|Died||1676 (aged 74–75)|
|Relatives||Zha Erhan (father)|
Zha Jizuo's given name was originally Jiyou (繼佑) before he changed it to "Jizuo" (繼佐). His courtesy name was originally Sanxiu (三秀) but was later changed to Yousan (友三). He was also known by various pseudonyms, including Yihuang (伊璜), Yuzhai (與齋), Dongshan Diaoshi (東山釣史), Dongshan Diaoyu (東山釣玉), Zuoyi Feiren (左尹非人), and Mr. Jingxiu (敬修先生).
Zha Jizuo was born in an impoverished family in Haining, Zhejiang Province, during the reign of the Wanli Emperor in the late Ming dynasty. His ancestral home was in Wuyuan County, Jiangxi Province. His father was Zha Erhan (查爾翰). In 1633, during the early reign of the Chongzhen Emperor, he sat for the imperial examination and obtained the position of a juren (舉人).
After the fall of the Ming dynasty in 1644, Zha Jizuo accompanied Zhu Yihai, the Prince of Lu, to Shaoxing in Zhejiang Province, where Zhu assumed the title of Jianguo (監國; or Regent) of the Southern Ming dynasty (a state formed by Ming remnants). Zha Jizuo was appointed as an official in the Ministry of War. When the forces of the Manchu-led Qing dynasty invaded Zhejiang Province, Zha Jizuo personally led the Southern Ming army to resist the invaders until Shaoxing was conquered by Qing forces in 1646.
Zha Jizuo then went into retirement in present-day Xiashi District in Haining City, Zhejiang Province. In 1652, he moved to Hangzhou, where he taught at Juejue School (覺覺堂) near the West Lake and later at Jingxiu School (敬修堂) in Tiezhiling (鐵治嶺). He had thousands of students, who referred to him as "Mr. Jingxiu".
In 1661, during the early Kangxi era of the Qing dynasty, Zha Jizuo was implicated in a case of literary inquisition involving a merchant named Zhuang Tinglong (莊廷鑨), who sponsored the publication of an unauthorised book about the history of the Ming dynasty (different from the History of Ming, which was approved by the Qing government). This was because he had served as a proofreader for the book. He was arrested and imprisoned, but eventually released later.
Another account stated that the general Wu Liuqi saved Zha Jizuo from imprisonment because he wanted to repay the kindness he received from Zha before. Zha Jizuo himself denied this account in Zha Jizuo Nianpu (查继佐年譜). Wu Qian (吳騫; 1733–1813) also wrote in Bai Jing Lou Shi Hua (拜經樓詩話) that this account was unreliable and unlikely to be true.
In his later years, Zha Jizuo wrote a number of books and other writings, including Zui Wei Lu (罪惟錄), Guo Shou Lu (國壽錄), Lu Chunqiu (魯春秋), Dongshan Guoyu (東山國語), Ban Han Shi Lun (班漢史淪), and Xu Xixiang (續西廂).
Zha Jizuo is purportedly an ancestor of the wuxia novelist Jin Yong, whose real name is Zha Liangyong (or Cha Leung-yung). Jin Yong was also born in the same place as Zha Jizuo: Haining, Zhejiang. Zha Jizuo appears as a minor character in one of Jin Yong's novels, The Deer and the Cauldron.