Yancheng, Battle of (1139)
A battle that took place at Yancheng, modernday Henan (Honan) Province, between the Southern Song dynasty (1127-1279) and the northern Jin dynasty (1115-1234). Under the command of Yue Fei (1103-1142), the Southern Song army won the decisive battle.The northern Jin dynasty, the Jurchens, began to attack the Northern Song dynasty (960-1127) in 1125. The Song emperor lost the war in 1127, and the Northern Song dynasty collapsed. The anti-Jin Chinese supported the emperor’s brother to move the throne to the south and established the Southern Song dynasty from 1127 to 1279.
In May 1139, the Jin army under the command of Wanyan Zongbi (known as Wu Shu), invaded the south. Soon, the Jin army occupied Henan and Shanxi (Shansi) Provinces. The Jin’s next step was to attack Huainan. Emperor Gaozong (Kao-tsung) (1127-1162) of the Southern Song ordered Yue Fei to defend the strategic point of Huainan. Wanyan Zongbi, however, did not attack Huainan, but retreated to Kaifeng. Emperor Gaozong asked Yue Fei not to attack the Jurchens.
Yue Fei thought the best chance to destroy Jin’s army was at that moment. So he ignored the emperor’s order and marched north toward Kaifeng. He ordered his infantry troops to attack the Jin’s garrison at Zhongyuan and occupied Zhengzhou. Then Yue Fei ordered Liang Xing to cross the Yellow River (Huanghe), to assemble peasants loyal to the emperor and attack Beizhou County. Noticing that Yue Pei’s forces were scattered, Wanyan Zongbi launched a surprise attack at Yancheng, where only a few Song troops were stationed.
On July 8, 1139, Wanyan Zongbi and Wanyan Zongxian (known as King Gaitian) led 15,000 cavalry and 100,000 infantry troops to the north of Yancheng. Yue Fei ordered his son Yue Yun, who commanded light-horsemen, to attack the enemy center. The central troops were the Jin’s most experienced troops, called Iron Soldiers because they wore iron armor. In addition, on both sides of the Iron Soldiers were the Jin’s cavalry. Yue Fei knew that, although the Iron Soldiers were well equipped from head to toe, they were not flexible. Thus, Yue Fei ordered his Beiwei and Youyi cavalry units to attack the enemy cavalry followed by the infantry, who were equipped with Mazha swords and axes. His ingenious idea worked. Thousands of Jin soldiers were killed in the battle, leaving their bodies littering the ground. The Battle of Yancheng was a great victory for the Southern Song army.
Following his defeat at Yancheng, 14 days later, the Jin army attacked Yingchang Fu. Yue Fei again ordered his son Yue Yun to lead the Beiwei cavalry with its supporting infantry to aid the local commander Wang Gui at Yingchang Fu. At the subsequent Battle of Yingchang, the Song troops gained another victory by using similar tactics. Yue Pei’s army recaptured Zhengzhou and Luoyang in Henan.
After the Battle of Yancheng, the Jin army withdrew to Kaifeng. Emperor Gaozong of Song was looking for a peace negotiation and unwilling to allow Yue Fei to press on his advance. Thus, the emperor sent out 12 gold (most urgent) orders recalling the troops under the command of Yue Fei. When his army retreated back to the south, Yue Fei was jailed and then poisoned in 1142. That year, the Song emperor signed a peace treaty, the Shaoxing Peace Accord, with the Jin dynasty.
See also: Song Dynasty; Song, Fortified Cities; Song-Mongol War; Yuan Dynasty; Yue Fei.
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