Soul of China

Xu Hui Yan: Loyal and steadfast until the end

In 1128 AD, the Jin (晉 1115-1234) army surrounded the city of Jin Ning (晋寧) of Southern Song (1127-1279) ruled by the Han Chinese. It sent Zhe Ke Qin (折可求), one of the generals who had surrendered, to convince Xu Hui Yan (徐徽言), the leader of the city’s defenders, to also surrender. Xu was Zhe’s son-in-law. Xu ascended to the city wall and righteously censured his father-in-law.
Zhe in turn pleaded with Xu: “Why do you treat me so ruthlessly?”
Xu answered sternly: “You have no mercy for our country; why should I have mercy for you?” He then shot an arrow that wounded Zhe, and released his troops to escalate the attack, killing the son of Jin commander Lou Su (婁宿).
At the time, all the areas on the eastern side of the Yellow River of Song had been lost to Jin, except Jin Ning which resolved to resist the strong enemy.
Xu sent his men to the mountain to rally the evacuees and urge them to return to the city. They assembled more than 10,000 people who built and rode rafts down the Yellow River and engaged the Jin army in dozens of battles, killing many of their enemies. Xu also expanded the outer city wall and fixed their equipment.
After several failed attacks, however, the Jin army managed to block the river and cut off Jin Ning’s only source of water.
Running out of water and food, and with their weapons heavily damaged, Xu realized the city could no longer be defended. He burned whatever remained in the city so the enemy could not lay hands on them.
He then wrote his elder brother Xu Chang Yan (徐昌言) a letter, saying he definitely would die and urging his brother not to be disheartened but to continue serving the country.
Because of a renegade soldier’s betrayal, the Jin army was able to advance and seize the outer city wall eventually. Xu and his general Sun Ang (孫昂) led their soldiers and people in the street fighting and retreated to the inner city. But the Jin army surged forward into the city.
Xu refused to surrender. He locked his wife and children in a room and gathered firewood he planned to set fire to. He then sat in the middle of his office with his sword in hand, telling his men vehemently, “I am the defending officer of the emperor. I should not be killed by the enemy.”
His men thwarted Xu’s attempt to kill himself. The Jin army finally charged into the office and captured Xu. Lou Su tried to induce Xu to surrender. He sent a good friend of Xu to advise him to call on Lou Su wearing the official costume.
Xu rebuked his erstwhile friend: “The official costume is for an officer to call on the emperor. How can it be worn to meet Jin people? Aren’t you ashamed of yourself for being a puppet officer, staining your integrity and still feeling glorious and acting willingly as the enemy’s broker?”
Lou Su had no choice but to meet with Xu. He said, “Emperor Song Hui Zong and Song Qing Zong have been captured in the north. For whom are you still preserving your integrity and defending the territory?”
Xu answered, “I am defending the territory for Emperor Gao Zong.”
Lou Su said, “Our army is marching southward. The future of China is unknown. Why would you make yourself suffer?”
Xu stared at Lou Su angrily, “I hate that I can’t kill you and report back to the emperor. I am willing to pay my gratitude to Song Tai Zu and Song Tai Zong (the first two emperors of Song Dynasty) with my life. What else should I mind losing?”
Lou Su countered, “If you can surrender, we could make you and your future generations as commanders.”
Lou Su’s offer angered Xu all the more. “I was blessed by our country, to die is my duty. You better kill me quickly or else I will kill you.”
Lou Su raised his halberd to threaten Xu. But Xu just tore the front of his clothes and faced the halberd with his bare chest calmly.But Lou Su didn’t give up, and invited Xu to drink wine. Unexpectedly, Xu threw the wine cup at Lou Su and incessantly and scathingly cursed at him. Realizing it is impossible to make such man of iron to yield, the Jin army eventually executed Xu.