Biography (SGZ): Li Yan (Zhengfang)

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Li Yan (Zhengfang)
李嚴 (正方)

Sanguozhi Officer Biography
translated by DarkAnthem

Li Yan, style Zhengfang, was a native of Nan Yang. He was a prefect Zhi Li when he was young, and he displayed great talent and capability. Liu Biao sent him to various different prefectures to perform his duty. When Cao Cao entered Jing Zhou, Li Yan governed Zigui. He was forced out of Zigui and went to Shu. Li Yan was made commandant in Cheng Du by Liu Zhang, and retained a high reputation for his ability. In the eighteenth year of Jian An, Li Yan was appointed as Hu Jun and defended against the Former Lord (Liu Bei) at Mian Zhu. Li Yan led his men and surrendered to the Former Lord, who then appointed Li Yan as Pi JiangJun. After Former Lord took Cheng Du, Li Yan was appointed as governor of Jian Wei and promoted to Xing Yie JiangJun.

In the 23rd year of Jian An (AD 221), bandits led by Ma Qin and Gao Sheng rebelled at Zi Zhong county; the bandit forces numbered to a few tenth thousands. The Former Lord was at Han Zhong at the time, and could not appoint any troops to Li Yan. Li Yan led 5000 men to quell the bandits. He killed Ma Qin and Gao Shang. With their leaders killed, the bandit units scattered one by one, and most the bandits reverted back to being civilians. Again, bandits at Yue Koe led by Gao Ding rebelled and surrounded Xin Dao county, Li Yan led his troops over as reinforcements, the bandits were defeated and escaped. Li Yan was promoted to Fu Han JiangJun, and ordered to perform his duties in his assigned prefecture as before. In the 2nd year of Zhang Wu (AD 222), Li Yan was called to Yong An palace, and was named Shang Shu Ling.

In the 3rd year (AD 223), The Former Lord was in his death bed. The Former Lord entrusted the Future Lord to Li Yan and Zhuge Liang. Li Yan was appointed as Zhong Du Hu; he was to be in charge of all internal and external military affairs and stationed at Yong An. In the year of Jian Xing (AD 223), Li Yan was appointed as Du Xiang Hou, and given the Fu Jie (Tiger Tally), which signified an imperial order to facilitate military and diplomatic operations; in addition, he was also named Guangluxun (Superintendent of the Imperial Household). In the 4th year (AD 226), Li Yan was reappointed as Qian Jiang Jin. As Zhuge Liang thought of starting his expedition from Han Zhong, Li Yan knew what he was to do afterwards, and moved his troops to be stationed at Jiang Zhou, leaving Chen Dou stationed at Yong An; all these troops in Jiang Zhou and Yong An were still under Li Yan’s command. Li Yan wrote Meng Da a letter saying: “I and Kong Ming (Zhuge Liang) were both entrusted with great responsibilities by the former lord; I have many concerns because of the high responsibilities, and often hope that someone could keep me company.” Zhuge Liang also wrote a letter to Meng Da saying: “Accordance to Zhang Fang’s character, he always divides his tasks up delicately and flowingly, and he never hesitates to abandon or retain something,” thus Meng Da would realize Li Yan’s importance to Shu. In the 8th year (AD 230), Li Yan was made Piao Qi JiangJun. Cao Zhen had intentions of invading Han Chuan by three routes, so Zhuge Liang ordered Li Yan with 20,000 men to Han Zhong. Zhuge Liang also memorialized for Li Yan’s son, Li Feng, to be appointed as Chief Controller of Jiang Zhou, to command affairs of the rear. Zhuge Liang planned to start a campaign in the next year, and appointed Li Yan Zhong Du Hu and ordered him to take charge of the headquarters. Li Yan was renamed as Li Ping.

In the Spring of the 9th year (AD 231), Zhuge Liang attacked Qi Shan; Li Yan stayed behind and took charge of transporting food supplies. As it was the transition period between autumn and summer, the rain fell heavily, and Li Yan feared that he could not transport the supplies successfully. He sent Hu Zhong and Cheng Fan to order Zhuge Liang to retreat in the name of the Sovereign; Zhuge Liang withdrew complying with the order. When Li Yan heard of the withdrawal, he pretended to be surprise and said to Zhuge Liang “the provisions are abundant, why have the troops withdrawn?” His intent was to avoid the blame that may be placed on him for not executing his duties, and to show Zhuge Liang’s fault in not advancing his troops. Li Yan also said to the emperor: “The troop has made a false retreat, in order to draw out the enemies and battle them.” Zhuge Liang presented all the letters and memorials written by Li Yan, which were self-contradicting from beginning to end. Li Yan could not explain himself, and he confessed to his doings

Zhuge Liang then presented to the emperor about Li Yan: “Since the late emperor lord passed away, Li Yan has been ruling in his own family, he has been content with his own welfare and focused on his own glory; he has not been worrying about the state of the country. When I went on my northern campaign, I wished to obtain Li Yan’s troops in order to station them at Han Zhong, but Li Yan raised many problems and had no intent in coming to Han Zhong, instead he requested to have five prefectures under him and be appointed as governor of Ba Zhou. Last year when I had intents of a western campaign, I wished to have Li Yan take charge of affairs in Han Zhong. However, Li Yan tried to persuade me into opening my own courts since Sima Yi and others have done so. I know of his intents, he wishes to gain profits from me doing so. Because of this, I have memorialized to have his son, Li Feng, direct affairs at Jiang Zhou, this was to give him special honor in order to meet the needs at the time. When Li Yan came, I appointed him to take charge of various affairs, and I have been blame by many others for treating Li Yan with such specialty. With important affairs unsettled and the house of Han being weak, I thought it would be better to praise Li Yan, instead of blaming him on his faults. I thought Li Yan was merely more focused on his own merits and benefits, but I had no idea that his mind was so twisted. If we let this issue slide any further, it will only bring trouble to us. This is all due to my stupidity, and saying more will only add to my faults.” Li Yan was then dismissed and made a commoner, and banished to Zi Tong prefecture. In the 12th year (AD 234), when Li Yan heard that Zhuge Liang has died, he fell ill and died himself. Li Yan often hoped that Zhuge Liang would someday reinstate his office, but with Zhuge Liang dead, no one in the future will do so, thus Li Yan became very upset and emotional. Li Yan’s son Li Feng was promoted to governor of Zhu Ti.

Copyright © 2003 DarkAnthem
Translated from Chen Shou’s Sanguozhi