It is not known when Zhu Qinming was born, but it is known that his family was from the Tang Dynasty capital Chang'an. His father Zhu Lin was himself a renowned scholar who wrote a number of works comparing the various interpretations of the . After one of Zhu Lin's students, Zhang Houyin , became an important official, Zhang recommended Zhu Lin to serve as an official as well, but Zhu Lin was never promoted beyond the post of being a county magistrate.
Zhu Qinming was said to understood the Five Classics well in his youth, and also studied the histories and the philosophies of the other schools of thought. During the reign of , after passing the imperial examinations, he served as a low level official at the legislative bureau of government . Sometime between Emperor Gaozong's ''Yunchun'' era and the ''Tianshou'' era , he passed additional imperial examinations and became ''Zhuzuo Lang'' , one of the officials in charge of chronicling the acts of the emperor. In 701, he started serving on staff of Wu Zetian's son and crown prince , a former emperor, and also served as an imperial scholar. He had the duty of assisting Li Xian in his studies.
During Emperor Zhongzong's second reign
In 705, Wu Zetian was overthrown in a coup, and Li Xian was restored to the throne . On account of Zhu Qinming's service to him, he promoted Zhu to be ''Guozi Jijiu'' , the principal of the imperial university, and further gave him the designation ''Tong Zhongshu Menxia Sanpin'' , making him a ''de facto''. He was soon made the minister of justice and then the minister of rites . He was also created the Duke of Lu and given the honorific title of ''Yinqing Guanglu Daiful'' . The coup leaders Huan Yanfan, Cui Xuanwei, Yuan Shuji, and Jing Hui, themselves now powerful chancellors , became his students in studying the ''Rites of Zhou'', and Zhu was well-respected. He was put in charge of editing the imperial history. However, in 706, he would have a brief downfall -- as he was indicted by the censor Xiao Zhizhong of having hidden a parent's death to avoid serving a mourning period, a severe breach of the Confucian requirements for filial piety -- and was demoted to be the prefect of Shen Prefecture .
Zhu, worried that he would never again be returned to power, took to flattering Empress Wei, and was soon recalled to again be the principal of the imperial university. In 709, when Emperor Zhongzong was set to sacrifice to heaven and earth south of Chang'an, Zhu and his deputy, Guo Shanyun , in order to flatter Empress Wei, took an interpretation of the ''Rites of Zhou'' to mean that Empress Wei should serve as the second stage sacrificer. Emperor Zhongzong initially doubted this interpretation and requested further opinions from scholars. Two scholars from the ministry of ceremonies, Tang Shao and Jiang Qinxu , as well as another deputy of Zhu's, Chu Wuliang , spoke against this interpretation and argued that such interpretation would only be reasonable in sacrifices to the imperial ancestors. Emperor Zhongzong had the chancellor Wei Juyuan rule on this matter, and Wei Juyuan ruled for Zhu's proposal, thus allowing Empress Wei to serve as the second stage sacrificer. However, with Tang's and Jiang's objection, he rejected a further proposal of Zhu's that Emperor Zhongzong's powerful daughter Li Guo'er the Princess Anle serve as third stage sacrificer, instead making Wei Juyuan the third stage sacrificer. During a feast in 710 after one of Empress Wei's relatives was married, Zhu volunteered to perform a dance known as ''Bafeng Wu'' -- during which he shook his obese body, his head, and rolled his eyes around, drawing laughter from Emperor Zhongzong but secret disgust from other officials.
After Emperor Zhongzong's death
In summer 710, Emperor Zhongzong died suddenly -- a death that traditional historians believed to be a poisoning carried out by Empress Wei and Li Guo'er. Soon, though, Empress Wei was overthrown in a coup led by Emperor Zhongzong's sister Princess Taiping and his nephew the Prince of Linzi. Emperor Zhongzong's brother the Prince of Xiang, himself a former emperor, was restored to the throne . After Emperor Ruizong took the throne, the censor Ni Ruoshui indicted Zhu Qinming and Guo Shanyun for flattering Empress Wei and misleading Emperor Zhongzong. Emperor Ruizong demoted Zhu to be the prefect of Rao Prefecture . At a later point, he was recalled to be an imperial scholar at Chongwen Pavilion , and died while serving in that role.