"Gu Bingqian and Wei Guangwei" by John W. Dardess is licensed under a  Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.   See also John W. Dardess, Blood and History in China: the Donglin Faction and its Repression, 1620-1627 (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2002)

Creative Commons License 26/306/7843-7846     Gu Bingqian and Wei Guangwei. Gu was from Kunshan. He achieved his jinshi degree in 1595 and was made a Hanlin Bachelor. Eventually he was made a Vice Minister of Rites with the special duty of mentoring the Bachelors. In 1621, he was promoted to Minister of Rites with concurrent charge of the Household Administration of the Heir Apparent. In 1622, as eunuch Wei Zhongxian was growing in power, Gu was impeached by Zhou Zongjian and others. Wei Zhongxian was looking for ways to win the support of court officials, and Gu and Wei Guangwei were among the first to pander to him. Others, including Huo Weihua and Sun Jie, soon joined in. In the following year, Gu Bingqian and Wei Guangwei entered the Grand Secretariat along with Zhu Guozhen and Zhu Yanxi.
     Wei Guangwei was from Nanle. He was the son of Vice Minister Wei Yunzhen. He achieved his jinshi degree in 1604. He was first a Hanlin Bachelor, then Vice Minister f Rites in the secondary capital of Nanjing.
/7843 Wei Zhongxian made furtive approaches to him on the basis of their coming from the same region and sharing the same surname. That’s how he got promoted to Minister of Rites. In 1623, he and Gu Bingqian were made concurrent Ministers of Rites and Grand Secretaries of the East Hall. In the seventh lunar month, Gu was made Grand Guardian of the Heir Apparent, and was moved to the Hall of Literary Profundity. In the 11th month, he was made Junior Guardian and Grand Mentor of the Heir Apparent. In the 1st month of 1625, he was made Junior Mentor, Grand Preceptor of the Heir Apparent, and Minister of Personnel. He was moved to the Jianji hall. In the 9th month, he was made Junior Preceptor.
     As a personality, Gu Bingqian was crude, commonplace, and shameless, while Wei Guangwei was secretive and sly. Zhao Nanxing was a good friend of Wei’s father, and he once sighed and said: “Jianquan has no son.” “Jianquan” was Wang Yunzhen’s studio name. Wei Guangwei was deeply offended when he heard that. When he became a Grand Secretary, he thrice tried to pay Zhao Nanxing a visit, but each time the doorman refused to let him in. Wei said angrily: “He can refuse to see anyone he chooses, but certainly he cannot refuse to see a Grand Secretary.” And he hated Zhao all the more.
     When Yang Lian impeached Wei Zhongxian for 24 crimes, the eunuch was put in fear and had Wei Guangwei compose the imperial rescript to it, which he did, to Wei Zhongxian’s specifications. And Gu Bingqian was angered because Yang Lian referred to him as “the protégé Grand Secretary.”
     Later, there was a winter sacrifice and the promulgation of the calendar, and Wei Guangwei showed up late for these ceremonies. Both the Supervising Secretary Wei Dazhong and the Censor Li Yingsheng impeached him. That angered Wei Guangwei to such an extent that he vowed to destroy the good species (i.e. the Donglin partisans). He and Gu Bingqian planned together to drive out all the upright men. They identified their enemies by marking in the roster of officials as members of the “deviant faction” such names as Ye Xianggao, Han Kuang, He Ruchong, Cheng Jiming, Miao Changqi, Yao Ximeng, Chen Zizhaung, Hou Ke, Zhao Nanxing, Gao Panlong, Qiao Yunsheng, Li Banghua, Zheng Sanjun, Yang Lian, Zuo Guangdou, Wei Dazhong, Huang Zunsu, Zhou Zongjian, and Li Yingsheng—more than a hundred in all. They identified some 60 men as upright—among them Huang Kezan, Wang Yongguang, Xu Dahua, Jia Jichun, and Huo Weihua. These lists they submitted through the eunuch Wang Chaoyong, so that they could be used as the basis upon which to advance people or reject them.
     Wei Zhongxian’s power expanded, now that he had the support of the Grand Secretariat. Gu Bingqian and Wei Guangwei served Wei Zhongxian just as though they were his slaves.
     Grand Secretaries Ye Xianggao and Han Kuang were dismissed, and He Zongyan died. Thus Gu became Chief Grand Secretary. From the 12th lunar month of 1624 until the 9th month of 1626, Gu Bingqian drafted every imperial rescript that dismissed or abused a loyal and upright official. He was the general editor of the Sanchao yaodian, for which he wrote the imperial preface so as to stifle all criticism of it. Every court action was answered by an imperial rescript lavishly praising Wei Zhongxian. Whenever Wei Guangwei sent a written communication to Wei Zhongxian, he would address it “A Family Letter from the Grand Secretariat” on the envelope. He was called “the outside Wei.”
