Ding Richang (Chinese: 丁日昌; Wade–Giles: Ting Jih-Ch'ang; 1813–1882) was a government official in Qing dynasty China, who is remembered for his "indomitable" if not "prodigious" reform efforts, skill in foreign diplomacy (or "foreign-matters expert"), and supervision of the judicial administration, engaging in anti-tax abuse directed at the Yamen. Magistrate of Jiangsu, he lost and then regained rank during the Taiping rebellion to become Shanghai intendant before returning to the devastated Jiangsu in 1867 as Finance Commissioner and then Province Governor from 1868-1870. Often compared with famous reformer Zeng Guofan, whose writings Ding became familiar with while serving under a staff advised by him, Ding's lengthy 1868 memorial admits to the hopelessness of effective governance without qualified administrators and structural reform, and in spite of his constant vigilance, corruption by the yamen continued throughout his term, remaining a central issue.
Li Hongzhang relied on Ding for advice on Western military technology, and as Shanghai intendant Ding founded the Kiangnan Arsenal, to which was attached a language school and translation department. It's 200 works had a powerful influence in the modernization of China. He also founded the Lung-mên shu-yuan Academy in Shanghai, would be reorganized as a normal school in 1904. In his late years he presided over Taiwan during one of the "most dynamic periods" of its history, and the program he laid there is relatable to that of the Self-Strengthening Movement. Despite his reformist propositions and support of Western learning, Ding was strongly committed to Confucianism and opposed the spread of Western religion. However, despite his concern for the former, unlike contemporary censors he was open to the flourishing Buddhist religion.
Born in Fengshun County, Ding was able to attend school in his childhood at a local temple even though his family was not rich, becoming a licentiate and then earning a stipend for distinction in the annual prefectural examination. Becoming known for his talents in writing, Fengshun's magistrate accepted him as protégé, and an unidentified sponsor paid the expense of the provincial Canton examination. He obtained the rank of student at the Imperial academy at 20, possibly purchased for him by the same, but was never able to master the more abstruse arts of the provincial examination. After failing the 1845 examination he became a teacher and secretary to local officials, purchasing the rank of an expectant director of schools. In 1854 he was rewarded with the rank of an expectant magistrate for help in subduing local bandits, and in 1856 was appointed subdirector of schools of Qiongzhou (Hainan Island), and magistrate of Jiangsu three years later at the age of thirty-five, a typical age to become magistrate.
As magistrate Ding controlled corruption in Jiangsu through strict supervision of his subordinates. His swift policies were praised by the Wan-an gazetteer, and it is said that he reduced the number of backlogged cases from over a hundred to only a few within a month. He also began reconstruction of the academy and city temple, which had been destroyed by Taiping rebels. Departing for Guangdong in 1859 to work in foreign affairs, the people of Wan-an petitioned for his return.
Military Secretariat and Shanghai Intendant
Ting was Soon made acting magistrate of Ji'an during the Taiping rebellion, with the goal of recapturing the county seat of Chi'an. He succeeded but lost his rank and office after then losing Ji'an to the retreating Taiping rebels in 1861 (though he and his superiors recovered it). Invited to join Zeng Guofan's secretariat in Anhwei, Ding's expertise in foreign affairs bought him favour. Following this he supervised firearms manufacturing in Guangdong. His services in both instances would see his rank restored to him in 1862, and considering him essential the governor-general was twice successful in petitioning the court to prevent his leaving for summons to perform the same in Jiangsu, as part of Li Hongzhang's secretariat.
Following his service on Hong's secretariat, Hong recommended Ding for prefect, which he was awarded, stressing Ding's role during the campaign that recovered Jiangsu. Ding was soon awarded Shanghai taotai (intendant of Suzhou, Songjiang and Taicang), which entailed constant foreign dealings, for his diplomatic handling of staff negotiations in the disbandment of the Ever Victorious Army. Going over regular channels, Ding succeeded in acquiring the appointment of a former British officer (William Winstanley) from the Ever Victorious Army for his new unit, much to the chagrin of the British authorities in Shanghai.
