Yue Fei (24 March 1103 – 27 January 1142), courtesy name Pengju, was
Han Chinese military general who lived during the Southern Song
dynasty. His ancestral home was in Xiaoti, Yonghe Village, Tangyin,
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
China before being put to death by the Southern Song
government in 1142. 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 standard epitome of loyalty in Chinese culture.
1 Yue Fei’s biographies
1.1 Biography of Yue Fei
1.2 Story of Yue Fei
1.3 Chronicle of Yue, Prince of E of Song
2 Birth and early life
2.1 Martial training
2.2 Yue Fei's tattoo
3 Adult life
3.4 Military record
3.4.1 Six methods for deploying an army
4.1 Qin Hui's posthumous punishment
5.1 Martial arts
5.1.1 Connection to Praying Mantis boxing
7 Folk hero
7.1 Modern references
8 See also
10 External links
Yue Fei’s biographies
Biography of Yue Fei
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,
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".
Story of Yue Fei
Yue Fei's second biography, is a wuxia novel titled Shuo Yue Quan
Zhuan (说岳全传; 說岳全傳; Shuō Yuè Quán Zhuàn; "Telling
the Complete Biography of Yue Fei"), was written by Qian Cai (錢彩),
who lived sometime during the reigns of the Kangxi and Yongzheng
(1661–1735) emperors of the Qing dynasty. A dating symbol in its
preface points either to the year 1684 or to 1744. It was banned
during the reign of the Qianlong Emperor. There are two main versions
of this novel in existence. The original one had 80 chapters. There
was an illustrated edition of this version published in 1912. The
other version also had 80 chapters and was published during the reign
Tongzhi Emperor (1861–1875). Starting in 1964 and finishing
in 1995, Sir Yang Ti-liang, former Chief Justice of Hong Kong, current
Chairman of the Hong Kong Red Cross, combined the first chapters of
these works (in an attempt to weed out the overabundance of
supernatural elements) to create a 79 chapter version with 961 pages,
which he translated into English. It is currently sold under the title
Yue Fei (ISBN 978-962-04-1279-0).
Some people mistakenly take this novel to be historical fact when it
is purely fiction. According to Sir Yang Ti-liang's introduction
to his translation:
The work is a historical novel in form, but it is in fact based almost
mainly on legends which were current amongst the common people for
centuries. Indeed some of the events described there are nothing more
than Qian Cai's own imagination.
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?"
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
Zhou Tong teaching
Yue Fei archery
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
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.
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
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
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
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
Spring and Autumn Annals and the strategies of
Sun Tzu and Wu Qi.
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."
Illustration of Zhou Tong, Yue Fei's teacher
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,
Yue Fei reached adulthood, his maternal grandfather, Yao Daweng
(姚大翁), hired a spear expert, Chen Guang, to teach
Yue Fei spear
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; literally: "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
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
Wudangquan master Fan Keping (范克平), a
collector of rare martial arts manuals, 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;
literally: "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.
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
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."
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."
The "Four Generals of Zhongxing" painted by Liu Songnian during the
Southern Song dynasty.
Yue Fei is the second person from the left. Han
Shizhong is fifth from the left and Zhang Jun is fourth from the left.
Southern Song era artist Liu Songnian (劉松年) (1174–1224), who
was best known for his realistic works, painted a picture, "Four
Generals of Zhongxing" (中興四將). The group portrait shows
eight people — four generals and four attendants. Starting from the
left: attendant, Yue Fei, attendant, Zhang Jun (張浚), Han Shizhong
(韓世忠), attendant, Liu Guangshi (劉光世), and attendant.
