Yang Yi, a child prodigy, was a man of temperament, and the emperor was not annoyed but praised

Northern Qi – Yang Zihua’s School Book Drawing (partial)

During the Song Dynasty, there was a famous prodigy named Yang Yi (974-1020), whose innate talent made him leave a shining and glorious footprint in the dynasties of Emperor Taizong of Song (939-997) and Emperor Zhenzong of Song (968-1022).

Was the prodigy born with visions or reincarnated as a Taoist priest?

Yang Yi’s grandfather, Yang Wenyi, served as the magistrate of Yushan County in the Southern Tang Dynasty. According to the History of the Song Dynasty, before Yang Yi was born, Yang Wenyi dreamed that a Taoist priest came to visit him, claiming to be from Mount Huaiyu. Not long after Yang Wenyi woke up from his dream, he heard his family report that he had given birth to a baby grandson. The baby was very peculiar, with a foot of hair all over his body, and it took a month before he shed it on his own. When Yang Yi could speak, his mother gave him the Analects of Confucius orally, which he was able to recite immediately. At the age of seven, Yang Yi was able to compose poems and write essays and talk with guests, appearing sophisticated and steady.

The Emperor interviewed him personally

When he was eleven years old, Emperor Taizong of Song heard about his fame and asked Zhang Yaohua, the envoy to Jiangnan, to test Yang Yi’s poetry and writing skills, and then sent him to the capital. For three days in a row he was received by the emperor, and of the five poems and fugues he tested, Yang Yi finished them all immediately with the stroke of a pen. Emperor Taizong appreciated him very much and thought that he was a strange talent. He ordered Wang Renrui, the chamberlain, to send Yang Yi to the Central Secretariat for an interview and asked him to write a poem, and the chancellor was also surprised by his handsome and strange extraordinary talent and congratulated Emperor Taizong for finding a talented person.

The next day, Emperor Taizong of Song issued an edict, appointing the eleven-year-old Yang Yi to be the official character of the secretary province, and specially rewarded him with a robe and wattles. The imperial edict said: “You are a young child, not by the teacher training, refined and refreshing, and the text is born to know. The more the view of the dust, a thousand miles a day, I hope in you also.”

Soon Yang Yi’s father died, and when the mourning period was over, it happened that his cousin grandfather, Yang Hui Zhi, went to serve in Xuzhou, so Yang Yi went to Xuzhou to join him. Yang Yi studied diligently, day and night. After talking with him privately, Yang Hui Zhi exclaimed, “You will be the one who can revitalize the Yang family in the future.”

The emperor cherished his talents and appreciated his ministers

During the period of Chunhua of Emperor Taizong of Song Dynasty (990-994), Yang Yi went to the capital to present his essay and was reappointed as the minister of the Imperial Palace. After presenting the “Erjing Fu”, the emperor issued an edict for him to take the Hanlin examination, and he was given a scholarship and promoted to the post of minister of Guanglu Temple. After that, Emperor Taizong of Song summoned Yang Yi to attend the court banquet several times.

Emperor Taizong was surprised why the official in charge of the banquet did not call Yang Yi to the banquet more often. The chancellor reminded Song Taizong, “It is customary that people without official positions are not often summoned.” Emperor Taizong immediately ordered Yang Yi to take up a position at the Court of the Gathering of the Sages. When Yang Yi submitted a form requesting to return to his hometown, Emperor Taizong rewarded him with 150,000 yuan.

In the early years of Zhidao (995-997), Emperor Taizong of the Song Dynasty personally made a nine-stringed zither and a five-stringed ruan, and many talented writers played their praises. In the spring of the second year of Zhi Dao, he was promoted to the post of Zu Zorang. Understanding the poverty of Yang Yi’s family, Emperor Taizong gave him many rewards and gifts and appointed him as the birth anniversary ambassador of King Yue.

In the spring of 996, Yang Yi was promoted to the post of Zu Zhuan Zorang (a member of Zhongshu Province, in charge of compiling national history). Knowing that Yang Yi’s family was poor, the emperor repeatedly rewarded him with gifts and treated him with kindness. At this time, most of the high officials of the court borrowed Yang Yi’s writing, so his fame became more and more prominent.

