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Yu Qian -- Savior of the Ming Dynasty

Yu Qian (1398 -- 1457) was one of the most contributive and honest ministers in the history of China.


He saved the Ming Dynasty from a life-and-death crisis, prevented his country from being perished or forced to cede large territory. 


Brilliant Genius and Righteous Official Yu Qian

Yu Qian was born into a rich family; he was a well educated genius who achieved a good score in the Imperial Examination. Then he was assigned a political occupation, and started to serve the Ming Empire as a civil officer.


Once, Emperor Zhu Zhanji successfully defeated his rebelled uncle and commanded Yu Qian to tell his uncle about his crimes.


Surprisingly, Yu Qian was quite a great lecturer who made the rebel king weeping and trembling on the ground and immediately pleaded guilty.


Yu Qian’s eloquence and integrity impressed the emperor and got promoted very soon


Decades later, the new emperor Zhu Qizhen ascended to the throne, and his favorite eunuch Wang achieved more power. This vicious, but powerful eunuch put Yu Qian into prison and sentenced him to death, under a fake and stupid charge; but the real reason was that Yu Qian never tried to bribe his eunuch groups and always showed contempt.


Large numbers of civilians and officials, included some very powerful prime ministers and princes, were quite furious, and submitted a joint letter showing that Yu Qian was absolutely innocent.


Some months later, Yu Qian was released, and even got promoted.


No matter what position he was assigned to, he always did an excellent job and stayed honest, fearless and respectable. 


Life and Death Crisis of Empire Ming 

Some time later, the current emperor Zhu Qizhen and that vicious eunuch Wang lost in a war and got captured by their nomadic enemy; large numbers of intelligent officials and exceptional generals sacrificed, and tens of thousands of first class soldiers of the Ming Empire were lost in that battle.


With the emperor as hostage, the nomadic army kept winning and marching toward Ming’s capital city Beijing. 


Inside the Beijing city, the Ming Empire had very few soldiers, lots of scared people, but without an emperor; a similar situation that happened in the Song Dynasty in the history of China, when emperors Zhao Ji and Zhao Huan were captured by nomad Regime Jin.


Everyone of Ming was shocked, sad, angry, shameful and helpless.


Several days ago, their kingdom was still strong, powerful and prosperous; their aggressive troop had been chasing their nomadic enemy in the desert for decades.


But out of a sudden, they lost their main force in such a stupid and shameful way, and had their emperor captured.

Many officials suggested that Ming Empire should move their capital city to the southern China to save some resources, and then try to fight back; they were afraid that if they lost Beijing city, the entire royal family and government inside would be perished, and thus so would the Ming Dynasty.


They pointed out that Emperor Zhu Qizhen’s army with over 250,000 first class soldiers already had been defeated by less than 50,000 nomadic cavalrymen, they wondered how the remaining less than 100,000 third class soldiers (old, retired and much younger people with no military experiences and poor weapons) could protect the big capital city from the same, maybe much enlarged, powerful nomadic troop. 

From A Civil Officer to the Chief Commander 

But minister Yu Qian stood firm and insisted on staying in Beijing and fighting back.


He believed that the Ming Empire could not follow the Song Dynasty’s path and lose half of their realm; whoever wanted to escape to the south should be sentenced to death.


More officials supported Yu Qian, and nominated him as the chief commander of Beijing’s army, because they didn’t want to lose half of their territory and dignity as the Song Dynasty did before.


Therefore, the Ming Empire refused to pay more ransom money or negotiate with nomadic enemy; instead, they immediately started to prepare for the upcoming war. 

As a bookish man who had zero military experience, civil minister Yu Qian now became the chief commander to protect the capital city of the Ming Dynasty.


He reorganized those escaped soldiers from the former lost war, summoned reserve forces from other nearby cities, and started to have them trained. 


He selected some qualified and brave generals to assist him, also stocked enough food, and encouraged civilians inside the capital city. 


Yu Qian successfully gave sufficient faith, hope, and courage to everyone in the city, as well as strong wills to revenge for their lost soldiers and dignity.


Most importantly, he supported Zhu Qizhen’s brother to be the new emperor.


By doing that, the nomadic regime couldn’t get any more advantages from holding their previous emperor as the hostage. 