According to history professor He Zongli of
Zhejiang University, the
painting shows Yue was more of a scholarly-looking general with a
shorter stature and chubbier build than the statue of him currently
displayed in his tomb in Hangzhou, which portrays him as being tall
and skinny. Shen Lixin, an official with the
Yue Fei Temple
Administration, holds the portrait of
Yue Fei from the "Four Generals
of Zhongxing" to be the most accurate likeness of the general in
Calligraphy written by Yue Fei
In his From Myth to Myth: The Case of Yüeh Fei's Biography, noted
Sinologist Hellmut Wilhelm concluded that
Yue Fei purposely
patterned his life after famous Chinese heroes from dynasties past and
that this ultimately led to his martyrdom. Apart from studying
literature under his father Yue He (岳和),
Yue Fei loved to read
military classics. He favored the
Zuo Zhuan commentary on the Spring
and Autumn Annals and the strategies of
Sun Tzu and Wu Qi. Although
his literacy afforded him the chance to become a scholar, which was a
position held in much higher regard than the common soldiery during
the Song dynasty, Yue chose the military path because there had never
been any tradition of civil service in his family. Therefore he had no
reason to study Confucian classics in order to surpass the
accomplishments of his ancestors or to raise his family's social
status to the next level. His fourth generation ancestor, Yue Huan
(岳渙), had served as a lingshi (令使) (essentially a low-level
functionary), but he was never a full-fledged member of the civil
service rank. A second theory is that he joined the military in
the hopes of emulating his favorite heroes.
Scholars were always welcome in Yue Fei's camp. He allowed them to
come and tell stories and deeds of past heroes to bolster the resolve
of his men. This way he was able to teach them about the warriors that
he had constructed his own life after. He also hoped that one of these
scholars would record his own deeds so he would become a peer amongst
his idols. He is recorded in saying that he wished to be considered
the equal of
Guan Yu and other such famous men from the Three Kingdoms
period. Yue succeeded in this endeavor since later "official
mythology" placed him on the same level as Guan Yu.
Yue was careful to conduct himself as the ideal Confucian gentleman at
all times for fear that any misconduct would be recorded and
criticized by people of later dynasties. However he had his faults. He
had a problem with alcohol during the early part of his military
career. Yue drank in great excess because he believed it fitted the
image of heroes of old. However once he nearly killed a colleague in a
drunken rage, the emperor made him promise not to drink any more until
the Jurchen invaders had been driven away.
Yue Yun (岳雲), Yue Fei's eldest son
According to Shuo Yue Quanzhuan, Yue had five sons and one daughter.
History of Song records that Yue Yun (岳雲) (1119–1142) was
Yue Fei at the age of 12 whilst others claim he was his
biological son; Yue Lei (岳雷), the second, succeeded to his
father's post; Yue Ting (岳霆) was the third; Yue Lin (岳霖) was
the fourth; and Yue Zhen (岳震), the fifth, was still young at the
time of his father's death. Yue Yinping was Yue Fei's daughter. The
novel states she committed suicide after her father's death and became
a fairy in heaven. However, history books do not mention her name and
therefore she should be considered a fictional character. Yue Fei
married the daughter of Magistrate Li when he was 16 years old
(1119). However, the account of his marriage is fictional.
The Biography of
Yue Fei states that Yue left his ailing mother with
his first wife while he went to fight the Jin armies. However she
"left him (and his mother) and remarried." He later took a second
wife and even discussed "affairs" pertaining to his military career
with her. He truly loved her, but his affection for her was second to
his desire to rid
China of the Jurchen invaders. Her faithfulness to
him and his mother was strengthened by the fear that any infidelity or
lacking in her care of Lady Yue would result in reprisal.
Yue forbade his sons from having concubines, although he almost took
one himself. Even though she was presented by a friend, he did not
accept her because she laughed when he asked her if she could "share
the hardships of camp life" with him. He knew she was liberal and
would have sex with the other soldiers.
Though not mentioned in the memoir written by Yue Fei's grandson, some
scholarly sources claim Yue had a younger brother named Yue Fan
(岳翻). He later served in the army under his brother and died in
battle in 1132.
Jin–Song Wars and Battle of Yancheng
Map showing the Song-Jurchen Jin wars with Yue Fei's northern
The son of an impoverished farmer from northern China,
Yue Fei joined
the Song military in 1122. Yue briefly left the army when his
father died in 1123, but returned in 1126. After reenlisting, he
fought to suppress rebellions by local Chinese warlords responsible
for looting in northern China. Local uprisings had diverted needed
resources away from the Song's war against the Jin. Yue
participated in defending
Kaifeng during the second siege of the city
by the Jin in 1127. After
Kaifeng fell, he joined an army in Jiankang
tasked with defending the Yangtze. This army prevented the Jurchens
from advancing to the river in 1129. His rising reputation as a
military leader attracted the attention of the Song court. In 1133, he
was made the general of the largest army near the Central Yangtze.
