|dc.description.abstract||In the tenth year of the Wanli period, Zhang Juzheng died of illness and this led to the lifting of the ban on free speech which was suppressed for many years. The 14th year of the Wanli period witnessed a gradual decline in governance under Shenzong’s reign. The corrupt governance and political situation gave rise to the emergence of supervisors from the political arena, which created a dark horse and set off a wave of criticism against the government as well as public opinions toward officials. This resulted in an increase of supervisors along with a gradual government decline in the mid and late Wanli period.
Due to the abnormal system development of the cabinet and departments, mutual control was often seen.Supervisors held important posts such as impeachment facilitators and members of the opposition. As they supported the rich and powerful, and considered their personal survival, they were mere instruments in the struggle between the cabinet and the ministry’s personal affairs officials. In order to suppress and control the departments, the cabinet took advantage of its power to manipulate supervisors as a way of influencing opinions in the court. At the same time, the departments tried to win over the supervisors so as to contend with the cabinet and regain power. The factional conflict between the cabinet and the departments gave rise to the growth and decline of power between the two sides, which then resulted in a party struggle.
The Donglin group and Non-Donglin group were the two mainstream parties during the Wanli period. The Donglin group originated from the academy where Gu Xiancheng gave lectures after being dismissed from the court; noble scholars with a similar philosophy likewise joined them. The Anti-Donglin group was composed of the following parties: Qi, Chu, Xuan, Kun and Zhe. Because of conflicts in political ideas and interests, both groups convinced supervisors to debate and intervene in political affairs. As a result, different factions attacked and competed against each other, leading to a chaotic confrontation and division between different parties.
The Donglin group and other parties often considered supervisors and court summons as the best tools for political struggle; this resulted in various problems. Political events such as Sancai’s appointment in the cabinet, Han Jing’s imperial exam scandal, Jingxiong’s division of power and the court officials’ inspection were the focus of factional struggle and competition. The development of party struggle gave rise to the mistreatment of scholars and even the Liaodong border crisis. Therefore, the decline and destruction of the Wanli period were closely linked to the scholars’ party struggle.