Yang Jingyu was born in 1905 and joined the CPC in 1927. He established the Independent Division of the First Army of the Northeast People's Revolutionary Army as commander-in-chief and political commissar. In 1934, the Independent Division became the First Army of the Northeast People's Revolutionary Army, with Yang commander-in-chief of the army and the Anti-Japanese United Front Army Headquarters.
In July 1937, he was made commander-in-chief and political commissar of the First Army of the Northeast Anti-Japanese Allied Army, twice commanding western marches that overextended Japanese lines to Tieling and Fushun in Liaoning Province.
In the latter half of 1938, Japan concentrated its troops, encircling the army and placing a 10,000-yuan bounty on Yang's head. Despite a critical lack of supplies, from January to mid-February 1940 he led more than 40 battles, maintaining the struggle until he took his last breath. When the enemy cut open his stomach after his death, they found only tree bark and grass roots, without a single grain of rice.