Title: “The Death of He Shen 和珅 (1750-1799)”
Language of Instruction: Mandarin
The Creation of a Next-Generation Hub for East Asian Classical Studies: Accelerating Research and Education through International Collaboration
On this day for the graduate students, Professor An Dongqiang from Zhongshan University in China gave a lecture entitled “Poetry and Life: He Shen’s Death.”
He Shen is a late Qing politician who is very familiar to Chinese people, as he frequently appears in Chinese television dramas. The impression Chinese people have in regard to him is that he was a depraved and corrupt official. However, the question of whether such a standardized image is truly correct was the subject for Professor An’s lecture and roundtable talk this time.
First, Professor An introduced people’s image of He Shen during his lifetime, and next explained that he possessed excellent talent far and above that of a ordinary person, and that he had basically built favorable relationships with the emperor and courtiers. Finally, Professor An introduced He Shen’s poems, in particular the ones he composed at the time of his death. Examples include “A Composition During Illness” 「病中作」 (1789), which depicted the state of a month-long illness, and “A Composition During Tanabata,” 「七夕之作」 (1796) which was composed at the time when his last son passed away. Afterwards, he also lost his grandchildren, wife, and uncle in succession, until finally he was sent to prison. The poetry created at that time was “Two Poems About the Moon During the First Night in Prison.” 「上元夜獄中対月二首」No matter how much he suffered, in these poems he never expresses resentment toward the emperor at all, and instead only describes himself as an “orphan.” From this, the relationship between ruler and subject in the Qing court can be seen to some extent. Furthermore, there is doubt on whether all of He Shen’s assets were seized in the end.
During the Q&A session, there were wide-ranging topics such as Sino-British relations at the time, the value of Qing poetry as historical materials, and moreover the relationships with Jiangnan and Korea at the time.
We would like to express thanks again to Professor An for taking time out of his busy schedule to offer a fascinating topic. Through this roundtable discussion, I believe we should look at Hen Shen from multiple angles without being confined by his standardized image.
(Wang Yiran, PhD Candidate, Kyōto University)
About the Platform for Rising Scholars
The Platform for Rising Scholars was started in 2016 as part of the Creation of a Next-Generation Hub for East Asian Classical Studies: Accelerating Research and Education through International Collaboration (headed by Saitō Mareshi), with hopes of providing young researchers with an opportunity to share their research and communicate with one another. This platform encourages promising researchers, including graduate students, post-doctors, assistant professors, and lecturers, to present their research outside of their home institutions. Commentators are likewise selected from among young researchers for the purpose of promoting inter-institutional communication.