Zuo Zongtang(左宗棠) (November 10, 1812 - September 5, 1885), 1st Marquess Kejing of the Second Class, 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.
Zuo's career got an inauspicious start when as a young man he failed the official court exams seven times. 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.
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.
In these capacities, he succeeded in putting down another uprising, the Nian Rebellion 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.
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, 1885.