Yue Fei — An Extraordinary and Heroic General Suffered of Terribly Unjust and Pathos Ending

Yue Fei (1103 — 1142) was one of the most remarkable generals and heroes in the Song Dynasty with epic experiences. 


When his country was suffering from huge disasters, he organized and trained a strong army, extensively defeated their enemy, and brought triumph and hope to countless people.


However, as the most exceptional hero of that period, Yue Fei was framed up and cruelly murdered under the command of his emperor.

Heroic General Yue Fei of Song Dynasty in History of China

National Calamity of Song — The Incident of Jingkang


In the year 1125, the Jurchen Jin Dynasty invaded the Song Empire.


The people of Song fought bravely, however, they still lost this war because of the cowardly and ridiculous commands of Emperor Zhao Ji and Emperor Zhao Huan


In the year 1127, Jin occupied the capital city of Song, enslaved Emperor Zhao Ji, Emperor Zhao Huan, almost the entire royal family, tens of thousands of officials, and civilians, and seized countless treasures. 


Besides a series of slaughters and robberies, many cities in the north were under the control of the Jin Dynasty.


The Song Dynasty practically ended.

Part of the Painting (Qingming Shang He Tu) Along the River During the Qingming Festival of the Song Dynasty
Part of the Painting (Qingming Shang He Tu) Along the River During the Qingming Festival by Artist Zhang Zeduan of the Song Dynasty
Part of the Genre Painting of the Capital City (Bianjing or Kaifeng) of the Song Dynasty by Artist Zhang Zeduan

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

However, prince Zhao Gou, the ninth son of Emperor Zhao Ji, wasn’t in the capital city when the calamity happened. 


As the only free royal member, he escaped to the south, organized and summoned all of Song’s forces, and reestablished the Song Dynasty.  


The new Song Empire obtained around two-thirds territory of the former Song but encountered huge losses in population, economy, and dignity.


Meanwhile, the new monarch Zhao Gou, now the Emperor Gaozong of Song, still was forced to keep escaping and hiding from Jin’s hunting. 


Under that crisis and unstable situation, Zhao Gou appealed to all forces of Song to fight against Jin and protect his new regime.

The Incident of Jingkang of the Song Dynasty in Chinese History

Exceptional Braveness and Insistent Fights

Born into an ordinary peasant family, Yue Fei was very strong and upright. He spent most of his early years doing farm work and got married at a young age. 

When the Jin army was invading Song, Yue Fei witnessed many people being slaughtered or enslaved. After having seen the countless tragedies that happened to civilians, he decided to join the army of Song.

Starting as an ordinary soldier, Yue Fei got promoted quickly, because of his keen military insight and extraordinary martial art skills.

Yue Fei tried several times to persuade the new emperor Zhao Gou to fight to take back all their lost lands and people, but he was turned down, got demoted, and then was removed from Song’s army in response.  

But Yue Fei didn’t give up. He joined in other volunteer armies in northern China, where millions of warriors kept fighting against Jin with the assistance of countless civilians.

During this period, his wife left him and their sons and married someone else.

Heroic General Yue Fei of Song Dynasty in History of China

Yue Fei’s Army and their Remarkable Successes

Gradually, Yue Fei established his army, the Yue Fei’s Army. 

It originally consisted of some refugees in the north who wanted to win back their lost home, then expanded as a large troop with strict discipline and glorious military achievements.

Over 100, 000 warriors of his troop were extremely loyal, strong, and disciplined; no matter how cold or hungry they were, they never harassed civilians. Therefore, General Yue Fei and his army were highly respected and loved by civilians. 

In the north, this army kept growing and expanding, and also kept winning.


They recovered many of the Song’s lost cities and achieved the first large-scale success of the new empire in the battle filed against Jin. 

A few years later, after hearing that his father, the former Emperor Zhao Ji, passed away and could not threaten the throne, Zhao Gou started to plan to fight again Jin and take back Song’s lost territory.

He nominated invincible Yue Fei as the chief commander of Song’s army, to retrieve Song’s lost land and dignity. 

Yue Fei organized many talented generals, brave soldiers, and resources; together, they marched northward.

As expected, Yue Fei led Song’s troops to defeat the aggressive, outnumbered enemies several times, perished Jin's most powerful and invincible cavalry main force troop, and took back many lost cities.

Emperor Zhao Gou's Imperial Edict Wrote to Yue Fei

Emperor Zhao Gou's Imperial Edict Wrote to Yue Fei, Appraising His Loyalty and Exceptional Achievement — Taipei Palace Museum

Yue Fei’s Last North Expedition that Ended Up With An Abrupt and Desperate Retreat

However, using Yue Fei’s huge success as bargaining chips, Emperor Zhao Gou and Qin Hui signed a pact with Jin, to plea for a truce. 

Two years after the signing of the pact, in the year 1140, Jin turned against their promise and invaded Song again. 

Zhao Gou had to summon Yue Fei back to lead Song’s army and fight. This then turned out to be the most successful and largest-scale north expedition of the new Song Dynasty.

Under the command of Yue Fei, with the assistance of many volunteer warriors of Jin’s occupied northern cities, Song kept winning. More and more lost cities were recovered. 

