An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Yan Ying 晏嬰

Dec 11, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Yan Ying 晏嬰 (d. 500 BCE) was a high minister of the state of Qi 齊 during the Spring and Autumn period 春秋 (770-5th cent. BCE). His personal name was Yan Zhong 晏仲, honorific name Yan Pingzhong 晏平仲. He was also called Yanzi 晏子 "Master Yan".

In 556, he interited the post of minister (qing 卿) held by his father Yan Huanzi 晏桓子. Yan Ying served three rulers for more than 50 years, in which he was a very crucial person intermediating between the dukes of Qi and the lower officialdom. He was popular for his austerity in government and his favourable treatment of subordinates.

Yan Ying saw the danger the mighty house of Tian 田 (see Tian Chang 田常) represented to the ducal house and tried his best to support the ruling family. He suggested to duke Jing marrying a princess of the state of Jin 晉 to tighten the relations with this state. He also admonished Duke Jing 齊景公 (r. 547-490) to cut taxes and to relax the penal law somewhat in order to gain more popularity among the population.

Another issue to be reformed were religious ceremonies that concentrated on invocating good luck and averting disaster. A rouler should instead, Yan said, govern by rituals and etiquette and not too much rely on Heaven. A benevolent government would have a more direct success than praying for heal.

There is a collection of stories of Yan Ying's advice to the dukes of Qi, the Yanzi chunqiu 晏子春秋, written during the Warring States period 戰國 (5th cent.-221 BCE).

Cang Xiuliang 倉修良, ed. (1991). Shiji cidian 史記辭典 (Jinan: Shandong jiaoyu chubanshe), 410.