My dear Kacvey,

Let take a short break from the dirty and insane politics in the City Tonlé Buon Mouk and look back into the Chinese history during the Song Dynasty (宋代- 960-1279 A.D.)

In the Southern Song (北宋) there was a patriot and a general by the name of Yue Fei (岳飞). Yue Fei was known not only for his military prowess and successes, but also for his high ethical standards. To encourage him, his mother asked him to take off his shirt. She then tattooed four Chinese characters on his back: 尽忠报国 (jing zhong bao guo) “serve the country with the utmost loyalty.” Now able to fulfill both his mother’s wish and his duty to the country, Yue Fei promptly went off to battle. Yue Fei was undefeated in battle and was a national symbol of hope during difficult times.

In 1127, several years before Yue Fei became a general, the Jurchens (Jin 金) invaded northern China, forcing the Song dynasty out of its capital Kaifeng and taking Emperor Huizong 宋徽宗, and Emperor Qinzong 宋钦宗, and hundreds of palace officials prisoners including a minister named Qin Hui 秦桧 and his wife Lady Wang 王氏. This marked the end of the Northern Song dynasty 北宋, and the beginning of the Southern Song dynasty under Emperor Gaozong 宋高宗.

While being prisoner in the Jin court, Qin Hui groveled before Emperor Taizong 金太宗 and succeeded in impressing him with his ability to serve. He got himself appointed to a position in the Jin military staff. Meanwhile, the the Jin Dynasty witnessed with alarm the steady growth of anti-Jin forces in the Southern Song Dynasty and the pro-Song insurgency in the north. Staunchly hawkish generals such as Yue Fei and Han Shizhong posed a particular challenge. It was then decided that Qin Hui would be sent back to the south as a mole in the Song government. In 1130 A.D. Qin Hui and his wife were slipped back into Southern Song territory.

In 1138, Gaozong promoted Qin Hui to be Chief Minister. Then Gaozong and Qin Hui made up their mind to reconcile with the Jin Dynasty and put him in charge of deliberations with the Jin. Yue Fei, Han Shizhong 韩世忠, and a large number of officials at court criticized the peace overtures. Aided by his control of the Censorate, Qin Hui purged his enemies and continued negotiations. In 1141 the Jin and Song agreed to a treaty that designated the Yellow River as border between the two states and recognized Gaozong as a “subject” of the Jin. But because there remained opposition to the treaty in both the courts of the Jin and Song, the treaty never came into effect.

Meanwhile, Qin Hui set to work to engineer Yue Fei’s downfall. Qin Hui wrote a memorial which denounced Yue Fei for his arrogance. He invented out of white cloth the story that yue Fei refused to send his army to relieve defenders of Huaxi when they were under Jin attack.

Yue Fei knew that Qin Hui was out to get him, so he volunteered to resign from his post of deputy Military Affairs Commissioner. Emperor Gaozong readily approved his resignation.

The matter did not stop there. One of the top generals, Zhang Jun 张俊 , once Yue Fei’s superior, became jealous of Yue Fei for his feats on the battlefield. Aware of Zhang Jun’s resentment of Yue Fei’s successes, Qin Hui in collusion with Zhang Jun incited subalterns Wang Gui 王贵 and Wang Jun 王俊 in the Yue Army to falsely accuse another subaltern Zhang Xian 张宪 of intending to take control of Xiangyang 襄阳 in order to mount a mutiny to help Yue Fei wrest back his control over the army. They also falsely accused Yue Fei’s son, Yue Yun 岳云, of writing to Zhang Xian to make secret plans for mutiny.

Based on the false testimony of the traitors Wang Gui and Wang Jun, Qin Hui arrested Zhang Xian and put him in the jail of the Court of Judicial Review, where he was tortured. However, Zhang Xian adamantly refused to confess to the fabricated crime. Soon after, Qin Hui requested Emperor Gaozong to order the arrest of Yue Fei and Yue Yun and put them on trial before the Court of Judicial Review.

When Qin Hui’s people arrived to arrest him, Yue Fei said with a smile: “上有天,下有地,会证明我是无罪的 Heaven and Earth be my witness! I will be vindicated and cleared.”

When Yue Fei and Yue Yun were taken to the Court of Judicial Review, they found a blooded, almost unrecognizable Zhang Xian covered with bruises and injuries sustained during his torture. The sight filled Yue fei with sadness and anger.

