Friday, April 05, 2013

Historical Context - The Yang Generals

The movie "Saving General Yang", starring Adam Cheng, Ekin Cheng and Raymond Lam, premiers on April 4th. The story about the Yang Generals is comprised from historical records and fictional pieces.

The Yang Generals (楊家將) are a legendary family renowned for their bravery and military prowess. They lived during the Northern Song Dynasty and steadfastly defended the borders against rivaling states.

Adam Cheng as Yang Ye
The patriarch figure is Yang Ye (楊業), who had the nickname “Invincible Yang”. He was originally serving under another state until his warlord surrendered to the Song Dynasty. Yang Ye then pledged his loyalty to Emperor Taizong of Song (宋太宗). Yang Ye was immediately tasked with defending against attacks from the neighbouring Liao Dynasty. Yang Ye and general Pan Mei (潘美) scored a huge victory by flanking the Liao army from the front and rear. After that battle, the Liao army reportedly retreated immediately whenever they saw Yang Ye’s flag.

Later, the Emperor appointed Yang Ye and Pan Mei to lead an expedition to attack the Liao.  While initially successful, they were soon met with the main enemy force. Yang Ye knew the chances of winning were slim, but another general, Wang Shen (王侁), taunted him for being cowardly and disloyal. Against his better judgement, Yang Ye decided to go into battle. He instructed Pan Mei and Wang Shen to send reinforcements to a nearby valley. Yang Ye fought gallantly, but still lost the battle as expected. However, when he retreated into the valley, there were no reinforcements waiting for him. He was captured alive, but refused to surrender and as a show of his loyalty, starved himself to death.

Wu Chun as Yang Yanzhao (6th son)
Yang Ye had seven sons. The most distinguished son was Yang Yanzhao (楊延昭). He is commonly portrayed as the 6th son in fiction, but is believed to be either the 1st or 2nd son in reality.  He took over the army after his father’s death. Like his father, he was an extremely brilliant military man. In one battle where he was besieged by the Liao army, he told his men to pour water on the city’s walls, which soon froze into ice due to the cold weather. The Liao were forced to retreat since it was impossible to scale the slippery walls. In a later campaign, Yang Yanzhao believed there was an opportunity to decisively defeat the Liao, but Emperor Zhenzong (宋真宗) opted to sign a peace treaty instead. Yang Yanzhao remained stationed at the borders until his death.

Yang Wenguang (楊文廣), the son of Yang Yanzhao, is the next generation of Yang generals. With the peace treaty, the Song and Liao dynasties remained at peace for the 30 years. However, the Song court soon had to deal with the upstart Western Xia state. Yang Wenguang carried the family legacy by successfully defending against Western Xia attacks. He died just as the relationship with the Liaos began to deteriorate and the Song court had to prepare for war once again. 

Fictional Tales

Bryan Leung as Pan Renmei
The main antagonist in the fictional tales is Pan Renmei (潘仁美), a character based on Yang Ye’s colleague, Pan Mei. Pan Renmei was extremely jealous of Yang Ye’s accomplishments and was even more aggravated when his son was killed in a fight by Yang Ye’s 7th son. Thus, he plotted with the Liao to besiege the Yangs and the Emperor at a place called Golden Beach. To save the Emperor, Yang Ye’s eldest son dressed up as the Emperor to fool the Liao while the real Emperor escaped. Yang Ye’s eldest three sons were killed in the ensuing battle. The 4th son was captured and later married a Liao princess. The 5th son escaped to a monastery to become a monk.

Ekin Cheng as 1st son
Meanwhile, Yang Ye and his 6th and 7th sons retreated to Twin Wolves Mountain. Yang Ye sent his 7th son to ask Pen Renmei for help, but instead, Pen Remei shot the 7th son to death with arrows.  Facing imminent defeat, Yang Ye saw the headstone of a Han Dynasty general, Li Ling (李陵). He remembered that Li Ling had defected to the enemy, which caused the execution of his family members. Refusing to follow in Li Ling’s footsteps, Yang Ye committed suicide by bashing his head on the stone.

Raymond Lam as 5th son
The 6th son, Yang Yanzhao, was the only one to survive the battle at Golden Beach. Returning to the Song court, he was enraged to find that Pan Renmei got away with only light punishment for his treasonous act. Yang Yanzhao took matters into his own hands and killed Pan Renmei to avenge his father and brothers.

In fiction, Yang Wenguang is portrayed as Yang Yanzhao’s grandson (instead of his son, as per history). The inserted generation is Yang Zongbao (楊宗保) and his wife Mu Guiying (穆桂英). Certain historical records support the existence of a Yang Zongbao, but as a female and of the same generation as Yang Wenguang. Mu Guiying is thought to be Yang Wenguang’s wife in reality, not his mother. 

1 comment:

  1. LF is sooooo handsome!!!!! <3 <3 <3 CHOK CHOK CHOK