ECCP for the WEB
The text of Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period is in the public domain and may be freely reproduced. These html-coded pages and the programmed pages for ECCP READER are © Tonseth House Studios 2016. For more ECCP biographies see Dartmouth's ECCP for the Web.

Hung Jên-kan


Hung Jên-kan 洪仁玕 (known in Western sources as "Hung-Jin", original ming 謙益 H 吉甫, Feb. 18 or 20, 1822-1864, Nov. 23), a native of Hua-hsien, Kwangtung, was prime minister and regent of the Taiping Kingdom. He was a relative of the Taiping leader, Hung Hsiu-ch'üan[q.v.]. From youth on he took an interest in history and astronomy but failed in the official examinations. In 1843 he professed conversion to Christianity and was baptized by Hung Hsiu-ch'üan. At this time he was teaching in a village school and continued to teach until 1846. In the following year he went with Hung Hsiu-ch'üan to Canton to study Christian doctrine with the American missionary, Reverend Issachar J. Roberts (see under Hung Hsiu-ch'üan). Engaged thus about a month, he returned to his native district where he taught school and studied medicine.

In July 1850 the Taiping Rebellion broke out in Kwangsi. Hung Hsiu-ch'üan sent word to Hung Jên-kan and some fifty other relatives inviting them to join the revolt. As they approached the abode of the God Worshippers (see under Hung Hsiu-ch'üan) they heard that the latter had broken camp and had marched elsewhere and that government officials were seizing and executing all persons connected with the movement. After several futile attempts to reach the insurgents Hung Jên-kan returned to Kwangtung where it was already known to the magistrates that Hung Hsiu-ch'üan and Fêng Yün-shan (see under Hung) had begun an insurrection in Kwangsi. The police had visited Hung Hsiu-ch'üan's birthplace in Hua-hsien, seized his relatives and neighbors, and demolished his ancestral tomb. Hung Jên-kan, no longer safe at his home, sojourned with friends in a neighboring district and twice more attempted to penetrate to Kwangsi, but both times was foiled by the vigilance of government officials. At last (1852) he became involved in a small local riot and was taken prisoner. Through the negligence of his captors he managed to escape and fled to Hongkong in April 1852.

In Hongkong Hung Jên-kan was introduced to the Reverend Theodore Hamberg (韓山文, 1819-1854) with whom he studied Christian doctrine. Hamberg was astonished to hear Hung's animated narrative about the early life of Hung Hsiu-ch'üan and other Taiping chiefs. After giving his oral account, Hung was asked to put the facts on paper, and this became the basic information in Hamberg's book, The Vision of Hung-Siu-Tshuen and Origin of the Kwang-si Insurrection (Hongkong 1854). In order not to disclose his identity, Hung Jên-kan's name is given in this book as "Hung-Jin". After a short stay at Hongkong Hung obtained an appointment as teacher in a village school in the district of Tungkuan, Kwangtung. In November 1853 he again visited Hamberg and at this time he was baptized.

Early in 1854, on his way from Hongkong to Nanking, Hung Jên-kan disembarked at Shanghai where he found the city largely in the hands of local rebels known as the Small Sword Society (see under Chi-êr-hang-a). Unacknowledged by the Small Sword Society as the relative of the Celestial King, Hung Jên-kan, for lack of funds, was forced to return to Hongkong In the meantime Hamberg had died. Hung was received by some members of the London Missionary Society and was employed by them in the years 1855-58 as a catechist and preacher. At the same time he spent his leisure pursuing the study of astronomy. His literary attainments and his personality were highly commended by the members of the mission and by the Chinese Christians connected with it. In June 1858, again with the financial support of his Western friends, Hung, disguised as an itinerant physician, tried to go to Nanking. After a difficult journey he succeeded in reaching Nanking on April 15, 1859.

In Nanking Hung Jên-kan was warmly welcomed, and placed in a high position by the Celestial King whose chief aids, the five kings, owing to internal dissention (1856), either had been killed or were out of favor (see under Hung Hsiu-ch'üan). Subsequently Hung Hsiu-ch'üan relied on none but his own close relatives to look after state affairs. But as none of these relatives were competent, he depended much upon his gifted relative, Hung Jên-kan. Soon after the latter reached Nanking he was made Kan Wang ( 干王, Shield King) and generalissimo, and before long was appointed prime minister.

As prime minister of the Taiping administration Hung Jên-kan was criticized by his political opponent, Li Hsiu-ch'êng[q.v.]as incompetent to make any valuable contributions to the Taiping state. When the Shield King gave an audience to Jung Hung [q.v.]on November 19, 1859, Jung made several proposals about creating a modern army and navy and establishing[368] banks, an educational system, etc., but Hung Jên-kan made no efforts to promote such reforms. Except for his routine duties, his chief contribution to the Celestial King was to advise him in the appointment of princes (wang), in the hope of retaining thus the loyalty of the officials to the Taiping cause. It is said that more than 2,700 princes were created after Hung Jên-kan came to power, though we now know the names of but seventy-five of them. Many of these new princes, as Li Hsiu-ch'êng pointed out, had little or no qualifications to warrant their titles. For this reason, also, many generals were reluctant to fight for them. At the same time Hung presided over the official examinations and revised (1859) the Taiping calendar (see under Hung Hsiu-ch'üan) into a year of 366 days, which necessitated months of 28 days every fortieth year.

