(Minghui.org) Yue Fei, a legendary character in Chinese history, has been an exemplar of loyalty for generation after generation of Chinese people. From driving off the invading Jurchens, to pulling off impossible feats on the battlefield, to defending the heartland of China—his story has been told time and time again in Chinese history books, dramas, novels, movies, and so on.
Chinese people often expressed their aspirations through poetry, and Yue was no exception. His poems in the Collection of Yue Wumu and Collection of Song Poems evinced his magnanimous character and lofty ideals.
Here is one example:
Crossing Zhang River, Written for Zhang Wan
No heart for a drink, nor the chatter of youth,
I sigh in the mirror with white hairs anew.
The young men may laugh from their flowery shade,
When I ride past slowly to seek a wise sage.
This poem was written on the fourth year of Emperor Gaozong’s reign (1130 AD) when Yue was 27. While many of his peers were drinking and making merry, the poet himself was wondering how his time had passed so quickly, with his reflection in the mirror sporting new white hairs. While the world’s people were basking in the glory of youth, he was humbly riding a thin horse to seek counsel from the wise men and hermits of the world.
These sages would be the men who isolated themselves from worldly affairs to explore the higher truths of the universe—who potentially held the keys to cultivation and the path to one’s true self. Yue Fei used this lyrical poem to express his ambition to seek this higher path, to rise above the mundane world.
According to The History of Song, Yue had written a letter to Emperor Gaozong in 1127, just three years before, suggesting that the emperor go to war against the invading Jurchen army and take back the land lost to them. He also said high officials such as Huang Qianshan and Wang Boyan did not fight back against the invaders, instead choosing to just retreat south. Yue suggested that the emperor make the decision to take back the land. After the letter was submitted, however, Huang punished Yue for overstepping his duties and drove him out of the military.
From a modern point of view, it is hard to imagine how a low-level officer like Yue had the gumption to write to the emperor. But in reality, people in ancient Chinese did keep the fate of their nation in mind, whatever their social standing. Renowned poet Lu You once wrote, “One dares not to forget about the nation even at an inferior position.” Ma Rong, a scholar in the Han Dynasty, wrote, “Loyalty is extremely important! Following it close by, one can protect home and nation; following it far afield, one can rectify heaven and earth.”
Yue was loyal, not for his own benefit, but, rather, due to his natural altruism. Confucius once wrote, “Loyalty is righteous virtue.”
Yue was often concerned about the direction of his country. Although the emperor was still relatively young, he had no heir. When Yue spoke with family members in private about this issue, he was sometimes in tears. When he led soldiers to fight, he always kept the fate of the people in mind and frequently wrote to the emperor about situations that needed attention, disregarding how this might have impacted his own vested interests.
Those who heard these stories of Yue Fei were often moved by his selfless, upright character and awed by his noble ambitions.
(To be continued.)
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