Dí Rénjié 狄仁傑 630-700 was a Chinese official famous for opposing corruption who twice served as the Prime Minister under Emperess Wu Zhetian. He was born in Taiyuan in a family that formerly produced eunuchs (Di Renjie was not hinself a eunuch). He was a popular government official good but like many officials he had a checkered early career, having been demoted and even imprisoned. His did work as a detective solving murder cases in the provinces. |
In 696, when the Khitan occupied parts of Hebei, Empress Wu appointed him as mayor of Weizhou (Daming). In 697, he was re-invited back to the court and was appointed as Prime Minister for the second time. He held this post until his death.
His relationship to Empress Wu is interesting. Strangely, she deferred to him while being ruthless to other court officials. He often spoke out frankly against Wu's explicit or unscrupulous behaviors in front of her. There was an incident when Di Renjie and Wu Zetian were discussing a policy issue and she became angry with him when he sharply disagreed with her. Di walked to one of the pillars in the hall, pounded his head repeatedly onto the pillar, and told her that he was willing to keep pounding his head until he killed himself. She begged him to stop, and finally agreed to adopt his proposal.
The protagonist of the Judge Dee Books by Robert VanGulick is based on Di Renjie. These Chinese detective stories are based on true crimes and mystery stories in China, from 630AD-700AD.