As Shanghai taotai, on the basis of treaties he believed the Chinese should honour, he rejected the petitions of Chinese merchants to ban foreign cotton-goods shops, and with difficulty persuaded the inhabitants of Chaozhou to accept foreign entrty. On the same basis he rejected American real-estate interests in Shanghai and British steamship traffic. In 1863 he promised to reduce taxes on Chinese junks so as to make them competitive with foreign ships (apparently in bean trade), and wrote to Li Hongzhang suggesting that the Chinese buy and build steamships, which, allowing them to outcompete the foreigners, would remove the need to expel them by force. His proposal was accepted, but 1864 reports by him memorialize China as being surrounded by enemies, and still demonstrates a clear commitment to ordnance. In 1865, in response to a need by Li Hongzhang and the Yamen for formal training in mechanics and mathematics, he purchased (as an administrator) machinery from a foreign factory at Shanghai, founding the Kiangnan Arsenal. It incorporated Li's previous two Arsenals.
Li was promoted to salt controller in September 1865 before being named the Jiangsu finance commissioner in early 1866, which he performed in 1867. During this time he issued his first lengthy proclamation, which called for better personnel training and selection, examinations, increased reward and punishment, longer terms and higher salaries. He also made an argument for sending diplomats overseas.
Receiving Governorship in 1868, Ding took to referring to himself as a "man up from the fields" in letters to the Emperor, and sent letters of reprimand to his subordinates that had they been commoners and secretaries they would neither be so insensitive nor incompetent. However, apparently unsure of the use of his authority, his words had more sting than his actions. Though avoiding involving them in government he cultivated relationships with local scholar-elites through book-lending from his personal library. Continuing an effort he had made during the war, Ding used his position in Jiangsu to purchase books from destitute Chinese for cataloguing by a subordinate, later writing a more complete catalogue from his home - and inspiring a third by the commissioner of education, Chiang Piao.
Ding established free schools and lectures, reprinting the Expanded Sacred Edicts, subsidized fertilizer, and pressed for repair of waterworks. On the penal side of things he drew up plans in late 1868 for weapon's collection to combat piracy, which was successful, attempted to ban delayed burial, and closed some twenty nunneries supposedly used as brothels. He rebuilt temples and banned religious processions as attracting undesirables, and suppressed gambling. He halted the construction of theatres, though he was unable to exert control over the profession. Although closing urban dens, his campaign against opium was less successful. His efforts against forced remarriage, including an aid association for widows, were unsuccessful.
However, Ding's chief effort in Suzhou (southern Jiangsu) was to improve the tax-collection process. In contrast with his predecessor Feng Guifen, who considered taxes too high even after reduction, Ding considered irregularity the primary problem with the tax administration (while still needing to not overburden the peasants). To accomplish this, using earlier plans earlier proposed by Feng, he simultaneously lightened taxes while establishing norms in the handling of taxes in collection and accounting, uniform conversion rates, and enforcement, using his powers as governor while trying to persuade the central government.
Ding's efforts hinged on control over clerks and runners. While he probably would have preferred the complete restructuring proposed by Feng, he settled for a few of his more important ideas. His 1868 memorial to the throne proposed limiting clerk positions to non-degree holding scholars (rather than any semi-literate) on the basis that they might value their reputation more. Though not holding a degree they would still have to pass a series of examinations, and would be re-examined every year. To make the position attractive, in addition to comfortable emoluments they could eventually become regular bureaucrats this way. His proposal was not accepted, probably on account of more pressing expenses and entrenched interests.
During this time he focused his efforts on bringing his local clerks under the supervision of magistrates, improving the latter's selection and establishing channels of communication between them and the peasants. To a large extent these measures consisted in enforcing already present regulations that in the past had only been enforced on their being broken. He made a warning and executed those runners involving in banditry.
