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Chu Kuo-chên

Chu Kuo-chên 朱國楨 (T. 文寧 H. 平涵, 虯庵), 1557-1632, Ming official and historian, was a native of Wu-ch'êng, Chekiang. A chin-shih of 1589, he was selected a bachelor of the Hanlin Academy and was later appointed a cor rector. During the next thirty years he stayed for the most part in his home town of Nan-hsün 南潯 in Wu-ch'êng. Though he was appointed to several official posts, these were unimportant, and some of them he declined to take. In 1621 he was summoned by a decree to take the post of junior vice-president of the Board of Ceremonies. He left his home in 1622 but on his way to Peking wrote out his resignation and returned home. This was a time when political factions were violently opposing each other (see under Yang Lien), and perhaps Chu was apprehensive of the consequences of being involved. However, early in 1623, he was named president of the Board of Ceremonies and concurrently a Grand Secretary. He accepted these posts and in the following year was transferred to the Board of Revenue. At this time the eunuch, Wei Chung-hsien [q.v.], was already in power, and several Grand Secretaries who would not co-operate with him were 'forced to resign. Himself one of these, Chu left Peking early in 1625, returning to his home in Nan-hsün. Soon after his departure many officials who had opposed Wei were arrested and put to death (see under Yang Lien).
Chu Kuo-chên was a man of ordinary talents, one who could not face great opposition or assume heavy responsibilities. Once when commenting on him the notorious Wei Chung-hsien remarked, "That old man is also a scoundrel, but he has not done anything offensive", meaning that although Chu had not aligned himself with Wei he had not done anything to oppose him. It was this remark which saved Chu from being branded a member of the eunuch's party when that group was ejected in 1627-28 (see under Wei Chung-hsien). When Chu died in 1632 he was given posthumously the name, Wên-su 文速, and the title, Grand Tutor-his original title was Junior Preceptor.

Chu Kuo-chên gained the good will of his fellow townsmen because he did not presume on his influence to oppress his weaker neighbors. Once (about 1601), when a census of his district was taken in order to determine the new tax rate and to conscript labor in proportion to the amount of landed property, Chu made it known that the rich and influential ought to bear the same relative burden as the poor. As an example to his fellow townsmen he was the first to submit to the authorities a statement on the land he owned, the amount of his tax, and how much conscript labor for public works he was expected to provide. Rich landlords bated him and attacked him bitterly, but the common people of the district were grateful to him and lauded his fairness. His children and grandchildren were trained to observe all the courtesies of the prevailing moral code. One of his four sons was beaten to death by an unscrupulous eunuch. A grandson was executed in 1662 for trying to help a friend who was accused of plotting against the Manchu regime. Another grandson was killed in 1644 by bandits under Li Tzŭ-ch'êng [q.v], and a third was executed in 1645 by the Manchu invaders when he tried to expel them from his district. Hence not long after Chu Kuo-chên died his family was reduced to poverty.

During the years he spent in retirement Chu Kuo-chên compiled a general history of the Ming dynasty, entitled 皇明史概 Huang Ming shih-kai. He intended to write it in ten parts, but only five parts, with the following headings, were printed: (1) 大事記 Ta-shih chi; (2) Ta-chêng (政) chi; (3) Ta-hsün (訓) chi; (4) 開國列傳 K'ai-kuo lieh-chuan; and (5) Hsü(遜) kuo lieh-chuan. [188] These parts were printed in 1632. Chu also left a collection of miscellaneous notes, entitled Yung-ch'uang hsiao-p'in, 32 chüan, printed in 1622. The Library of Congress has the original edition of parts 2, 3, and 4 of the Huang-Ming shih-kai and a complete edition of the 湧幢小品 Yung-ch'ung hsiao-p'in.

After the downfall of Chu Kuo-chên's family in the early Ch'ing period, his unpublished manuscripts were bought by Chuang T'ing-lung [q.v.] who printed them under his own name. This event brought about, in 1662-63, the most unjust literary inquisition of the Ch'ing period (see under Chuang T'ing-lung). Descendants of Chu Kuo-chên were, however, not involved in this case.

[ M l/240/21b, I10/19b; Nan-hsün chih (1922) 12/15b, 90/3a; Ssŭ-k'u (see under Chi Yün) 48/5a, 128/3a; 國學圖書館館刊 Kuo-hsüeh t'u-shu-kuan kuan vol. 11, 松軒書錄 Sung-hsüan shu-lu, p. 10; ibid, vol. IV, 館藏清代禁書述略 Kuan-ts'ang Ch'ing-tai chin-shu shu-Iüeh, p. 38; Ch'ien Ta-hsin [q.v.], Shih-chia chai yang-hsin 14/15b.]