Wei Yan

Three Kingdoms infobox
Name=Wei Yan

Title= Military general
Kingdom=Shu Han
Pinyin=Wèi Yán
WG=Wei Yen
Zi=Wenchang (文長)

Wei Yan (?–234) was a military general of Shu Han during the Three Kingdoms era of China.

The historical novel "Romance of the Three Kingdoms" suggested that Wei Yan originally served as a mid-ranked military officer under the warlord Liu Biao, but the history books did not officially recognize that.

Wei Yan joined Liu Bei's army after Liu Bei captured Changsha in 209. In 211 Wei Yan was a soldier in Liu Bei's campaign to Yi Province (益州, modern Sichuan and Chongqing) Harvcol|de Crespigny|2007|pp=857. His talent helped him to become a major general of Liu Bei's army in very few years. Liu Bei named him as Administrator of Hanzhong (漢中) [This post had previously been held by Lu Su. See Passage G of Jian'an 15 in the Zizhi tongjian of Sima Guang; Harvcoltxt|de Crespigny|2004.] and regional Area Commander in the year 219 Harvcol|de Crespigny|2007|pp=857.

After Liu Bei's death in 223, Zhuge Liang employed him for the war with Cao Wei. He had suggested some radical plans in order to win the war but Zhuge Liang rejected them.

When Zhuge Liang died in 234, some officers under him (including Jiang Wei and Ma Dai) killed Wei Yan, in the title of "rebellion".

Both the history books and the semi-fictional novel suggested that Wei Yan intended to attack Sima Yi, a prominent officer and strategist of Cao Wei, but officers such as Jiang Wei objected to the plan and ordered Wei Yan to retreat. Wei Yan refused and thus attempted to kill those officers by burning down the wooden walkway and preventing them from returning to Shu Han. Those officers then labeled Wei Yan a rebel and killed him through the use of a sagacious strategy.

According to the "Records of Three Kingdoms", Wei Yan was a very arrogant man and others tended to avoid him. Some believed that Wei Yan was an aggressive person, which was incompatible with Zhuge Liang's strategies and methods. Moreover, Wei Yan's personality caused Yang Yi, his subordinate officer, to fear and despise him, with the two barely capable of avoiding fighting one another. Eventually Ma Dai and Yang Yi murdered Wei Yan. Yang Yi later slew Wei Yan's entire family as well.

Others believeFact|date=May 2007 that Zhuge Liang was unfairly biased against Wei Yan, beginning when Wei Yan rescued Huang Zhong from execution and surrendered a city to Liu Bei, slaying the prefect in the process. While Zhuge Liang welcomed Huang Zhong, he ordered Wei Yan executed, saying that anyone who would betray their lord so easily was untrustworthy. Liu Bei ordered Wei Yan's life spared and welcomed him into his forces. Wei Yan, however, never actually slew Han Xuan who, in fact, surrendered to Liu Bei.

Based on the one example of Zhuge Liang's entrusting his student Ma Su to an important task despite Liu Bei's warning that he was unsuited for anything important, Wei Yan's supporters believeFact|date=May 2007 that this was simply another example of Zhuge Liang's poor judgment of character as opposed to his supreme judgement of warfare. It was said that even the great general Zhang He respected and feared Wei Yan's abilities.


Wei Yan, stylename Wenchang, was a native of Yiyang. As the Company of the Division (Bu Qu), he followed Liu Bei into Shu. He had many military accomplishments and was assigned as General of the Standard (Ya Men Jiang Jun).

Liu Bei became King of Hanzhong and was about to leave for Chengdu. As for selecting the general who would guard Han Chuan (Hanzhong), many considered Zhang Fei to be the likely candidate and Zhang Fei himself thought he was likely to be chosen. However, Liu Bei named Wei Yan as the "General Who Maintains Distant Lands in Peace," as well as the Governor of Hanzhong, to the astonishment of many in the army. Liu Bei said in front of the various ministers, "Now I am entrusting a great responsibility on you, Sir, do you have anything that you want to say?". Wei Yan replied, "If Cao Cao with the entire world was coming here, I request that I smite him on behalf of Your Highness. If it is an auxiliary force of a hundred thousand, I request that I swallow them on behalf of Your Highness." Liu Bei was very pleased and everyone else cried out boldly in agreement. Liu Bei honored Wei Yan with the title, General Who Suppresses the North.

