Old Yue Fei paper - part 2
Posted March 12th, 2012 at 08:28 AM by ghostexorcist
Updated April 5th, 2012 at 05:28 AM by ghostexorcist
Updated April 5th, 2012 at 05:28 AM by ghostexorcist
Archive #2: Old Yue Fei Paper - Part II
GO TO PART ONE
The fourth was: clear orders. He gave his soldiers clear delineations and his commissions were always clear and simple, so that they could be easily followed. Whoever went against them was invariably punished.
The fifth was: strict discipline. Even when his army was on the march, there was never the slightest misdemeanor such as the trampling of the people’s fields, damaging of agricultural labor, or inadequate payment for purchases. This he would never condone. A soldier once had taken a hempen rope form a man in order to tie his hay. He questioned him as to where he had got it and had him immediately decapitated.
The sixth was: community of pleasure and toil. He treated his men with grave [en]. He always ate the same things as the lowest of his soldiers. When there was wine or meat he shared it equally with all his subordinates. When there was not enough wine to go around, he had it diluted with water until everybody got a mouthful. When the army was on the march, he camped in he open together with his officers and soldiers; even when quarters had been prepared for him, he would not enter them alone.
To be sure, these rules and episodes have been compiled by a pious grandson. There is no reason, however, to doubt their authenticity. They all fit into the character of a man who genuinely endeavored to live up to his ideal of a warrior-hero.
The prestige of Yüeh Fei’s army and the stature of his personality soon attracted a large number of civilian hangers-on. In this respect, Yüeh Fei’s army was not unique; the great armies of Liu Kuang-shih,(26)  Han Shih-chung,(27) and other also welcomed and employed civilian degree-holders, who were used for administrative tasks or just kept around to lend color to the camp and wit to the feasts. They were called “serving personnel” (hsiao-yung shih-ch’en). Their exact functions have to my knowledge not yet been properly explored, but they seem to have been the forerunners of the mu-yu of later times.(28) Scholars were welcome at Yüeh Fei’s camp at all periods of his career. Yüeh Fei had genuine respect for scholarship, and he also use the scholars to enliven the spirit of his soldiery by having them recount the great deeds of the heroic warriors of the past. These deeds were no doubt told in the legendarized versions already current in Yüeh Fei’s time. Thus Yüeh kept before his soldiers the models on which his own life was patterned. He did not even hide his desire to go down in history as the peer of these pas heroes and may have hoped that among the scholars were some who would help to establish his future position as a mythological hero. He specifically mentioned that he wanted to be likened o the great men of the period of the Three Kingdoms, Kuan Yü in particular. Later official mythology has actually put him on a par with his great model.(29)
Yüeh Fei’s respect for scholars is referred to repeatedly and it is also recorded that he discussed current affairs with them and listened to their advice. It was in one of these conversations that Yüeh Fei, who was always quick to coin a winged phrase, was asked when the empire would have peace again and replied: “When the civilian officials do not love money, and when the military officials are not afraid to die, the world will get peace all by itself.(30) How could he help growing into a myth when he could answer the burning human question of his time with such a highly quotable phrase? He also said, however, that his great care always to exhibit “virtuous” conduct was motivated by the fear that the Confucianists in his camp might otherwise record personal behavior for which later generations would condemn him. Thus he built up an image of his personality not only for his time but for posterity.
Parenthetically, his relationship to women might be mentioned here, as it brings out the contours of his character. His extreme filial piety toward his mother is of course widely praised. However, when his position in the north became untenable and he had to retreat southward with his army, he left her behind in the care of his wife. Circumstances dictated this rather unfilial behavior, unfilial in particular because he must have known that his wife was not one to endure adversity. Actually his wife left him (and his mother) and remarried. His mother subsequently experienced some real hardships. Eventually rescuing his  mother, he settled her adequately but not luxuriously in the Lushan Mountains near Kiukiang. At her death in 1136, Yüeh Fei immediately left camp for the prescribed mourning, even though the military situation mad his personal conduct of affairs imperative. A number of imperial messages to recall him to active duty went unheeded; and only repeated pressure from his officers “to substitute loyalty for piety” brought him back to the front.
