Zuo Zongtang

Zuo Zongtang

Zuǒ Zōngtáng, 1st Marquess Kejing of the Second Class (Courtesy name: Jigao ) (November 10, 1812 - September 5, 1885), spelled Tso Tsung-t'ang in Wade-Giles and known simply as General Tso or General Tsuo to Western Europeans, was a Chinese statesman and military leader. He was born in Wenjialong, north of Changsha in Hunan province in the waning years of the Qing Dynasty. He served with distinction during China's most important (and the world's largest) civil war, the 14 year long Taiping Rebellion, in which it is estimated 20 million people died. The Tso in General Tso is sometimes misspelled "Cho" in English, probably due to Cantonese influence. The correct pronunciation of the name in Mandarin is .

Biography

Early career

Zuo's career got an inauspicious start when as a young man he failed the official court exams seven times (~1822-1835).

He decided to abandon his plans to become a civil servant and returned to his home by the River Hsiang in Hunan to farm silkworms, read and drink tea. It was during this period that he first directed his attention to the study of Western sciences and political economy.

Taiping Rebellion

When the Taiping Rebellion broke out in 1850, Zuo, then 38 years old, was hired as an advisor by the staff of the governor of Hunan. In 1856, he was formally offered a position in the provincial government of Hunan.

In 1860, Zuo was given command of a force of 5,000 volunteers (later known as "Chu Army"), and by September of that year he drove the Taiping rebels out of Hunan and Guangxi provinces, into coastal Zhejiang.

Zuo captured the city of Shaoxing, and from there pushed south into Fujian and Guangdong provinces, where the revolt had first begun. In 1863, Zuo was appointed Governor of Zhejiang and an Undersecretary of War.

In August 1864, Zuo, together with Zeng Guofan, dethroned the Taiping teenage king, Hong Tianguifu, and brought an end to the rebellion. He was created Earl Kejing of the 1st Class for his part in suppressing the rebellion. He, Zeng Guofan and Li Hongzhang were called Zeng, Zuo, Li, the leaders in suppressing the rebellion.

In 1865, Zuo was appointed Viceroy and Governor-General of Fujian and Zhejiang. As Commissioner of Naval Industries, Zuo oversaw the erection of China's first modern shipyard and naval academy in Fuzhou the following year.

Success and appointments

Zuo's successes would continue. In 1867, he became Viceroy and Governor General of Shaanxi and Gansu and Imperial Commissioner of the Army in Shaanxi.

In these capacities, he succeeded in putting down another uprising, the Nian Rebellion (捻軍起義) in 1868.

After this military success, he marched west with his 120,000 strong army, winning many victories against the rebellious Muslims of Northwestern China including today's Shaanxi, Ningxia, Gansu and Qinghai provinces and Chinese Turkestan in the 1870s.

In 1878, he successfully suppressed the Yakub Beg's uprising in Xinjiang and helped to negotiate an end to Russian occupation of the border city of Ili.

For all his contributions to his nation and monarch, Zuo was appointed a Grand Secretary to the Grand Secretariat in 1874 and elevated to a Marquessate in 1878.

Later life and death

Now in his seventies, Zuo was appointed to the Grand Council, the cabinet of the Qing Empire at the time, in 1880. Uneasy with bureaucratic politics, Zuo asked to be relieved of his duties and was appointed Viceroy of Liangjiang in 1881. In 1884, upon the outbreak of the Sino-French War, Zuo received his fourth and last commission as commander-in-chief and Imperial Commissioner of the Army and Inspector General overseeing coastal defense in Fujian. He died shortly after a truce was signed between the two nations, in Fuzhou (Foo-chow), 1885.

General Tso's chicken

General Tso's chicken is a sweet and spicy deep-fried Hunan Chinese dish that is popularly served in American and Canadian Chinese restaurants. The origins of the dish are unclear. The dish was previously largely unknown in China and other lands home to the Chinese diaspora. One theory is that the dish was a classic specialty from Hunan province, invented by Zuo's wife and served for him and his officers upon every military victory, although this theory is generally considered to be apocryphal. In reality, Zuo is unlikely to have ever tasted the dish.

Notes

References

  • Hsü, Immanuel C. Y. The Ili Crisis: A Study of Sino-Russian Diplomacy, 1871-1881. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1965.
  • Hummel, Arthur William, ed. Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period (1644-1912). 2 vols. Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1943.

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