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Li Zhi(1527~1602) was a prominent Chinesephilosopher, historian and writer in the late MingDynasty. Li Zhi was born to a Hui family inQuanzhou, Fujian Province.
He became the prefect of Yao' an in Yunnan Province,but retired from office in protest at the age of 54after a 20-odd-year official career.
After his retirement he wrote and taught in Huang'an in Hubei Province, and was unusual in thefact that he accepted female students.
Li Zhi openly adopted the stance of a heretic and wrote, "I dislike Confucianism, I don'tbelieve in Daoism (Taoism) and I don't believe in Buddhism; so whenever I see Daoist priests Idetest them, whenever I see Buddhist monks I detest them, and whenever I see Confucianscholars I detest them even more."
At that time, political power in China was in the hands of the Confucian scholars and theConfucian ethical code was regarded as sacred.
Nevertheless, Li Zhi had the courage to advocate abandoning Confucian ethics. At the sametime, Li denounced the Song and Ming schools of Confucian idealist philosophy ashypocritical, 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 Confucianmorals, sent their lackeys to Li' s residence at the Yellow Crane Pavilion in Wuchang to expelhim 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 tookrefuge in Tongzhou (present-dayTongzhou District) in Beijing' s eastern suburbs with an oldfriend, Ma Jinglun.
At the time, the authorities considered Li' s progressive thought to be a serious menace andlabeled him as "an advocate of irresponsible and immoral doctrines" and as 'one who seeksto mislead the people".
In the spring of 1602, during the reign of Emperor Wanli, Li, then 76, was arrested, imprisonedand 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After Li' s death, an order was issued that all his published and unpublished works be burned,and no further copies made.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 great maiority of Li Zhi' s works have survived.