Yan Zhenqing — An Honest Politician, A Brave General, and A Great Calligrapher
Yan Zhenqing (709 — 784), courtesy name Qingchen, was one of the most exceptional calligraphers in Chinese culture and a great scholar and general of the Tang Dynasty (618 — 907).
His entire life was a perfect representative of loyalty, patriotism, integrity, and persistence.
A Highborn Genius That Didn't Flatter
Yan Zhenqing was born into a noble family and achieved a high score on the Imperial Examination. Then he was promoted several times because of his excellent political ability.
However, Yan Zhenqing was too candid and displeased Yang's brother several times.
Hence, Yan Zhenqing was therefore demoted and banished to a small city.
Silver Tea Set (Cha Long) of the Tang Dynasty — Shaanxi History Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)
Sometime after Yan Zhenqing arrived in this city, he found that the warlord there was planning to rebel against the Tang Empire.
This warlord, An Lushan (703 — 757), was a regional military governor guarding the borders of the Tang Empire with around 150,000 well-trained, professional soldiers.
In contrast, Yan Zhenqing was a lower-rank civil official in charge of one city under An Lushan's jurisdiction and couldn't provide any concrete shreds of evidence to show this powerful warlord's rebel intention.
Hence, he acted like a poet and a calligrapher that only loved literature and having fun. Still, secretly, he constructed many defensive projects to protect his city in the name of preventing heavy rains.
Unearthed Painted Pottery Figurines of Taming A Horse in the Tang Dynasty — Luoyang Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)
A Brave, Loyal, and Successful General
Three years after Yan Zhenqing arrived in this city, An Lushan allied with another warlord named Shi and rebelled.
The An-Shi Rebellion lasted eight years (755 — 763) and took away around 35 million lives.
When they rebelled, most Tang people had lived in peace for generations and couldn't believe a massive war was about to come.
Many cities that the rebel army had attacked in the first round fell into the rebel army's control since their governors either surrendered or escaped, except for Yan Zhenqing and his brother's cities, who were well-prepared and fought back bravely.
Unearthed Food (Dumplings and Desserts) and Utensils from the Tang Dynasty — National Museum of China (Photo by Kanjianji)
In the beginning, Yan Zhenqing only had about 3000 soldiers, but then he recruited and united more people that didn’t want to surrender.
He even sent money and his son as a hostage to ensure some powerful generals would stay firm and fight against the rebel army together.
Unfortunately, after being besieged and cut off resources, his brave brother and many family members failed after intense fights and were cruelly executed by rebel armies.
In the next few years, more soldiers and resources were well organized by Yan Zhenqing, who contributed significantly to defeating rebel armies.
Eight years later, the Tang Empire finally succeeded.
Yan Zhenqing's Calligraphy Draft to Memorize His Heroically Sacrificed nephew Yan Jiming (Ji Zhi Wen Gao), which Recorded Brave Soldiers of Tang and the Intense Fights in the An-Shi Rebellion — Taipei Palace Museum
Political Conspiracies Against An Honorable Scholar
Yan Zhenqing had been promoted several times because of his loyalty and outstanding achievements, and his highest position was the teacher of the crown prince.
However, he was frequently demoted for his integrity, straightforward attitude, and exceptional accomplishments, displeasing or threatening some powerful ministers.
When another army initiated another rebel war, Yan Zhenqing was framed and sent to the rebel army alone to "persuade" them to stop fighting.
Many people tried to stop this because everyone knew that the rebel army leader hated Yan Zhenqing very much.
But the person that set up this trap had successfully persuaded the emperor to command Yan Zhenqing to go.
Yan Zhenqing's Unbending Sacrifice
Yan Zhenqing was 74 years old at that time.
He was captured right after he arrived and was threatened and humiliated in the rebel army for a long time.
But Yan Zhenqing never complied as they commanded; as always, he never abandoned his fidelity. So he was murdered a few months later.
Yan Zhenqing had been banished, demoted, and framed several times; nevertheless, his loyalty to his country was permanent.
Besides, he was a great master in calligraphy who created a new branch that was influential and important throughout history.
Nowadays, people can see his integrity and strength in his calligraphic masterpieces and excellent essays.
Inlaying Gold Ruler of the Tang Dynasty — National Museum of China (Photo by Dongmaiying)
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