Yue Fei’s other name was Pengju. He was a native of Tangyin, in the province of Henan in Northern Song. His family was poor, but he was hardworking and studious, and extremely filial to his mother. As the saying goes, “In times of poverty, the family has filial sons; in times of chaos, the country has loyal ministers.” When he entered the army in his youth, his mother tattooed the words, “Repay the country with your utmost loyalty” on his back. His performance in the army was outstanding, and he was able to defeat a large army with a small one, and win the battle as soon as it commenced. Hence the Emperor Gao of the Song dynasty bestowed upon him a banner inscribed with the words “Yue Fei, the most loyal one.” His soldiers were called the army of Yue, and they won victory after victory, causing the people of Jin to “mistake the sound of the wind and the call of the egret for pursuing battalions, and to mistake distant grasses and woods to be oncoming troops.” One day, the emperor asked Yue Fei, “How can the country be fortified?” Yue Fei replied, “If the officials and ministers do not covet money, if the generals and marshals do not fear death, peace will reign throughout the country.” At the garrison post of Zhuxian, he soundly defeated the Jin soldiers and resolved to vanquish the country of Jin. Alas, a traitorous minister sabotaged his plans, and with the issue of twelve gold tablets, recalled him back to the capital. With the charge of “No reason needed,” he was put to death at Fengbo Pavilion. He was then thirty-nine years old. Before he could fulfill his noble ambition, he lost his life, and he was subsequently buried by the bank of West Lake, in Hangzhou. He was posthumously conferred the title of ‘Distinguished Warrior and the Duke of Hubei’.
Distinguished Warrior Yue’s surname was Yue and his name was Fei, which means to fly. The phrase ‘Yue Fei’ is a homonym for the phrase ‘to soar and fly.’ His other name was Pengju. The word
peng is the same as the word for garuda, the great golden-winged
peng bird. This bird can cover 3000 miles at one time, and its main diet was dragons. Its wings span 330
yojanas, and a flap of its wings can part the seas. So great
peng bird is very strong and powerful. When it parted the seawaters, the dragons were exposed, and it would gobble them down. Everyday it needed to eat one large dragon and 500 small ones, swallowing them as nonchalantly as we eat noodles. So the dragons lived in terror of the great golden-winged
peng bird. At the rate at which they were being eaten everyday, the dragon species dwindled rapidly and was in danger of becoming extinct. Hence the terrified dragon king went to the Buddha and requested him to extend his great compassion and save his race from extinction. The Buddha gave him a
kashaya [monk’s robe] and said, “Tear this kashaya in pieces and tie a thread around the horn of each dragon. That way the great
peng bird will not be able to eat you.” Hence the dragon race has continued to survive.
But the great golden-winged peng bird was deprived of its food, and it too came to the Buddha seeking help. “World-Honored One! You have helped the dragons and now I am in danger of starving to death. This is not fair!” The Buddha replied, “Very well, if you can vow never to eat dragons from now on, I will command my disciples to give you rice everyday at mealtime.” That is why before monastics partake of their meal at noon, they must leave a little rice outside as an offering and chant the mantra, “Great golden-winged
peng bird, ghosts and spirits of the wilderness, and the
rakshasa ghost mother and her sons, may all of you be filled with sweet dew.”
Now that the great golden-winged peng bird is fed by the disciples of the Buddha, it has ceased to eat dragons, and hence the dragon species has survived to today. Someone may say, “Since there are dragons, how come I don’t see any of them?” When you are a dragon, you will be able to see them. Since you are not a dragon, why do you want to see them? Dragons belong to the path of animals, but they have magical powers, and can vanish and appear, enlarge and shrink themselves at will. Probably the chief military commander of the Jin soldiers, Jin Wuzhu, was a dragon, and that was why Yue Fei wanted to gobble him up. Qin Kuai was probably a toad, who wrecked Yue Fei’s plans so that Yue Fei could not exterminate the Jin commander.
Yue Fei was born in Tangyin, in the province of Henan in Northern Song. At that time, the emperors Hui and Qin had been captured by the Jin soldiers one after the other and taken up north. The royal family of the Song Dynasty hence moved south to the remaining Song territory, where they sought temporary respite, and the remaining land which had not been annexed was called Southern Song. The government was in shambles and the country in a state of turmoil and chaos, and it was a time when loyal ministers were most needed.
Yue Fei’s family was very poor, and he was destined to undergo many calamities and disasters. Not long after he was born, there was a flood in Tangyin. To escape the flooding waters, Yue Fei’s mother carried him in her arms and sat in an urn. The urn floated on the waters for who knows how long, and finally floated to safety. So Yue Fei and his mother barely escaped drowning. Probably Yue Fei’s propensity to kill was too strong, like that of an asura, and so he met with a calamity soon after he was born.
Although his family was poor, he was very fond of learning and was also very filial to his mother. As the saying goes, “In times of poverty, the family has filial sons; in times of chaos, the country has loyal ministers.” In his youth, he saw his country beset with difficulties and decided to join the army. Before he left, his mother tattooed the words “Repay the country with utmost loyalty” on his back. “Utmost” means the finest and very best, and the meaning is that he should use his finest and very best loyalty to serve the country, and not be casual and careless in his efforts.
He performed outstandingly in the army, and was often able to use unusual military strategies and tactics to defeat his enemies. He repeatedly rendered exceptional service in battle and was able to defeat a large army with his small one. He could gain victory as soon as the battle commenced and won battle after battle. There was no war that he could not win, no stronghold that he could not capture, and he was unimpeded in his conquests. Hence the emperor, Song Gaozong, bestowed upon him a military banner inscribed with the words “Yue Fei, the most loyal one.” From then on, no matter where he led his troops, they would raise this banner up high, and hence his army came to be called the army of Yue.
One day, Song Gaozong asked Yue Fei, “In your opinion, how do you think the country can become strong and prosperous?” Yue Fei replied, “If all the government officials were to exercise self-control over evil temptations, and not be greedy and corrupted and pervert the law; if the military commanders could be loyal and courageous in protecting the country, and not covet life and fear death, peace would reign throughout the country and there would be no difficulties.”
To be continued