Yao Silian

Last updated

Yao Silian (姚思廉; died 637), courtesy name Jianzhi (簡之), [1] formally Baron Kang of Fengcheng (豐成康男), was a Chinese historian and politician during the Sui Dynasty and Tang Dynasty and was the lead author of the Book of Liang and Book of Chen , official histories of Liang Dynasty and Chen Dynasty, which his father Yao Cha (姚察), a Chen official, had begun but did not finish.



It is not known when Yao Silian was born, other than that it was during Chen Dynasty. His father Yao Cha was the minister of civil service affairs during Chen, and after Chen's destruction by rival Sui Dynasty in 589, Yao Cha moved his family from Wuxing (吳興, in modern Huzhou, Zhejiang) to the Sui capital Daxing (Chang'an), successively serving as an advisor to Emperor Wen of Sui's crown prince Yang Yong and the secretary general of the Palace Library, carrying the title of Duke of Beijiang. During Yao Cha's life, he had begun to write the histories of Chen and its predecessor Liang Dynasty, but was unable to complete it before his death. [2] [3] [4]

Yao Silian studied the Book of Han under his father when he was young. It was said that he had few desires other than to study. Prior to Chen's destruction, he served as the secretary to Chen Zhuang (陳莊) the Prince of Kuaiji, a son of Chen's last emperor Chen Shubao. [2] [3] [4]

During Sui Dynasty

After Chen's destruction, Yao Silian served as a military advisor to Emperor Wen's son Yang Liang the Prince of Han. At some point, due to Yao Cha's death, he resigned to observe a mourning period. He thereafter served as a secretary at the government of Hejian Commandery (河間, roughly modern Baoding, Hebei). He requested permission from Emperor Wen's son and successor Emperor Yang to continue writing the histories of Liang and Chen that Yao Cha had started, and Emperor Yang agreed. Emperor Yang further ordered him and another official, Cui Zujun (崔祖濬), to lead a team of scholars in drafting regional maps and histories. He later served as a teacher of Emperor Yang's grandson Yang You the Prince of Dai. [2] [3] [4]

By 617, the Sui state was engulfed by agrarian rebellions, and Emperor Yang was in Jiangdu (江都, in modern Yangzhou, Jiangsu), leaving Yang You nominally in charge of Chang'an, when the general Li Yuan the Duke of Tang started a rebellion and attacked Chang'an, claiming that his intent was to make Yang You emperor. When Chang'an fell in winter 617, it was said that Yang You's staff all fled, except for Yao Silian, who stayed with Yang You, and as Li Yuan's soldiers entered Yang You's mansion, yelled out sternly, "The Duke of Tang started his uprising in order to secure the imperial clan. You cannot be impolite to the Prince." The soldiers backed off. Li Yuan was impressed with Yao's dedication to Yang You, and while he still had Yang You seized by his own subordinates, allowed Yao to accompany Yang You to Shunyang Pavilion (順陽閣) before leaving. People who witnessed the event commented, "It is said that kind people are also brave. This man is an example." Li Yuan soon declared Yang You emperor (as Emperor Gong), but after receiving news in 618 that Emperor Yang had been killed in a coup at Jiangdu led by the general Yuwen Huaji, had Yang You yield the throne to him, establishing Tang Dynasty as its Emperor Gaozu. [2] [3] [4]

During Tang Dynasty

After the founding of Tang Dynasty, Yao Silian served as a scholar at the mansion of Emperor Gaozu's son and leading general Li Shimin the Prince of Qin. Later, when Li Shimin was on a campaign against a rival agrarian rebel ruler, Xu Yuanlang the Prince of Lu, Li Shimin had some discussions with others about the events during Sui Dynasty, and he commented, "Yao Silian dared to stand up to swords to show his faithfulness, and this was difficult even in ancient days." At that time, Yao was not with him, but was at Luoyang. Li Shimin sent a messenger to Luoyang to award Yao with silk, stating, "I have just remembered your faithfulness and righteousness and I am now awarding you for them." [2] [3] [4]

In 626, Li Shimin, then locked in an intense rivalry with his brother Li Jiancheng the Crown Prince, ambushed and killed Li Jiancheng and another brother who supported Li Jiancheng, Li Yuanji the Prince of Qi, at Xuanwu Gate. He then effectively forced Emperor Gaozu to create him crown prince and then yield the throne to him (as Emperor Taizong). Yao became an imperial scholar at the institute Hongwen Pavilion (弘文館). Emperor Taizong had him continue the compilation of the histories of Liang and Chen, under supervision by the chancellor Wei Zheng. Yao, taking in also commentaries that had been written by Xie Gui (謝炅) and Gu Yewang (顧野王), completed the works in 636, and Emperor Taizong awarded him with silk and promoted him to be Tongzhi Sanqi Changshi (通直散騎常侍), a senior advisor at the examination bureau of government (門下省, Menxia Sheng). It was said that Yao was faithful and gave honest advice whenever needed. In 632, for example, there was an occasion when Emperor Taizong was about to visit the summer palace Jiucheng Palace (九成宮, in modern Baoji, Shaanxi), when Yao argued against it, opining that visiting secondary palaces was something that Qin Shi Huang and Emperor Wu of Han did, not what rulers who were even better regarded—the legendary Emperor Yao, Emperor Shun, Yu the Great, and Tang of Shang did. Emperor Taizong, while citing that he was going to Jiucheng Palace to avoid an asthma attack, nevertheless awarded Yao with silk. In 635, he created Yao the Baron of Fengcheng. Yao died in 637 and was buried with honor, near the tomb of Emperor Taizong's wife Empress Zhangsun, where Emperor Taizong himself would eventually be buried. His grandson Yao Shu would later serve as a chancellor during the reign of Emperor Taizong's daughter-in-law Wu Zetian. [2] [3] [4]

