About I Huwan Aisin Gioro, 1st Prince Ch'un
I-huan 奕譞 (H. 樸庵), Oct. 16, 1840-1891, Jan. 1, the first Prince Ch'un (醇親王) was the seventh son of Emperor Hsüan-tsung (Min-ning, q.v.). He was the father of Emperor Tê-tsung (Tsai-t'ien, q.v.) and grandfather of the child emperor, P'u-i (Hsüan-t'ung, see under Tsai-t'ien). His mother was a concubine who also gave birth to Emperor Hsüan-tsung's eighth and ninth sons (see under Min-ning). In 1850, when his half-brother, I-chu [q.v.], ascended the throne, I-huan was created a prince of the second degree (Chün-wang 郡王) with the designation, Ch'un. In 1859, at twenty sui, he was given a mansion of his own -- a palace which came to be known as Ch'i-yeh fu 七爺府, or "Palace of the Seventh Prince". It belonged originally to I-hui [q.v.], the poet. In 1861 after his nephew, Emperor Mu-tsung, ascended the throne, I-huan was made lieutenant-general of a Banner, an adjutant general, and a chamberlain of the Imperial Bodyguard. Early in 1862 he became assistant to his half-brother, I-hsin [q.v.], who commanded the Peking Field Force.
Since his wife was the younger sister of the Empress Dowager (Hsiao-ch'in, q.v.), I-huan was favored by that Empress and was used by her to counteract the power of I-hsin. Thus in 1865, after I-hsin was deprived of his authority as Prince-Counselor, the supervision of the child emperor's education was entrusted to I-huan. In 1873, when Emperor Mu-tsung took over the government from his mother, he raised I-huan's princedom to the first degree, and thus gave him a rank equal to that of I-hsin. After Emperor Mu-tsung died early in 1875 leaving no heir, Empress Hsiao-ch'in announced at a meeting of the princes and high officials that Tsai-t'ien (q.v., son of I-huan and her own sister) would succeed to the throne. Though the choice was contrary to the dynasty's unwritten rules of succession, the Empress resorted to this expedient to preserve her power, and no one dared to interpose objections. I-huan thus found himself in a difficult position, one in which he might easily be involved in intrigues. According to Wêng T'ung-ho [q.v.] -- who was present at the meeting -- when I-huan heard the announcement he was so overcome that he wept and fainted. He pleaded serious illness and memorialized on his desire to be relieved of all service at Court. His request was granted, for by remaining at Court he would have to kneel to his own son -- a point required by Court etiquette, but repugnant to paternal instincts. He was therefore ordered to supervise the building of the tomb of Emperor Mu-tsung, and his princedom was made "perpetually inheritable".
But I-huan's retirement was only temporary, for in 1876 he was given supervision of the education of Emperor Tê-tsung, then aged six (sui); and four years later was placed in full charge of the Peking Field Force. In 1884, when I-hsin was discharged from all offices, it was announced that I-huan should be consulted on all important affairs of state. As China was then engaged in a conflict with France (see under Fêng Tzê-ts'ai), I-huan took a prominent part in shaping the military program.
After the first fleet of Chinese warships (see under Shên Pao-chên) was destroyed by the French in 1884, it was decided to build a new fleet. For that purpose the Board of Admiralty (Hai-chün Ya-mên 海軍衙門) was created by an order of Empress Hsiao-ch'in issued on October 13, 1885. I-huan was appointed controller of this Board; I-k'uang (see under Yung-lin) and Li Hung-chang [q.v.] being made associate controllers, and Shan-ch'ing 善慶 (T. 厚齋, d. 1889, posthumous name 勤敏) and Tsêng Chi-tsê [q.v.] assistant controllers. In May 1886 I-huan and Li Hung-chang, escorted by warships, made a tour of the fortified areas at Taku, Port Arthur, and Wei-hai-wei, inspecting coast defenses and observing naval maneuvers. I-huan was much impressed by this show of strength, and in the course of the tour wrote a number of poems which he published (1887) under the title 航海吟草 Hang-hai yin-ts'ao. His enthusiasm for the building of a navy was genuine, and he stood behind Li Hung-chang in most of that statesman's plans for its improvement and expansion. He also helped other provincial officials in their efforts to introduce Western industries to China (see under Chang Chih-tung). But, like many of the Manchu princes at the close of the dynasty, I-huan lacked decisiveness and could not stand against policies of the Empress Dowager which he knew to be ill-advised. I-hsin had been pliant enough before her strong will, but I-huan was more so, consciously or unconsciously becoming her tool. He permitted her to use his son to further her own ends, and looked on complacently when in 1886-91 she diverted funds, ear-marked for naval construction, to build for herself the Summer Palace known as the I-ho yüan (see under Empress Hsiao-ch'in). During the naval maneuvers of 1886 he allowed her favorite eunuch, Li Lien-ying (see under Empress Hsiao-ch'in) to accompany him throughout the tour. After I-hsin was stripped of power Hsiao-ch'in freely sold offices to the highest bidders and shut her eyes to many other corrupt practices. Despite these delinquencies I-huan repeatedly affirmed his loyalty to her. When in 1886 Emperor Tê-tsung came of age and had the right to rule independently, I-huan pleaded with her to continue her regency for three years more.
