(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 mountain bandits. 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.
The common legend of Yue receiving the tattoo from his mother first appeared in The Story of Yue Fei. In chapter twenty-one entitled "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. Lady Yao then tells Yue, "I, your mother, saw that you did not accept recruitment of the rebellious thief, 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 enticed 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."
Adult life of Yue Fei
Portrait of Yue Fei
Southern Song Dynasty artist Liu Songnian (劉松年) (1174–1224), who was best known for his very realistic works, painted a picture called the "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 existence.
Character of 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 Huo (岳和), Yue 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, 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 the 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 Ling Shi (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 the Yue camp. He allowed them to come and tell the 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 General 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 his 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. But once he nearly killed a colleague in a drunken rage, the Emperor made him promise not to drink any more alcohol until the Jin had been driven from China.
Family of Yue Fei
According to The Story of Yue Fei, he had five sons and one daughter. The History of Song records that Yue Yun (岳雲) (1119–1142) was adopted by Yue at the age of twelve 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'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 the year he was sixteen-years-old (1119). However, the account of his marriage is fictional.
The Yue Fei Biography states Yue left his ailing mother with his first wife while he went to fight the Jin. But 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 Jin. Her faithfulness to him and his mother was strengthened by the fear that any infidelity or lacking in her care of Lady Yao would result in reprisal.
He forbade his sons from having concubines, which 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 Fan (翻). He later served in the army under his brother and died in battle in the year 1132.
A northern Chinese from a humble background, he participated in the Song’s attempt to capture the Sixteen Prefectures in 1122 and defended Kaifeng after the Jurchen withdrew in 1127. Yue moved south with the other loyalist forces in 1129, and took an active part in during the Jurchen advance back across the Yangtze that year. He continued to advance in rank, and to increase the size of his army as he repeatedly led successful offensives into north China and put down bandits within Song territory. Several other generals were also successful against the Jurchen, and their combined efforts secured the survival of the dynasty. Yue, like most of them, was committed to recapturing north China.
Stone Lake: The Poetry of Fan Chengda 1126-1193 states, "...Yue Fei 岳飛 (-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 north China from the Jin ... [In 1140,] Yue Fei initiated a general counterattack against the Jin, defeating one enemy after another until he bivouacked 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 Dynasty capital. It is believed that the emperor then ordered Yue Fei to be hanged."
Six methods for deploying an army
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 private 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 severely punished. Strict discipline 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 executed.
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 have a cup to drink from.
Yue Fei's Death
In 1126, several years before Yue Fei became a general, the militant Jurchen of the Jin dynasty invaded the north of the country forcing the Song out of their capital Kaifeng and capturing the emperor of the time Emperor Qinzong who was sent into captivity in Manchuria. This marked the end of the Northern Song, and the beginning of the Southern Song Dynasty under Emperor Gaozong.
Yue Fei fought a long campaign against the invading Jurchen in an effort to retake the north of the country. Just when he was threatening to attack and retake Kaifeng, corrupt officials advised Emperor Gaozong to recall Yue Fei to the capital and sue for peace with the Jurchen. Fearing that a defeat at Kaifeng might cause the Jurchen to release Qinzong, threatening his claim to the throne, the emperor followed their advice. Yue Fei was ordered to return twelve times in the form of twelve gold plaques. Knowing that a success at Kaifeng could lead to internal strife Yue Fei submitted to the orders of his emperor 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 Fei died. According to The History of China: (The Greenwood Histories of the Modern Nations) and other sources, Yue Fei died in prison. The Biography of Song Yue, Prince of E says he was killed in prison. The Story of Yue Fei 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 thirty-nine years of age and the young lord Yue Yun twenty-three. 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."
In the Secrets of Eagle Claw Kung Fu: Ying Jow Pai, it states: "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 thirty-nine 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." Meaning he had Yue and his son executed but reported they both died while in captivity.
Other sources say he was poisoned to death. Still, a great deal simply say he was executed, murdered, or "treacherously assassinated".
Kneeling Iron Statues
The Story of Yue Fei states after having Yue Fei, Yue Yun, Zhang Xian arrested under false charges, Chancellor 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 the General. Qin was worried because after nearly two months of torture, he could not get Yue Fei to admit to false 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 the general. She told Qin to slip an execution notice inside the skin of an orange and send it to the examining judge. This way, the General 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". An anonymous novel was written about this called the Dong Chuang Ji ("Tale of the Eastern Window") during the Ming Dynasty.