Editing the emperor’s actual records

When Song Zhenzong was still the prince, Yang Hui Zhi was the chief staff member of the prince’s office, and all the documents were drafted by Yang Yi. After the reign of Emperor Zhenzong, he ordered Qian Ruoshui to compile the “Shilu of Emperor Taizong”, a total of 80 volumes, Yang Yi alone compiled 56 volumes. After the reign of Emperor Zhenzong, he praised Yang Yi for his expertise in history, and later granted him a purple robe and a gold fish bag (Note: the color of the official uniform above the third grade is purple, and he wore a gold fish bag).

In the second year of Jingde (1005), Emperor Zhenzong of Song dynasty ordered Yang Yi and Wang Qinruo to compile the book “Book of the Book”, and the order and style of the whole book were set by Yang Yi. The officials involved in the compilation compiled the preface separately, and Song Zhenzong also issued a special edict that the content compiled by other officials had to be approved by Yang Yi before being adopted for use. (The “Book of the Book” was the first of the four classical books of the Song Dynasty in China, summarizing the 17 histories, and was originally called the “Chronicles of the Gentlemen and Ministers”, with 1,000 volumes, and was the representative of the classical books of the Song Dynasty, together with the “Taiping Royal Survey”.

In the talented Northern Song Dynasty, Yang Yi is called a great man, his talent is agile, the tone of the article is majestic, and the work is delicate and meticulous planning, good at drafting articles with fine words, an article of thousands of words, without censoring a wave. He was unanimously revered by those who were seeking education at that time. He had a good memory, and he was especially well versed in the rules and regulations. He also liked to teach and guide his descendants, and many people became famous by him.

The emperor praised him instead of being annoyed by his temperament

Yang Yi was a straightforward man who respected his reputation. He was in charge of the drafting of the enjoining documents authorized by the emperor, and once drafted a letter of reply to Liao, in which there was a phrase “the neighboring soil is happy”. After reading it, Song Zhenzong annotated next to it that it should be written as “rotten soil”, “rat soil”, “dung soil” and so on. Perhaps, because Song Zhenzong remembered the invasion of Liao’s army led by Empress Xiao in the first year of Jingde (1004), he used contemptuous words to call Liao’s land.

When Yang Yi saw the annotation, he hastily changed it to “neighboring territory” and did not adopt the emperor’s wording. Later, when Emperor Song Zhenzong talked about this matter to his ministers, he did not get angry and said, “Yang Yi is really temperamental and cannot be discussed.”

It was not only this time that Yang Yi could not be discussed with him. When Emperor Zhenzong wanted to make Liu E the empress, he asked Yang Yi to draft an edict of enthronement and sent Chancellor Ding Pei to deliver it, but Yang Yi did not agree. Ding Pei said, “Just try to draft it, there is no worry that you will not be rich in the future.” Yang Yi said, “Such a rich, and not what I hope.” The emperor had no choice but to order other bachelors to draft the imperial edict.

The emperor did not count his fault for leaving without saying goodbye to public opinion

Although Yang Yi disobeyed several times, but Song Zhenzong is generous, still rewarded him, courtesy.

Yang Yi had a villa in Yangzhai (present-day Yuzhou City, Henan Province), and his mother came to visit him, but she happened to be ill. As soon as Yang Yi learned that his mother was sick, he left a letter to Kongmuguan and left without saying goodbye in the middle of the night without waiting for approval.

In fact, the day before, Song Zhenzong had heard that Yang’s mother was sick and sent an envoy to send medicine and money to console her. When the messenger arrived at Yang’s house, he found that Yang Yi had already returned to Yangzhai. In response, the courtiers argued that Yang Yi’s action was really inappropriate and suggested that Yang Yi be removed from his official position. However, Emperor Song Zhenzong loved Yang Yi’s talent and did not remove him from his post. Yang Yi’s health was weak and he often fell ill, so he submitted a request to resign from his post to recuperate.

Yang Yi was a gifted and talented man who was not bent by power and was a man of character. Behind the legend, the kindness of the two emperors, Emperor Taizong of Song and Emperor Zhenzong, and the kindness to their subjects, also made an extraordinary style that will last forever in history.


History of the Song Dynasty, vol. 305

Sequel to Zizhi Tongjian, vol. 30