Poems and Essays of Master Qiongtai


This work is a collection of poetry and essays by Jiang Mian (1462–1532; commonly known as Master Qiongtai), a child prodigy who, in 1477, at the age of 15, achieved the highest score in the provincial civil examination. Together with his brother, he received his jin shi degree in 1487 and was selected as a compiler of the Hanlin Academy. A Hanlin compiler’s tasks included drafting imperial orders and decrees, compiling and editing historical works, interpreting the classics, and nurturing and training students. Jiang assumed a number of high official posts, among them as minister of the Bureau of Rites, grand secretary of the Imperial Library, and grand tutor of the crown prince. In 1524 he became Chancellor. After the new emperor, Jiajing, a nephew of the previous emperor, ascended the throne, Jiang submitted a memorial in 1524, in which, citing a natural disaster affecting the area south of the lower Yangtze River, he proposed to suspend the silk manufacture in this area. The emperor rejected the proposal, but at Jiang’s urging he temporarily suspended dispatching officials there, thereby easing the burden of taxation. Jiang was also among those who opposed the erection of a temple to honor the previous emperor, Zhengde, as the emperor’s own father, when he in fact was his uncle. Incensed at his opposition, the emperor stripped Jiang of the position he had assumed only three months earlier and Jiang returned home. In 1568, during the Longqing reign (1567–72), Jiang was posthumously restored to his position and given the honorific title of Wending. Among his literary achievements are his poems and essays, few of which have survived. This work is listed in the catalog of Si ku cun mu (Catalog of books not included in the general catalog of the Si ku Collection) as having two juan with 75 entries, but this copy has only one juan with 52 entries and is a Wanli edition. The inscription on the book indicates that the work had been edited by Xu Zichang (1578–1623), a renowned Ming dramatist during the Wanli reign (1573–1620), who apparently deleted some of the entries.

Last updated: February 18, 2014