His relationship to his second wife was more intimate. He even discussed affairs with her. But she always had to take second place o his mother, whose care, under pain of severe reprimands, was her responsibility. He did not tolerate her interference with his plans, even if this concerned her own safety and that of his mother.
He did not permit his sons to have concubines. Once a colleague, who had been entertained at his camp and apparently found his hospitality somewhat dull because of his absence of girls, sent him a girl as a present. Before he had et eyes her he asked her through a screen whether she would be willing to share the hardships of camp life. When she giggled in reply, he took that as a sign that she was frivolous and sent her back. Had she possessed the presence of mind to give him a heroic reply, he would have kept her. One is reminded of the role the girl plays in the life of the hero in Western films.(31)
He did drink rather heavily during his earlier career, apparently believing this fitted the image of a martial hero. Only the emperor’s personal intervention, after Yüeh had almost killed a colleague in drunken anger, exacted from him a promise not to touch wine again until the Chin had been defeated.
Yüeh Fei’s conception of the empire was far from petty. What he wanted restored was not only the original frontier of Northern Sung, but all Chinese lands north of it, including Peking and Tatung, and beyond that the territory up to the passes. Early in his career, when he was still serving under Chang So, he argued this conception in a colorful and symbol-ridden exposition, which reveals the strength of his emotional commitment to his goal as well as the soundness of his strategic reasoning. The conception remained his own, however, and not the court’s.
When he discussed restoration in his memorials to the emperor, the great Han model loomed large in his argument. The element he took from this model was the inspired leadership of the Kuang-wu emperor. But the role of the general Kuo Tzu-I, who had restored the tottering T’ang empire, also figures conspicuously in his reasoning. The task of restoration had been carried out by a great military leader and Yüeh Fei was seeking the analogous role.
 But again it has to be stressed that Yüeh Fei’s commitment to this empire—his patriotism—was as much an emotional commitment as a reflection of conscious or even studied attitudes. This is revealed in the few remaining fragments of hi nonofficial prose, a handful of poems and three songs. No one who was not genuinely committed to the point of obsession would have been able to produce as powerful a patriotic song as his Man-chiang-hung. It needed a Yüeh Fei to garb this emotion with words that have remained symbols of patriotism ever since.(32)
My hair bristles in my helmetThe last two verses of this song speak his dream of recovering the north, the old mountains and rivers, and his dream of entering the palace gate for his final and triumphant audience. His conception of and commitment to the empire included its symbolic actual head, the emperor. The special flavor of Yüeh Fei’s loyalty and subservience reveals his character structure more clearly than anything else. Again there is no doubt that Yüeh Fei felt genuinely loyal to the emperor and the he genuinely felt himself to be a servant in the cause of which the emperor was the highest exponent. But again his image of the emperor was idealized. What he revered was the model emperor, composite image of all the model emperors of the past, the saint of immaculate virtues—an image that had been built up by successive generations of Chinese political philosophers. This emperor image coincided with the actual Emperor Kao only accidentally. In the case of Yüeh Fei this incongruity meant, however, more than the implicit tension between the ideal and its actual representative. He himself strove to be a model and exemplar, and his loyalty was attached to the emperor only in so far as he was, in the eyes of Yüeh Fei, a model and exemplar. To those mani-  festations of the emperor’s character and the emperor’s will that could not be thus designated he owed nothing. Loyal to his own ideals and goals, and confident of the power of his army, Yüeh in his responses to imperial commands frequently came close to insubordination. It is little wonder that an autocratic emperor like Kao-tsung had little use for Yüeh Fei’s kind of loyalty.
I lean against the railing, the pattering rain has ceased.
I raise my eyes, and toward the sky I utter a long-drawn shout.
My breast is filled with violence.
At the age of thirty fame and merits are but earth and dust,
Eight thousand miles of land are like the moon covered with clouds.
