Portraits of Thirty-three Swordsmen – 24 Xiuzhou Assassin

No. 24 Xiuzhou Assassin: I can’t stay, it was Liu and Miao who sent me.

During the campaign to restore the reign of emperor Baozong, Zhang Jun was in Xiuzhou making preparations. One day late at night, as all of his staff were asleep, he sat alone in his command center. Suddenly, a man with a sword just appeared before him, standing behind the lamp. Zhang Jun knew it was an assassin, calmed he inquired “Is it not Miao Fu and Liu Zhenyan who sent you to kill me?” The man said “Yes.” Zhang Jun: “If so, then take my head so you can be on your way.” The assassin: “I’ve had some education, how could I be a tool for those outlaws? Besides, you sir are so loyal and righteous, how could I harm you? I’m afraid your security is not tight enough, and concerned there might be others later.” Zhang Jun asks: “Do you want money?” The assassin laughed: “Well, if I killed you, I wouldn’t have to worry about money would I?” Zhang Jun: “Then how about working for me?” The assassin: “My mother is elderly, still living in Hebei, so I cannot stay.” Asked about his name, the assassin bowed without answering. He tightened up his clothing and leapt onto the roof, the tiles beneath his feet made no sounds. The moon was bright, the assassin flew away like a bird.

When the Jurchens invaded China in 1127, they conquered the capital, and captured the retired emperor Huizong, current emperor Qinzong, and most of top level officials. The rest of the Song government were forced to relocate the capitol to south of Chang Jiang, thus began the Southern Song dynasty.

Qingzong’s younger brother was made the first emperor of Southern Song, his imperial name being Gaozong. While most of the Southern Song military were in the north fighting the Jurchens, two generals – Miao Fu and Liu Zhenyan, rebelled and forced Gaozong to retire and made his 3 year old son the new emperor. Of course behind the scenes Miao and Liu controlled the government in the names of the young emperor and the empress.

It didn’t take long before Zhang Jun became suspicious, and gathered other top generals to restore the reign of Gaozong. Zhang had to be cautious as Miao and Liu were fairly simple-minded military men, opportunists really. Zhang didn’t want to attack too quickly, lest the traitors panic and harm the royal family. It was while Zhang was plotting his strategy that this incident occurred.

Official history records that Zhang, out of concern for the enlightened assassin, killed a condemned prisoner and claimed that was the assassin. He memorized the face of the assassin, and sent men to look for him in secret, hoping to repay him. The assassin was never found.

Zhang Jun later defeated Liu and Miao. The traitors were brought back to the capital and executed. Zhang’s highly visible career was mixed with both great successes and failures. Han Shizhong and Yue Fei are household names in China. But during their time, they were all subordinates of Zhang Jun, who was in charge of the overall effort to repel the Jurchens. Zhang was their champion inside the civilian government.




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