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Chu Chih-hsi

Chu Chih-hsi 朱之錫 (T. 孟九, H. 梅麓), Jan. 26, 1624-1666, river conservancy official, was a native of I-wu, Chekiang. Becoming a chin-shih in 1646, he was soon after made a second class Hanlin compiler. He was one of the Hanlin scholars chosen in 1649 to compile, for the use of the nation's historians, the memorials that had been submitted to the throne. In the course of his leave to visit his parents in 1650 his father died. After a period of mourning he was promoted to the rank of Reader and then Supervisor of Imperial Instruction (1654). In 1655 he memorialized the throne on the loss of valuable records during the Pien-ch'i (1621-28) and Ch'ung-chên (1628-44) reign-periods and on the scarcity of trustworthy historical material. He recommended that officials in the provinces be encouraged to make extensive collections of books for submission to the throne and that gazettes, private records, and testamentory data be utilized. These proposals were duly approved and a system of collecting local historical records was put into force. In 1656 Chu became chancellor of the Hung-wên Yüan 弘文院. In the following year he was made junior vice-president of the Board of Civil Office, and later in the same year director-general of Yellow River and Grand Canal Conservancy, with headquarters at Tsining, Shantung. It was in this latter capacity that he achieved fame as an untiring worker, a [179] man of impeccable honesty and loyalty in a period of chaos and corruption.

In 1658 the Yellow River overflowed at Shanyang, Kiangsu, and at a number of other points along the old bed. It took a course southeast of Kaifêng, passed Hsü-chou, Kiangsu, met the Grand Canal at Su-ch'ien, shared the bed of the canal southeastward to Ch'ing-chiang p'u 清江浦, and then debouched northeastward over a low plain to the sea. This was the fifth recorded course that the Yellow River had followed, changing to its present course in the sixth moon of 1855. After a careful survey, Chu submitted a memorial embodying ten suggestions of which the following may be mentioned here. He stressed the softness of the silt carried down by the river and its disastrous effect on the important grain transport route that followed the Grand Canal. He vigorously denounced graft, deliberate sabotage, lack of organization, and a host of other malpractices-insisting on the retention of an adequate supply of labor for annual repairs to dikes in Honan, and conscription of labor for work on the Huai River embank ments. He stressed the value of a ready supply of willow material for dike repairs, outlining s program of intensive cultivation of willow trees in the vicinity of threatened sections of the river. He found that whereas the clear waters of the Huai River could ordinarily be depended upon to flush the silt in the Yellow River, the Huai silted up so seriously during the summer and autumn that it caused a vast accumulation of water in Lake Hung-tse 洪澤, threatening in turn the dikes on the east bank of that lake. Chu recommended the construction of two sluices to admit surplus waters into the lakes to the southeast, since these afforded connections with the Grand Canal and with the Yangtze River. The strain on the dikes of the canal was in turn to be relieved by the use of sluices admitting water into several small lakes and rivers to the east.

From the time of Chu's appointment to River Conservancy (1657) until his death in 1666 he left his work only once, namely for about a year in 1660 when the emperor reluctantly granted him leave to escort the coffin containing his mother's remains to his native place. Shortlc after his return the river broke its dikes again at many places, and once more he set to work at his arduous, Sisyphean task. After his death cities and villages along the river erected temples to his honor, and the people called him Chu Ta Wang 朱大王. When Emperor Kao-tsung toured the south in 1780 Chu was posthumously given the title, Marquis Chü-shun Yung-ning 助順永寧侯 and about the same time he was canonized as Yu-an 佑安.

[1/285/2a; 2/8/27b; 4/76/10a; 3/152/la; 7/3/20a; 9/7/14b; 12/8/la; 18/2/15a; 23/1/8a; I-wu-hsien chih (1802) 13/16b, 20/34b; 河防一覽 Ho fang i-lan vol. I, charts of lakes, rivers, dikes, and sluices; 祥符縣志 Hsiang-fu-hsien chih (1898) 12/42b, 12/44b for date of birth.]