The naval Battle of Yamen (Plantilla:Zh-st) (also known as the Naval Battle of Mount Ya; Plantilla:Zh-st) took place on 19 March 1279 and is considered to be the last stand of the Song Dynasty against the Yuan Dynasty, which was established by the Mongols in 1271. Although outnumbered 20:1, the Yuan navy delivered a crushing tactical and strategic victory, annihilating the Song.
It was one of the largest naval battles in history.
In 1276, the Southern Song court fled the capital Lin'an from the Mongol invaders to Fuzhou, leaving Emperor Gong behind to be captured. Hopes of resistance centered on two young princes, Emperor Gong's brothers. The older boy, Zhao Shi, who was nine years old, was declared emperor.
In 1277, when Fuzhou fell to the Mongols, the exiled dynasty fled to Quanzhou, where Zhang Shijie, the Grand General of Song, hoped to borrow boats to continue their flight. However, the Muslim merchant Fu Shougeng 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 power.
The Song 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 seven. Zhang Shijie brought the new emperor to Yamen and prepared the defense against Yuan there.
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 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. 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 soldiers were forced to eat dry foods and drink sea water, causing nausea and vomiting. Zhang Hongfan even kidnapped Zhang Shijie's nephew, asking Zhang Shijie to surrender on three occasions, to no avail.
In the afternoon of March 18, Zhang Hongfan prepared for a massive assault. The employment of cannons was turned 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. Caught off guard, the Song fleet lost seven ships. 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 advanced to the center and to Emperor Bing. There, Left Prime Minister Lu Xiufu 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 is yet to be found.
Zhang Shijie, 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 Kublai Khan, had all of China under its control.
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 boy emperor.
- 《宋史》History of Song, compiled under Toktoghan 脫脫 in 1344
- 《元史》History of Yuan, compiled under Song Lian 宋濂 in 1370ko:애산 전투