The trial judge was Moqi Xie, a Qin Hui political ally. He placed the false testimony of Wang Gui and Wang Jun before Yue Fei and asked in a stern voice: “Hasn’t the government been good to you? Why are you planning a mutiny?”

Yue Fei replied: “上有天, 下有地, 会证明我是无罪的I have done nothing against the government. You are in charge of law and justice. You must not use trumped-up charges to frame officials loyal to the government and country.”

Other officials present also echoed Moqi Xie, insisting that Yue Fei had seditious intentions. Yue Fei understood the futility of arguing with these partisans of Qin Hui’s clique. He said with a deep sigh: “我今天落在奸贼的手里,虽然有一片忠心,也没法申诉了。I’ve fallen into the hands of a bunch of traitorous thugs. There is no point in trying to prove to you my loyalty and patriotism.”

Qin Hui had assigned Vice Censor-in-Chief He Zhu 何铸 to try Yue Fei. When he began questioning Yue Fei, Yue Fei pulled up his shirt without uttering a word and showed He Zhu his bare back. What greeted He Zhu’s eyes were the four deeply tattooed characters: “尽忠报国 Serve the country with the utmost loyalty.” He Zhu was so shaken that he could not go on with the inquiry. He remanded Yue Fei to his cell. After reviewing some more material related to the case, he could find no evidence to support the allegation of Yue Fei’s seditious intent. He truthfully reported his conclusion to Qin Hui.

Sensing He Zhu’s sympathy for Yue Fei, Qin Hui took him off the case and instructed Moqi Xie to continue fabricating charges against Yue Fei. Moqi Xie insisted that Yue Fei had written to Zhang Xian to make plans for a mutiny. Unable to provide any material evidence, they alleged Zhang Xian had destroyed the letters.

Moqi Xie put the three defendants through more torture, but Yue Fei would not give them the satisfaction of a confession. One day, when Moqi Xie tried to force Yue Fei to compose a confession, Yue Fei wrote down these eight characters: “天日眧眧,天日眧眧Heaven be my witness, heaven be my witness.”

After dragging on for two months, the trial still had not produced any conclusion. Everyone in government knew Yue Fei had been framed. However, some who had the courage to petition the Emperor to clear Yue Fei’s name themselves became victims of Qin Hui’s reprisals.

The venerated Han Shizhong went to see Qin Hui, and demanded evidence of Yue Fei’s alleged plans for a mutiny. Qin Hui said in an arrogant and cavalier manner: “岳飞和张宪的信, 虽然没有证据, 但是这件事莫须有。 Although there is no evidence of Yue Fei’s writing to Zhang Xian, one can make a plausible case.”

Han Shizhong said angrily: ” ‘莫须有’ 三个字,怎能叫天下人心服!How can your plausible case convince the country? Han Shizhong’s repeated effort proved fruitless and he resigned as Military Affairs Commissioner.

One day after work, Qin Hui was drinking with his wife Wang by a window. Wang noticed him fiddling with an orange, absent-mindedly gouging the peel with his fingernail. Wang, who was even more ruthless than Qin Hui, understood that Qin Hui was still of two minds about whether to kill Yue Fei immediately. Wang said with a sinister snort: “你这老头儿,好没有决断,要知道缚虎容易放虎难啊!You indecisive coot! It’s easier to tie a tiger down than to set it free.”

Wang’s warning helped make up Qin Hui’s mind. He immediately wrote a note which was secretly delivered to the prison. In a night in January 1142 A.D. the patriotic national hero Yue Fei was murdered. He was only 39. Yue Yun and Zhang Xian suffered the same fate that night.

After Yue Fei’s murder, a prison warden in Lin’an 临安 (today’s Hangzhou 杭州) named Kui Shun 隗顺 secretly buried his remains. Yue Fei’s name was cleared only after the death of Emperor Gaozong, and his remains were moved to Qixia Peak 栖霞岭 for proper burial. A Yue Fei temple was added later east of his tomb. A statue of Yue Fei clad in battle gear now sits in the great hall of the Yue Temple 岳庙. Above the statue hangs an awe-inspiring board inscribed with four characters in Yue Fei’s handwriting: “还我河山 Give back my country.” Opposite the tomb are four cast-iron kneeling figures with their hands tied behind their backs. They are the despised and hated Qin Hui, his wife Wang, Moqi Xie and Zhang Jun that for centuries ordinary Chinese have visited specifically to spit on. This arrangement is designed to reflect popular admiration for a national hero and revulsion for selfish and corrupted officials and traitors.