Meng Yi was an official who lived in the Qin Dynasty. He served in the court of Qin Shi Huang, the First Emperor of Qin. He was a younger brother of the general Meng Tian. After Qin Shi Huang's death, Meng Yi and his brother were executed by Qin Er Shi (Second Emperor of Qin) on the urging of the eunuch Zhao Gao.
Meng Yi's ancestors were from the Qi state in the Warring States Period. His grandfather, Meng Ao (蒙驁), left Qi and came to the Qin state. Meng Ao served under King Zhaoxiang of Qin and his highest position was "Senior Minister" (上卿). During the reign of King Zhuangxiang of Qin, Meng Ao was appointed as a general and he led Qin's armies to attack Qin's rival states Han, Zhao and Wei. Meng Yi's father, Meng Wu (蒙武), served as a general during the reign of King Zhuangxiang's son, Ying Zheng. Meng Wu participated in the Qin campaign against the Chu state as a deputy of the general Wang Jian and succeeded in conquering Chu.
In 221 BCE, Meng Yi's elder brother, Meng Tian, was appointed as a general due to his family background. Meng Tian led the Qin army to attack the Qi state and conquered it, after which he was commissioned as an "Interior Minister" (內史). With the fall of Qi, Qin had succeeded in unifying all the states in China under its rule. Ying Zheng proclaimed himself "Qin Shi Huang" (First Emperor of Qin) and established the Qin Dynasty. In the following years, Qin Shi Huang put Meng Tian in charge of defending the Qin Empire's northern border from attacks by the Xiongnu and overseeing the construction of the Great Wall. Qin Shi Huang trusted the Meng family and regarded them very highly. Meng Yi served in Qin Shi Huang's court as a minister and was one of the emperor's close aides and advisors. He was allowed to ride in the same carriage as the emperor and stand near the emperor during court sessions. When Zhao Gao, a eunuch serving as a personal attendant to Qin Shi Huang's youngest son Huhai, committed a serious offence, the emperor ordered Meng Yi to prosecute Zhao according to the laws. Meng Yi went by the book and noted that Zhao Gao was to receive the death penalty and be stripped off his official titles. However, Qin Shi Huang eventually pardoned Zhao Gao on account of the latter's diligence in performing his duties.
In the winter of 210 BCE, Qin Shi Huang became seriously ill while he was on an inspection tour in eastern China so he sent Meng Yi to help him pray to the gods on his behalf. Before Meng Yi returned, the emperor died at Shaqiu (沙丘), with only Zhao Gao, Huhai and Li Si by his deathbed. Zhao Gao and Li Si secretly changed the emperor's final edict — which named his eldest son, Fusu, as his successor — and named Huhai the new emperor instead. The altered edict also ordered Fusu and Meng Tian, who were away at the border, to commit suicide. Fusu faithfully followed the order but Meng Tian felt suspicious and repeatedly requested for confirmation, but was placed under arrest. When Huhai heard that Fusu was dead, he wanted to spare Meng Tian, but Zhao Gao advised him against it because he feared that the Mengs would take revenge against him.
When Meng Yi returned from his mission, Zhao Gao suggested to Huhai to exterminate the Meng clan, but Huhai had Meng Yi arrested and imprisoned in Dai (代). Meng Tian, who had already been arrested earlier for defying the edict, was imprisoned in Yangzhou (陽周). After Huhai returned to the Qin capital Xianyang, he held a grand funeral for his father, after which he ascended the throne as Qin Er Shi (Second Emperor of Qin). Zhao Gao became Qin Er Shi's close aide and he often spoke ill of the Mengs in front of the emperor and urged the emperor to get rid of them.
Fusu's son, Ziying, strongly advised Qin Er Shi against executing the Mengs, but the emperor refused to listen. Qin Er Shi sent an envoy to meet Meng Yi and order Meng to commit suicide. Meng Yi gave a long reply, in which he hinted that the emperor had no reason to execute him. However, the envoy, who knew that the emperor wanted to see Meng Yi dead, ignored Meng's response and killed the latter. Meng Tian committed suicide in Yangzhou later by consuming poison.
Jackie Chan portrayed the protagonist, Meng Yi, in the 2005 Hong Kong film The Myth. This character is loosely based on the historical Meng Yi. In the film, Meng Yi is reincarnated as a present-day archaeologist who embarks on a quest to find a mysterious element that can make objects hover in air. His quest leads him to discover his past life and to Qin Shi Huang's mausoleum.
