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 suffered from massive 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 and cruelly murdered under his emperor's command.
Glass Crossguard (Jian Ge) of the Song Dynasty — Nanjing Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)
National Calamity of Song — The Incident of Jingkang
In the year 1125, the Jurchen Jin Dynasty invaded the Song Empire.
In 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 controlled by the Jurchen Jin Dynasty.
The Song Dynasty practically ended.
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 considerable population, economy, and dignity losses.
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.
Exceptional Braveness and Insistent Fights of Yue Fei
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 invaded Song, Yue Fei witnessed many people being slaughtered or enslaved.
After seeing the countless tragedies that happened to civilians, he decided to join the army of Song.
Starting from an ordinary soldier, Yue Fei got promoted quickly because of his keen military insight and extraordinary martial art skills.
Part of the Ceremonial Guard of Song Dynasty "Da Jia Lu Bu Tu Shu", Painted Around 1053 to 1065 — National Museum of China
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, demoted, and removed from Song’s army.
Still, Yue Fei didn’t give up.
He joined 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.
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 homes, then expanded as a large troop with strict discipline and glorious military achievements.
Over 100,000 warriors in his troop were extremely loyal, strong, and disciplined; no matter how cold or hungry they were, they never harassed common people.
Therefore, General Yue Fei and his army were highly respected and loved by civilians.
In the north, this army kept growing and expanding and winning.
They recovered many of the Song's lost cities and achieved the new empire's first large-scale success in the battle against Jin.
Magnificent Scene of the Song Dynasty in the Painting "Thousands Miles of Mountains and Rivers" (Qian Li Jiang Shan Tu) (1191.5 cm × 51.5 cm), By Artist Wang Ximeng (1096 — 1119) — The Palace Museum
A few years later, after hearing that his father, the former Emperor Zhao Ji, passed away and could not threaten the throne, Emperor Zhao Gou started to plan to fight Jin again 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, successfully defeated the aggressive, outnumbered enemies several times, perished Jin's most potent and invincible main cavalry force troop, and took back many lost cities.
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 massive success as an essential bargaining chip, Emperor Zhao Gou and chancellor Qin Hui signed a pact with Jin to plea for a truce.
Two years after the pact's signing, in 1140, Jin turned against their promise and invaded Song again.
Zhao Gou had to summon Yue Fei 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.
When everything was perfect and everyone was inspired, when they kept winning and were planning to march north further and try 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 they had recovered, would be again lost to their enemy.
Unearthed Turtle Shaped Blue Glass Decoration of the Song Dynasty — Nanjing Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)
At that time, Yue Fei had most soldiers’ respect and loyalty and large numbers of civilian’s support, so he was capable of establishing a new kingdom in those lands that he gained, like the founder of the Song Dynasty, Emperor Zhao Kuangyin.
However, Yue Fei chose another path; his pure fidelity made him follow 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.
Their cries spread along mountains and rivers until they arrived in the south.
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.
Yue Fei was commanded to lead Song's army again the following year to defend Jin's other invasion.
As expected, he won.
King of Jin realized they could never defeat Song, so they planned to sign a pact they would follow.
But the only condition of this treaty was that Yue Fei had to die.
Soon, Yue Fei was demoted several times until he was a commoner with no power or title.
Jade Dragon of Song — Tianjin Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)
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 by Qin Hui and imprisoned 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 was tortured cruelly but never admitted to any crimes 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 devised the evil idea of poisoning Yue Fei to death in a shabby prison.
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 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 essential 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 distant 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, 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 against 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.
The new Song Empire lost its northern section forever.
They never had a commander like Yue Fei again, nor an excellent opportunity to achieve huge successes as he reached and to take their lands back.
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 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 (Photo By Siyuwj).
His other living kids and second wife, Li Wa, also were 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.
Unearthed Blue Glass Decorations (Die Sheng) of Southern Song, Homophone of Wishing to Take Back the Two Captured Emperors and Lost Land — Quzhou Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)
A few decades later, in 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 can still see 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.
Picture of Yue Fei and His Famous Ci Poetry "Man Jiang Hong"
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