The Yue Fei Temple (岳王廟)in Hangzhou was originally built during the Southern Song Dynasty (1127 – 1279) to commemorate the patriotic hero. Yue Fei fought tirelessly and played a big role in protecting northern China from the invasion by the Jerchen people of Manchuria. Despite Yue Fei’s true loyalty to the country, Emperor Gaozong took advise from the evil official Qin Hui, who framed Yue Fei for jail under false accusation, arranged for an assassination, resulting in the death of Yue Fei at a young age of 39.
The succeeding emperor, Emperor Xiaozong knew Yue Fei’s innocence and patriotism, exonerated him and set up a temple and tomb to commemorate him. The story of Yue Fei is extremely popular in Chinese culture with lots of movies and TV series filmed along the years. I think the story is even more captivating because of its ultimate tragic ending – where the good does not win the evil.
In the temple, you’ll find General Yue Fei’s statue – looking all mighty and powerful. His life time wish of regaining his country back from the Jerchen people is inscribed on the plaque above him – 還我河山, or “return my country”.
In the temple, you’ll catch a glimpse of interaction between Yue Fei and his mother. Yue Fei’s loyal character was molded by his mother at a young age. A classic story depicted in painting is Yue Fei’s mother tattooing on his back with the words “盡忠报国”, which translates to “serving your country with complete loyalty”.
You see the same words of “盡忠报国” splashed across on one of the walls in the courtyard, written by a famous calligrapher from the Ming Dyansty.
Two of Yue Fei’s generals accompany Yue Fei by his side, each housed under a separate temple.
There are several Yue Fei Temple throughout China, but the one in Hangzhou is the only one where Yue Fei’s tomb resides. This is the actual place that Yue Fei was buried. The original tomb was built in the 12th century. It went through a series of reconstructions throughout the years and was greatly damaged during the cultural revolution of China – most likely whatever inside the tomb was long gone…
Today it’s been restored and luckily, some of the artifacts like the stone statues from the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644) still remain .
There are four kneeling iron statues in front of the tomb, Qin Hui and his wife Lady Wang and two other government officials who plotted together, resulting in the demise of Yue Fei. Their kneeling position resembles them begging for forgiveness and they have been hated for centuries. There’s a sign above the statues that says “please do not spit” – so looks like some people really take this hatred seriously.
The tree that you see planted here is of significance, known as 分尸桧, translating to “dismembered hui trees”. “Hui” trees are juniper trees that unfortunately share a similar name with the evil official Qin “Hui” in Chinese. It was split into half, planted in front of Yue Fei’s tomb, where the action represents the dismembering of Qin Hui metaphorically.
More of Yue Fei’s story is unraveled in the memorial hall – all in Chinese though.
The good news is – the artifacts don’t need too much explanation and you know they are old! Enjoy 🙂
More Info on Yue Fei Temple
Address: No.80 Beishan Road, Xihu District, Hangzhou 310000, China
Entrance Fee: RMB 30 per person
Opening Hours: Daily 7.30 am – 5.30pm