Loyal and Valiant Yue Fei
(Clearwisdom.net) Yue Fei (1103-1141), named Pengju, was from Tangyin, Xiangzhou, which is part of present-day Henan Province). He was a military expert in the Southern Song Dynasty and a well-known general in mounting a successful defense against the Jin (Jurchen) invaders.
Yue Fei, a national hero in Chinese history, was deeply respected by the Chinese people for his loyalty to his country. Throughout the ages considered a poetic masterpiece, "Man Jiang Hong," which he wrote with a heart filled with grief and indignation during his northern expedition, still enjoys deep respect and admiration even today. His troops were admiringly called "Yue Fei's army," and there was a well-known saying at the time,"It is easier to shake Mount Tai than to shake Yue Fei's army," which showed how highly the people respected Yue Fei and how much the enemy feared him.
A Brief Account of Yue Fei's Life
In the first year of Jingkang (1126), Yue Fei joined the army to defend the country against an invasion by the Juchens. He was recognized for his accomplishments again and again and was soon promoted by Marshal Zong Ze to the position of Tong Zhi (equivalent to an army commander today). In 1126, Zong Ze passed away, and the Jurchen general, Wanyan Zongmi, attacked Song again. The Song army suffered a heavy defeat, and Emperor Gao Zong fled. At that time, Yue Fei was serving in the Jianghuai region and he led his army to fight against the Jurchen invaders in Guangde (part of Anhui Province today) and Yixing (part of Jiangsu Province today). He defeated the Jurchen army in the battle at Qingshuiting and recovered Jiankang. His army won four more battles as they chased the Jurchen chief, Wuzhu, and realized the unfulfilled dream of a veteran general, Zhong Zhidao. Yue Fei was then promoted to become head of the Tongtai region.
In 1133, the illegitimate government of Liu Yu, who had the backing of the Jurchens, seized Xiangyang (in current Hubei Province) and the nearby shires. The next April, Yue Fei took a northern expedition and defeated Liu Yu, recovering the territory of six shires. He was promoted to Qingyuan Army Military Commissioner for his accomplishments.
In the summer of 1135, the Song Court suspected that Yang Yao was colluding with the illegitimate Qi to overthrow the Southern Song. Yue Fei received orders from the court and defeated Yang Yao's army, thus completely clearing out any internal trouble. In 1136, Yue Fei launched a sudden attack on Liu Yu's army, using part of his troops to attack Caizhou (Runan in Henan Province today) while his main force went from Xiangyang to attack Yiyang (Song County in Henan today). He recovered a large stretch of territory in Yuxi and Shannan. In 1137, Yue Fei took the opportunity when the Jurchens sacked Liu Yu and came up with the idea of restoring central China. He petitioned Emperor Gao Zong several times to oppose a peace treaty with the Jurchens, but his petition was rejected by the Emperor and Premier Qin Gui.
In 1140, the Jurchen chief, Wanyan Zongmi, violated the treaty and pushed forward to attack the Southern Song. Yue Fei sent his men to make an alliance with the northern rebels to attack the Jurchen army from behind, while he led his main force northbound and defeated the main Jurchen forces in the battles in Yancheng and Yingchang. However, just when Yue Fei's army was about to cross the river to chase after the defeated enemy, Emperor Gao Zong and Qin Gui ordered all his troops to return. Yue Fei's army had to retreat in the end, and his strategy to recover Central China failed on the verge of success.
The next year (1141), when Yue Fei returned to the capital Lin'an, he was removed from his military position. On December 29, Yue Fei was executed by Gao Zong and Qin Gui for "unfounded guilt." His son, Yue Yun, and General Zhang Xian were also killed. After Emperor Xiao Zong took the throne, he redressed and exonerated Yue Fei. In 1178, Yue Fei was bestowed a posthumous title, Wumu (Solemn and Valiant). In 1204, Emperor Ning Zong granted him the title "King of E" retroactively. In 1225 Emperor Li Zong changed the posthumous title to "Zhongwu" (Loyal and Valiant).
Be Fair in Meting Out Rewards and Punishments; Do Not Hanker after Women
There was a saying among Yue Fei's army: "I would rather freeze to death than pull down people's houses; I would rather starve to death than rob the people." This was a true description of Yue Fei's army. Anyone who damaged crops or interfered with farming activities would be beheaded. Yue Fei's army was extremely popular, and wherever it went it was surrounded and cheered by the populace, many in tearful gratitude. When his soldiers got sick, Yue Fei would personally console them; when soldiers had family hardships, Yue Fei would ask the relevant department to give them money and cloth; when a general died in battle, he would compensate his family generously, and if the deceased had only a young daughter left to fend for herself, he would ask his son to marry her. His wife also often visited the widows. With such fair rewards and punishments, Yue Fei's army was naturally dedicated to the same cause, and it was indeed worthy of its reputation: It indeed would have been easier to shake Mount Tai than to shake Yue Fei's army.
Among the generals in the Southern Song, Yue Fei was the only one who insisted on having only one wife. General Wu Jie once spent a lot of money to buy the daughter of a scholar for Yue Fei. Yue Fei asked her behind a screen. "All my family members wear cotton clothes and eat simple food. If you are prepared to share the comforts and hardships with us, then you may stay; otherwise I dare not keep you." When the woman heard this, she could not help laughing. It was obvious that she was not willing to do this, so Yue Fei sent her back. His generals tried to stop him for fear of hurting Wu Jie's feelings. Yue Fei said, "Our national shame has not been wiped out. How can I indulge myself in pleasure?" When Wu Jie heard this, he became even more respectful of Yue Fei.
Granted Considerable Literary Talent and Outstanding Military Vision
Yue Fei's literary talent was evident in dozens of his poems. In addition, he loved reading and was very good at calligraphy. People said that he had large collection of books and he followed the Su style in his writing. Yue Fei loved to make friends with scholars, and, as it was said, "His acquaintances were all excellent people."
Yue Fei was expert with various weapons. When he was young, his spear techniques had no match in his local area. After he joined the army, he was even more unconquerable and he killed generals on the enemy side one after another. He not only broke the record in pulling back the string of a bow (180 kg), but was also very accurate in hitting the target. He distinguished himself by peerless valor in battle. As a commander, Yue Fei demonstrated wise strategic tactics. In terms of strategy, he took into consideration the Jurchen characteristics, such as a strong military force, poor ruling methods, and strong resistance from its people, and proposed to make an alliance with rebels in the north. His strategy achieved very good results.
Yue Fei used very flexible tactics in battles. For example, after the battle in Qingshuiting, in the face of a strong enemy force, Yue Fei adopted the tactic of irregular night attacks with a small troop of around 100 people. The Jurchen army became so frightened that they retreated. Yue Fei also made use of the characteristics of foot soldiers and cavalrymen and defeated Li Cheng's strong force. As for the unpopular Yang Yao's army, Yue Fei combined the tactics of surrounding and consoling, and, consequently, Yang Yao's naval force collapsed at the first blow. He also made use of the internal conflicts among the Jurchens to destroy Liu Yu by sowing discord among his enemies, which dealt a heavy blow to the illegitimate regime.
According to Yue Fei, "Generals do not dare to die and civil officials do not hanker after wealth." He was indeed exemplary among court officials. He was incorruptible and spoke without reservation; he refused to indulge in women and had strict discipline in place in his army. All these fine qualities and his spirit in serving his country with unreserved loyalty are deeply respected and admired by the Chinese people.