When asked by General Han Shizhong 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" (莫须有; mò xū yǒu) has entered the Chinese language as an expression to refer to fabricated charges. For their part in Yue Fei's death, iron statues of Qin Hui, Lady Wang, and two of Qin Hui's subordinates, Moqi Xie (万俟軼) and Zhang Jun (張俊), were made to kneel before Yue Fei's tomb (located by Hangzhou's West Lake). For centuries, these statues have been cursed, spat and urinated upon by young and old. The original castings in bronze were damaged, but later were replaced by images cast in iron, but these were similarly damaged. 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 traitors."
According to one source, "In 1162 the 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 忠武 the Loyal Hero. In 1179 he was canonized as 武穆 (Wu Mu)."
According to the novel Xi You Bu, a satire/ parody of the 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, Monkey asks the spirit of Yue Fei if he would like to drink some of Qin’s blood.
Yue Fei Temple
The Yue Fei Temple or commonly known in Chinese as Yuewang Temple (岳王廟/岳王庙) is a temple built in honor of Yue Fei, a general of the Southern Song dynasty when the capital of China was in Hangzhou. The temple ground is located near the West Lake, in central Hangzhou.
The temple was first constructed in the during the Song Dynasty in 1221 to commemorate Yue Fei. The site includes Yue Fei's Temple, Loyalty Temple and Yue Fei’s Mausoleum inside. The temple was reconstructed several times in later date. The tombs and the tomb sculptures in the temple all dates from the 12th century, and have been meticulously restored.
Talents of Yue Fei
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 Fei studied in the Shaolin Temple 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 Fei 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 Empire. Following his wrongful execution and the disbandment of his armies, Yue's men supposedly traveled all over China spreading the style, which eventually ended right back in Shaolin where it began. Later, a monk named Lai Chin (麗泉) combined this style with Fanziquan, another style attributed to the General, 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 Wudang Boxing believe it’s 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 Taichi; Xingyi’s five fist attacks, which are based on the five chinese elements theory, are similar to Taichi’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 Longban wrote the 'Preface to Six Harmonies Boxing' in the 15th reign year of the 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.
The Ji Gong mentioned above, better known as Ji Jike (姬際可) or Ji Long Feng (姬隆丰), is said to have trained in the Shaolin temple for ten years as a young man and was matchless with the spear. As the story goes, He later traveled to Xongju Cave on Zhongnen Mountain 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 the general 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 the Shaolin temple. 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 (eagel/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: "Wu Mu has passed down the Fanzi Quan which has mystery in its straightforward movements." Wu Mu (武穆) was a Posthumous name given to Yue after his death. One Chuojiao legend states Zhou Tong learned the style from its creator, a wandering Taoist named Deng Liang (邓良), and later passed it onto Yue Fei, who is considered to be the progenitor of the style.
Besides the 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 Folics") 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 Wai Dan (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 Qingong was the source of his great strength and martial arts abilities. Modern practitioners of this style say it was passed down by Yue.
Yue Fei's Connection to Praying Mantis boxing
According to The Story of Yue Fei, the Water Margin bandits Lin Chong and Lu Junyi were former students of Yue’s teacher Zhou Tong. One martial legend states Zhou learned Chuojiao boxing from its originator Deng Liang (邓良) 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 Yuānyāng Tuǐ (鴛鴦腿 - "Mandarin Duck Leg"). In the Water Margin's twenty-ninth chapter, entitled "Wu Song, Drunk, Beats Jiang the Gate Guard Giant", 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 taught Lin and Lu 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. He also says Lu Junyi taught Yan Qing the same martial arts as he learned from Zhou. Master Yuen further comments Zhou later taught Yue the same school and that Yue was the originator of the mantis move "Black Tiger Steeling Heart".
Poetry of Yue Fei
At the age of 30, Yue Fei supposedly wrote his most famous poem, "Manjiang Hong" ("Entirely Red River"). This poem reflects the raw hatred he felt towards the Jin empire, as well as the sorrow he felt when his efforts to recoup northern lands lost to the Jin were halted by Southern Song officials of the "Peace Faction". However, several modern historians, including 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.