The History of Song (《宋史》) provides limited detail of the historical Yang family. It is clear, however, that there existed a Northern Han general by the name of Yang Ye (Yang Jiye). Prior to becoming a commissioner of the military, he was known for his tactical prowess and unmatched gallantry on the battlefield. When the Northern Han was engulfed by the Song armies, Yang Ye was conscripted by Emperor Taizong of Song, and was charged with the defense of the Northern borders against the Khitans. He had previously won an engagement against the Khitans during the Yan Men Campaign, and as a result, the Khitan armies now trembled at the mere sight of the capable general. However, higher court officials became envious of his stature and soon began their plot against him.
In the year 986 (Third Year of the Yongxi Reign of the Taizong Emperor), Song armies underwent a massive expedition to the Northern frontier. Yang Ye was the vice-commander under Pan Mei, and together, they secured the four regions of Yun, Ying, Huan, and Shuo. Meanwhile, the forces led by Cao Bin, another Song general, were routed, and both Yang Ye and Pan Mei were forced to evacuate the peoples of the four regions. As Yang Ye escorted the populace to safer locales, he and his men were ambushed by a sizable Khitan force. Knowing full well that the chance of victory was slim, Pan Mei nevertheless ordered Yang Ye to initiate the counter-offensive, and the battle raged on until at last they were driven into Chen Jia Gu. Although Pan Mei had promised reinforcements there, Yang Ye and his men instead came across a deserted valley, and within days he and his soldiers (including his son Yang Yanyu) were completely wiped out. Yang Ye himself was captured by the Khitans and died three days later of starvation.
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