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General Yue Fei
Jul 10, '20

Yue Fei (March 24, 1103 – January 28, 1142) courtesy name Pengju, was a Chinese military general, calligrapher, and poet who lived during the Southern Song dynasty. His ancestral home was in Xiaoti, Yonghe Village, Tangyin, Xiangzhou, Henan (in present-day Tangyin County, Anyang, Henan). He is best known for leading Southern Song forces in the wars in the 12th century between Southern Song and the Jurchen-ruled Jin dynasty in northern China before being put to death by the Southern Song government in 1142 under a concocted charge. He was granted the posthumous name Wumu (武穆) by Emperor Xiaozong in 1169, and later granted the posthumous title King of È (鄂王) by Emperor Ningzong in 1211. Widely seen as a patriot and national folk hero in China, since his death Yue Fei has evolved into a paragon of loyalty in Chinese culture.

Yue Fei

Portrait of Yue Fei from Sancai Tuhui

Native name



24 March 1103

Tangyin, Anyang, Henan, China


28 January 1142 (aged 38)

Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China


Song dynasty: Years of service 1122–1142

Battles/wars: Song–Jin wars


A biography of Yue Fei, the Eguo Jintuo Zubian (鄂國金佗稡编), was written 60 years after his death by his grandson, the poet and historian Yue Ke (岳柯) (1183–post 1240). In 1346 it was incorporated into the History of Song, a 496-chapter record of historical events and biographies of noted Song dynasty individuals, compiled by Yuan dynasty prime minister Toqto'a and others. Yue Fei's biography is found in the 365th chapter of the book and is numbered biography 124. Some later historians including Deng Guangming (1907–1998) now doubt the veracity of many of Yue Ke's claims about his grandfather.

According to the History of Song, Yue Fei was named "Fei", meaning to fly, because at the time he was born, "a large bird like a swan landed on the roof of his house".

General Yue Fei

Further information: General Yue Fei

Chronicle of Yue, Prince of E of Song

The Song Yue E Wang Nianpu (宋岳鄂王年谱; 宋岳鄂王年譜; Sòng Yuè È Wáng Niánpǔ; 'Chronicle of Yue, Prince of E of Song') was written by Qian Ruwen (钱汝雯) in 1924.

Birth and early life

Several sources state that Yue was born into a poor tenant farmer's family in Tangyin County, Anyang prefecture, Henan province. According to the Shuo Yue Quanzhuan, the immortal Chen Tuan, disguised as a wandering priest, warned Yue Fei's father, Yue He (岳和), to put his wife and child inside a clay jar if the infant Yue Fei began to cry. A few days later, a young child squeezed Yue Fei's hand too hard and he began to cry. Soon, it began to rain and the Yellow River flooded, wiping out the village. Yue Fei's father held onto the clay jar as it was swept down the river, but eventually drowned. Although the much older Biography of Yue Fei also mentions the flood, it states Yue Huo survived. It reads,

After [the death of his teacher Zhou Tong], [Yue Fei] would offer sacrifices at his tomb. His father praised him for his faithfulness and asked him, "When you are employed to cope with the affairs of the time, will you then not have to sacrifice yourself for the empire and die for your duty?" (侗死,溯望設祭于其冢。父義之,曰:"汝為時用,其徇國死義乎。

Yue Fei's father used his family's plot of land for humanitarian efforts, but after it was destroyed in the flood, the young Yue Fei was forced to help his father toil in the fields to survive. Yue received most of his primary education from his father. In 1122 Yue joined the army, but had to return home later that year after the death of his father. In ancient China, a person was required by law to temporarily resign from their job when their parents died so they could observe the customary period of mourning. For instance, Yue would have had to mourn his father's death for three years, but in all actually only 27 months. During this time, he would wear coarse mourning robes, caps, and slippers, while abstaining from silken garments. When his mother died in 1136, he retired from a decisive battle against the Jin dynasty for the mourning period, but he was forced to cut the bereavement short because his generals begged him to come back.

