Wen Tianxiang (June 6 1236 – January 9 1283), Duke of Xinguo, also Man Tin Cheung in Cantonese, was a scholar-general in the last years of the Southern Song Dynasty. For his resistance to Kublai Khan's invasion of Song, and for his refusal to yield to the Yuan Dynasty despite being captured and tortured, he is a popular symbol of patriotism and righteousness in China. He is considered one of three heroes of the Song's last years, alongside Liu Xiufu and Zhang Shijie.
His symbolic role can be seen from the following fact of 1908: in Wen Tianxiang's historical shrine in Haifeng Chen Jiongming persuaded over thirty young men of the village to swear secret support for a national revolution. (Leslie H. Dingyan Chen, Chen Jiongming and the Federalist Movement: Regional Leadership and Nation Building in Early Republican China, Ann Arbor: Center for Chinese Studies, University of Michigan, 1999, pp 13-14)
Wen was born in 1236 in Luling (Ji'an), Jiangxi Province during the Song Dynasty. At the age of 18 he excelled in his local examinations, and two years later participated in examinations in the capital, during which he was personally awarded first rank by the emperor. He would subsequently take up several posts in the government of the Southern Song, including being Attendant (郎官) of the Justice Ministry and Prefect of Ganzhou.
In 1278, Wen was captured by the invading Yuan armies of Kublai Khan, "offered" a Yuan post, and ordered to convince the remaining Song forces to surrender. Wen refused both and suffered for 4 years in a military prison before his execution in 1283. During this time he wrote the famous classics "Song of Righteousness" (Zhengqige), and "Passing Lingdingyang".
There are now at least six branches of the Wen family in the provinces of Jiangxi, Hunan, Hainan, Guangdong, Fujian, and Hong Kong with some overseas. Local dialect pronunciations would be Man (Cantonese), Vun (Hakka), and Bun (Hokkien). The Man clan are considered one of the original founding families in the history of Hong Kong.
The well-known Ming dynasty painter and calligrapher Wen Zhengming also belonged to the Wen family. The mother of Mao Zedong was a descendant as well. The majority of Wen Tianxiang's descendants still live in mainland China.
One of the oldest continuous branches of the Wen family established itself in the Hengyang/Hengshan area of present-day Hunan shortly after AD 1000. A branch of this Wen family settled in the United States in the mid-1940s and is related through marriage to the prominent Sun family of Shouxian, Anhui (Sun Jianai; Fou Foong Flour Company 福豐麵粉廠) and the Li family of Hefei, Anhui (Li Hongzhang 李鴻章).
Wen Tianxiang's hometown in Ji'an, Jiangxi honors the famous national hero with a mausoleum. Exhibitions of paintings, calligraphy, and even army uniforms supposedly left by Wen are displayed in the Wen Family Ancestral Temple in Futian. The Wen Tianxiang Mausoleum is located in Wohushan.
The Memorial to Prime Minister Wen Tianxiang was built in 1376 during the reign of the Ming Emperor Hongwu. The location of Wen's execution is thought to be near the entrance to Fuxue Alley in the East City District of Beijing and a memorial has been established on the northern side of the entrance to South Fuxue Alley near Beixinqiao.
"The Song Dynasty's Top Ranking Scholar and Prime Minister, the West River's Filial Son and Loyal Subject," is carved into the columns of the memorial's main hall.
The San Tin village in the New Territories of Hong Kong, have many surnamed "Wen" ("Man" in Cantonese). The "Wen" villagers trace their ancestry to Wen Tianxiang via Wen Tianshui (Man Tin-Sui), also a famous Song Dynasty general and the cousin of Wen Tianxiang.
A Wen Tianxiang Memorial Park and "Wen" ancestral hall and residences (Tai Fu Tai) in San Tin is a popular historical attraction in Hong Kong.