In 2010, The Myth was adapted into the television series of the same title, with Jackie Chan as the producer for the series. Hu Ge starred as the protagonist, Yi Xiaochuan, a 21st-century freelance photographer who is accidentally transported back in time to the Qin Dynasty, where he takes on his new identity as "Meng Yi".
- (蒙恬者，其先齊人也。恬大父蒙驁，自齊事秦昭王，官至上卿。秦莊襄王元年，蒙驁為秦將，伐韓，取成臯、滎陽，作置三川郡。二年，蒙驁攻趙，取三十七城。始皇三年，蒙驁攻韓，取十三城。五年，蒙驁攻魏，取二十城，作置東郡。始皇七年，蒙驁卒。驁子曰武，武子曰恬。恬嘗書獄典文學。始皇二十三年，蒙武為秦裨將軍，與王翦攻楚，大破之，殺項燕。二十四年，蒙武攻楚，虜楚王。蒙恬弟毅。) Shiji vol. 88.
- (始皇二十六年，蒙恬因家世得為秦將，攻齊，大破之，拜為內史。秦已并天下，乃使蒙恬將三十萬衆北逐戎狄，收河南。築長城，因地形，用制險塞，起臨洮，至遼東，延袤萬餘里。於是渡河，據陽山，逶蛇而北。暴師於外十餘年，居上郡。是時蒙恬威振匈奴。始皇甚尊寵蒙氏，信任賢之。而親近蒙毅，位至上卿，出則參乘，入則御前。恬任外事而毅常為內謀，名為忠信，故雖諸將相莫敢與之爭焉。) Shiji vol. 88.
- (高有大罪，秦王令蒙毅法治之。毅不敢阿法，當高罪死，除其宦籍。帝以高之敦於事也，赦之，復其官爵。) Shiji vol. 88.
- (始皇三十七年冬，行出游會稽，並海上，北走琅邪。道病，使蒙毅還禱山川，未反。始皇至沙丘崩，祕之，羣臣莫知。是時丞相李斯、少子胡亥、中車府令趙高常從。高雅得幸於胡亥，欲立之，又怨蒙毅法治之而不為己也。因有賊心，乃與丞相李斯、公子胡亥陰謀，立胡亥為太子。太子已立，遣使者以罪賜公子扶蘇、蒙恬死。扶蘇已死，蒙恬疑而復請之。使者以蒙恬屬吏，更置。胡亥以李斯舍人為護軍。使者還報，胡亥已聞扶蘇死，即欲釋蒙恬。趙高恐蒙氏復貴而用事，怨之。) Shiji vol. 88.
- (毅還至，趙高因為胡亥忠計，欲以滅蒙氏，乃言曰：「臣聞先帝欲舉賢立太子久矣，而毅諫曰『不可』。若知賢而愈不立，則是不忠而惑主也。以臣愚意，不若誅之。」胡亥聽而繫蒙毅於代。前已囚蒙恬於陽周。喪至咸陽，已葬，太子立為二世皇帝，而趙高親近，日夜毀惡蒙氏，求其罪過，舉劾之。) Shiji vol. 88.
- (子嬰進諫曰： ... 胡亥不聽。而遣御史曲宮乘傳之代，令蒙毅曰：「先主欲立太子而卿難之。今丞相以卿為不忠，罪及其宗。朕不忍，乃賜卿死，亦甚幸矣。卿其圖之！」毅對曰：「以臣不能得先主之意，則臣少宦，順幸沒世。可謂知意矣。以臣不知太子之能，則太子獨從，周旋天下，去諸公子絕遠，臣無所疑矣。夫先主之舉用太子，數年之積也，臣乃何言之敢諫，何慮之敢謀！非敢飾辭以避死也，為羞累先主之名，願大夫為慮焉，使臣得死情實。且夫順成全者，道之所貴也；刑殺者，道之所卒也。昔者秦穆公殺三良而死，罪百里奚而非其罪也，故立號曰『繆』。昭襄王殺武安君白起。楚平王殺伍奢。吳王夫差殺伍子胥。此四君者，皆為大失，而天下非之，以其君為不明，以是籍於諸侯。故曰『用道治者不殺無罪，而罰不加於無辜』。唯大夫留心！」使者知胡亥之意，不聽蒙毅之言，遂殺之。) Shiji vol. 88.
- (二世又遣使者之陽周，令蒙恬曰： ... 乃吞藥自殺。) Shiji vol. 88.