Battle of Yamen

Battle of Yamen

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The naval
Naval battle
A naval battle is a battle fought using boats, ships or other waterborne vessels. Most naval battles have occurred at sea, but a few have taken place on lakes or rivers. The earliest recorded naval battle took place in 1210 BC near Cyprus...

 Battle of Yamen (also known as the Naval Battle of Mount Ya; ) took place on 19 March 1279 and is considered to be the last stand of the Song Dynasty against the invading Mongol-controlled Yuan Dynasty
Yuan Dynasty
The Yuan Dynasty , or Great Yuan Empire was a ruling dynasty founded by the Mongol leader Kublai Khan, who ruled most of present-day China, all of modern Mongolia and its surrounding areas, lasting officially from 1271 to 1368. It is considered both as a division of the Mongol Empire and as an...

. Although outnumbered 10:1, the Yuan navy delivered a crushing tactical and strategic victory, destroying the Song.

Today, the battle site is located at Yamen
Yamen (town)
Yámén is a town lying in the south of Xinhui District of Jiangmen, Guangdong, People's Republic of China. It covers an area of 281 square kilometers and has a population of 40,000....

, in Xinhui
Xinhui
Xinhui also known as 'Kuixiang'. Famous people born in what is now known as Xinhui include Liang Qichao, Chen Baisha, Chan Heung, and Michael Li from Westmead Hospital.-Geography:...

 County, Jiangmen
Jiangmen
Jiangmen , is a prefecture-level city in Guangdong province in southern China with a population of about 4.48 million in 2010. The 3 urban districts are now part of Guangzhou - Shenzhen built up area.-Names:...

 City, Guangdong
Guangdong
Guangdong is a province on the South China Sea coast of the People's Republic of China. The province was previously often written with the alternative English name Kwangtung Province...

 Province, China.

Background


In 1276 the Southern Song court, in their rush to flee the capital city of Lin'an
Lin'an
Lin'an may refer to:*Hangzhou, formerly named Lin'an in Song Dynasty, city in Zhejiang, China*Lin'an City, county-level city in Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China...

 to avoid Mongol invaders approaching Fuzhou
Fuzhou
Fuzhou is the capital and one of the largest cities in Fujian Province, People's Republic of China. Along with the many counties of Ningde, those of Fuzhou are considered to constitute the Mindong linguistic and cultural area....

, left Emperor Gong
Emperor Gong of Song
Emperor Gong of Song Emperor Gong of Song Emperor Gong of Song (1271- unknown (possibly 1323), born Zhào Xiǎn (趙顯), was the 7th Emperor of the Chinese Southern Song Dynasty. He reigned from 1274 until his abdication in 1276 CE when he was succeeded by his elder brother, Emperor Duanzong of Song....

 behind to be captured. Hopes of resistance centered on two young princes, Emperor Gong's brothers. The older boy, Zhao Shi, who was nine years old, was declared emperor.

In 1277, when Fuzhou fell to the Mongols, the exiled dynasty fled to Quanzhou
Quanzhou
Quanzhou is a prefecture-level city in Fujian province, People's Republic of China. It borders all other prefecture-level cities in Fujian but two and faces the Taiwan Strait...

, where Zhang Shijie
Zhang Shijie
Zhang Shijie was a 13th century Chinese admiral and government official during the Mongol invasion of China.Born to a prosperous family in Hebei, Zhang's family moved into Song China because his father had committed a crime in Jin...

, the Grand General
Grand General
Grand General is a supreme military rank which is normally the accepted translation of:#The Indonesian rank Jenderal Besar#The Nepal military rank of Pradhan Senadhipati# The Chinese rank of Da Jiang...

 of Song, hoped to borrow boats to continue their flight. However, the Muslim
Muslim
A Muslim, also spelled Moslem, is an adherent of Islam, a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion based on the Quran, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God as revealed to prophet Muhammad. "Muslim" is the Arabic term for "submitter" .Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable...

 merchant Fu Shougeng refused their request, prompting Zhang to confiscate Fu's properties and flee on stolen boats with the Song court. In fury, Fu slaughtered the imperial clan and many officials in Quanzhou and surrendered to the Yuan, strengthening the Mongols' naval power.

At this point of the war it was obvious the Song did not stand a chance when fighting the Yuan head-on. Zhang Shijie decided to build a vast fleet with what remained, to allow the Song court and soldiers to move from place to place until the situation improved.

