Although the turn of the two Song dynasties was a time of chaos, but the court had “four generals of Zhongxing” and “four famous ministers of the Southern Song”, which is also considered a time of chaos out of heroes! Today we are going to talk about Li Gang, one of the four famous ministers, who insisted on fighting against Jin all his life. If the emperor insisted on reusing him, the terrible “Shame of Jingkang” might not have happened!
When the Jin first attacked the Song in the south and forced the capital Kaifeng, the Song court was in an atmosphere of panic. Li Gang, who was in charge of rituals and music, rationally analyzed the situation of Song and Jin and boldly proposed a strategy to save the country, which was for Emperor Huizong to abdicate the throne to the Crown Prince, who later became Emperor Qinzong of Song.
Wow, Li Gang, a minister, actually wanted to influence the succession of the throne, did he want to hold the imperial government? He told his friend Wu Min what he really thought: “If we make the crown prince the governor of Kaifeng, doesn’t it mean that he will stay and guard the capital? The Jin soldiers are so rampant, if the Crown Prince does not ascend to the throne, there will not be enough authority to recruit the world’s great men. The prince’s virtues of modesty and frugality are known throughout the world and are sufficient to inherit the throne, so why don’t you, as an official, advise the emperor?”
The next day, Emperor Huizong really wanted to summon Li Gang to discuss the matter. In order to show his heart, Li Gang resolutely cut his arm and used blood as ink to write a zheng, revealing his heart: “It is the usual etiquette for the prince to supervise the state. Now that the enemy is invading, life and death is at stake, should we still stick to the usual rituals? How can we call on the heroes of the world if the crown prince is not properly named but holds the power? If the crown prince can be enthroned, let him defend the country for his majesty, and gather the loyalty of the soldiers to protect the country to the death, then the world can be preserved!
This bloody memorial led Emperor Huizong to accept the Zen proposal. After the prince, that is, Emperor Qinzong of Song, took the throne, Li Gang, with the loyalty of worrying about the country and the people, advised the emperor to obey the will of heaven and the people, eliminate the border problems, keep away from traitors, and revitalize the Song dynasty. When a minister proposed to cede land to Jin for peace, Li Gang righteously refused: “The frontier of our ancestors should be defended to the death, and not even one foot or one inch should be ceded to others!”
The next year, Zong Han led his troops to cross the Yellow River, and Huizong fled to the south, while Qin Zong, who was also afraid of the Jin soldiers, was encouraged by the peacemaker ministers to abandon the city and flee. Li Gang argued: “Today’s plan, we should reorganize our troops, stabilize the people and wait for the arrival of reinforcements.” He even cried and kneeled down, asking Qinzong to stay and fight against Jin with his death. When the rulers and ministers were discussing politics, Li Gang also bravely swore to the emperor, “If I am allowed to lead the army into battle, I will repay you with my death!”
So Li Gang took full responsibility for the defense of Kaifeng, led the army and people to repair the city buildings and build weapons, placed more than 10,000 guards on each of the four sides of the city walls, and practiced day and night without slackening. When the Jin soldiers attacked the city, Kaifeng was as solid as a golden fortress. Li Gang personally supervised the battle and ordered the warriors to hang down from the walls with ropes to kill the enemy. In this battle, the Song army killed more than a dozen Jin leaders and thousands of soldiers! The Jin soldiers found that Kaifeng was already defended and Huizong had abdicated his throne, so they immediately left.
Although the Song army had won the battle, the Song-Jin negotiation for peace was in progress. Faced with the greedy demands of the Jin, Li Gang resolutely opposed the negotiation and personally led his generals to fight with the Jin, using the divine arm crossbow to defeat the enemy army. When the Jin retreated, he also sent Song troops to supervise their return as in the case of the “Still Water Alliance” and waited for an opportunity to attack.
As a civil official, Li Gang had a strong iron bone and was able to overcome the enemy and defend the dignity of the Song dynasty, his loyalty and courage are admirable! But he was unfortunately ostracized and falsely accused by the peace-loving ministers, and was actually expelled from the court at the critical moment, and Kaifeng lost its last line of defense. Soon after, the Jin soldiers attacked Song again, and Qinzong remembered the stubborn and loyal Li Gang and wanted to use him to save the country. Who knows, Li Gang was far away from Changsha, when he got the order, the Jin soldiers had already broken through the gates of Kaifeng, capturing the two emperors of Hui and Qin as well as countless palace people and treasures. This was the greatest tragedy of the Song Dynasty, the “Change of Jingkang”, and the end of the Northern Song Dynasty’s fortunes.
The History of the Song dynasty has made a hypothesis that if Li Gang had been able to persist in the cause of fighting against the Jin dynasty unhindered, why would the two emperors have been taken captive and why would the Southern Song dynasty have been left to rest on its own? It seems that it is a constant principle for the emperor to rule the country by relying on the gentleman and keeping away from the villain.
And Li Gang, who had his heart set on the security of the country and the people all his life, never changed his mind even though he was relegated repeatedly. The history also says that every time when Song and Jin negotiate, Jin people must ask Li Gang, Zhao Ding and other ministers if they are well, so it turns out that Li Gang’s loyalty and righteousness is deeply respected even by the enemy country, and his heart can be seen in the sun and moon.
(Reference: “History of Song”)