Do not tarry! The hair of youth grows white.
Oh, vain sorrows.
The shame of the year Ching-k’ang  not yet wiped away,
When will the hate of the subject come to an end?
Oh, let us drive endless chariots through the Ho-lan Pass.
My fierce ambition is to feed upon the flesh of the Huns,
And, laughing, I thirst for the blood of the barbarians.
Oh, let everything begin afresh.
Let all the rivers and mountains be recovered.
Before we pay our respect one more to the Emperor.
There are accounts of Yüeh Fei’s efforts to persuade the emperor to act more in accord with the ideal. Yüeh had been received in audience by the future Emperor Kao-tsung, at that time still the Prince of K’ang, in 1127, and apparently made a brilliant impression. But immediately after Kao-tsung had ascended the throne, Yüeh Fei, then barely in his mid-twenties, submitted with touching naïveté—or was it naïveté?—a memorial urging the emperor to provide the inspired leadership Yüeh Fei felt was needed. Yüeh could hardly have been surprised that his newly gained first official title was taken away from him for this presumption. On another occasion Yüeh Fei attempted to influence an imperial decision regarding the heir apparent. Again he was rebuffed with the rebuke that a military official should not interfere in civilian affairs.(33)
This does not mean the Yüeh did not show satisfaction and pride whenever imperial grace came his way. When he was made Regional Commandant (chieh-tu-shih) in 1134, that is, in his early thirties, he had even the hybris to lien himself to the founder of the dynasty, the only person coming readily to his mind who at an equally early age had achieved such a high position. He responded to imperial grace always with the utmost formality. Going beyond the dictates of propriety, he declined the honor of the chieh-tu shih four times; his appointment to the position of a Lesser Protector (shao-pao) he even declined five times. Such excesses of modesty were interpreted as arrogance.
In the foregoing discussion the information on Yüeh Fei’s character has been telescoped. Incidents and reactions from different parts of his life have been used to illustrate a certain trait or a certain attitude. It is not by chance that our sources induce this kind of treatment. They already present a highly typified Yüeh Fei, a man who from cradle to grave was consistent and uniform. A closer scrutiny of the verifiable and datable material reveals, however, that there was an unusual consistency in his character structure. There is very little evidence of a developing and maturing process. He appears to have entered the stage with a set of ready-made attitudes tow which he stuck unflinchingly until his final hours. It is the force of the Chinese tradition, more specifically the Confucian tradition—generalized to be sure and congealed into a myth—that imposed this consistency on him and that makes him look  like a bronze monument rather than a living human being, more immoveable than a mountain, as the Chin said of him. It was natural for Chu Hsi to praise Yüeh Fei as the unsurpassed hero of his time.
What did change, however, were the circumstances of his life, which lead him with clocklike precision to penultimate triumph and ultimate disaster. The main stations along this fatal road are quickly recounted. When, after the capitulation of Tu Ch’ing in 1129, the position of Yüeh’s army in the north became untenable, he withdrew, as did the other army leaders, to the south of the Yangtze. He stationed his army at I-Hsing, immediately west of the T’ai-hu lake. This was not an assigned garrison but a place of his own choice, and again for a time he and his army lead an almost entirely independent existence. In the general military debacle, his army was, however, too strong a force for the court to neglect. Thus he was gradually raised in rank and responded to imperial calls for assistance. Several skirmishes with Chin troops are recorded after they had crossed the Yangtze, and in 1130 Yüeh was mainly responsible for raising the siege of Chien-k’ang (Nanking). He was then stationed at T’ai-chou (north of the Yangtze, east of Yangchow) to guard the frontier, then shifted to Hung-chou (west of Lake Poyang), Chiang-chou (present-day Kiukiang), and eventually in 1132 to O-chou (present-day Wuchang).
