The Battle of Mount Yao between Qin and Jin-秦晋崤山之战

Qin, after marching thousands of miles and passing through several vassal states to launch a surprise attack on Zheng, had their plans known by Jin, which had received intelligence. At this time, Jin Wen Gong passed away, and Jin Xiang Gong had just ascended to the throne. Jin general Xian Zhen saw this as an opportunity to strike Qin and suggested to Xiang Gong that Mount Yao, a must-pass location for the Qin army, could be used to obstruct them due to its dense woods, cliffs, and winding paths, making it a strategic bottleneck. Xiang Gong accepted his advice, personally led a large army to Mount Yao, ordered soldiers to cut down trees to block the road, planted a three-zhang-high red flag of Jin on the blocked path, and stationed troops in ambush. The red flag was designated as the signal to initiate an attack, and all they had to do was wait for the arrival of the Qin army.

The merchant Xian Gao, pretending to be an envoy from Zheng, misled the Qin army into thinking that Zheng was well-prepared for their attack. This deception led Qin to abandon its plan, and instead, on their way back, they conquered the smaller state of Hua and seized considerable wealth before swiftly returning to Qin. When the Qin army reached Mianchi, Bai Yibing reminded Meng Mingshi that they were approaching Mount Yao and should be cautious. However, Meng Mingshi, relying on the strength of the Qin army, dismissed the warning, and upon entering Mount Yao, saw a large Jin flag on the road, thinking little of it. He ordered the soldiers to take down the Jin flag and clear the path of trees. Unbeknownst to them, the trees had been coated with flammable substances.

As soon as the red flag was taken down, Jin forces attacked from all sides. The Qin army found themselves surrounded with no way to retreat. Forced back to the area with scattered trees, the trees, saturated with flammable substances, were set on fire. Facing an onslaught of arrows and with nowhere to escape, three hundred chariots and thousands of soldiers were annihilated. Meng Mingshi, Xiqishu, and Bai Yibing, the three commanders, all became prisoners of Jin.

Jin Xiang Gong, pleased with the victory, planned to execute the three Qin commanders and celebrate the triumph. However, Jin Xiang Gong’s mother, Lady Wen Ying, was the daughter of Qin Mu Gong. She, upon hearing that Meng Mingshi and others were captured, did not want to further antagonize Qin and advised Jin Xiang Gong against killing them. She argued that while Meng Mingshi and the others might be resented by Qin, their deaths could lead to deeper enmity between the two states. Heeding his mother’s advice, Jin Xiang Gong released the three prisoners.

Meng Mingshi, fearing a change of heart from Jin, fled with his companions. When pursued by Jin forces near the Yellow River, they hastily boarded a small boat. Despite an offer of horses and gifts from Jin, which Meng Mingshi correctly perceived as a trap, he declined the gifts, thanking Jin for its previous generosity and vowing to return the favor in three years. The trio managed to escape.

Upon returning, the pursuing Jin general reported Meng Mingshi’s response to Jin Xiang Gong, who regretted his earlier decision but could do nothing about it. Qin Mu Gong, learning about the defeat and regretting not heeding the advice of Jian Shu, welcomed Meng Mingshi and the others back to Qin. Instead of blaming them, he acknowledged his failure to follow the counsel of their fathers and restored their positions.

Meng Mingshi and his companions, grateful for the forgiveness, dedicated themselves to training the army and vowed to redeem themselves. In 626 B.C., after careful preparation, they believed Qin was ready to face Jin again. Meng Mingshi requested to personally lead an expedition, and Qin Mu Gong, showing confidence, provided him with five hundred chariots, well-equipped weapons, ample supplies, and financial aid for the families of soldiers.

With determined soldiers and high spirits, Meng Mingshi led the Qin army, vowing to settle the score with Jin. Crossing the Yellow River, he ordered all the ferries to be destroyed, signaling their commitment to a decisive battle. Serving as the vanguard, Meng Mingshi led the Qin army through Jin territory, reclaiming two cities that Jin had previously captured. The unstoppable Qin forces left Jin in panic, forcing Jin Xiang Gong to order his army to remain within the city walls, avoiding direct confrontation with the Qin army.

Seeing that the lost territories were recovered and Jin dared not face them in battle, Qin Mu Gong decided to bury the bones of the fallen soldiers at Mount Yao, conducting a memorial ceremony and delivering the famous “Qin Oath.” Meng Mingshi, Xiqishu, and Bai Yibing knelt before the graves, shedding tears, and the entire army was deeply moved.