Yue Fei (March 24, 1103 – January 27, 1142), style name Pengju, was a military general of 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 the defense of Southern Song against invaders from the Jurchen-ruled Jin Dynasty in northern China. After he joined the army, he and his troops continuously won wars against the Jin. However, after Yue and his army had recovered most of the lost territory, Emperor Gaozong (1107 – 1187) embraced the evil plot of Qin Kuai (1090 – 1155, Prime Minister of the Song Dynasty) and surrendered to the Jin. As a result, Yue Fei was falsely accused and later secretly killed in jail. A few years later, the wrong was put right when Emperor Xiao Zong (1163 – 1189) came to power. He was granted the posthumous name of Wumu by Emperor Xiaozong in 1169, and later granted the posthumous title of Prince of E (鄂王) by Emperor Ningzong in 1211. Widely seen as a patriot and national hero in China, since after his death, Yue Fei has evolved into a standard epitome of loyalty in Chinese culture.
The Mausoleum of General Yue Fei has been demolished and renovated several times. The existing one was rebuilt in 1715 in the Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1911) and comprehensively repaired in 1979.
A national hero with a sad end, Yue Fei had successfully kept the northern Jin invaders out of the Chinese soil in 12th century during the Song Dynasty. Betrayed by two imperial officials, Qin Hui and Zhang Jun, General Yue Fei was sent into prison. He said before being executed, “The heaven knows what I have done to my country, the evidence of such an unjust case will be clear in the future !” After his death, at risk of being caught, a prison officer carried the body out of Hangzhou. Yue Fei was buried in the courtyard of a temple. 21 years later, Emperor Xiaozong of the Song Dynasty ordered to recover the general’s reputation and offered a reward of 500 taels of money (so large an amount of cash at that time) for whom found his body. Yue Fei was re-buried near the West Lake in Hangzhou. The place is now called the Yue Miao (The Mausoleum of General Yue Fei).
Built in 1221 and worn by time, the Mausoleum of General Yue Fei was then repaired and renovated in 1978. You’ll find a two-storey majestic building in front of you, a tranquil garden with tall trees is just a short distance away. In the middle of Grand Hall of the mausoleum, the big statue of General Yue Fei sits. It has brilliant colors and wears like a warrior, “Return Me of My Motherland” are the words by General Yue Fei inscribed on the big tablet hung at the top of the wall behind the majestic statue. At the back of the Grand Hall displays murals which are the story of the general’s life told by his mother.
In the Graveyard of General Yue Fei, pairs of stone horse, tiger and goat statues are stood. The architecture of Yue Fei’s Tomb maintains the Song Dynasty style after the renovation in 1970s. It is quite interesting that the Chinese hate the bad guy Qin Hui so much, the steel statues of him, his wife and the two accomplices kneeling here are spat on and cursed by people!
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.”