In-order to prevent over-collection, he developed to a high degree the publication of all tax information that peasants would need to know. Following this he made efforts to continually supervise and penalize the magistrates themselves. To counterbalance the magistrates (that is, the yamen) he made it so the headmen had to be selected from among village elders, given a travel allowance for reporting, and hopefully being less inclined to extortion made them responsible for local tax-collection. He enforced (and in some cases instituted) responsibility on the magistrates for tax-receipts, and simplified procedures. He tried to curb litigation, which was expensive.
Ding kept tabs on northern Jiangsu (Kiangpei) through secret agents. However, apart from directives didn't attempt to reform Kiangpei personally, likely considering the impoverished and unruly region beyond his capacity. While Suzhou was recovering from the war, it also had an element in the imperial court and an economic diversity that attracted patrons in wealth, commerce and the arts.
Ding attended Taiwan in 1869, and with Imperial sanction reduced the number of the Green Standard Army stationed there. He desired to seriously reform it as a new standard for Jiangsu, but had to leave in 1870 on account of the death of his mother (however, the throne did reform the Green Standard Army on the basis of Zeng Guofan's plan). That same year he participated in the trial for the Tianjin Massacre. He otherwise retired for the next four years, returning to Tianjin in 1875 to conclude treaties with Japan and Peru. In response to the Japanese invasion, during the great policy debates he proposed the need for Western studies and three regional fleets worth of ironclad battleships. He was attacked by the Literati (though they accepted his proposal to send Li Hongzhang to negotiate treaties with Korea) but supported by Li and made director of the Fuzhou Arsenal and governor of Fujian three months later.
Having propounded a pro-colonial stance to the court in the past, during his term he gave much attention to Taiwan. He witnessed the first machine excavation of coal there and oversaw the installation of the first telegraph line in China. He also installed artillery at the forts and inspected the Green Standard Army, dismissing ten officers for corruption. He laid plans for commercial farming and mining, and naval base and a railway (for military purposes), which were approved by the throne, but not did receive funds. Ding tried to root out corruption in the Fujian officialdom but was continually blocked by his subordinates. Growing ill and disillusioned with the possibility of innovation in Taiwan he submitted his resignation, which the throne accepted in April 1878.
Following Ding's resignation he was called upon several times to settle cases involving foreigners. Submitting a number of memorials on foreign affairs, in 1879 he was given the titles of Foreign Affairs and Governor General of the defenses of South China, which, together with soliciting funds for the Shanxi famine, occupied him until his death in 1882. He was afforded typical posthumous honours. Ding's successor in Taiwan, Governor Liu Mingchuan, was given more financial support, and a portion of the railway was begun from 1887-1891, while Liu's successor completed another two-thirds before it was finished in the early 1900s.
Professor Jonathan K. Ocko considers Ding a Confucian moralist, prudish but also upright. He strictly adhered to his own teachings, as well as Confucian custom down to the most banal detail. However, though quoted as saying "Taoism to rule the people, Legalism the clerks", he only reluctantly issued demerits, considering quick reform unreasonable and punishments impotent. He demonstrated willingness to employ unlawful practices if effective or benefited the people, for instance, using beggars as substitutes for runners. Zeng Guofan considered him an evasive if charming fame-seeker, and some of his sarcasm may have been lost on magistrates that, in the first place, may have been as confused as Ding believed. He was easily perturbed by a disregard for his orders, and sensitive about the performance of officials he had personally appointed.
- Former Residence of Ding Richang, Jieyang, Guangdong
- Kwong 1996, p. 53.
- Lojewski, p. 248.
- Chu & Liu 1994, p. 131.
- Fang 1943; Liu & Fairbank 1978, p. 304
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- Fairbank & Liu 1978, p. 260; Ocko 1983, pp. 39, 45
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- Ocko 1983, pp. 13-16; Fang 1943
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