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Famous People from Ancient China: Yue Fei

Battle of Zhuxianzhen near Kaifeng in Henan, where Yue Fei defeated the Jin army in 1140. Painting on the Long Corridor of the Summer Palace in Beijing. (Image:  wikimedia /  CC0 1.0)
Battle of Zhuxianzhen near Kaifeng in Henan, where Yue Fei defeated the Jin army in 1140. Painting on the Long Corridor of the Summer Palace in Beijing. (Image: wikimedia / CC0 1.0)

High on the list of famous people from ancient China is the famous military strategist and anti-Jurchen hero Yue Fei (1103-1142), who was born during the warring period of the Northern Song Dynasty in Tangyin City, Henan Province, China.

Although Yue Fei’s parents were very poor farmers, he was still able to dedicate time to studying history books and the art of war, as well as martial arts. According to records from the Song Dynasty, he was not only a good archer, but also skilled in the use of various weapons. He killed many well-known rivals on the battlefield and was regarded as peerless.

Yue Fei (1103-1142), who was born during the warring period of the Northern Song Dynasty in Tangyin City, Henan Province, China. (Image: Mozzan via wikimedia CC BY-SA 3.0)

Yue Fei was born during the warring period of the Northern Song Dynasty. (Image: Mozzan via wikimedia CC BY-SA 3.0)

In 1122, the northern Jurchens invaded the Song Dynasty. Due to the incompetence of those in power, as well as rampant government corruption, the Song Dynasty kept losing ground and was about to be overrun. Yue Fei was 15 years old when he joined the army. When his father died, he quit the army and returned home to mourn his father’s passing. In 1126, when the Jurchens staged a large-scale attack on the Central Plain, Yue Fei rejoined the army.

Yue Fei's statue outside the Yue Fei Temple in Hangzhou. (Image: JesseW900 via wikimedia CC BY-SA 4.0)

Yue Fei’s statue outside the Yue Fei Temple in Hangzhou. (Image: JesseW900 via wikimedia CC BY-SA 4.0)

Before he left home, his mother had the phrase “serve the country loyally” tattooed on his back. He quickly rose through the ranks due to his bravery and success on the battlefield. When the capital was surrounded by the Jurchens, Yue Fei followed General Zong Ze, the deputy commanding officer, into battle and repeatedly defeated the Jurchens. Once, Yue Fei led 500 soldiers into battle and defeated 10,000 Jurchens. Zong Ze praised Yue Fei for his bravery, wisdom, and unmatched battle skills.

yue fei tattoo

‘Serve the country loyally’ was tattooed on Yue Fei’s back. (Brad T./China Gaze)

Yue Fei’s superior military prowess really began to show itself after he was promoted to the rank of commanding officer. He never followed principles blindly and believed:

Zong Ze was in agreement with Yue Fei on that point. Yue Fei’s war strategies and martial artist skills seemed to come to him very naturally. He also said that divine intervention played a role in his achievements.

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