In the first year of Jian Xing [CE 223] , he was enfeoffed as Marquis of a Chief Village (Dou Ting Hou).

In the fifth year [CE 227] , Zhuge Liang stationed in Hanzhong and Wei Yan was to supervise the front division with the rank of Major of the Prime Minister (Cheng Xiang Sima) and Inspector (Ci Shi) of Liangzhou.

In the eighth year [CE 230] , he was sent as ambassador into the Qiang tribes, where the Wei General of the Rear Army, Fei Yao, and the Inspector of Yongzhou, Guo Huai, battled with him at Yang Qi. Wei Yan heavily defeated them and was promoted as Advisor of the Front Army (Qian Jun Shi), General Who Conquers the West, and Marquis of Nanzheng.

Each time he accompanied Zhuge Liang on expedition, he always wanted to lead ten thousand and go along different paths to meet up with Zhuge Liang at the Tong Pass, based on the previous strategy of Han Xin. But Zhuge Liang never allowed this plan and Wei Yan often said Zhuge Liang was faint-hearted. He sighed that his talents were not used to their full potential. Wei Lue says: Xiahou Mao was the General Who Pacifies the West stationed in Chang'an. When Zhuge Liang was in Nanzheng discussing strategy with his generals, Wei Yan said, "I have heard this Xiahou Mao is the son-in-law of their emperor; he is faint-hearted and without counsel. I wish to take five thousand troops, another five thousand to carry supplies, to march out of Baozhong eastward along the Qin Ling mountains, and then turn north up Ziwu. I will reach Chang'an within ten days. When Mao hears of my sudden arrival, he is certain to take a boat and flee. In Chang'an, there is only Counselor (Yu Shi) and the Governor (Taishou) of Jingshao left to defend. The grain in the storehouses of Heng Men and those left behind by the people who scatter will be enough for us. It will take about twenty days for our main force to meet up with the force in the East, to which Your Excellency, taking the road out of Xie valley will reach the place. This way, the region west of Xianyang will be settled in one stroke." However Zhuge Liang considered this county to be dangerous and preferred to travel along the flat roads and so that Longyou could be taken easily. He was certain that ten times out of ten, this plan was certain to work without any worry, and so he did not accept Wei Yan's plan. Wei Yan was very good to his soldiers and was braver than others. He was boastful of his talents and many tended to avoid him. However, Yang Yi alone made no concession to him and Yan was extremely resentful of him. They were like fire and water.

In the twelfth year [CE 234] , Zhuge Liang marched out of the mouth of the North valley, with Wei Yan leading the Van. At ten miles away from Zhuge Liang's tent, Wei Yan dreamed that horns grew out of his head. So he asked Zhao Zhi for the meaning of this dream and Zhi gave him a false reply, "Every Qilin (Chinese unicorn) has horns but has no need for them. This means that without need for battle, the rebels will become defeated themselves." However, others interpret the dream as, "The character 'jiao' (horn), is shaped like a downward knife. To have a knife above one's head is a very ominous sign for him."

In the autumn, Zhuge Liang fell sick and sent secret orders to the Chief Clerk (Chang Shi), Yang Yi, the Major, Fei Yi, and the Protector of the Army, Jiang Wei for the army's retreat after his death. Wei Yan was to guard the rear with Jiang Wei after him. If Wei Yan refused to accept the order, they were to retreat without him.

