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Mu Zeng (1587-1646)

Many local chieftains with the surname of Mu were well-known in history. Some were masters of martial arts, some were well-versed in literature. Most of them were beloved by their people because of good governance. Mu Zeng, a local chieftain, for example, was one of them.

Mu Zeng, styled Changqing,was also known by his literary name Huayue or Shengbai. In Naxi, he was called A Zhai A Si. At the age of ten, his father died of disease. Hence the Mus’ ruling over the local region caused crisis. With the help of his mother who surnamed Luo, he surprisingly exerted his ability. He summoned a family meeting. At the meeting, he says, “Although my father demised, all state and family rules and regulations should remain unchanged. Those who act against me or plan to change the rules will be punished.” The order quelled the motives of those who planned to play against the young boy. At the age of eleven, Mu Zeng hereditarily became the 19th chieftain. That hereditary event took place in 1598 (26th year after the reign of Emperor Zhu Yijun of the Ming Dynasty).

At his teenage years, Mu Zeng already demonstrated his acumen in military and political affairs. After the assumption of his chieftainhood, Mu Zeng commanded war affairs in his domain, guarded territory, protected locals, pacified rebellions and defeated invaders. The then Ming Dynasty began to attenuate in national strength facing many domestic and international problems. Mu Zeng, in order to meet the urgent needs of imperial warfare, provided material assistance to the Ming imperial court for many occasions. He wrote letters to the emperor suggesting him to respect public opinion, observe ancestral rules, heed self-improvement and restrain from excessive lust. In the letter, the emperor was suggested to love subjects, reduce labor, cut tax, avoid nepotism, keep imperial words, punish evil deeds and advocate well-doing, quell border conflicts and study Confucianism. In 1620, the emperor vouchsafed him a title of Loyalty and Allegiance, the tablet was hung on the front gate of today’s Mu’s Residence.

At the invitation of Mu Zeng, Xu Xiake, a great traveler and geographer of the Ming Dynasty visited Lijiang on 25, January, 1639 (12 years after the reign of Emperor Zhu Youjian of the Ming Dynasty). During his 15 days there, Xu was invited by Mu Zeng to Jietuolin, a building in Zhishan Mountain where Mu shared his thoughts and insights in literature with Xu (the structure was relocated in Heilongtan Park or Black Dragon Pond Park). Xu revised the book Yunmaimotan for Mu according to different subjects. After that Xu toured Dali, Baoshan and Tengchong before he returned to Jizu Mountain or Chicken Foot Mountain to write the book The History of Jizu Mountain entrusted by Mu. During his stay at Jizu Mountain, Xu’s servant ran away with stolen properties, because of which Xu was struck sick in bed. Mu selected a group of strong Naxi men to carry Xu with a bamboo sedan to his hometown after 150 days’ hardship on their way. Xu passed away six months after he returned home.

Source: ljgc.gov.cn

Editor: Feng Hui

Key Words

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