Yue Fei's North Expedition War in the Song Dynasty

When everything was perfect and everyone was inspired, when they kept winning and were planning to march north further and trying to recover the whole of the nation, When Jin's armies were quite possible to be expelled outside of the Great Wall, Yue Fei and all the armies of the Song Empire were suddenly summoned back by emperor Zhao Gou and prime minister, also the famous traitor Qin Hui. 

Yue Fei had to listen to his emperor because he was a loyal man, but that meant all their efforts and achievements for the last decade, all the cities and lands that they had recovered, would be again lost to their enemy. 

At that time, Yue Fei had most soldiers’ respect and loyalty, as well as large numbers of civilian’s love, he was capable to establish a new kingdom in those lands that he gained, like the founder of the Song Dynasty, Emperor Zhao Kuangyin did before.

However, Yue Fei chose another path; his pure fidelity made him decide to follow all of his emperor’s commands. 

Tens of thousands of civilians packed up, left their homes for good, and migrated southward with Yue Fei, under the protection of his army.

The sound of their crying spread along mountains and rivers until they arrived in the south. 

Reluctant Retreat of Yue Fei Under the Command of Emperor Zhao Gou

Reluctant Retreat of Yue Fei Under the Command of Emperor Zhao Gou, Painted by Liu Guohui

Demotion and Assassination

On his way back, Yue Fei heard that most of the recovered cities were lost to Jin again. He was extremely disappointed and resigned, but Emperor Zhao Gou didn’t allow it.

In the next year, Yue Fei was commanded to lead Song’s army, to again, defend against Jin’s another invasion. As expected, he won.

King of Jin realized that they could never defeat Song, so they planned to sign a pact that they would follow. But the only condition of this treaty was that Yue Fei has to die.

Soon, Yue Fei got demoted several times, until to a commoner with no power nor title.

However, as an extraordinary commander and a true hero, Yue Fei's achievements and extremely high reputation among Song’s people still intimidated the traitor, Qin Hui.

Then Yue Fei was framed up by Qin Hui and was put into prison, under the name of betraying his own country. After months of searching, Qin Hui and his followers never found any shreds of evidence to prove Yue Fei’s “sins”. 

During this period, Yue Fei had been tortured cruelly, but he never admitted any crimes that they accused him of. 

Zhao Gou and Qin Hui worried that a big public trial and execution might raise many civilians' opposition, even rebellion. 

So, Qin Hui and his wife came up with the evil idea of poisoning Yue Fei to death in a shabby prison. 

Exquisite Jade Comb of Qin Hui's Wife

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

Hero Yue Fei’s Pathos Ending

After being forced to give up everything that he achieved on the battlefields, accused of betraying the country that he had dedicated his entire life to protecting, and after having suffered months of cruel torture, the great hero Yue Fei was murdered.  

His first son and another general, who had been exceptionally contributive and played important roles in the Yue Fei’s Army, also were sentenced to death later.

Yue Fei’s second wife Li Wa and other kids were expelled to a very far and remote place. 

Other important generals of Yue Fei’s army were demoted, expelled, or resigned; soldiers of his army were reorganized by Emperor Zhao Gou.

Perfume (Xiang Bing) Blended by Emperor Zhao Gou of the Southern Song Dynasty, Carved with Characters of "Recovery and Prosperity"

Perfume (Xiang Bing) Blended by Emperor Zhao Gou, Carved with Characters of "Recovery and Prosperity" — Changzhou Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

Some soldiers accepted the rearrangement.


Others, especially those originally from the north that still wanted their home back, left Song’s army and went back north to keep fighting with Jin, but they didn’t have any backups or support from the Song Empire anymore.  

Since then, those brave generals and officials were buried in the dark, or lived in seclusion, while those doves were enjoying wealthy and powerful lives after signing the shamefully unfair treaty with Jin.

Song Empire lost its northern section forever. They never had a commander like Yue Fei again, nor a good opportunity to achieve huge successes as he achieved, to take their lands back. 

Yue Fei's Calligraphy

Rubbing of Yue Fei's Calligraphy Writing "Recovery of Song's Land"

Cleansing of Yue Fei's Name and the Finally Completed Vengeance

Yue Fei’s body was secretly stolen out and buried properly by a brave jailor; the jailor then told his son about this secret location before he departed. 

Yue Fei’s name was cleaned 20 years later, by the next emperor Zhao Shen, then the jailor’s son told the government about Yue Fei’s secret burial place.

Finally, Yue Fei was reburied, using the ceremony of a loyal general, next to the beautiful West Lake.

Tombs of General Yue Fei and His First Son Yue Yun, Inside Yue Fei's Memorial Temple Next to the West Lake

Tombs of General Yue Fei and His First Son Yue Yun, Inside Yue Fei's Memorial Temple Next to the West Lake (Photo By Siyuwj).

His other living kids and second wife Li Wa was also welcomed back. 

Li Wa, the love of Yue Fei’s life, met and fell in love with him during chaotic times. She accompanied Yue Fei from a common soldier to a general, to the hero of Song, then to an executed “criminal”. When Yue Fei was in power, he never accepted other women; when he was in trouble, Li Wa never changed her love. 

After decades of waiting, she finally saw the long-overdue justice.

A few decades later, in the year 1234, Meng Gong (1195 — 1264), a descendant of a general of Yue Fei’s Army, allied with Genghis Khan’s troops and perished the Jin Dynasty for good.

Today, people still could feel his courage and dream in his remarkable poems and calligraphy works, and experience how much he wanted to recover the lost lands and save the Song Empire’s people.