naval Battle of Yamen
( ) (also known as the Naval Battle of Mount Ya; )
took place on 19 March 1279 and is considered to be the last stand
of the Song Dynasty against
Dynasty, which was established by the Mongols in 1271.
Although outnumbered 10:1,
the Yuan navy delivered a crushing tactical and strategic victory,
annihilating the Song.
battle site is located at Yamen,
in Xinhui County, Guangdong Province, China.
It was one of the largest naval battles in
the Southern Song court fled the capital Lin'an from the Mongol invaders
to Fuzhou, leaving
Emperor Gong behind to be
Hopes of resistance centered on two young princes,
Emperor Gong's brothers. The older boy, Zhao
, who was nine years old, was declared emperor.
when Fuzhou fell to the Mongols, the exiled dynasty fled to
Zhang Shijie, the Grand General of Song, hoped to borrow boats
to continue their flight.
However, the Muslim
denied them, prompting Zhang to confiscate Fu's
properties and flee on stolen boats with the Song court. In fury,
Fu slaughtered the imperial clan and various officials in Quanzhou
and surrendered to the Yuan, strengthening the Mongols' naval
At this point of the war, it was obvious the Song did not stand a
chance when fighting Yuan head-on. Zhang Shijie decided to build a
vast fleet with what remained, to allow the Song court and soldiers
to move from place to place until the situation improved.
court sailed to Guangdong from Quanzhou. However, Zhao Shi's
boat capsized in a storm while on the way to Leizhou.
While he survived, he fell ill because of this ordeal. The imperial court
later sought refuge in Lantau Island's Mui Wo, where Emperor Zhao
Shi eventually died ; he was succeeded by his younger sibling,
Zhao Bing, who was
Zhang Shijie brought the new emperor to Yamen and
prepared the defense against Yuan there.
Wen Tianxiang, who had fought against
the Yuan in Guangdong and Jiangxi, was
captured by Wang Weiyi in Haifeng County, eliminating all the Song land forces
In 1279, Zhang Hongfan
of the Yuan
attacked the Song navy in Yamen. Li
Heng, who previously had captured Guangzhou, reinforced Zhang Hongfan.
Some within the
Song forces suggested that the navy should first claim the mouth of
the bay, so as to secure their line of retreat to the west. Zhang
Shijie turned this suggestion down in order to prevent his soldiers
from fleeing the battle. He then ordered the burning of all
palaces, houses, and forts on land for the same reason.
Zhang Shijie ordered about a thousand warships to be chained
together, forming a long string within the bay, and placed Emperor
Bing's boat in the center of his fleet. This was done to prevent
individual Song ships from escaping from battle. The Yuan forces
steered fire ships
into the Song
formation, but the Song ships were prepared for such an attack: all
Song ships had been painted with fire-resistant mud. The Yuan navy
then blockaded the bay, while the Yuan army cut off Song's fresh
water and wood sources on land. The Song side, with many non-combat
related personals, soon ran out of supplies. The Song soldiers were
forced to eat dry foods and drink sea water, causing nausea
Hongfan even kidnapped Zhang Shijie's nephew, asking Zhang Shijie
to surrender on three occasions, to no avail.
In the afternoon of 18 March, Zhang Hongfan prepared for a massive
assault. The employment of cannons
down because Hongfan felt that cannons could break the chains of
the formation too effectively, making it easy for the Song ships to
retreat. The next day, Zhang Hongfan split his naval forces into
four parts: one part on each of the Song's east, north, and south
sides, while Hongfan led the remaining faction to about a li
away from the Song forces.
First, the north flank engaged the Song forces but were repulsed.
The Yuan then began playing festive music, leading the Song to
think that the Yuan forces were having a banquet and lowering their
guard. At noon, Zhang Hongfan attacked from the front, hiding
additional soldiers under large pieces of cloth. Once Zhang
Hongfan's boats neared the Song fleet, the Yuan sounded the horn of
battle, revealing Yuan soldiers under the fabric.
The Song troops were prepared for a small skirmish, not a large
assault. Waves of arrows hit the Song ships. Caught off guard, the
Song fleet immediately lost seven ships, losing a great number of
Song troops in the process. The sick Song troops were no match for
the Yuan troops in close combat, and the chaotic environment made
battle command impossible. The chained Song ships could neither
support the middle or retreat. After the Song troops were killed,
the bloody slaughter of the Song court began. Seeing that the
battle was lost, Zhang Shijie picked out his finest soldiers and
cut about a dozen ships from the formation in an attempted breakout
to save the emperor.
The Yuan forces quickly advanced to the center and to Emperor Bing,
slaughtering everyone in their way. There, Left Prime Minister
saw no hope of breaking free, and
jumped into the sea with the boy emperor, killing them both. Many
officials and concubines followed suit.
The History of Song
records that, seven days after the battle, hundreds of thousands of
corpses floated to the surface of the sea. Reportedly, the body
of the boy emperor was found near today's Shekou in Shenzhen, though his actual grave has yet to be
, having escaped the
battle, hoped to have Dowager Yang appoint the next Song emperor,
and from there continue to resist the Yuan dynasty. But after
hearing of Emperor Bing's death, Dowager Yang also committed
suicide at sea. Zhang Shijie buried her at the shore. Zhang Shijie
and his remaining soldiers were assumed to be drowned at sea due to
the fact there was a tropical storm
soon afterwards. Many suggest his death was simply Mongolian
propaganda as the remains of his fleet were never found.
As Emperor Bing is the last Song emperor, his recorded death
effectively ended the Song Dynasty. The Yuan dynasty, under
, had all of China under its
Many temples were built in the surrounding area in memory of the
brave souls in the Song's dying years, most notably: Wen Tianxiang
, Lu Xiufu, and Zhang Shijie. In
the 1980s, another grave was built near Shekou to commemorate the
- 《 宋史》History of Song, compiled under
Toktoghan 脫脫 in 1344
- 《元史》History of Yuan, compiled under Song Lian 宋濂 in 1370