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Zhang Yan (Han dynasty)

Zhang Yan
General Who Pacifies the North (平北將軍)
(under Cao Cao)
In office
204 (204) – ? (?)
MonarchEmperor Xian of Han
Personal details
Chu Yan (褚燕)

Zhengding County, Hebei
OccupationBandit leader, general
Other nameZhang Feiyan (張飛燕)
PeerageMarquis of Anguo Village

Zhang Yan (About this soundpronunciation ) (fl. 180s–205), born Chu Yan, also known as Zhang Feiyan, was the leader of the Heishan bandits during the late Eastern Han dynasty of China.


Chu Yan was from Zhending County, Changshan Commandery, which is around present-day Zhengding County, Hebei. Because he was fast, and agile, and brave, his men called him "Feiyan", meaning "Flying Swallow". There is little mentioned about his life before 185 CE in historical records. In 185, he and Zhang Niujue (張牛角), another bandit leader, raided the town of Yingtao (癭陶). Zhang Niujue was killed, but before he died, he ordered his men to obey Chu Yan as their new leader. Chu Yan thus changed his family name from "Chu" to "Zhang" to honour Zhang Niujue.

Zhang Yan's force steadily grew in strength, until they were said to be one million strong. They became known as the Heishan bandits. All the commanderies north of the Yellow River were exposed to their attacks and the Han imperial court could do nothing to stop them.

In 193, Zhang Yan fought to a stalemate against the warlord Lü Bu, who at the time was serving nominally under another warlord Yuan Shao, and undertook his quest to pacify various regions neighbouring the Taihang Mountains. In 199, Zhang Yan responded to the warlord Gongsun Zan's request for help in the Battle of Yijing against Yuan Shao, but Gongsun Zan was defeated before Zhang Yan arrived.

In 204, Zhang Yan made contact with the warlord Cao Cao, who at the time was warring against Yuan Shao's sons, Yuan Tan and Yuan Shang. Cao Cao appointed him General Who Pacifies the North (平北將軍). In the summer of 205, after Cao Cao defeated the Yuans, Zhang Yan officially surrendered to the Han imperial court and was enfeoffed as the Marquis of Anguo Village (安國亭侯). What happened to him after that is not recorded in history.

See also


  • Chen, Shou (3rd century). Records of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguozhi).
  • de Crespigny, Rafe (1996). 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. Canberra: Faculty of Asian Studies, The Australian National University.
  • Pei, Songzhi (5th century). Annotations to Records of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguozhi zhu).
  • Sima, Guang (1084). Zizhi Tongjian.