Zuo Ci (左慈) is a legendary personage of the Three Kingdoms period of China. Though he is known as a local of Lujiang, the years of his birth and death are unknown. It is believed that he had existed before the collapse of the Han Dynasty, and it is claimed that he lived to three hundred. He learned his magics and path to longevity from the Taoist sage Feng Heng (封衡), and eventually passed his arts to Ge Xuan.
At some time before 200, the local warlord Sun Ce, who was a strict Confucian, wanted to kill Zuo Ci and chased him on horseback. Zuo Ci, unmounted, still managed to escape by seemingly walking slowly.
Later, Zuo Ci went to Cao Cao, who granted him a pension to do his magics. Cao Cao may have shown an interest in the Taoist approach to longevity by doing this, but his son Cao Zhi wrote that the pensions are only intended to keep the magicians and their wild teachings under control. Zuo Ci showed Cao Cao's court a number of magics, such as catching an exotic fish from an empty copper pan, and teleporting far away to buy ginger. Zuo Ci once fed a whole court assembly with food and wine, but Cao Cao soon found out that Zuo Ci had emptied every wine shop in the region with his magic for this purpose. Cao Cao tried to execute Zuo Ci, but Zuo Ci escaped by walking through walls. When someone reported that Zuo Ci had been sighted in the market, everyone in the market became identical to Zuo's appearance. Another report said Zuo Ci went to the mountaintop, so Cao Cao and his men went, and realized Zuo Ci was concealed among a flock of sheep. Knowing he could not find him, Cao Cao announced to the flock of sheep that he was merely trying to test Zuo Ci's skill, and had no intention to kill him. At the moment, a goat stood on its hind legs and spoke. Cao Cao's men rushed to the goat, only to find the rest of the flock also turned into goats and started standing and speaking like humans. Zuo Ci was never found by Cao Cao's men again.
Zuo Ci eventually retired from the world to practice his arts in the mountains.
Zuo Ci wielded amazing Taoist power and was described as psychic. He studied on the Mount Emei in Sichuan, where he found The Book of Concealing Method (遁甲天書), from which he learned to "ascend to the clouds astride the wind, to sail up into the great void itself;" and how "...to pass through mountains and penetrate rocks; ...to float light as vapor, over the seas, to become invisible at will or change [his] shape, to fling swords and project daggers so as to decapitate a man from a distance."
Zuo Ci offered Cao Cao the books if Cao Cao himself became a disciple of Taoism. Cao Cao responded "Oft have I reflected upon this course and struggled against my fate, but what can I do? There is no one to maintain the government," when Zuo Ci suggested Liu Bei and threatened Cao Cao, " I may have to send one of my flying swords after your head one day", Cao Cao accused Zuo Ci of being one of Liu Bei's agents, and threatened him. Zuo Ci openly mocked Cao Cao in court and Cao Cao had him arrested; the guards beat Zuo Ci cruelly, but the Taoist then fell asleep and slept soundly through the night. This enraged Cao Cao who ordered Zuo Ci to be starved of food, this also failed as Zuo Ci quite happily went seven days without food or water. After this Cao Cao could think of nothing else to punish Zuo Ci. When Zuo Ci appeared at Cao Cao's banquet, Cao Cao tested him by asking to get, among other things, a dragon's liver, a peony, and perch from the River Song. Zuo Ci accomplished everything, which drew further suspicion from Cao Cao. Zuo Ci then offered a cup of wine to Cao Cao, who said that Zuo Ci should taste first. Zuo Ci took a stick and divided the wine in half, and drank one half. Cao Cao was then enraged.
As a result, Cao Cao ordered Zuo Ci to be executed, but Zuo Ci had disappeared. Cao Cao sent his general Xu Chu to capture Zuo Ci, Xu Chu saw Zuo Ci walking amongst a flock of sheep and slew the flock, thinking Zuo Ci had become a sheep; when Xu Chu had left the shepherd boy who had been tending the flock heard one of the sheep's heads telling him to place the heads next to the bodies to bring them back to life, the boy did this and the sheep returned to life. After Xu Chu failed to capture Zuo Ci Cao Cao put out wanted posters, as a result hundreds of men matching the exact description of Zuo Ci were found, and Cao Cao ordered them all executed. When they were all executed black vapor rose from their necks where they joined to form another image of Zuo Ci. The image summoned a crane for him to sit on, and Cao Cao had archers to shoot him down. Suddenly, a gust of wind brought the decapitated corpses back to life. The reanimated corpses carried their heads and started to beat Cao Cao. Then, Cao Cao fainted due to the shock, the winds died down, and Zuo Ci disappeared along with the corpses.
Zuo Ci was added to the Koei video game series Dynasty Warriors, despite never actually taking part in direct combat in both history and literature. Similar to his novel counterpart, Zuo Ci appears as an old man who would likely be assumed by others not to pose any form of threat or danger.