Shuo Yue Quanzhuan gives a very detailed fictional account of Yue's early life. The novel states after being swept from Henan to Hubei, Yue and his mother are saved by the country squire Wang Ming (王明) and are permitted to stay in Wang's manor as domestic helpers. The young Yue Fei later becomes the adopted son and student of the Wang family's teacher, Zhou Tong, a famous master of military skills. (Zhou Tong is not to be confused with the similarly named "Little Tyrant" in Water Margin.) Zhou teaches Yue and his three sworn brothers – Wang Gui (王贵), Tang Huai (湯懷) and Zhang Xian (張顯) – literary lessons on odd days and military lessons, involving archery and the eighteen weapons of war, on even days.[citation needed]

After years of practice, Zhou Tong enters his students into the Tangyin County military examination, in which Yue Fei wins first place by shooting a succession of nine arrows through the bullseye of a target 240 paces away. After this display of archery, Yue is asked to marry the daughter of Li Chun (李春), an old friend of Zhou and the county magistrate who presided over the military examination. However, Zhou soon dies of an illness and Yue lives by his grave through the winter until the second month of the new year when his sworn brothers come and tear it down, forcing him to return home and take care of his mother.[citation needed]

Yue eventually marries and later participates in the imperial military examination in the Song capital of Kaifeng. There, he defeats all competitors and even turns down an offer from Cai Gui (蔡桂), the Prince of Liang, to be richly rewarded if he forfeits his chance for the military degree. This angers the prince and both agree to fight a private duel in which Yue kills the prince and is forced to flee the city for fear of being executed. Shortly thereafter, he joins the Song army to fight the invading armies of the Jurchen-ruled Jin dynasty.

The Yue Fei Biography states,

When [Yue] was born, a Peng flew crowing over the house, so his father named the child Fei [(飛 – "flight")]. Before [Yue] was even a month old, the Yellow River flooded, so his mother got inside of the center of a clay jar and held on to baby Yue. The violent waves pushed the jar down river, where they landed ashore ... Despite his family's poverty, [Yue Fei] was studious, and particularly favored the Zuo Zhuan edition of the Spring and Autumn Annals and the strategies of Sun Tzu and Wu Qi. (飛生時,有大禽若鵠,飛鳴室上,因以為名。未彌月,河決內黃,水暴至,母姚抱飛坐瓮中,衝濤及岸得免,人異之。-- 家貧力學,尤好【左氏春秋】、孫吳兵法

According to a book by martial arts master Liang Shouyu, "[A] Dapeng is a great bird that lived in ancient China. Legend has it, that Dapeng was the guardian that stayed above the head of Gautama Buddha. Dapeng could get rid of all evil in any area. Even the Monkey King was no match for it. During the Song dynasty the government was corrupt and foreigners were constantly invading China. Sakyamuni sent Dapeng down to earth to protect China. Dapeng descended to Earth and was born as Yue Fei."

Martial training

The Biography of Yue Fei states, "Yue Fei possessed supernatural power and before his adulthood, he was able to draw a bow of 300 catties (400 pounds (180 kg)) and a crossbow of eight stone (960 catties, 1,280 pounds (580 kg)). Yue Fei learned archery from Zhou Tong. He learned everything and could shoot with his left and right hands." Shuo Yue Quanzhuan states Zhou teaches Yue and his sworn brothers archery and all of the eighteen weapons of war. This novel also says Yue was Zhou's third student after Lin Chong and Lu Junyi of the 108 outlaws in Water Margin. The E Wang Shi records, "When Yue Fei reached adulthood, his maternal grandfather, Yao Daweng (姚大翁), hired a spear expert, Chen Guang, to teach Yue Fei spear fighting."

Both the Biography of Yue Fei and E Wang Shi mention Yue learning from Zhou and Chen at or before his adulthood. The Chinese character representing "adulthood" in these sources is ji guan (Chinese: 及冠; pinyin: jí guàn; lit.: 'conferring headdress'), an ancient Chinese term that means "20 years old" where a young man was able to wear a formal headdress as a social status of adulthood. So he gained all of his martial arts knowledge by the time he joined the army at the age of 19.

These chronicles do not mention Yue's masters teaching him martial arts style; just archery, spearplay and military tactics. However non-historical or scholarly sources state, in addition to those already mentioned, Zhou Tong taught Yue other skills such as hand-to-hand combat and horseback riding. Yet again, these do not mention any specific martial arts style. One legend says Zhou took young Yue to an unspecified place to meet a Buddhist hermit who taught him the Emei Dapeng qigong (峨嵋大鵬氣功) style. This is supposedly the source of his legendary strength and martial arts abilities. According to thirteenth generation lineage Tai He ("Great Harmony") Wudangquan master Fan Keping (范克平), a collector of rare martial arts manuals. [deprecated source] Zhou Tong was a master of various "hard qigong" exercises.

Yue Fei's mother writes jin zhong bao guo on his back, as depicted in a "Suzhou style" beam decoration at the Summer Palace, Beijing.