Zhuge Liang died but his death was kept secret. Yang Yi ordered Fei Yi to go to Wei Yan and to discover his intentions. Wei Yan said, "Although the Prime Minister had died, I am still here. The officials belonging to the Office of Prime Minister may carry his mortal remains to be buried. I, on the other hand, should command the various troops and strike at the rebels. Because of the death of one man, must we neglect the affairs of the State? Besides, who am I, Wei Yan, that I should be commanded by Yang Yi to serve as general of the rearguard?" So he and Fei Yi took charge of the troops left behind and had Yi write a letter to be signed by both of them which was to be announced to the various generals. Fei Yi said to Wei Yan, "I should go on your behalf and explain this to the Chief Clerk, Yang Yi. The Chief Clerk is a civil official and is not experienced in military affairs, so it is certain to not disobey you." Fei Yi galloped quickly out the gate and Wei Yan regretted letting him go, so he went after him but could not catch up. He then sent someone to Yang Yi and the others, who were following Zhuge Liang's plan, so the various encampments were returning. Wei Yan was very angry and before Yang Yi had started, he led his troops back to the South before them, and burnt the plank roads.

Both Wei Yan and Yang Yi sent memorials, each accusing each other of rebelling. Within the same day, their memorials arrived and Shu Emperor Liu Shan asked the Clerk (Shi Zhong), Dong Yun and the left behind Chief Clerk of the Office of Prime Minister, Jiang Wan. Both of them supported Yang Yi while were suspicious of Wei Yan. Yang Yi had trees hewn to make roads and marched day and night to get close behind Wei Yan. Wei Yan arrived first at the Southern Valley and ordered his troops to attack Yang Yi and the others. Yang Yi ordered Wang Ping forward to resist Wei Yan. Wang Ping scolded at Wei Yan, "His Excellency so lately died that his body is not yet cold; how dare you act this way!" Wei Yan's soldiers knew their leader was in the wrong and no-one dared to act and so they scattered. Wei Yan, along with his sons and a few followers, fled to Hanzhong. Yang Yi sent Ma Dai to give chase. Ma Dai chopped Wei Yan's head off and sent it to Yang Yi. Yang Yi stepped on it and said, "You slave! Can you do your wicked deeds anymore?" He ordered the execution of Wei Yan's family to the third degree. Before, Jiang Wan had led the various camps of the imperial bodyguards north to cope with the disorders. He traveled about ten li (1 quarter mile) when he heard news of Wei Yan's death, and so he returned.

In the beginning, Wei Yan did not go north to Wei but instead returned to the South. From there he joined Sun Jian and marched towards Cheng Du to attack Liu Shan. But his only desire was to kill Yang Yi, Liu Shan's officer, and the others in disagreement with him, with the hope that opinion of the time would make him Zhuge Liang's successor. This was his actual aim and he did not think of rebelling. Wei Lue says: When Zhuge Liang died, he said to Wei Yan and the others, "After I am dead, be cautious in guarding but do no return here". Wei Yan was ordered to be assist in the operations and keep his death a secret and so he did as told. When they reached the entrance of Bao, the death was announced and a funeral held. Zhuge Liang's Chief Clerk, Yang Yi, was never in agreement with Wei Yan, and after noticing that Yan was in charge of military affairs, feared that he would be harmed. So he made rumours that Wei Yan was going to submit to the North and led his troops to attack him. In reality, Wei Yan had no intention to do such a thing, and so offered no resistance.

Modern references

Wei Yan is a playable character in the Koei video game series "Dynasty Warriors". He is depicted as a fearsome and unpredictable man, barely capable of maintaining the trust of his fellow officers and often merely grunting a few words and with qualities that can be described as barbaric. In "Dynasty Warriors 6" he wields a giant club and wears armour similar to that of Orochi from "Warriors Orochi".



*. Internet Edition 2004.
* Internet edition.
*Harvrefcol|Surname=de Crespigny|Given=Rafe|Title= [http://www.anu.edu.au/asianstudies/decrespigny/peace2_index.html To Establish Peace: being the Chronicle of the Later Han dynasty for the years 189 to 220 AD] as recorded in Chapters 59 to 69 of the Zizhi Tongjian of Sima Guang|Publisher=Australian National University|Place=Canberra|Year=2004. Internet Edition.
*. ISBN 978-90-04-15605-0

ee also

*Three Kingdoms
*Personages of the Three Kingdoms
*"Records of Three Kingdoms"
*"Romance of the Three Kingdoms"

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