Between 1134 and 1135, he led a counteroffensive against Qi, a puppet
state supported by the Jin, and secured territories that had been
conquered by the Jurchens. He continued to advance in rank, and to
increase the size of his army as he repeatedly led successful
offensives into northern China. Several other generals were also
successful against the Jin dynasty, and their combined efforts secured
the survival of the Song dynasty. Yue, like most of them, was
committed to recapturing northern China.
Stone Lake: The Poetry of Fan Chengda 1126-1193 states, "...Yue Fei
(-1141)...repelled the enemy assaults in 1133 and 1134, until in
1135 the now confident Song army was in a position to recover all of
China from the Jin dynasty ... [In 1140,]
Yue Fei initiated a
general counterattack against the Jin armies, defeating one enemy
after another until he set up camp within range of the Northern Song
dynasty's old capital city, Kaifeng, in preparation for the final
assault against the enemy. Yet in the same year Qin [Hui] ordered Yue
Fei to abandon his campaign, and in 1141
Yue Fei was summoned back to
the Southern Song capital. It is believed that the emperor then
Yue Fei to be hanged."
Battle of Zhuxianzhen near
Yue Fei defeated the
Jin army in 1140. Painting on the Long Corridor of the Summer Palace
Six methods for deploying an army
Yue Fei's statue outside the
Yue Fei Temple
Yue Fei Temple in Hangzhou
Yue Ke (岳珂) states his grandfather had six special methods for
deploying an army effectively:
He relied more on small numbers of well-trained soldiers than he did
large masses of the poorly trained variety. In this way, one superior
soldier counted for as much as one hundred inferior soldiers. One
example used to illustrate this was when the armies of Han Ching and
Wu Xu were transferred into Yue's camp. Most of them had never seen
battle and were generally too old or unhealthy for sustaining
prolonged troop movement and engagement of the enemy. Once Yue had
filtered out the weak soldiers and sent them home, he was only left
with a meager thousand able-bodied soldiers. However, after some
months of intense training, they were ready to perform almost as well
as the soldiers who had served under Yue for years.
When his troops were not on military campaigns to win back lost
Chinese territory in the north, Yue put his men through intense
training. Apart from troop movement and weapons drills, this training
also involved them leaping over walls and crawling through moats in
full battle garb. The intensity of the training was such that the men
would not even try to visit their families if they passed by their
homes while on movement and even trained on their days off.
Justice in rewards and punishments
He rewarded his men for their merits and punished them for their
boasting or lack of training. Yue once gave a foot soldier his own
personal belt, silver dinner ware, and a promotion for his meritorious
deeds in battle. While on the reverse, he once ordered his son Yue Yun
to be decapitated for falling off his horse after failing to jump a
moat. His son was only saved after Yue's officers begged his mercy.
There were a number of soldiers that were either dismissed or executed
because they boasted of their skills or failed to follow orders.
He always delivered his orders in a simple manner that was easy for
all of his soldiers to understand. Whoever failed to follow them were
While marching about the countryside, he never let his troops destroy
fields or to pillage towns or villages. He made them pay a fair price
for goods and made sure crops remained intact. A soldier once stole a
hemp rope from a peasant so he could tie a bale of hay with it. When
Yue discovered this, he questioned the soldier and had him
Close fellowship with his men
He treated all of his men like equals. He ate the same food as they
did and slept out in the open as they did. Even when a temporary
shelter was erected for him, he made sure several soldiers could find
room to sleep inside before he found a spot of his own. When there was
not enough wine to go around, he would dilute it with water so every
soldier would receive a portion.
