Han Shizhong was born to a poor farming family in a village of the Shanxi province in the year 1089. He was born in a time when China was under constant threats by stronger bording nations: notably the Tanguts' Xi Xia,the Khitans' Liao Empire and the Jurchens' . In 1105, the Tanguts' kingdom of Xi Xia attacked China and Han Shizhong was conscripted into military service.
Early military career
In the war against Xi Xia, Han Shizhong distinguished himself by slaying an enemy officer in battle and was given a rank. These achievements were followed by greater successes, and he was hence promoted to lieutenant. The war between Song China and Xi Xia emerged into a war of a larger scale when the powerful Jin and Liao entered and supported different sides ). It ended when the Jin emerged victorious over the Liao armies. Despite a victory against their enemies, the Song government had little to celebrate as peasant rebellions began to plague their land. In Ad 1120, Han was sent as a deputy of General Wang Yuan to suppress a local rebellion. It was reputed that he alone infiltrated a rebels' stronghold and captured the leader. Han was nick-named, "Able to defeat ten thousands" and was rewarded handsomely for his efforts.
Meeting with Liang Hongyu
A banquet was soon held in Han's honor for this success. During this banquet, Han meet his future wife, Liang Hongyu. Liang Hongyu was a military courtesan and was serving the officers in the banquet. It is said that Liang caught eye of Han who was sighing instead of celebrating like the others. Liang approached Han and asked him why he wasn't showing any signs of joy in the banquet which was thrown in his honor. Han replied that this was a small victory and that he was worried about the Jurchens who showed signs of hostility to the Song regime. He stated that it hurt him to imagine the damage that war may bring upon the peasants. Liang was in awe of Han, and the two quickly become very close to each another. Liang decided to follow Han and the two soon were married.
The First Invasion of the Jurchens
Soon, Han's greatest fear approached as the Jurchens treacheriously betrayed its alliance with Song and attacked the Song army by surprise. Han was enlisted with the many deputies under General Liang Fongping. He was given fifty cavalry to take back the fortress of Yishan from the Jurchens. Many regarded this as a suicidal assault since there were over 2000 experienced Jin troops guarding it. However, Liang enforced the idea, and Han didn't reject it. Miraculously, Han emerged victorious over the Jurchens. Yet, Han had no time to celebrate as all the other armies under Liang had been routed by Jurchens.
The Second Invasion of the Jurchens
In AD 1125, under its founder and perhaps its greatest leader, Wányán &, the Jin army destroyed the Liao Empire and swiftly made Xi Xia and Goryeo into tributaries through swift battles which destroyed the forces of the two later nations. That very same year, the Jurchens assembed a large force consisting of Jurchens, Tanguts, Khitans and Koreans to made a second attack on China. Han was defending the city of Zhaozhou once again under General Wang Yuan. After a few months of battle, the city's supply was cut short. Han asked for three hundred cavalrymen, and one night made a surprise attack on the enemy encampment. This attack caught the Jurchens by surprise and they began to scramble and swing their swords on anyone they saw. By daytime, many of them had trampled over one another; amongst those fatalities was the commander of the invading Jurchen force. The Jurchens had no choice but to retreat. Thus, the city of Zhaozhou had been relieved. Despite this victory, most other defense, again, was defeated; amongst them, the two Song emperors was abducted by the Jurchens. In AD 1127, Han was given a thousand-man army to escort the crown prince to safety in Southern China. He was checked by an army ten times larger but, once again, emerged victorious and forced the enemy to retreat. Crown Prince Gaozong successfully reached Hainan and established the Southern Song Dynasty. Shortly, the capital was moved to Yangzhou. Han persuaded Gaozhong to restore the Lost lands on the North; yet, Gaozong only wanted to be the emperor and neglect the advice. Meanwhile, the Chinese general guarding the Northern Capital, Kaifeng, was angered to a level which he felt ill knowing no reinforcements were to been sent, and died shortly after. The City was surrendered shortly after in the year AD 1128.
The Third Invasion of the Jurchens
The Fall of Kaifeng boosted the morale of the Jurchens, and they attempted a third invasion. Gaozong saw little intention to make a good defense against the Jurchens. He felt the strong generals around him would make him vulnerable and wanted them to lose to remove the threat. Han facing enormous odds, was beaten off for the first time. Many of the Song generals, disgusted by the cowardly emperor, began to retaliate, and Han had to gather up what was left of his force and protect the throne. He successfully captured the renegade generals and scattered their forces. It is stated that Han actually condemned the emperor and that the emperor apologized and finally showed signs of better supporting the generals defending china.