Yue Fei's tattoo

According to historical records and legend, Yue had the four Chinese characters jin zhong bao guo (simplified Chinese: 尽忠报国; traditional Chinese: 盡忠報國; pinyin: jìn zhōng bào guó; lit.: 'serve the country with the utmost loyalty') tattooed across his back. The Biography of Yue Fei says after Qin Hui sent agents to arrest Yue and his son, he was taken before the court and charged with treason, but

Yue ripped his jacket to reveal the four tattooed characters of "serve the country with the utmost loyalty" on his back. This proved that he was clearly innocent of the charges. (飛裂裳以背示鑄,有"盡忠報國"四大字,深入膚理。既而閱實無左驗,鑄明其無辜。)

Later fictionalizations of Yue's biography would build upon the tattoo. For instance, one of his earliest Ming era novels titled The Story of King Yue Who Restored the Song dynasty (大宋中興岳王傳) states that after the Jurchen armies invaded China, young heroes in Yue's village suggest that they join the bandits in the mountains. However, Yue objects and has one of them tattoo the aforementioned characters on his back. Whenever others want to join the bandits, he flashes them the tattoo to change their minds.

Portion of the stele mentioning the tattoo

The common legend of Yue receiving the tattoo from his mother first appeared in Shuo Yue Quanzhuan. In chapter 21 titled "By a pretext Wang Zuo swore brotherhood, by tattoos Lady Yue instructed her son", Yue denounces the pirate chief Yang Yao (杨幺) and passes on a chance to become a general in his army. Yue Fei's mother then tells her son, "I, your mother, saw that you did not accept recruitment of the rebellious traitor, and that you willingly endure poverty and are not tempted by wealth and status ... But I fear that after my death, there may be some unworthy creature who will entice you ... For these reason ... I want to tattoo on your back the four characters 'Utmost', 'Loyalty', 'Serve' and 'Nation' ... The Lady picked up the brush and wrote out on his spine the four characters for 'serving the nation with the utmost loyalty' ... [So] she bit her teeth, and started pricking. Having finished, she painted the characters with ink mixed with vinegar so that the colour would never fade."

The Kaifeng Jews, one of many pockets of Chinese Jews living in ancient China, refer to this tattoo in two of their three stele monuments created in 1489, 1512, and 1663. The first mention appeared in a section of the 1489 stele referring to the Jews' "Boundless loyalty to the country and Prince". The second appeared in a section of the 1512 stele about how Jewish soldiers and officers in the Chinese armies were "boundlessly loyal to the country".


Front entrance to Yue Fei's tomb in Hangzhou

In 1126, several years before Yue became a general, the Jurchen-ruled Jin dynasty invaded northern China, forcing the Song dynasty out of its capital Kaifeng and capturing Emperor Qinzong of Song, who was sent into captivity in Huining Prefecture. This marked the end of the Northern Song dynasty, and the beginning of the Southern Song dynasty under Emperor Gaozong.

Yue fought a long campaign against the invading Jurchen in an effort to retake northern China. Just when he was threatening to attack and retake Kaifeng, corrupt officials advised Emperor Gaozong to recall Yue to the capital and sue for peace with the Jurchen. Fearing that a defeat at Kaifeng might cause the Jurchen to release Emperor Qinzong, threatening his claim to the throne, Emperor Gaozong followed their advice, sending 12 orders in the form of 12 gold plaques to Yue Fei, recalling him back to the capital. Knowing that a success at Kaifeng could lead to internal strife, Yue submitted to the emperor's orders and returned to the capital, where he was imprisoned and where Qin Hui would eventually arrange for him to be executed on false charges.

There are conflicting views on how Yue died. According to The History of China: (The Greenwood Histories of the Modern Nations) and other sources, Yue died in prison. The Chronicle of Yue, Prince of E of Song says he was killed in prison. Shuo Yue Quanzhuan states he was strangled to death. It reads, "...[Yue Fei] strode in long steps to the Pavilion of Winds and Waves ... The warders on both sides picked up the ropes and strangled the three men [Yue Fei, Yue Yun, and Zhang Xian (張憲), Yue's subordinate] without further ado ... At the time Lord Yue was 39 years of age and the young lord Yue Yun 23. When the three men returned to Heaven, suddenly a fierce wind rose up wildly and all the fires and lights were extinguished. Black mists filled the sky and sand and pebbles were blown about."

