The Tomb of Li Zhi

The Tomb of Li Zhi, a progressive thinker and writer of the Ming Dynasty, is situated to the north of Tongxian County on the highway from Beijing to Shanhaiguan. The tomb was originally in another part of Tongxian County, but in 1953, the Ministry of Health established a tuberculosis sanatorium in the neighborhood of the tomb and moved Li Zhi' s remains to the current site. The tomb was renovated in 1954.

The one remaining stela at he tomb is inscribed on its front with "The Tomb of Li Zhuowu" (Li Zhi' s courtesy name) written in the hand of Li' s friend Jiao Hong, and on the back with a "Record in Commemoration of Li Zhuowu" written in 1612 by Zhan Zhenguang.

Li Zhi was born to a Hui family in Quanzhou, Fujian Province, in 1527. He became the prefect of Yao' an in Yunnan Province, but retired from office in protest at the age of 54 after a 20-odd-year official career. After his retirement he wrote and taught in Macheng and Huang' an in Hubei Province, and was unusual in the fact that he accepted female students.

Li Zhi openly adopted the stance of a heretic and wrote, "I dislike Confucianism, I don't believe in Daoism (Taoism) and I don't believe in Buddhism; so whenever I see Daoist priests I detest them, whenever I see Buddhist monks I detest them, and whenever I see Confucian scholars I detest them even more." At that time, political power in China was in the hands of the Confucian scholars and the Confucian ethical code was regarded as sacred. Nevertheless, Li Zhi had the courage to advocate abandoning Confucian ethics. At the same time, Li denounced the Song and Ming schools of Confucian idealist philosophy as hypocritical, proposing a version of utilitarianism instead. In the field of literature, Li held that a writer must express his own personal opinions with the "pure, true heart of a child."

In 1591,"upright"high officials, annoyed at Li' s exposure of the hypocrisy of Confucian morals, sent their lackeys to Li' s residence at the Yellow Crane Pavilion in Wuchang to expel him from the province. Li was accused of "having defamed Confucius and of lacking moral principles" and of being an "absolute heretic."

In his later years, Li moved from place to place trying to avoid persecution, and finally took refuge in Tongzhou (present-day Tongxian County) in Beijing' s eastern suburbs with an old friend, Ma Jinglun. At the time, the authorities considered Li' s progressive thought to be a serious menace and labeled him as "an advocate of irresponsible and immoral doctrines" and as "one who seeks to mislead the people."

In the spring of 1602, during the reign of Emperor Wanli, Li, then 76, was arrested, imprisoned and hounded to death. His friend Ma Jinglun later buried his body. After Li' s death, an order was issued that all his published and unpublished works be burned, and no further copies made. Despite this order, however, the great majority of Li Zhi' s works have survived.

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