Despite early successes of the Jurchens, the Jurchens was beaten off by another general, Yue Fei, in a series of battles. The Jurchens under a crowned prince, with a large force of hundred thousand force, decided to avoid Yue and took a route to cross and invade the capital and abduct another emperor. A force consisting of local militias and a few well trained soldiers was assembled in a mountain near the Yangtse River, and Han along with his wife hurried to take command of it. In his journey, he stayed in a local temple where he came face to face with a few Jin Generals and over a hundred Jurchen warriors. Despite the fact that Han only had a few guards and his wife along with him, they managed to fend the enemy off and took the heads of some Jin Generals. The group arrived shortly at the mouth of the river.
The Battle of Huantindang
The battle that soon took place, to be known as Huantindang , the outnumbered Chinese forces stay quiet for a while. Han gave false impressions that his soldiers had to retreat to a temple up a mountain, which the Jurchens thought of it as a time they can easily captured him. Little did they know, it was a trap that Han deployed for them. As the Jurchen commander entered the temple, he was surrounded by a few well trained riders, and his branch was completely cut off with the others by Chinese troops hiding in the road up the mountain. It aroused a popular saying of the time, " a hundred thousand lured to a trap, and it takes only eight thousand riders to cut them off." 十萬敵兵來假道，八千驍騎截中流.
On the other hand, the Jin navy on the river was checked by a new invention of the Chinese, the tiger ship, which could spill fire from its front using flamethrowing technology imported from the Middle East by way of Arab mariners. They attacked after hearing the signal of Liang Hongyu who beat the wardrums in a hill nearby. The tiger ships quickly pierced the Jin ships, and the Jin navy was close to being routed by their enemies. The Jurchens were trapped for forty days wherein almost half their force was routed; and, the Jin prince who commanded the Jurchen army even sent messengers to the Chinese commander and offered bribes to beg for mercy. Han neglect the request, yet the Jurchens escaped through a hole in Han's surroundment due to the lack of soldiers—the position was revealed by a traitor in the ranks of Song. Despite, the ability to escape, the Jurchens was checked by General Yue Fei and almost entirely routed before they get back to Jin territory. The third invasion was again a military disaster for the Jurchens.
The Fourth Invasion of the Jurchens
The Jurchens again assembled another force in 1137, consisting of seventy thousand men and began the fourth invasion. Losing many experienced soldiers through the previous invasions, the Jurchens this time had poorer results and after a few battles were almost completely routed. The Chinese force under Yue Fei and Han Shizhong quickly took advantage of the situation and began a counterattack. In less than a year's time, the almost reached the Jin capital.
Later part of his life
The night before they entered the Jin Capital, the emperor of China was worried about saving the two previous emperors in the Jin Capital and ordered the generals to come back. The generals avoided the idea at first, but the emperor began to sent more letters and even threatened killing the soldiers' families. Yue Fei in tears stated, "Thirty years of effort now is wasted." The generals were called back to the imperial court, and this time met with the wicked chancellor and many of the treacherous officials and generals who did little effort to defend their country. They imprisoned General Yue Fei and was about to sentence him when Han Shizhong asked Qin Hui, "Upon what charges?". Qin Hui simply stated, "Not necessary." Han then replied, "How can you convince people if one is convicted of a charge which is 'not necessary' to be made known?" Later, Han was so outraged than he laughed and threw his helmet and sword, which were both symbolic of the authority of a Chinese general, at him. He tackled the emperor and Qin Hui with insulting words: "They brought their nations into ruins, and there will no longer be any more able generals that will fight for the Song." Soon, he retired from military service and when General Yue was executed, he neglected an imperial edict to arrest Yue's family, and instead escorted the Yue Family to safety. He and his family retreated into the rural areas and he died in 1151.
Han Shizhong was credited with many military inventions including various modified armor and bows, horse jumping obstacles that trained cavalry, and an archery range to train the accuracy of archers and mounted archers.
His military career enabled China to survive the Jurchen invasion and, along with Yue Fei, helped to crumple the powerful Jin military. It is because of these events which led to the decline of the militaristic Jin, and the rise of Genghis Khan and the Mongols.