Biography (SGZ): Zhang Yan

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Zhang Yan
Lifespan Unknown

Sanguozhi Officer Biography
Pei Songzhi in Blue, Translator Notes in Green
Translated by Zhai Rong

Zhang Yan, originally surnamed Chu, came from Zhending in Changshan. When the Yellow Turbans rose up in rebellion, Zhang Yan gathered some youths to form a band of brigands. (1) They travelled around the the various hills and marshes, returning to Zhending with numbers in excess of ten thousand. Boling’s Zhang Niujiao (I) also led multitudes in revolt, styling himself Attendant Clerk who Commands Soldiers and joining with Zhang Yan. Yan persuaded Zhang Niujiao to take the role of commander-in-chief and together they attacked Yingtao. Zhang Niujiao was hit by a flying dart, and as he was dying of his wounds, he bid the throng receive Zhang Yan as their new leader, saying “You must make Yan your commander-in-chief.” After Zhang Niujiao died, the group made Yan their leader, who then changed his surname to Zhang. Yan was more swift and courageous than others, leading to the troops calling him the Flying Swallow (II). (2) The force gradually increased in strength. They built ties with forces from all the mountains and valleys of Changshan, Zhaojun, Zhongshan, Shangdang and Henei. Minor leaders like Sun Qing and Wang Dang each took their troops to join Zhang Yan, bringing the force to a million in strength. They were known as Black Mountain.(3) As Emperor Ling was incapable of attacking them, all the regions in Hebei suffered calamities at their hands. When Zhang Yan sent someone to the capital to request that he may surrender, he was granted the title of General of the Gentleman of the Households who Calms Difficulties.

I: Niujiao means “ox horn”.
1: According to Spring and Autumn of the Nine Provinces: When Zhang Jiao revolted, Black Mountain, White Wave, Yellow Dragon, the Left School, Ox Horn, Five Deers, Ram Root, Bitter Grub, Liu Shi, Han Pacification, Great Flood, the Retainers, Yuancheng, Luoshi (III), Thunder Lord, Floating Cloud, Flying Swallow, White Nobility, Yang Feng(IV) and Poison Yu all rose in rebellion, with the largest numbering some twenty to thirty thousand while the smallest were no fewer than several thousand. Emperor Ling was unable to attack them, so he appointed Yang Feng as Colonel of Black Mountain with authority to command all the various mountain bandits, nominating him as Clerk and Filially Pious and Incorrupt. Henceforth, their numbers grew unrestrained.
II: Yuancheng and Luoshi can be translated as Yuan City and Luo City respectively.
III: This person is 杨凤, not the better known 杨奉 who along with Han Xian assisted the Emperor.
IV: Yan means “swallow”.
2: According to Dian Lüe: The leaders of the Black Mountain and Yellow Scarves originally wore no head covering. Each created their own nickname, with he that rode white steeds being named White Cavalry Zhang, the swift named Flying Swallow Zhang, the loud named Thunder Lord Zhang, the long bearded named Ram Root, and the large eyed name Big Eyed Li.
3: According to Zhang Fan’s Record of Han: There were also the three divisions of the Left School, Guo Daxian and Eighty Feet Moustache Zuo.

Later, when Dong Zhuo sent the Son of Heaven to Changan, all the soldiers under heaven raised up in opposition and Zhang Yan’s group met with various heroes. When Yuan Shao and Gongsun Zan were fighting over Jizhou, Zhang Yan sent Du Chang and others to assist Gongsun Zan. They fought against and were defeated by Yuan Shao, after which some splintered from the group. When the Great Ancestor (V) took Jizhou, Zhang Yan sent a messenger to request that he may provide assistance to the Emperor. He was made General who Pacifies the North and led his force to Ye. He was made a Commune Marquis of Anguo with a fief of five hundred households. After Zhang Yan’s death, his estate passed to his son Fang. Upon Fang’s death, his son Rong inherited the estate. (4)

V: Cao Cao.
VI: Sima Zhong.
4: According to Lu Ji’s Confidential Memorandum of the Jin Respectful Emperor(VI): The Prefect Clerk Beneath the Gates Zhang Lin was a great-grandson of Zhang Yan. He took part in the revolt of King Sima Lun of Zhao, and within a year, had attained the ranks of Prefect Imperial Secretariat and General of the Guards, and had been enfeoffed as duke of a county. He was executed with the rest of Sima Lun’s associates.

Copyright © 2011 Zhai Rong. All Rights Reserved.
Translated from Chen Shou’s Sanguozhi with Pei Songzhi’s Commentary