Front entrance to Yue Fei's tomb in
120°7′48.64″E / 30.2541750°N 120.1301778°E /
Imperial Order to General
Yue Fei (《賜岳飛手勅》), Emperor
Gaozong of Song, National Palace Museum, Taipei
In 1126, several years before Yue became a general, the Jurchen-ruled
Jin dynasty invaded northern China, forcing the
Song dynasty out of
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 Jurchens 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 Jurchens. Fearing that a
Kaifeng might cause the Jurchens 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
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
Qin Hui's posthumous punishment
Statues of Lady Wang (秦王氏) and
Qin Hui (秦檜) at the Yue Fei
Statues of Moqi Xie (万俟卨) and Zhang Jun (張俊) at the Yue Fei
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 Dong Chuang Ji (東窗記; "Tale of the Eastern
Window"), was written during the
Ming dynasty by an anonymous
Map of the
West Lake with the location of the Temple of Yue Fei
When asked 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"
or "could be true" (Chinese: 莫須有; pinyin: mò xū yǒu, often
mistranslated from Ancient to Contemporary Chinese as "you committed
no crime") has entered the Chinese dictionary as an expression to
refer to fabricated charges. Decades later, his grandson, Yue Ke
(岳珂), had retrieved documentary evidence of his grandfather's
achievements, and published an adulatory biography of him. Emperor
Xiaozong eventually posthumously pardoned and rehabilitated Yue. 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.
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
Emperor Xiaozong of Song
Emperor Xiaozong of Song restored his honours, and gave proper
burial to his remains. 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 Dong Ruoyu (also known as Dong 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
Yue Fei if he would like to drink Qin's blood.
See also: Military and civilian combat arts of Zhou Tong
The two styles most associated with Yue are
Eagle Claw and Xingyi
boxing. One book states Yue created
Eagle Claw for his enlisted
soldiers and Xingyi for his officers. Legend has it that Yue
studied in the
Shaolin Monastery with a monk named Zhou Tong and
learned the "elephant" style of boxing, a set of hand techniques with
great emphasis on qinna (joint-locking). Other tales say
he learned this style elsewhere outside the temple under the same
master. Yue eventually expanded elephant style to create the Yibai
Lingba Qinna (一百零八擒拿 - "108 Locking Hand Techniques") of
the Ying Sao (Eagle Hands) or Ying Kuen (Eagle Fist). After
becoming a general in the imperial army, Yue taught this style to his
men and they were very successful in battle against the armies of the
Jin dynasty. Following his wrongful execution and the disbandment
of his armies, Yue's men supposedly traveled all over
the style, which eventually ended right back in Shaolin where it
began. Later, a monk named Li Quan (麗泉) combined this style with
Fanziquan, another style attributed to Yue, to create the modern day
form of Northern Ying Jow Pai boxing.
According to legend, Yue combined his knowledge of internal martial
arts and spearplay learned from Zhou Tong (in Shaolin) to create the
linear fist attacks of Xingyi boxing. One book claims he
studied and synthesized Buddhism's Tendon Changing and Marrow Washing
qigong systems to create Xingyi. On the contrary, proponents of
Wudangquan believe it is possible that Yue learned the style in the
Wudang Mountains that border his home province of Henan. The reasons
they cite for this conclusion are that he supposedly lived around the
same time and place as Zhang Sanfeng, the founder of t'ai chi;
Xingyi's five fist attacks, which are based on the Five Chinese
Elements theory, are similar to tai-chi's "Yin-yang theory"; and both
theories are Taoist-based and not Buddhist. The book Henan
Orthodox Xingyi Quan, written by Pei Xirong (裴锡荣) and Li
Ying'ang (李英昂), states Xingyi master Dai Longbang
...wrote the 'Preface to Six Harmonies Boxing' in the 15th reign year
Qianlong Emperor . Inside it says, '...when [Yue Fei] was
a child, he received special instructions from Zhou Tong. He became
extremely skilled in the spear method. He used the spear to create
methods for the fist. He established a method called Yi Quan [意拳].
Mysterious and unfathomable, followers of old did not have these
skills. Throughout the Jin, Yuan and Ming dynasties few had his art.
Only Ji Gong had it.
Inside the grounds of Yue Fei's tomb and shrine in Hangzhou; the
inscriptions at the far end read "Serve the country with the utmost
The Ji Gong mentioned above, better known as Ji Jike (姬際可) or Ji
Longfeng (姬隆丰), is said to have trained in
Shaolin Monastery for
ten years as a young man and was matchless with the spear. As the
story goes, he later traveled to Xongju Cave on Mount Zhongnan to
receive a boxing manual written by Yue Fei, from which he learned
Xingyi. However, some believe Ji actually created the style himself
and attributed it to
Yue Fei because he was fighting the Manchus,
descendants of the Jurchens who Yue had struggled against. Ji
supposedly created it after watching a battle between an eagle and a
bear during the Ming dynasty. Other sources say he created it
while training in Shaolin. He was reading a book and looked up to see
two roosters fighting, which inspired him to imitate the fighting
styles of animals. Both versions of the story (eagle /
bear and roosters) state he continued to study the actions of animals
and eventually increased the cadre of animal forms.
