Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Tso Mou-ti

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TSO Mou-ti 左懋第 (T. 仲及, H. 蘿石), 1601–1645, Aug., Ming official and martyr, was a native of Laiyang, Shantung. He became a chin-shih in 1631, was made a prefect of Han-ch'êng, Shensi, and later supervising censor of the Board of Revenue in which capacity he pleaded earnestly for relief of the people from burdensome taxes and military levies. In 1644 he received a commission to lead an expedition against rebels in northern Hupeh. When he heard of the capture of Peking he repaired to Nanking and submitted a proposal for effecting a restoration. At this time Ma Shih-ying [q. v.], at the Ming Court, determined to send a mission to Peking, ostensibly to worship the manes of the late Emperor and confer a title on Wu San-kuei [q. v.], but actually to come to some understanding with the Ch'ing conquerors. As Tso Mou-ti's mother had died in Tientsin he applied to be sent as an envoy so that he could arrange her burial. He was given suitable rank, provided with funds with which to construct imperial tombs and carry out appropriate sacrifices, and given an escort of three thousand men. With Ch'ên Hung-fan 陳洪範 and Ma Shao-yü 馬紹愉, Tso was sent out on what was recognized as a hazardous mission. On reaching Ching-hai, Chihli, they were stopped by the governor, Lo Yang-hsing 駱養性, and were ordered to limit their entourage to one hundred men and to present themselves, on reaching Peking, at the Residence for Envoys of the Four Tributary States (四夷館). Tso Mou-ti protested and finally secured reception at the Court of State Ceremonial (鴻臚寺) and an escort of cavalry into the city. On November 12 and 13, 1644, the envoys were received by Grand Secretary Ganglin (see under Dorgon). Tso Mou-ti's dignified bearing, brilliant repartee, and incorruptible loyalty secured the respect of the regent, Dorgon [q. v.], who tried to win him over to the Manchu cause. The mission accomplished nothing as the Manchus had assumed the mandate of Heaven and could not recognize another sovereign.

The envoys withdrew from Peking but at Ts'ang-chou, Chihli, were arrested and brought back—this time to the Imperial Hospital (太醫院). It transpired that one of the envoys, Ch'ên Hung-fan, had betrayed his colleagues and, revealing to the Manchus the parlous state of the Ming Court at Nanking, spurred their decision to send an expedition to the south immediately. Tso Mou-ti appealed to Dorgon for release, but refused to make any compromise to secure it. On August 10 he was imprisoned, charged with five offenses, and a few days later his execution was reluctantly ordered by Dorgon. The third envoy, Ma Shao-yü, escaped. In his valediction Tso alluded to the "jade blood" (碧血) of the Chou dynasty martyr, Ch'ang Hung 萇弘, and this epithet has become associated with him. In 1776 he was canonized as Chung-chên 忠貞.

A collection of essays by Tso Mou-ti, entitled 蘿石山房文鈔 Lo-shih shan-fang wên-ch'ao, 4 chüan, was printed about 1666 by Li Ch'ing [q. v.] and reprinted in 1761. Tso also left a small collection of poems, entitled 梅花屋詩鈔 Mei-hua wu shih-ch'ao, printed in 1637 and reprinted in 1826. The printing blocks for these works were stored in a temple which was erected to his honor in Laiyang in 1701.


[M.1/275/12a; M.59/15/1a; Cha Chi-tso [q. v.], Lu Ch'un-ch'iu, p. 80b; Wu Wei-yeh [q. v.], Lu-ch'iao chi-wên, 1/19a; Nan-chiang i-shih (see bibl. under Hou T'ung-tsêng), 12/1a, 3; Lai-yang-hsien chih (1677, 1935); Ch'ên Hung-fan, 北使紀略 Pei-shih chi-lüeh in Ching-t'o i-shih (see bibl. under Yüan Ch'ung-huan).]

Earl Swisher