An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

cheng 呈, reports or petitions to institutions of higher rank

Dec 4, 2022 © Ulrich Theobald

Petitions, reports or requests (cheng 呈, chengwen 呈文) were documents submitted by ordinary persons and government institutions to higher authorities. This type of bureaucratic communication was introduced as chengzhuang 呈狀 or shenzhuang 申狀 during the Song period 宋 (960-1279). The term was during the Yuan period 元 (1279-1368) interchangeable with the word shen 申.

It was relatively widespread from the Ming period 明 (1368-1644) on, but the designation of this type of document was reduced to the brief word cheng 呈. It was used by the metropolitan prefect of Yingtian 應天府 (i.e. Beijing), the Court of Imperial Sacrifices (taichangsi 太常寺), the Directorate of Astronomy (qintianjian 欽天監), the Imperial Academy of Medicine (taiyiyuan 太醫院), the Hanlin Academy (Hanlinyuan 翰林院), the Court of Imperial Entertainments (guanglusi 光祿寺), the Court of the Imperial Stud (taipusi 太僕寺) and provincial surveillance commissions (tixing anchasi 提刑按察司) to present petitions or requests to one of the Six Ministries (liubu 六部).

While these institutions were relatively high-ranking offices of the central government, the Qing dynasty 清 (1644-1911) stipulated the use of this type of petition if registrars (jingli 經歷), district magistrates (zhixian 知縣), vice magistrates (xiancheng 縣丞) or assistants magistrate (zhubu 主簿) handed over petitions to first-class prefects (zhifu 知府). But cheng-type petitions were also used when imperial silk manufactories (zhizao 織造) or supervisors of passes (guan jiandu 關監督) in the provinces reported to the Ministry of Revenue (hubu 戶部), when provincial military commanders (tidu 提督) and regional commanders (zongbing 總兵, see Green Standard Troops) reported to the Ministry of War (bingbu 兵部), when provincial administration commissioners (buzhengshi 布政使) and surveillance commissioners (anchashi 按察使) reported to the State Council (junjichu 軍機處), or when circuit intendants, prefects or district magistrates addressed provincial educational commissioners (xuezheng 學政). In the military sphere, the type of document was used when brigade vice commanders (dusi 都司) or assistant brigade commanders (shoubei 守備) or company commanders (qianzong 千總) submitted reports or petitions to high-ranking officers to which they were not directly subordinated.

Liu Yunguo 劉運國, Liang Shipeng 梁式朋, eds. (1992). Gongwen da cidian 公文大辭典 (Beijing: Dianzi keji daxue chubanshe), 350.
Wang Zhibin 王志彬, ed. (2002). Xinbian gongwen yuyong cidian 新編公文語用詞典 (Shanghai: Fudan daxue chubanshe), 26, 328.
Zhang Wode 張我德 (1993). "Guanfu wanglai wenshu 官府往來文書", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, part Tushuguanxue qingbaoxue dang'anxue 圖書館學·情報學·檔案學 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), 144.