Qin Hui (1090-1155) and his wife, Lady Wang, were the most hated couple in China for almost a thousand years. So what’s the story of Qin Hui, and what did they do to retain this title for a millennium?
Theirs is a story of greed, envy, betrayal, and murder. Qin Hui was a cunning politician who gained his status and wealth by weeding out his political opponents, framing war heroes, and as a sycophant to a foreign emperor.
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Worse still, they conspired to murder the great war hero of the Song Dynasty, Yue Fei. And in his later years, he became a puppet ruler for the conquering Jurchen Jin Dynasty.
The early righteous years of Qin Hui
Qin Hui may be hated today, but he started as a likable and, maybe, honorable young man.
He came from an ordinary family in the Song Dynasty. Luckily, his knowledge and talents made him stand out. After passing his Imperial Examination, he was given political posts where he performed well.
During this time, the Jurchen Jin Dynasty was Song’s biggest threat. Young and determined Qin Hui was among the people who wanted to fight against these invaders. So he became a courageous emissary sent to negotiate with their nomadic hostile neighbor and succeeded for a while.
However, the Jurchen Dynasty finally attacked Song’s capital and imprisoned emperor Zhao Ji and Zhao Huan, among other royal subjects. They also captured other high-ranking officials, including Qin Hui.
Luckily, Zhao Ji’s other son, Zhao Gou, wasn’t in the capital during the attack. Instead, he fled to the southern parts of China and established the Southern Song Dynasty.
Qin Hui’s first betrayal
All the officials captured showed their loyalty by their willingness to sacrifice themselves for their dynasty and emperor. So most of them were killed, and the rest were sent to labor camps. Qin Hui survived through treachery because it is believed he became an advisor to the Lords of Jin.
Years after his capture, he suddenly appeared in Zhao Gou’s southern dynasty, claiming he had escaped captivity. His story was suspicious because no other official had escaped Jin’s stronghold. He had also arrived safely with his wife and family when it was almost impossible to do so.
However, others believed him because he had been an intelligent and loyal official during his younger days.
Slowly, Qin Hui became a high-valued official at Zhao Gou’s court. Both did not want to fight Jin’s dynasty and free captured emperors because it was convenient for them.
Qin Hui was already a stooge for the Jin dynasty, while Zhao Gou wanted his father and brother to remain in prison. This way, he would stay emperor for good.
Why is Yue Fei so famous?
After a few years, Jin attacked the Song Dynasty again, but this time Zhao Gou decided to resist this invasion. He was fed up with these constant attacks, and his father had died — so he had no direct threat to his throne.
On top of that, the Song Dynasty had loyal and strong-willed generals ready to resist and win against the invaders. Some of these generals fought back and won against the invading Jin. Among these outstanding warriors was Yue Fei, one of China’s most celebrated generals.
One story goes that Yue Fei had to choose between serving his country and caring for his ailing mother. His wise mother decided to release him from filial duty by tattooing jing zhong bao guo on his back, which translates to “serve your country loyally.” So now Yue Fei could honor his mother and serve his country.
Yue Fei and other marshals recaptured several cities and defeated many of the Jin Dynasty’s main troops. Besides his military accomplishments, he was famous because he protected civilians and cared for his soldiers. Thus, his soldiers didn’t harm the local population of the towns they passed through.
Qin Hui plans against Yue Fei
Yue Fei’s successes in battles and popularity among the common folk attracted envy from several high-ranking officials. They persuaded the emperor to recall Yue Fei to the capital because he was becoming too popular far away and could become more powerful than the emperor.
So he was forced to return to the palace, and Zhao Gou started negotiating a truce with Jurchen Jin. After returning, he was demoted and imprisoned. It turns out Qin Hui and other officials believed that Yue Fei could become the ruler of the places he had liberated. Thus, they wanted him imprisoned.
But even under torture, Yue Fei refused to confess to their trumped-up charges. A year after his capture Qin Hui, the magistrate now, sentenced him to death. But in other stories, Qin Hui’s wife poisoned Yue Fei.
Whichever way, they killed Fei at the age of 39.
Qin Hui and the emperor signed a truce, giving up all the recaptured cities. Zhao Gou got his parent’s coffins and pledged to pay significant tributes to Jin every year.
On the other hand, Qin Hui became the irreplaceable chancellor of the Song Empire. And he became more corrupt and brazenly inhumane against his opponents. He lived a life of wealth, luxury, and betrayal until his death.
Statues of Qin Hui and his wife
A few decades later, emperor Zhao Shen absolved Yue Fei of wrongdoings and dedicated many temples to him. However, Qin Hui’s betrayal and his wife’s part in Yue Fei’s murder were also made public.
So in front of Yue Fei’s temples were two iron statues that Qin Hui and his wife built for public shaming. Naturally, people spit, abuse, and flog these statues. But, more interestingly, the figures of the most hated couple in China are replaced when damaged. So, even in death, the couple is given no respite, and the statues have been replaced a whopping 11 times since 1475.
The bottom line; greed and treachery may make you wealthy, but karma will soon catch up.