The Secrets of Eagle Claw Kung Fu: Ying Jow Pai comments, "Finally, [Yue Fei] received the 'Twelfth Golden Edict' [from the emperor calling him back to the capital], which if ignored meant banishment. Patriotism demanded that he obey. On his way back to the capital he stopped to rest at a pavilion. Qin Hui anticipated Yue Fei's route and sent some men to lie in wait. When Yue Fei arrived, Qin's men ambushed and murdered him. Just 39 years old, Yue Fei like many good men in history, had a swift, brilliant career, then died brutally while still young."

According to A Chinese Biographical Dictionary, "[Father and son] had not been two months in confinement when Qin Hui resolved to rid himself of his enemy. He wrote out with his own hand an order for the execution of Yue Fei, which was forthwith carried into effect; whereupon he immediate reported that Yue Fei had died in prison", which meant that Qin Hui had Yue and his son executed but reported they both died in captivity.

Other sources say he was poisoned to death. Still, a great number simply say he was executed, murdered, or "treacherously assassinated".

After Yue's execution, a prison officer, Wei Shun (隗順), who admired Yue's character, stole his body and secretly buried it at the Nine Song Cong Temple (九曲叢祠) located outside the Song capital.

Qin Hui's posthumous punishment

Shuo Yue Quanzhuan states after having Yue Fei, Yue Yun, Zhang Xian arrested under false charges, Qin Hui and his wife, Lady Wang (王氏), were sitting by the "eastern window", warming themselves by the fire, when he received a letter from the people calling for the release of Yue Fei. Qin was worried because after nearly two months of torture, he could not get Yue to admit to treason and would eventually have to let him go. However, after a servant girl brought fresh oranges into the room, Lady Wang devised a plan to execute Yue. She told Qin to slip an execution notice inside the skin of an orange and send it to the judge presiding over Yue's case. This way, Yue and his companions would be put to death before the emperor or Qin himself would have to rescind an open order of execution. This conspiracy became known as the "East Window Plot". A novel about this incident, titled ★★★★ Chuang Ji (東窗記; "Tale of the Eastern Window"), was written during the Ming dynasty by an anonymous writer.

When confronted by Han Shizhong on what crime Yue had committed, Qin Hui replied, "Though it isn't sure whether there is something that he did to betray the dynasty, maybe there is." The phrase "perhaps there is", "no reason needed", "groundless", or "baseless" (Chinese: 莫須有; pinyin: mò xū yǒu) has entered Chinese language as a proverb to refer to fabricated charges, which also means 'trumped-up charge', 'setup', 'frameup', or 'concocted charge', in English language. There is a poem hanging on the gate surrounding the statues that reads, "The green hill is fortunate to be the burial ground of a loyal general, the white iron was innocent to be cast into the statues of traitors."

Decades later, his grandson, Yue Ke (岳珂), had retrieved documentary evidence of his grandfather's achievements, and published an adulatory biography of him. In 1162 Emperor Xiaozong of Song posthumously pardoned and rehabilitated his honours. For their part in Yue's death, iron statues of Qin Hui, Lady Wang, and two of Qin's subordinates, Moqi Xie (万俟卨) and Zhang Jun (張俊), were made to kneel before Yue Fei's tomb (located by the West Lake, Hangzhou). For centuries, these statues have been cursed, spat and urinated upon by people. The original castings in bronze were damaged, but later were replaced by images cast in iron, but these were similarly damaged. However now, in modern times, these statues are protected as historical relics. Emperor Xiaozong's court gave proper burial to his remains after Wei Shun's family revealed its location; Wei Shun was then posthumously honored at Yue Fei's hometown at Tangyin County, and a statue of him was made standing at its Yue Fei Temple. A [tomb] was put up in his memory, and he was designated Wumu (武穆; "Martial and Stern"). In 1179 he was canonized as Zhongwu (忠武; "Loyal and Martial").

According to the novel Xi You Bu, a satire of Journey to the West, written in 1641 by the scholar D’ong Ruoyu (also known as D‘ong Yue, 1620–1686), the Monkey King enthusiastically serves in hell as the trial prosecutor of Qin Hui. At one point, the Monkey King asks the spirit of Yue Fei if he would like to drink Qin's blood, but he politely declined.

Yue Fei - Loyal and Martial

Same Soul

Kurt Daluege/Yue Fei

As the section chief Joseph Goebbels fled with his staff, a handful of SS men led by Kurt Daluege were beaten trying to repel the SA. After the incident, Hitler wrote a letter of congratulations to Daluege, stating ... SS-Mann, deine Ehre heißt Treue! ("Man of the SS, your honour is loyalty").

Jul 10, '20
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