Zuo Guangdou (左光斗) was a late-Ming Dynasty scholar. He was a leader of the Donglin faction during the reign of the Tianqi Emperor and was one of six Donglin scholars who was tortured to death by the eunuch Wei Zhongxian.
Growing up, Zuo loved to read books. He especially liked to learn about practical issues that affected the people’s daily lives. He had aspirations to serve his country and the people. During the Wanli (萬曆) era, Zuo was appointed as an official in Beijing. He immediately worked on fighting corruption and arresting imposters who posed as government officials to defraud and intimidate people. He also revitalized the agricultural industry in the north by improving the hydraulic systems and building dams to divert water resources to the region.
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As a result of the Palace Removal Case, Zuo and the Donglin officials that were involved gained prominence. They were noble and loyal officials who were unafraid to speak out. But at the same time, eunuch Wei Zhongxian (魏忠賢) rose to power and the conflict between the eunuch and Donglin factions grew more intense. Unable to tolerate Wei’s abuse of power, Zuo and his colleagues submitted a memorial to the emperor, outlining Wei’s various crimes, but it was ignored by the emperor. Seeking revenge, Wei falsely accused six Donglin officials, including Zuo, of accepting bribes. The six were arrested and tortured to death in prison. Their names would later be cleared of wrongdoing by the Chongzhen Emperor.
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