During this period he was mainly active in suppressing "bandits." The banditry he had to cope with was of two entirely different types. The first was represented by military leaders who, like Yüeh himself, had succeeded in extricating themselves and their armies from the military debacle in the north and had attempted to carve out for themselves independent spheres of activity south of the river. Formally, their position differed very little from Yüeh's during his I-hsing period. Unlike Yüeh, however, they had failed to recognize and acknowledge the gradual reassertion of imperial power and organized government.
The second type of banditry was local uprisings, unconnected with the development in the north. One of these was the revolt led by Li Tun-jen in Kiangsi, in which gentry influence seems to have been strong. The most interesting among these movements is the one founded by Chung Hsiang and later led by Yang Yao (original name T'ai). This rebellion seems to have had a secret-society type of ideology with certain egalitarian slogans. What Chung vowed to eradicate by his movement were: officials, scholars, monks, shamanistic medicine men, and sorcerers. The power of his organization must have been quite formidable, as he could boast of a navy that included paddle-wheel ships "swift like birds."(34) Contemporaries point out that this movement  was an expression of genuine popular feelings, quite different I nature from the roaming army bandits, and that it should be utilized rather than suppressed. As it stood in the way of his cause Yüeh Fei suppressed it as swiftly and as skillfully as he had suppressed the others.
It is interesting to note that later in his career Yüeh Fei did not hesitate to recognize, and cooperate with, local independent movements. His successes during his northern campaigns are at least in part explained by the fact that he could rely on these "rebellions." They paved the way for his army and acted as his intelligence.
Beginning in 1134, Yüeh Fei's army was active in a number of major campaigns against "the great enemy," the China and the puppet state of Ch'i, which the Chin had established as a buffer between themselves and the Sung. These campaigns were conceived with in the framework of an empire-wide strategic plan and had to be coordinated with the movements of other major bodies of troops. Several of these campaigns were designated to secure the Huai-hsi region, others led deep into central and western North China. In 1134 his army went up to Kuo-chou and Ch'ang-shui on the one hand and to Ts'ai-chou on the other; and in his final and most penetrating campaign of 1140, Yüeh proceeded up to Ying-ch'ang and from there sent pincers to Lo-yang and Ch'en-chou.(35) In these campaigns Yüeh scored major successes against the army of Ch'i and finally also against the armies of Chin. It might be true that the Chin felt so hard pressed that they contemplated withdrawing beyond the Yellow River, as Yüeh stated in one of his memorials.
This last major campaign of Yüeh's army coincided, however, with the endeavors of the sung court to come to an understanding with the Chin by surrendering Sung claims to the territory north of the Huai and submitting to a series of other conditions made by the China. In the last phase of this campaign, the understanding had actually been concluded. The Sung court had therefore a vital interest in having the advance armies withdrawn in accordance with the conditions of the treaty. This included Yüeh Fei's army. The emperor is reported (possibly spuriously) to have sent twelve urgent messages within one day ordering Yüeh Fei to withdraw. Yüeh did withdraw, not simply in obedience to an imperial command, but in response to the pressure of his officers, who pointed out that after the other armies had withdrawn, their position was strategically untenable. He had to withdraw or lose his army. Yüeh was aware that this was the end of his dreams. He is reported to have said: "The merits of ten years are wiped out in one morning; all the recovered territory is completely lost in one day. The altars of the empire, its rivers and mountains, will hardly be restored again. The  universal world [ch'ien-k'un shih-chieh] can no longer be recovered."
What had happened here? Why is it that the Sung court conceded defeat in the face of a very real chance of victory?
After the debacle of 1126, the Sung court had a choice of two policies—restoration or retrenchment. A restoration policy would, as mentioned, have involved a pre-eminence of the military and a great amount of freedom of action for the military leaders. As long as the Chin or Ch'i were on the attack, the court could not but give the military free play. As soon as the Chin showed signs that they wanted to come to terms, the Sung court chose the second way, that of retrenchment. The military leaders could not be left under the impression that they were indispensable. Strict civilian control was more important than lost territory.
