Wei Zhongxian was a eunuch who lived at the end of Ming Dynasty. He was from Shuning. He came to the palace to serve as a young eunuch during Emperor Shen's reign. When Emperor Xi ascended the throne, he was recommended by Xi's wet nurse and won the trust of the emperor. He was given the responsibility of managing Dongchang— a national intelligence agency. He took the opportunity to form a clique and used his position to oppress loyal and good people. At the time the government official Gu Xian-cheng resigned from his post and returned home to lecture at Donglin (Eastern Forest) Academy, criticizing the political situation. Righteous people supported him and petty ones opposed him. The latter, with Wei as their leader, suppressed Gu, destroyed all the academies in the nation, and prohibited lecturing. They accused Donglin of being a rebellious faction and put its members in prison. The flatterers of Wei honored him as if he were an emperor and set up shrines all over the nation for him, occupying by force over four thousand civilian houses for this purpose. However, Wei was later killed by Emperor Si. The people were greatly relieved and overjoyed to finally be rid of this baneful influence.
Reflections in Water and Mirrors: Turning Back the Tides of Destiny is styled after the
Spring and Autumn Annals. My wish is to restore justice by distinguishing good from evil, praising the proper and criticizing the improper. I hope that after reading this book, we may learn from the good and stay away from evil, practicing all good deeds and avoiding all improper ones. If we can do this, maybe we can change the course of our destiny and realize heaven's virtue of nurturing all life.
I plan to write several tens of thousands of words. I am telling you now so if you have any improvements to suggest, bring it up and I will make corrections. Together we will make this book reflect the truth more accurately. Today we will critique Wei Zhongxian. The characters of his name zhong (loyal) and xian (worthy) certainly have a good meaning, but in reality he was neither loyal nor worthy. In fact, he was rotten to the core and committed offenses beyond anyone's reckoning. He "hung out a sheep's head and sold dog meat." He was from Shuning and at the end of Ming Dynasty he was introduced into the imperial palace to serve as a junior eunuch.
Throughout history the imperial court has always been full of corruption. There have been many injustices. For instance, in the Qing Dynasty Emperor Xianfeng knew that the woman who later became Queen Mother Cixi was young, attractive, and ambitious, so before he died he left an imperial decree to his queen (later known as Queen Mother Ci'an). The decree stated that if Cixi did not behave herself, Ci'an could order her execution. Ci'an was very wholesome and kind and after getting along very well with Cixi for over thirty years, she felt guilty for holding this imperial decree behind Cixi's back.
One day she showed it to Cixi, who burned it and murdered Ci'an by poisoning her that same night. Ci'an had treated Cixi with kindness, but in return she lost her own life. She died a violent death, with blood flowing from her seven orifices. No one knew how she was murdered. That is why I said that there are countless skeletons in the closet in all the imperial courts.
Wei Zhongxian was a eunuch; he was neither male nor female. He could not be considered a man since he could not grow a beard. He could not be considered a woman either. He won the emperor's favor by flattery. When Emperor Xi came to power, Wei was recommended by the emperor's wet nurse. She said, "Wei Zhongxian is the best person in the whole palace." Emperor Xi trusted his wet nurse and ignored the affairs of state. He entrusted Dongchang, the national intelligence agency, to Wei and made him a powerful and influential figure. When Wei was in charge of Dongchang, he used his authority to cheat the emperor and oppress the citizens. He assassinated whomever he wished, and many loyal and righteous people lost their lives. Gu Xiancheng was a government official who resigned from his post feeling discouraged that the eunuchs were in control and acting unscrupulously. He returned to his hometown, Wuxi, and started teaching at Donglin Academy. In his lectures he gave serious critiques of government affairs in order to train his students to be able to manage national affairs someday and reform the government. Righteous people supported him and petty ones opposed him.
To be continued