/7845     Previously, all draft rescripts were written by the Chief Grand Secretary. The other Grand Secretaries simply acted as discussants. But Wei Guangwei wanted to seize some control and he plotted with Wei Zhongxian to have the Grand Secretaries divide the duties. So political power was divided from that point, and that then became a new precedent.
     When Yang Lian and the other five gentlemen were arrested, Wei Guangwei was very much in on the strategy, and Gu Bingqian drafted the harsh imperial directive ordering the restitution of the alleged bribes in installments every five days. Minister Cui Jingrong was afraid the flogging would soon kill them, and he pleaded with Wei Guangwei to put a stop to it. Wei Guangwei too was uneasy about it and he memorialized thus: “Today Yang Lian and the others are surely guilty, but just yesterday they were central officials. Even if they are rightly charged with having received bribes, they should be turned over to the judicial authorities for judgment in accordance with the law code. How can they be tortured day after day, and how can it be the military police that recoup the bribes? The prisoners aren’t made of wood and stone, and the floggings will soon kill them. Why can’t the properly constituted judicial authorities recoup the bribes? We are not only damaging the principle of benevolence that requires that we cherish life, we are also defying the norms set by the imperial ancestors. Our court government is becoming more disorderly by the day, far from the model set by the rulers of ancient times.” This memorial was sent up, and it greatly offended Wei Zhongxian. Wei Guangwei was frightened, and he showed Cui Jingrong’s letter by way of explaining what he had done. But Wei Zhongxian was not to be mollified, and so Wei Guangwei begged to be allowed to retire. His plea was denied.
     About two months later, a forged imperial edict was issued scolding the court officials. In it were these words: “I, the emperor, duly observe the old norms, yet you say court government grows more disorderly by the day. I take the ancient sage emperors Yao and Shun as models, yet you say I fall far short of them.” The edict was referring to what Wei Guangwei had said in his memorial. This frightened Wei Guangwei even more, and he begged Gu Bingqian to make explanations in his behalf. So Wei Zhongxian’s anger was allayed somewhat. But Wei Guangwei was still uneasy, and thrice he sent up memorials asking to be allowed to retire. In the 9th lunar month of 1626, this was finally granted.
     Before he retired, Wei Guangwei was made Junior Guardian, Grand Preceptor of the Heir Apparent, and he was allowed to have one son receive by inheritance a position as Secretariat Drafter. He was given 100 ounces white gold, a dragon emblem, and 4 bolts of colored silk. He was permitted to make private use of the official transport service. Official messengers escorted him home. He was generously rewarded because of his earlier friendships. Two years later he died at home. He was posthumously made Grand Mentor, and was further honored according to regulation.
     Gu Bingqian always drafted rescripts as Wei Zhongxian directed. He forged a rescript that punished the Provincial Examiner Ding Qianxue, and he worked on the rescripts that killed Yang Lian and Zuo Guangdou. But when Zhou Shunchang and Li Yingsheng were placed in the Decree Prison, he requested that they be transferred to the custody of the judicial authorities so that they might not die falsely accused. When eunuchs went out to assume control of the frontier military garrisons, it was Gu who wrote the imperial edict of authorization. Then he showed a bit of resistance when he joined Ding Shaoshi in asking for the termination of two abuses.
 /7846    When Feng Quan entered the Grand Secretariat, he was surrounded day and night by members of his own faction, any many lower officials sought protection under him. Gu Bingqian grew uneasy, and made several requests to be allowed to retire. He retired a year after Wei Guangwei did.
     In 1629, Gu was denounced by Zu Zong?, Xu Shangxun, and Wang Yingyuan. He was removed from the official registry, was listed in the Treason Case because of his inner palace connections, and was sent into exile for three years. But then he was pardoned and made a commoner.
     In 1630, the Kunshan people, full of longstanding hatred for Gu, gathered in a mob and burned his house down. Gu, aged 80, escaped by hiding in a fishing boat. He sent the court 40,000 taels that he had kept hidden in a hole in the ground. He moved to another county and died there.
     Wei Guangwei too was posthumously disgraced, listed in the Treason Case, and sentenced to exile. The Grand Secretaries that followed immediately after, men such as Huang Liji, Shi Fenglai, and Zhang Ruitu, did as Wei and Gu had done and cooperated closely with Wei Zhongxian.


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