Loyal and Valiant Yue Fei (Part 2)
Meting Out Rewards and Punishments Fairly; Not Hankering after Women
There was a slogan among Yue Fei's army: "I would rather freeze to death than demolish people's houses; I would rather starve to death than rob the people." This was a true description of Yue Fei's army. Anyone who damaged crops or interfered with farming activities would be beheaded. In ancient China, beheading soldiers who did not obey commands was commonplace in many armies. Beheading soldiers who damaged people’s crops were also said to have happened, but the only army that really enforced this martial law was the Yue army. Yue Fei's army was extremely popular, and wherever it went it was surrounded and cheered by the populace, many in tearful gratitude. When his soldiers got injured or sick, Yue Fei would personally console them; when soldiers had family hardships, Yue Fei would ask the relevant department to give them money and cloth; when a general died in battle, he would compensate his family generously, and if the deceased had only a young daughter left to fend for herself, he would ask his son to marry her. His wife also often visited the widows. With such fair rewards and punishments, Yue Fei's army was naturally dedicated to the same cause, and it was indeed worthy of its reputation: It indeed would have been easier to shake Mount Tai than to shake Yue Fei's army.
Among the generals in the Southern Song Dynasty, Yue Fei was the only one who insisted on having only one wife. General Wu Jie (1093 – 1139 AD) once spent a lot of money to buy the daughter of a scholar for Yue Fei. Yue Fei asked her behind a screen. "All my family members wear cotton clothes and eat simple food. If you are prepared to share the comforts and hardships with us, then please stay; otherwise I dare not keep you." When the woman heard this, she could not help laugh. It was obvious that she was not willing to do this, so Yue Fei sent her back. His generals tried to stop him for fear of hurting Wu Jie's feelings. Yue Fei said, "Our national shame has not been wiped out. How can I indulge myself in pleasure?" When Wu Jie heard this, he became even more respectful of Yue Fei.
Considerable Literary Talent and Outstanding Military Vision
Yue Fei's literary talent was evident in dozens of his poems. In addition, he loved reading and was very good at calligraphy. People said that he had large collections of books and he followed the Su style (named after Su Donpo, a famous poet and calligrapher in 1037 – 1101 AD) in his writing. Yue Fei loved to make friends with scholars, and, as it was said, "His acquaintances were all excellent people."
Yue Fei was an expert with various weapons. When he was young, his spear techniques had no match in his local area. After he joined the army, he was even more unconquerable and he killed generals on the enemy side one after another. He not only broke the record in pulling back the string of a bow (180 kg), but was also very accurate in hitting the target. He distinguished himself by peerless valor in battle. As a commander, Yue Fei demonstrated wise strategic tactics. In terms of strategy, he took into consideration the Jurchen characteristics, such as a strong military force, poor ruling methods, and strong resistance from its people, and proposed to make an alliance with rebels in the north. His strategy achieved very good results.
Yue Fei was flexible and agile in tactics during battles. For example, after the battle in Qingshuiting, in the face of a strong enemy force, Yue Fei adopted the tactic of irregular night attacks with a small troop of around 100 people. The Jurchen army became so frightened that they retreated. Yue Fei also made use of the characteristics of foot soldiers and cavalrymen and defeated Li Cheng's outnumbering forces. As for the unpopular Yang Yao's army, Yue Fei combined the tactics of surrounding and consoling, and, consequently, Yang Yao's naval force that managed to defeat the Song army every time, collapsed in front of the Yue Army at the first encounter. He also made use of the internal conflicts among the Jurchens to destroy Liu Yu by sowing discord among his enemies, which dealt a heavy blow to the illegitimate regime.
According to Yue Fei, "Generals do not fear death and civil officials do not desire wealth." He was indeed exemplary among court officials. He was incorruptible and spoke without reservation; he refused to indulge in women and had strict discipline in place in his army. All of these fine qualities and his spirit in serving his country with unreserved loyalty are deeply respected and admired by the Chinese people.