Epic War of Protecting the City of Beijing


Soon, the nomad troop, the one who had defeated Ming Empire’s over 250,000 good soldiers, arrived outside of the Beijing city and dreamt to invade the city, and to recover the former Yuan Dynasty here.


Commander Yu Qian didn’t stay inside the city wall to try to protect the city as long as he can, because there would be no other reinforcements anymore; they were all on their own.


He knew that if they lost in this war, their country would be perished for good. 


Minister Yu Qian, for the first time, put on the armor and took a sword, led all of his soldiers came outside of the Beijing’s city wall, and closed all the nine gates behind them.


His last command was that no one would go back into the city, unless they won; whoever got scared or wanted to retreat would be executed immediately; everyone should fight bravely, because this was the life and death, final decisive battle.


From a bookish civil minister with no military experience, to a decisive and firm marshal, Yu used only a month. 


Ming’s army firstly ambushed and perished a cavalry troop with about 10,000 warriors, which was one of the most powerful main forces of the nomadic regime; one of the lord’s brother was killed in that battle as well.


Then, Ming’s another general that was escaped from the former big failure war but was nominated by Yu Qian, organized his one-month trained cavalry troop actively attacked the lord’s main army, and successfully defeated them.


Immediately, his vengeance army chased the lord and his 60,000 soldiers around, trying to perish all of them.


After a series of epic, heroic, and intensive battles, the capital city Beijing was finally well defended. 

Remarkable Success of Hero Yu Qian

Seeing the big failure, the nomad lord led his army left Beijing city quickly, and planned to occupy another important military site nearby.


But the lord failed again, because the chief general of that site had already poured water on the city wall, and made it a icy wall that was very difficult to climb; then the general actively attacked the lord for several times out of a sudden in the cold weather.


After a big bombardment in the middle of the night, the lord had to lead his army escape northward to his own realm. 


Till now, Yu Qian led Ming’s people achieved a complete success; they protected their kingdom and people, regained dignity, and revenged for those buried soldiers in that former shameful war.


One year later, the nomadic regime wanted to send their captured Emperor Zhu Qizhen back.


The new monarch, Zhu Qizhen’s brother tried to refuse. But Yu Qian persuaded him that Zhu Qizhen could be respected as the overlord, who wouldn't be a threaten to the throne.


Consequently, Zhu Qizhen came back, but was imprisoned by his brother emperor.


Unjust Sentence to the Great Savior Yu Qian

Seven years later, the former Emperor Zhu Qizhen got his throne back through a coup, when his brother emperor was sick in bed.


Immediately, Yu Qian got framed up by his political enemies.


Soon, he was sentenced to death in the city where he dedicated his life to protecting; his son was later banished.


Yu Qian’s body was buried in his hometown by his adoptive son. As the most powerful prime minister of the Ming Empire, Yu left no money after he passed away. 


An important reason for Yu Qian’s death was that he was the biggest supporter and most trusted minister of Zhu Qizhen’s brother emperor, which made him very “likely” to rebel.


Ironically, Emperor Zhu Qizhen didn’t admit that who had caused those series of tragedies in the first place, before he commanded to execute the great hero Yu Qian. 


Zhu Qizhen’s son, however, resurrected Yu Qian’s reputation and summoned Yu’s son back to the government some years later. 

Memorial Temple of Hero Yu Qian of Ming Dynasty in History of China 

Commemoration of Hero Yu Qian

The Ming Dynasty in the history of China would be different without Yu Qian.


He was an epic savior, a brave and loyal marshal, a great person, and also a talented literature.


He dedicated his life protecting his kingdom and people, and brought them peace and dignity; however, his remarkable achievement and the honorable intention were lost, in front of the political conspiracies and the contention over power. 


As time goes by, people would have different perspectives and cognitions to certain things, however, some qualities are permanently eulogized and honored at every epoch.


Yu Qian showed the world that there is a kind of people, who were pure, integrity, decent, firm, courageous, altruistic and faithful. They were and always are perfect, no matter which era they lived in. 

Some small but exquisite memorial temples of Yu Qian was built in the year his name was cleaned, the biggest one was in his hometown, next to the West Lake.


Nowadays, this temple is still a famous tourism site.

Gate of Memorial Temple of Hero Yu Qian next to the West Lake