In the late thirties, Ch'in Kuei was responsible for the implementation of this policy. He therefore was made the villain in the piece, and was actually the one primarily responsible for the dirty work involved. It was, however, Emperor Kao-tsung's policy, and many besides Ch'in Kuei had argued for it. To break the license of the generals was a task of greater importance than to beat the Chin. This is most dramatically expressed in a remark of Emperor Kao-tsung, after one of the attacks of Ch'i had been turned back: "What makes me happy is not that Ch'i has been defeated, but that the generals have obeyed orders." In the end there was no such thing as a Sung restoration.
After Yüeh Fei had withdrawn his army, he was used once more in a minor campaign designed to ward off a supposed threat to the region south of the Huai; then he was called to the capital for an audience. On this occasion the policy of retrenchment was finally consummated: the three principal generals, Han Shi-chung, Chang Chün, and Yüeh Fei—Liu Kuang-shih had already been eliminated—were stripped of their commands, given high civilian titles, and appointed to a vaguely defined supervisory committee. Central control over the army was thus established; despotism had triumphed.
Deprived of their leaders, the armies were, however, not yet deprived of their spirit. This called for more drastic action. The first army to experience this was Han Shih-chung's. Next was Yüeh Fei's. One of the chief subcommanders of the Yüeh army, Chang Hsien, and Yüeh's son were accused of plotting to revolt, and Yüeh Fei himself was said to have been involved in this plot and imprisoned. The court could with impunity publicly execute Chang Hsien and Yüeh Yün on the strength of this trumped-up charge and have Yüeh Fei himself murdered in prison.
It is inconsequential whether or not the death of Yüeh Fei was one of the secret conditions laid down by the Chin in treaty negotiations. It is also inconsequential whether Ch'in Kuei had Yüeh Fei murdered on his own initiative or in collusion with the emperor. How the emperor felt about Yüeh Fei's death is indicated by the fact that Ch'in's position was in no way impaired by this deed.
Thus ended Yüeh Fei's life, but not his role in Chinese history and in the Chinese tradition. By creating a myth of himself, his army, and his cause, he was not able to save himself or his country, but he was able to establish a persuasive symbol for later generations. Being the hero in a dawning new age, he shared, to borrow a phrase from Campbell, "the supreme ordeal, not in the bright moments of his tribe's great victories, but in the silences of his personal despair."(36)
GO TO PART ONE
* A Venerated Forgery: The Daoist Origins of Shaolin’s Famous Yijin Jing Manual
* Dating the Yijin Jing Manual
(26) Died 1142. Biography in Sung shih, ch. 369.
(27) 1089–1151. Biography in Sung shih, ch. 364.
(28) Ho Fu (Sung) states in his Chung-hsing kuei-chien that Yüeh Fei himself started his military career as a hsiao-yung.
(29) See Ruhlmann, op. cit., pp173–75, for a description of Kuan’s personality in popular fiction.
(30) There are slight variations in the tradition of this phrase.
(31) On this see Ruhlmann, op. cit., p. 168
(32) Adapted from the translation by Wang Sheng-chih found in Robert Payne, ed., The White Pony (New York, 1947), p. 359. The one given in Wong Man, Poems from China (Hongkong, 1950), p. 108, is another song to the same tune.
(33) The way this incident is recorded leaves doubtful how and when Yüeh Fei voiced his displeasure. There is reason to believe that the source have been manipulated here in Yüeh’s disfavor. There is enough evidence, however, to show that Yüeh Fei felt grave concern about this matter, and there is no reason to dismiss the entire incident as fictitious.
(34) See Jung-pang lo, "China's Paddle-Wheel Boats," Tsing-hua Journal, New Series, II, NO. 1 (May 1960), 195–97.
(35) Why the myth has added Chu-hsien-chen as a final point of this campaign is a riddle to me. Chu-hsien-chen would have brought him somewhat closer to the old capital, K'ai-feng, but not near enough to make an issue out of it. Color symbolism is the only explanation that comes to mind.
(36) Joseph, Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (New York, 1956), p. 391.
Total Comments 0