From 1861 to the first half of 1862 Hung Jên-kan was concurrently Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Taiping government. During that time he was helped by his former teacher, I. J. Roberts, who had been invited to Nanking (October 1860), and then worked as Hung jên kan's interpreter in diplomatic affairs. Roberts lived in Hung's yamen and was treated with marked consideration. But on January 13, 1862 Hung himself murdered one of Roberts' servants in his master's presence. Offended and disgusted with the whole régime, Roberts left Nanking on January 20th. The principal link of Western Protestant missions with the Taiping movement was then broken. Hung Jên-kan's foreign diplomacy was also a complete failure. He did not gain the confidence of Westerners who, consequently, helped the Ch'ing forces to repulse the Taiping attack on Shanghai and also assisted them in taking many cities and towns in Kiangsu. This fact, as Hung Jên-kan admitted, was one of the chief factors leading to the collapse of the Taiping régime.

In 1863 Hung Jên-kan was ordered by special mandate to look after the Celestial King's son, Hung Fu (see under Hung Hsiu-ch'üan), who in his childhood had been taught to read the Bible, but by the time he was nine years old had four wives. Hung Jên-kan was much distressed at the responsibility thus thrust upon him, for Nanking was then in a precarious position, having been under siege since May 1862. Four days before Hung Hsiu-ch'üan committed suicide (June 1864) Hung Fu was made his successor and Hung Jên-kan was appointed regent. When Nanking was taken by Tsêng Kuo-ch'üan [q.v.] on July 19, 1864 the young king fled to the mansion of Li Hsiu-ch'êng who finally succeeded in escorting him and several hundred followers through a break in the city wall. Li gave his own war horse to the young king, but himself failed to escape (see under Li Hsiu-ch'êng). The young king was protected by Prince Chao 昭王 whose name was Huang Wên-ying 黃文英, (d. Nov. 23, 1864). Followed by several hundred adherents, he fled to Kuang-tê, Anhwei, from where the party was forced by Liu Ming-ch'uan [q.v.] to flee to Hu-chou, Chekiang. In Hu-chou they met Hung Jên-kan who, in the hope of summoning relief, had left Nanking before the city fell. From Hu-chou they went to Hui-chou, Anhwei; to K'ai-hua, Chekiang; and to Yü-shan, Kuang-ch'ang, and finally to Shih-ch'êng, in Kiangsi. In Shih-ch'êng their numbers were greatly reduced by the Hunan Army under Hsi Pao-t'ien 席寶田 (T. 研薌, 1829-1889), a native of Tung-an, Hunan. Hung Jên-kan and many other rebel chiefs were apprehended in Shih-ch'êng on October 9, 1864. The young king, having taken refuge alone on a mountain, was captured a few days later. After a legal inquiry he was executed by order of the court (November 18, 1864). Five days later (November 23) Hung Jên-kan, Huang Wên-ying, and others were put to death.

The Taiping remnants, having wandered over Fukien for several months under the command of Prince Shih (i.e. Li Shih-hsien, see under Li Hsiu-ch'êng), Prince K'ang 康王 (i.e. Wang Hai-yang 王汪海, d. Jan. 29, 1866), and Prince Hsieh 偕王 (i.e. T'an T'i-yüan 譚體元, d. Feb. 1866), gathered together in great numbers from Fukien, Kiangsi, Chekiang and other places at Chia-ying-chou, Kwangtung. They took the city of Chia-ying on December 8, 1865 and government troops, under the command of Tso Tsung-t'ang, Pao Ch'ao [qq.v. ]and others were sent from Kiangsi, Chekiang, Fukien, Hunan and Kwangtung to lay siege. The Taipings were forced to evacuate Chia-ying on February 7, 1866. A few days later their remnants were annihilated or absorbed by overwhelming government forces who both ambushed and pursued them. Thus ended the Taiping Rebellion.

Hung Jên-kan was the chief compiler of three books: 資政新篇 Tzŭ-chêng hsin-p'ien (1859), dealing with Hung's administrative ideas;欽定士階條例 Ch'in-ting shih-chieh t'iao-lieh (1861), dealing with the civil-service examinations of the Taiping state; and 英傑歸真, Ying-chieh kuei-chên (1861) which takes the form of a dialogue[369] between a deserter from the Manchu camp and Hung Jên-kan who reveals the political, religious and social life of the Taipings. In addition some of Hung's poems, hymns and specimens of his calligraphy--in particular his writing of the big character Fu 福 for Happiness--are collected in the work, T'ai-p'ing T'ien-kuo tsa-chi (see under Hung Hsiu-ch'üan).

[ 1/426/4a, 481/1a; 5/38/la; I-ching 逸經 no. 2,-67, no. 9, p. 440 and no. 22, p. 1248; Hamberg, Theodore, The Vision of Hung-Siu-Tshuen and Origin of the Kwang-si Insurrection (Hongkong, 1854); Brine, Commander Lindesay, The Taiping Rebellion in China, pp. 236-42, 287-99 (London 9lCl); Lin-Le (A. F. Lindley], Ti-Ping Tien-Kwoh, d. I, pp. 222-27 (London 1866) ; T'ai-p'ing T'ien-kuo chao-yü ; Hsiao I-shan, T'ai-p'ing T'ien-kuo ts'ung-shu ; Tso Shun-shêng, Chung-kuo chin-pai nien-shih tzŭ-liao, first collection and second collection (see under Li Hsiu-ch'êng); Ling Shan-ch'ing, T'ai-p'ing T'ien-kuo yeh-shih (for Chinese characters and dates of these publications see bibliography under Hung Hsiu-ch'üan) ; I-hsin [q.v.], Chiao-p'ing Yüeh fei fang-lüeh, chüan 394-97; Pao Ch'ao [q.v.]Pao-kung nien-p'u.]