The Song court sailed to Guangdong
Guangdong
Guangdong is a province on the South China Sea coast of the People's Republic of China. The province was previously often written with the alternative English name Kwangtung Province...

 from Quanzhou. However, Zhao Shi's boat capsized in a storm on the way to Leizhou
Leizhou
Leizhou City is a county-level city in Guangdong province, in southern China.It is under the jurisdiction of Zhanjiang prefecture-level city.-See also:* Leizhou dialect...

. Although he survived, he fell ill because of this ordeal. The imperial court later sought refuge in Lantau Island
Lantau Island
Lantau Island , based on the old local name of Lantau Peak , is the largest island in Hong Kong, located at the mouth of the Pearl River. Administratively, most of Lantau Island is part of the Islands District of Hong Kong...

's Mui Wo
Mui Wo
Mui Wo is a rural town on the eastern coast of Lantau Island in Hong Kong. The main beach in Mui Wo is known as Silver Mine Bay .-History:...

, where Emperor Zhao Shi eventually died; he was succeeded by his younger sibling, Zhao Bing, who was seven. Zhang Shijie brought the new emperor to Yamen and prepared the defense against Yuan there.

In 1278 Wen Tianxiang
Wen Tianxiang
Wen Tianxiang , Duke of Xinguo, was a scholar-general in the last years of the Southern Song Dynasty. For his resistance to Kublai Khan's invasion of the Song, and for his refusal to yield to the Yuan Dynasty despite being captured and tortured, he is a popular symbol of patriotism and...

, who had fought against the Yuan in Guangdong
Guangdong
Guangdong is a province on the South China Sea coast of the People's Republic of China. The province was previously often written with the alternative English name Kwangtung Province...

 and Jiangxi
Jiangxi
' is a southern province in the People's Republic of China. Spanning from the banks of the Yangtze River in the north into hillier areas in the south, it shares a border with Anhui to the north, Zhejiang to the northeast, Fujian to the east, Guangdong to the south, Hunan to the west, and Hubei to...

, was captured by Wang Weiyi in Haifeng
Haifeng
Haifeng County is a county of Shanwei prefecture, southeastern Guangdong province, Southern china.The people there speak a Teochew dialect related to Hoklo and Hakka....

 County, eliminating all the Song land forces nearby.

The battle


In 1279 Zhang Hongfan
Zhang Hongfan
Zhang Hongfan was a Han Chinese general of the Mongol Empire in China. As commander of the Mongol army and navy, he annihilated the Southern Song by crushing the last Song resistance at the Battle of Yamen in 1279, where he is said to have captured 8000 enemy vessels...

 of the Yuan attacked the Song navy in Yamen. Li Heng, who previously had captured Guangzhou
Guangzhou
Guangzhou , known historically as Canton or Kwangchow, is the capital and largest city of the Guangdong province in the People's Republic of China. Located in southern China on the Pearl River, about north-northwest of Hong Kong, Guangzhou is a key national transportation hub and trading port...

, reinforced Zhang Hongfan. Some within the Song forces suggested that the navy should first claim the mouth of the bay, to secure their line of retreat to the west. Zhang Shijie turned down this suggestion in order to prevent his soldiers from fleeing the battle. He then ordered the burning of all palaces, houses and forts on land for the same reason.

Zhang Shijie ordered about 1000 warships to be chained together, forming a long string within the bay, and placed Emperor Huaizong's boat in the center of his fleet. This was done to prevent individual Song ships from fleeing the battle. The Yuan forces steered fire ships into the Song formation, but the Song ships were prepared for such an attack: all Song ships had been painted with fire-resistant mud. The Yuan navy then blockaded the bay, while the Yuan army cut off Song's fresh water and wood sources on land. The Song side, with many non-combatants, soon ran out of supplies. The Song soldiers were forced to eat dry foods and drink sea water, causing nausea
Nausea
Nausea , is a sensation of unease and discomfort in the upper stomach with an involuntary urge to vomit. It often, but not always, precedes vomiting...

 and vomiting. Zhang Hongfan even kidnapped Zhang Shijie's nephew, asking Zhang Shijie to surrender on three occasions, to no avail.

In the afternoon of 18 March Zhang Hongfan prepared for a massive assault. The employment of cannon
Cannon
A cannon is any piece of artillery that uses gunpowder or other usually explosive-based propellents to launch a projectile. Cannon vary in caliber, range, mobility, rate of fire, angle of fire, and firepower; different forms of cannon combine and balance these attributes in varying degrees,...

s was turned down because Hongfan felt that cannons could break the chains of the formation too effectively, making it easy for the Song ships to retreat. The next day Zhang Hongfan split his naval forces into four parts: one each of the Song's east, north, and south sides, while Hongfan led the remaining faction to about a li away from the Song forces.

