. His animosity began about 1700, owing, it is said, to Wang's delay in writing a promised preface to a collection of Chao's poems. Chao disagreed in particular with him on the shen-yun 神韻 theory of poetry which Wang had adopted from the thirteenth century critic, Yen Yu 嚴羽 (T. 儀卿 H. 丹丘, 滄浪), and had utilized as a standard of criticism. Chao took every occasion to press his views, even to writing in 1706 a laudatory preface to the 頓吟集 Tun-yin chi, the collected works of Fêng Pan 馮班 (T. 定遠, 1614-1671), who, like himself, was an opponent of the theory. The small volume of criticisms, entitled 談龍錄 T'an-lung lu, which Chao Chih-hsin wrote in 1709, was also directed rather pointedly at Wang and his views. Chao's notes on the rules for even (平 p'ing) and deflected (仄 tse) tones in T'ang poetry were brought together under the title, 聲調譜 Shêng-tiao p'u. This pioneer study of the musical effects of words in poetry was widely read. In 1709 he wrote a work on ceremonial usage, entitled 禮俗權衡 Li-su ch' uan-heng. His collected poems, entitled 飴山詩集 I-shan shih-chi, in 20 chuan, were printed in 1752, although parts of them were printed earlier. His prose writings, I-shan wen (文) chi, in 13 chuan, were printed in 1774.

______________ [ 1/489/28a; 2/71 /14b; 3/117/25a; 4/45/la; 29/ 2/29b;博山懸志 Po-shan hsien chih (1753) 7 下/4a.]