Several other martial arts have been attributed to Yue Fei, including
Yuejiaquan (Yue Family Boxing),
Fanziquan (Tumbling Boxing), and
Chuojiao quan (Feet-Poking Boxing), among others. The
"Fanzi Boxing Ballad" says: "Wumu has passed down the
has mystery in its straightforward movements." Wumu (武穆) was a
posthumous name given to Yue after his death. One
states Zhou Tong learned the style from its creator, a wandering
Taoist named Deng Liang (鄧良), and later passed it onto Yue Fei,
who is considered to be the progenitor of the style.
Besides martial arts, Yue is also said to have studied traditional
Chinese medicine. He understood the essence of Hua Tuo's Wu Qin Xi
(五禽戲 – "Five Animal Frolics") and created his own form of
"medical qigong’’ known as the Ba Duan Jin (八段錦 – "Eight
Pieces of Brocade"). It is considered a form of
Waidan (外丹 –
"External Elixir") medical qigong. He taught this qigong to his
soldiers to help keep their bodies strong and well-prepared for
battle. One legend states that Zhou Tong took young Yue to
meet a Buddhist hermit who taught him
Emei Dapeng Qigong
(峨嵋大鵬氣功). His training in Dapeng
Qigong was the source of
his great strength and martial arts abilities. Modern practitioners of
this style say it was passed down by Yue.
Connection to Praying Mantis boxing
According to Shuo Yue Quanzhuan,
Lin Chong and
Lu Junyi of the 108
Water Margin were former students of Yue's teacher Zhou
Tong. One legend states Zhou learned
Chuojiao boxing from its
originator Deng Liang (鄧良) and then passed it onto Yue Fei, who is
sometimes considered the progenitor of the style.
Chuojiao is also
known as the "
Water Margin Outlaw style" and Yuanyang Tui (鴛鴦腿 -
"Mandarin Duck Leg"). In chapter 29 of Water Margin, titled "Wu
Song beats Jiang the Door God in a drunken stupor", it mentions Wu
Song, another of Zhou's fictional students, using the "Jade
Circle-Steps with Duck and Drake feet". A famous folklore Praying
Mantis manuscript, which describes the fictional gathering of eighteen
martial arts masters in Shaolin, lists
Lin Chong (#13) as a master of
"Mandarin ducks kicking technique". This creates a folklore
connection between Yue and Mantis boxing.
Lineage Mantis master Yuen Man Kai openly claims Zhou Tong taught Lin
Lu Junyi the "same school" of martial arts that was later
combined with the aforementioned seventeen other schools to create
Mantis fist. However, he believes Mantis fist was created during
the Ming dynasty, and was therefore influenced by these eighteen
schools from the Song dynasty. He also says
Lu Junyi taught Yan Qing
the same martial arts as he learned from Zhou Tong. Yuen further
comments that Zhou Tong later taught
Yue Fei the same martial art and
that Yue was the originator of the mantis move "Black Tiger Stealing
At the age of 30, Yue supposedly wrote his most celebrated poem, "Man
Jiang Hong" ("Entirely Red River") with a subtitle of "Xie Huai"
("Writing about What I Thought"). This poem reflects the raw hatred he
felt towards the Jurchen-ruled Jin dynasty, as well as the sorrow he
felt when his efforts to recoup northern lands lost to Jin were halted
by Southern Song officials of the "Peace Faction". However, several
modern historians, including the late Princeton University Prof. James
T.C. Liu, believe certain phrasing in the poem dates its creation to
the early 16th century, meaning Yue did not write it.
Yue Fei is also the author of at least two other poems, "Xiao Chong
Shan" ("Small Hills") and another "Man Jiang Hong" with a subtitle of
"Deng Huang He Lou You Gan" ("My Feelings When I Was Climbing the
Yellow Crane Pavillion").