In 1887 I-huan was seriously ill for several months. Every time his son (the Emperor) visited him the Empress Dowager contrived to be present, and elaborate precautions had to be taken not to arouse her suspicions. In 1888 I-huan presented to the throne the residence where the emperor was born, perhaps to reassure her that he was content to live merely as a prince though his son had nominal control of the government. In 1889, when the Emperor was married, I-huan was accorded various honors and his other sons were made princes of lower degree. Soon after the marriage Wu Ta-ch'êng [q.v.] submitted a memorial to the Emperor, suggesting that the status of I-huan as the father of the emperor be clarified and that he be given the privileges pertaining to his position. The emperor referred the matter to the Empress Dowager who revealed a hitherto unpublished memorial of I-huan (allegedly submitted by him in 1875) to the effect that he wished his status to remain that of a servant to the throne and that he renounced all rights as father of the emperor. Some writers take the view that the memorial was written for the occasion and predated.
After his death, early in 1891, I-huan was canonized as Hsien 賢. His full posthumous title reads: 皇帝本生考醇賢親王 Huang-ti Pên-Shêng K'ao Ch'un Hsien Ch'in-wang or "The Emperor's Father-before-adoption, Prince Ch'un the Wise". In his home a temple was erected to celebrate his memory and there the sacrificial ceremonies were like those accorded to a deceased emperor. But publicly and officially he was honored only as a prince. His tomb was of the kind ordinarily erected to a prince, and thus he was celebrated in the Imperial Ancestral Hall. After his grandson, P'u-i (see under Tsai-t'ien), came to the throne I-huan was referred to as Huang-ti pên-shêng tsu (祖) k'ao, or "The Emperor's Grandfather-before-adoption".
An episode recorded in 1897 in the diary of Wêng T'ung-ho [q.v.], and presumably true, gives evidence of the unjust suspicion that lingered in the mind of the Empress Dowager, even after I-huan had died. Near his grave stood a giant gingko tree which, according to fortune tellers, had the power to give the descendants of I-huan permanent succession to the throne. When the Empress Dowager heard of this she immediately ordered that the tree be cut down. Perhaps she felt that her fears were justified when snakes were discovered in the trunk -- snakes being associated with dragons in Chinese lore.
I-huan's fifth son, Tsai-fêng 載灃, inherited the princedom in January 1891 and became the second Prince Ch'un. He went to Berlin in 1901 as head of the mission that was sent to apologize for the murder of the German Minister in the Boxer Uprising of the previous year. He married a daughter of Jung-lu [q.v.] in 1902 and she gave birth to P'u-i in 1906. Early in 1908 Tsai-fêng was made a Grand Councilor, and late in the same year -- after his son, P'u-i, had been designated heir to the throne -- he was named Prince Regent (攝政王) and later Regent (監國攝政王). Thus during the years 1908-13 he was the actual ruler of China. He was, however, wholly incapable of meeting the changing political situation and the conflicting demands of the various factions -- constitutionalists, revolutionaries, conservatives and Imperial Clansmen. In October 1911 a poorly organized band of soldiers carried out successfully an almost unpremeditated Revolution. The Ching dynasty came to an end, and Tsai-fêng agreed for his son to abdicate, and he himself retired to Tientsin.
I-huan's two younger sons -- the sixth and seventh -- belonged to a group of Imperial Clansmen who grasped important Cabinet posts and caused much criticism from other factions. The sixth son, Tsai-hsün (see under I-chih) was a prince of the fifth degree when he was appointed in 1902 to take the place of Tsai-i (see under I-tsung) as the adopted son of I-chih [q.v.]. Thus Tsai-hsün inherited the rank of beile or a prince of the third degree. In 1909 he was made head of the Commission for the Reorganization of the Navy and was sent to Europe to study naval affairs in various countries. In the summer of 1910 he visited Japan, and late in the same year was made Minister of the Navy. I-huan's seventh son, Tsai-t'ao 載濤 (H. 野雲, b. 1886?), who in 1902 took the place of Tsai-ying (see under I-hsin) as adopted son of I-ho (see under Min-ning), was to the army what his half-brother, Tsai-hsün, was to the navy. Late in 1908 the New Palace Guard was reorganized under the special command of Tsai-fêng with Tsai-t'ao as one of three superintendents. In 1909 Tsai-t'ao was made chief of the General Staff Council and in 1910 was sent to study military conditions in Japan, in the United States, and in European countries. Thus the three sons of I-huan virtually had full control of the government, but they were ignorant and tactless, inclined more to display their uniforms than to pursue intelligent action. During the Revolution of 1911 they handed over their power to Yüan Shih-k'ai (see under Yüan Chia-san), and a few months later retired. In the early years of the Republic, Tsai-t'ao was given the title, General Kung-wei 鞏威將軍 and served on the Military Council of Generals known as Chiang-chün-fu 將軍府.
[ 1/142/la; 1/177/26a; 1/227/lla; Ch'un Ch'in-wang I-huan chih Chün-chi-ch'u ch'ih-tu 致軍機處尺牘; 文獻叢編 Wên-hsien ts'ung-pien nos. 7-9; Tsêng Chi-tsê [q.v.], Kuei-p'u chai shih-ch'ao; portraits of Tsai-hsün and Tsai-t'ao in The Eastern Miscellany (Tung fang tsa-chih) vol. 7, no. 2 (February, 1910); McCormick, F., The Flowery Republic (1913); Heid, J. G., The Manchu Abdication and the Powers (1935); 中東戰紀本末 Chung Tung chuan-chi pên-mo (1R96) 1/23b; Wu K'o-chai nien-p'u (see under Wu Ta-ch'êng) pp. 176-86.]
I Huwan Aisin Gioro, 1st Prince Ch'un's Timeline
Beijing, Beijing, China
November 23, 1887