An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Yan Zhu 嚴助

Jan 24, 2012 © Ulrich Theobald

Yan Zhu 嚴助 (d. 122 BCE) was an official and poet of the mid-Former Han period 前漢 (206 BCE-8 CE). His actual family name was Zhuang 莊, but historiographers later changed this name to Yan in order to evade the personal name of Emperor Ming 漢明帝 (r. 57-75 CE), Liu Zhuang 劉莊.

Yan Zhu hailed from Guiji 會稽 (modern Shaoxing 紹興, Zhejiang) and was the son – or at least a relative – of the poet Yan Jizhi 嚴忌之 (Zhuang Jizhi). In 140 BCE he attracted the attention of Emperor Wu 漢武帝 (r. 141-87 BCE) by his brilliant prose and was granted the title of ordinary grand master (zhong dafu 中大夫) that gave him the possibility to participate in political discussions at the court. In 138 he commanded a flotilla sent out to defend his home region against the marauding troops of the native Yue tribes 越 from Min 閩.

Three years later he again was sent out to pacify the belligerent mountain tribes and forced the king of the Yue to send his son as a hostage to the court. Yan Zhu himself was appointed governor (taishou 太守) of the commandery of Guiji and was bestowed the rank of palace attendant (shizhong 侍中). In 122 BCE he was involved in the rebellion of Liu An 劉安, Prince of Huainan 淮南, and was executed.

Yan Zhu had composed 35 juan of rhapsodies and poems that are lost.

Cang Xiuliang 倉修良, ed. (1996). Hanshu cidian 漢書辭典 (Jinan: Shandong jiaoyu chubanshe), 1104.