Among Yue Fei's descendants was Yue Shenglong 岳昇龍 and his son
Qing dynasty official Yue Zhongqi, who served as Minister of
Defence and Governor-General of Shaanxi and Gansu provinces during the
reign of the Yongzheng Emperor.
Yue Zhongqi conquered Tibet for the
Qing during the
Dzungar–Qing War and attacked the Dzungars at Urumqi
in Xinjiang. The Oirats were battled against by Yue
Yue Zhongqi lived at the Ji Xiaolan Residence.
Another notable descendant of
Yue Fei was Yue Yiqin, a flying ace of
the Republic of
China during the Second Sino-Japanese War.
Yue Fei's stature in Chinese history rose to that of a national folk
hero after his execution. Qin Hui, and in some cases Emperor
Gaozong, were blamed by later historians for their supposed role in
Yue Fei's execution and conciliatory stance with the Jin dynasty.
The allegations that
Qin Hui conspired with the Jin to execute Yue Fei
are popular in Chinese literature, but have never been proven. The
Yue Fei differed from the later myths that grew from his
exploits. The portrayal of Yue as a scholar-general is only
partially true. He was a skilled general, and may have been partially
literate in Classical Chinese, but he was not an erudite Confucian
scholar. Contrary to traditional legends, Yue was not the sole
Chinese general engaged in the offensive against the Jurchens. He was
one of many generals that fought against the Jin in northern China,
and unlike Yue Fei, some of his peers were genuine members of the
scholarly elite. Many of the exaggerations of Yue Fei's life can
be traced to a biography written by his grandson, Yue Ke. Yue Fei's
status as a folk hero strengthened in the
Yuan dynasty and had a large
impact on Chinese culture. Temples and shrines devoted to Yue Fei
were constructed in the Ming dynasty. A Chinese
World War II
World War II anthem
alludes to lyrics said to have been written by Yue Fei.
He also sometimes appears as a door god in partnership with the deity
Yue Fei is no longer a national hero; in 2002 the official guidelines
for history teachers said that he should no longer carry the title.
This was because
Yue Fei had defended
China from the Jurchen people,
who are presently considered to be part of the Chinese nation.
Therefore, concern for the "unity of nationalities" in China
Yue Fei was seen as representing only one subgroup
within China, and not the "entire Chinese nation as presently
The ROCS Yueh Fei (FFG-1106), a Cheng Kung-class guided-missile
frigate of the Republic of
China Navy, is named after Yue.
Guy Gavriel Kay
Guy Gavriel Kay cites
Yue Fei as having inspired the
character Ren Daiyan in his novel River of Stars
(ISBN 978-0-670-06840-1), which is set in a fantasy world based
on Song Dynasty China.
Yue Fei is one of the 32 historical figures who appear as special
characters in the video game Romance of the
Three Kingdoms XI by
Media about Yue Fei
History of the Song dynasty
Timeline of the Jin–Song wars
Yue Fei Temple
Tomb of Yue Fei
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China to Commemorate Ancient Patriot Yue Fei".
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^ Yue Ke, E Guo Jintuo Xubian (鄂國金佗續編)
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History of Song Chapter 365
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Song.(See here also)
^ Yue Fei's facelift sparks debate Archived September 29, 2007, at the
^ Prof. Hellmut Wilhelm's biography and accomplishments Archived
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^ Kaplan: pg. 5
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China, Human tradition around the world, No. 4. Scholarly Resources
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^ a b Mote 1999, p. 300.
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^ a b Mote 1999, p. 301.
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Eagle Claw Kung
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Cyril Birch. Indiana University Press; 2nd edition, 2002
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to Yue Fei.
Yue Fei at Project Gutenberg
Works by or about
Yue Fei at Internet Archive
Yue Fei at
LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)
(in Chinese) "History of the Song" Chinese entry
(in Chinese) 470 volume version of the "History of the Song"
(in Chinese) "The Story of Yue Fei"
(in Chinese) "Yue Fei's Biography" from the History of the Song
"精忠报国 Utmost Loyalty to the Country", a famous chinese song
related to Yue Fei
Song dynasty topics
Song dynasty coinage
Science and technology
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