Biography (SGYY): Yan Liang

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Yan Liang
顏良
Lifespan: Unlisted

Sanguo yanyi Officer Biography
Author Notes in Blue
Authored by Morgan Evans

Yan Liang

Yan Liang was a feared general who served under Yuan Shao.

In AD 190 Yuan Shao led an alliance against the tyrant Dong Zhuo and marched his army towards the capital, Luoyang. The alliance encountered heavy resistance when they reached the River Si Pass and the pass’ defender, Hua Xiong, scattered the vanguard led by Sun Jian. Hua Xiong then led an attack on the main camp, killing two allied generals. Yuan Shao said, “What a pity my two able generals, Yan Liang and Wen Chou, are not here! Then should we have someone who would not fear this Hua Xiong.” Guan Yu killed Hua Xiong before Yan Liang’s army arrived at the River Si Pass.

Eventually Dong Zhuo withdrew his troops from the River Si Pass and abandoned the capital, after burning it to the ground. The alliance quickly marched to the capital and started extinguishing the fires and rebuilding what could be rebuilt. A soldier came to inform Yuan Shao that the emperor’s Imperial Hereditary Seal had been found by Sun Jian. The next day, Sun Jian informed Yuan Shao that he would be withdrawing his army as he had fallen ill. Yuan Shao confronted Jian about having the Imperial Seal, but the accused denied having it. The argument intensified until Sun Jian and his generals drew their weapons, but Yan Liang along with his comrade, Wen Chou, protected Yuan Shao until the others present calmed matters. The alliance broke up soon afterwards.

In AD 191 Yuan Shao decided to seize Jizhou from Han Fu and wrote to the Governor of Beiping, Gongsun Zan, proposing a joint attack on the region. However, Yuan Shao also wrote to Han Fu informing him that Zan was intent on invading. Han Fu then surrendered Jizhou to Yuan Shao. Yan Liang accompanied his lord to Jizhou and protected Yuan Shao from an assassination attempt by two of Han Fu’s generals. Hearing that Yuan Shao had taken Jizhou, Gongsun Zan sent his brother, Gonsun Yue, to Yuan Shao to request his share. However, Yuan Shao killed Yue, prompting Gongsun Zan to lead an invasion.

Yuan Shao prepared an army to meet Gongsun Zan and Yan Liang was given command of the vanguard along with Wen Chou. Qu Yi commanded the centre while Yuan Shao commanded the rear. The two forces met at the River Pan and Yuan Shao’s army scored an initial success. The next day Gongsun Zan’s general, Yan Guang, came to challenge but Yan Liang’s archers isolated him, allowing Qu Yi to cut him down. Yuan Shao’s army then attacked in full and drove the enemy back, but Yuan Shao went too far ahead and was surrounded by the enemy. Yan Liang led reinforcements to save his lord and successfully drove back Gongsun Zan’s forces until Liu Bei arrived with an army to aid Gongsun Zan. Both sides retreated to their camps and strengthened their defences. Neither army made a move for over a month until an imperial edict arrived, ordering both sides to withdraw.

Yuan Shao wished to destroy Gongsun Zan and seize his land, so in AD 198 he led a one-year campaign against Beiping. Yan Liang accompanied the army and after an extensive siege on the Yijing Tower, Gongsun Zan was defeated. Yuan Shao now ruled over four regions and possessed an army of one million men.

Now Yuan Shao turned his attention towards the capital and Cao Cao. When Liu Bei proposed a joint attack, Yuan Shao saw the opportunity that he had been waiting for and marched an army of three hundred thousand men to Liyang. Yan Liang was among the generals appointed command of the army. No hostilities broke out as both sides remained on the defensive for over a month. Eventually the commanders returned to their home territories, leaving only small forces at Liyang.

In AD 200, Yuan Shao decided that he would again go against Cao Cao and sent Yan Liang with one hundred thousand veterans to attack Baima. Soon after Cao Cao’s army arrived, Yan Liang saw the enemy general Song Xian approaching and so rode out to engage him. After only three bouts, Song Xian was dead. Wei Xu rode out from the enemy lines and hurled abuse at the triumphant general. Yan Liang did not utter a word; instead he rode straight at Wei Xu and killed him with one slash of his sword. Xu Huang was next to come out to challenge and the two fought twenty bouts before Xu Huang was forced to flee back to his own lines. With no general capable of defeating Yan Liang, Cao Cao withdrew his army and summoned Guan Yu from Xuchang. Yan Liang chose not to pursue and instead retired to his own camp.

One day, as Yan Liang was sat under the command canopy in his camp, he saw a horseman rushing towards him. Before he could ask who the approaching man was, Guan Yu was on top of him and Yan Liang was killed with one blow.

Copyright © 2004 Morgan Evans
Based on the novel, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, attributed to Luo Guanzhong