Qin Hui — A Dreadfully Treacherous Prime Minister and A Terrible Traitor of Song Dynasty

Qin Hui (1090 — 1155), courtesy name Huizhi, was one of the most treacherous officials in the history of China. 

 

He murdered great marshal Yue Fei, set up and banished many righteous officials, and quite likely betrayed his country by selling Song’s interest to the Jurchen Jin Dynasty. 

 

Intelligent and Rightful Genius Qin Hui

As one of the most resentful, treacherous officials in history, Qin Hui had a bright beginning.

Born into an ordinary family of the Song Dynasty, Qin Hui was talented and knowledgeable. After having achieved an excellent score in the Imperial Examination, he was assigned some political positions and did a good job. 

At that time, the biggest threat of the Song Empire was their northern neighbor, a nomadic regime named Jurchen Jin. 

 

Young and ambitious Qin Hui insisted that Song should try their best to fight against them.

Qin Hui's Calligraphy Work "Shen Xin Tie"

He served as a brave emissary for several times, to negotiate with the nomadic government and acted bravely and smartly. 

Years later, Jurchen Jin invaded the Song’s capital city and captured emperors Zhao Ji, Zhao Huan, the entire royal family, and most of the high-rank officials, including Qin Hui. Most northern places in China were occupied as well.

This was the Incident of Jingkang.

Emperor Zhao Ji’s other son Zhao Gou was lucky because he wasn’t in the capital city when Jin’s army was robbing and slaughtering.

 

Thus, he escaped to the southern part of China and reestablished a smaller empire also named Song, which was called the Southern Song Dynasty.

Copper Writing Brush Holder (Bi Jia) of the Song Dynasty — Zhuji Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

Secret Surrender to the Enemy

All officials that were captured by the Jurchen Jin were loyal and willing to sacrifice for their emperors. Many of them honorably sacrificed, the rest of them were sent to different places to do heavy works.

Qin Hui was the only exception and served as a strategist for some lords of Jin.

Hence, many people believed that Qin Hui had surrendered secretly.

Sometime later, he arrived at Emperor Zhao Gou’s new government, claimed that he gained the opportunity to escape after he killed his guards.

Many people were suspicious because Qin Hui was the only official that escaped out of Jin’s control; what’s more, he and his wife and the entire family all safely arrived, which was quite impossible during that period.

But others still believed him, due to his talent and loyalty when he was young.

Qin Hui was then highly appreciated by Zhao Gou, now the Emperor Gaozong of Song, because, at that time, neither of them wanted to fight against the Jurchen Jin regime to take back two emperors and northern China.

For Qin Hui, he was already serving the Jin government; meanwhile, following the emperor's intention was the most convenient, possible way to obtain power.  

For Emperor Zhao Gou, he could not have his throne anymore if his father, big brother, or other older brothers, who were more eligible to reign the Song Empire, came back.  

Therefore, Qin Hui and Emperor Zhao Gou were both quite happy to have power at hand and enjoy life in southern China.

Exquisite Jade Comb of Qin Hui's Wife — Nanjing Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

Inspiring Successes of the Song Empire's Vengeance

Years later, Jurchen Jin invaded Song again, and Emperor Zhao Gou decided to fight back. He could not stand Jin’s constant invasion; besides, his father Zhao Ji already passed away, hence no big threats to his throne.

Meanwhile, many of the Song’s loyal generals and officials had strong wills and the ability to fight and win. Most civilians in northern China didn’t want to be ruled by the Jurchen Jin, and many of them already voluntarily organized armies and kept fighting. 

Under those circumstances, some great marshals led Song’s armies and volunteer warriors fought back and achieved exceptional successes; the most famous and contributive general was Yue Fei.

They took back many lost cities and defeated Jin’s aggressive main troops several times. The reunification of the whole of the Song Empire became extremely possible.

Part of the Painting (Qingming Shang He Tu) Along the River During the Qingming Festival
Genre Painting of the Capital City (Bianjing or Kaifeng) of the Song Dynasty before the Incident of Jingkang, by Artist Zhang Zeduan (1085 — 1145) — The Palace Museum

Murdering of Great Marshal Yue Fei

However, Qin Hui framed Yue Fei up and persuaded Emperor Zhao Gou to call a truce with Jurchen Jin.

Qin Hui insisted that Marshal Yue Fei had so many soldiers and great reputations among Song's people, besides, he kept winning and occupying large numbers of cities. Therefore, Yue Fei was possible to rebel Zhao Gou’s reign and establish a new kingdom in those places that he had won back.

Besides, the birth mother of Emperor Zhao Gou was still suffering in Jin.

Then, Zhao Gou commanded all their armies to retreat, demoted, and then imprisoned Yue Fei.

Yue Fei refused to admit the sins that he had never committed, even after a few months of cruel torture. Hence, Qin Hui and his wife poisoned Yue Fei to death in the cell. 

Ganoderma Shaped Crystal Hairpin of Song Dynasty, Possibly Belonged to Qin Hui's Wife — Nanjing Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

The Signing of Unfair Treaty As A Sinner of the History

Then, Qin Hui started the negotiation with Jin again and signed a series of shameful treaties, including giving back to Jin all the cities that Song’s armies had won back, tributing Jin a great deal of money each year, and respecting Jin as the sovereign.

After this treaty, northern China completely belonged to the Jurchen Jin, and then the peace in border maintained for decades.

In this treaty, Jin also required Qin Hui should always stay as prime minister of the Song Empire, and shouldn’t be replaced unless they approved. 

Afterward, the Song government never had the chance to take back their lost lands, and regain their dignity.

As a reward, Emperor Zhao Gou’s birth mother was sent back, along with his father Zhao Ji’s coffin.

Auspicious Crane (He Rui Tu), Painted By Zhao Ji the Emperor Huizong of Song — Liaoning Museum

Qin Hui’s Power, Wealth, and Posthumous Reputation

As the most powerful minister that won’t be replaced, Qin Hui became even more fearless in obtaining money through corruption, framing up decent officials that didn’t comply with him, and manipulating politics.

In some historic records and novels, Emperor Zhao Gou also was constrained by Qin Hui’s power.

 

They do share some same goals, like pursuing truce and against to fight, they also challenge each other frequently, over the power and authority. 

But with Jin’s support, Qin Hui lived a luxurious, powerful life, and passed away peacefully in his mansion.

Some decades later, many ancestral temples were built to memorize Yue Fei. 

 

In front of each temple, there were two statues, one was Qin Hui and the other was his evil wife, kneeling on the ground for people to spit and abuse.

Their statues are made of strong iron, but because of angry civilians’ beats, they had replaced several times in recent centuries.  

The famous treacherous Qin Hui had long gone, but the hatred and contempt for him have never stopped. 

Statues of Qin Hui and His Wife in Front of A Yue Fei's Memorial Temple.

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