Yue Fei was a patriotic military commander of the southern Song Dynasty and a national hero in resisting the invading Jin people. Born into a peasant family, Yue Fei joined the army as an ordinary soldier. By rendering meritorious service, he gradually rose to be the most important general of his time.
In 1126, several years before Yue Fei became a general, the militant jurchen of the Jin Dynasty invaded the north of the country forcing the Song out of their capital Kaifeng and capturing the emperor of the time Emperor Qinzong who was sent into captivity in Manchuria. This marked the end of the Northern Song, and the beginning of the Southern Song Dynasty under Emperor Gaozong.
Yue Fei fought a long campaign against the invading Jurchen in an effort to retake the north of the country. Just when he was threatening to attack and retake Kaifeng, corrupt officials advised Emperor Gaozong to recall Yue Fei to the capital and sue for peace with the Jurchen. Fearing that a defeat of Kaifeng may cause the Jurchen to release Qinzong, threatening his claim to the throne, the emperor followed their advice. Yue Fei was ordered to return twelve times in the form of twelve gold plaques. Knowing that a success at Kaifeng could lead to internal strife Yue Fei submitted to the orders of his emperor and returned to the capital where he was imprisoned and where the traitor Qin Hui would eventually arrange for him to be executed on false charges.
Qin Hui could not find a reason to execute the captured Yue Fei and was about to release him. However, Qin Hui’s wife, Lady Wang, made the suggestion that since the emperor held absolute power, Qin Hui having the authority of the emperor, needed no reason to execute Yue Fei. He and his adopted-son, Yue Yun (1119-1142), were sentenced to death and executed on charges that were not proven but instead “could be true”. The phrase has entered the Chinese language as an expression to refer to fabricated charges. For their part in Yue Fei’s death, iron statures of Qin Hui, Lady Wang, and two of Qin Hui’s subordinates, Moqi Xie and Zhang Jun, were made to kneel before Yue Fei’s tomb (located by Hangzhou’s West Lake). For centuries, these statues have been cursed, spat and urinated upon by young and old.