First, the north flank engaged the Song forces but were repulsed. The Yuan then began playing festive music, leading the Song to think that the Yuan forces were having a banquet and lowering their guard. At noon Zhang Hongfan attacked from the front, hiding additional soldiers under large pieces of cloth. Once Zhang Hongfan's boats neared the Song fleet, the Yuan sounded the horn of battle, revealing the soldiers under the fabric.

The Song troops were prepared for a small skirmish, not a large assault. Waves of arrows hit the Song ships. Caught off guard, the Song fleet immediately lost seven ships, along with a great number of troops in the process. The ill and weakened Song soldiers were no match for the Yuan troops in close combat, and the chaotic environment made battle command impossible. The chained Song ships could neither support the middle or retreat. After the Song troops were killed, the bloody slaughter of the Song court began. Seeing that the battle was lost, Zhang Shijie picked out his finest soldiers and cut about a dozen ships from the formation in an attempted breakout to save the emperor.

The Yuan forces quickly advanced to the center and to Emperor Huaizong, killing everyone in their way. There, Left Prime Minister Lu Xiufu
Lu Xiufu
Lù Xiùfū , courtesy title Junshi , was a statesman and military commander during the final years of the Chinese Song Dynasty...

 saw no hope of breaking free and, taking the boy emperor with him, jumped into the sea, where both drowned. Many officials and concubines followed suit.

Aftermath


The History of Song
History of Song
The History of Song or Song Shi is one of the official Chinese historical works known as the Twenty-Four Histories of China that records the history of the Song Dynasty...

records that, seven days after the battle, hundreds of thousands of corpses floated to the surface of the sea. Reportedly, the body of the boy emperor was found near today's Shekou
Shekou
Shekou is an area at the tip of Nantou Peninsula in Shenzhen, Guangdong, southern China, south of Nantou and facing Lau Fau Shan of Hong Kong across Deep Bay.It was formerly a customs station in Bao'an County and now belongs to Nanshan District of Shenzhen...

 in Shenzhen
Shenzhen
Shenzhen is a major city in the south of Southern China's Guangdong Province, situated immediately north of Hong Kong. The area became China's first—and one of the most successful—Special Economic Zones...

, though his actual grave has yet to be found.

Zhang Shijie
Zhang Shijie
Zhang Shijie was a 13th century Chinese admiral and government official during the Mongol invasion of China.Born to a prosperous family in Hebei, Zhang's family moved into Song China because his father had committed a crime in Jin...

, having escaped the battle, hoped to have Dowager Yang appoint the next Song emperor, and from there continue to resist the Yuan dynasty. However, after hearing of Emperor Huaizong's death, Dowager Yang also committed suicide at sea. Zhang Shijie buried her at the shore. He and his remaining soldiers were assumed to have drowned at sea, as a tropical storm whipped up soon afterwards. However, there have been suggestions that his death was simply Mongolian propaganda, since no remains or trace of his fleet were ever found.

As Emperor Huaizong of Song was the last Song emperor, his death effectively ended the Song Dynasty. The Yuan dynasty, under Kublai Khan
Kublai Khan
Kublai Khan , born Kublai and also known by the temple name Shizu , was the fifth Great Khan of the Mongol Empire from 1260 to 1294 and the founder of the Yuan Dynasty in China...

, had all of China under its control.

A rock was carved in memory of Zhang Hongfan ended the Song Dynasty there. Many temples were built in the surrounding area in memory of those who lost their lives in the dying years of the Song dynasty, including Wen Tianxiang
Wen Tianxiang
Wen Tianxiang , Duke of Xinguo, was a scholar-general in the last years of the Southern Song Dynasty. For his resistance to Kublai Khan's invasion of the Song, and for his refusal to yield to the Yuan Dynasty despite being captured and tortured, he is a popular symbol of patriotism and...

, Lu Xiufu and Zhang Shijie. In the 1980s another memorial was built near Shekou to commemorate the boy emperor.

Source material

  • 宋史History of Song, compiled under Toktoghan
    Toktoghan
    Toktoghan , also called "The Great Historian Tuotuo", was a Yuan Dynasty official historian and high minister of the Yuan emperor. With the purge and murder of him, the Yuan court might have lost its last chance to defeat the Red Turban Rebellion, which started in the early 1350s.- Biography...

     脫脫 in 1344
  • 《元史》History of Yuan, compiled under Song Lian
    Song Lian
    Song Lian , style name Jinglian , was a literary and political adviser to the Ming dynasty founder, and one of the principal figures in the Mongol Yuan Dynasty Jinhua school of Neo-Confucianism...

    宋濂 in 1370