Related Research Articles

Emperor Taizong of Tang Chinese emperor of the Tang Dynasty (598-649) (r. 626-649)

Emperor Taizong of Tang, previously Prince of Qin, personal name Li Shimin, was the second emperor of the Tang dynasty of China, ruling from 626 to 649. He is traditionally regarded as a co-founder of the dynasty for his role in encouraging Li Yuan, his father, to rebel against the Sui dynasty at Jinyang in 617. Taizong subsequently played a pivotal role in defeating several of the dynasty's most dangerous opponents and solidifying its rule over China.

Emperor Gaozu of Tang Founding emperor of the Tang Dynasty (566-635) (r. 618–626)

Emperor Gaozu of Tang, born Li Yuan, courtesy name Shude, was the founder of the Tang dynasty of China, and the first emperor of this dynasty from 618 to 626. Under the Sui dynasty, Li Yuan was the governor in the area of modern-day Shanxi, and was based in Taiyuan.

Li Jing (Tang dynasty)

Li Jing, courtesy name Yaoshi, posthumously known as Duke Jingwu of Wei, was a Chinese general who lived in the early Tang dynasty and was most active during the reign of Emperor Taizong. In 630, Li Jing defeated the Göktürks, led by Jiali Khan, with just 3,000 cavalry soldiers in a surprise attack, allowing the Tang Empire to subjugate the Göktürks and reduce them to the status of a vassal under the Tang Empire. Li Jing and Li Shiji are considered the two most prominent early Tang generals.

Wei Zheng

Wei Zheng (580–643), courtesy name Xuancheng, posthumously known as Duke Wenzhen of Zheng, was a Chinese politician and historian. He served as a chancellor of the Tang dynasty for about 13 years during the reign of Emperor Taizong. He was also the lead editor of the official history of the Sui dynasty, the Book of Sui, which was composed in 636.

Feng Lun (568–627), courtesy name Deyi, better known as Feng Deyi, formally Duke Miao of Mi, was an official of the Sui and Tang dynasties who served as a chancellor during the reigns of Emperor Gaozu of Tang and Emperor Taizong of Tang. He was praised for his quick thinking but criticized by historians for his being overly attentive to the emperors' desires.

Pei Ji (570-629), courtesy name Xuanzhen, formally Duke of Hedong, was an important official and one-time chancellor of the Tang dynasty. He initially served as an official of the Sui dynasty and was one of the driving forces in persuading the general Li Yuan to rebel against Emperor Yang of Sui. He eventually assisted Li Yuan in founding the Tang dynasty as its Emperor Gaozu and was greatly honored in Emperor Gaozu's reign. After Emperor Gaozu's son Emperor Taizong became emperor in 626, Pei began to be accused of corruption and associations with witchcraft and was exiled. Emperor Taizong soon remembered Pei's contributions to Tang's founding and tried to recall him, but Pei died before he could do so.

Princess Pingyang (Chinese: 平阳公主; pinyin: Píngyáng Gōngzhǔ, formally Princess Zhao of Pingyang was the daughter of Li Yuan, the founding emperor of the Tang dynasty. She helped him to seize power and eventually take over the throne from Sui dynasty by organizing an "Army of the Lady", commanded by herself, in her campaign to capture the Sui capital Chang'an. In her own way, she was the first general of the Tang dynasty.

Empress Zhangsun (長孫皇后, personal name unknown, presumably Wugou, formally Empress Wendeshunsheng or, in short, Empress Wende, was a Chinese essayist and empress of the Chinese Tang Dynasty. She was the wife of Emperor Taizong and the mother of Emperor Gaozong. She was well educated, and her ancestors were of Xianbei nationality. Their original surname was Tuoba, later changed to Zhangsun.

Yuchi Gong

Yuchi Gong (尉遲恭) or Yuchi Rong (尉遲融) (585–658), courtesy name Jingde (敬德), also known by his posthumous name Duke Zhongwu of E, was a prominent general who lived in the early Tang dynasty. Yuchi Jingde and another general Qin Shubao are worshipped as door gods in Chinese folk religion.

Luo Yi, known during service to Tang Dynasty as Li Yi (李藝), courtesy name Ziyan (子延) or Ziting (子廷), was a Sui Dynasty official who rose against the rule of Emperor Yang of Sui and occupied the modern Beijing region. He subsequently submitted to Emperor Gaozu of Tang and was created the Prince of Yan and granted the imperial surname of Li. He subsequently, in the struggle between Emperor Gaozu's sons Li Jiancheng the Crown Prince and Li Shimin the Prince of Qin, joined Li Jiancheng's faction. After Li Shimin killed Li Jiancheng in 626 and forced Emperor Gaozu to yield the throne to him, Li Yi was fearful, and he rebelled against Emperor Taizong in 627. He was soon defeated and killed.

Li Jiancheng (Chinese: 李建成; pinyin: Lǐ Jiànchéng; 589 – July 2, 626, formally Crown Prince Yin, nickname Vaishravana, was the first crown prince of the Chinese Tang Dynasty. He was the oldest son of the founding emperor Emperor Gaozu and the crown prince after the founding of the dynasty in 618 CE.

Li Yuanji (李元吉), formally Prince La of Chao (巢剌王), more commonly known by the title of Prince of Qi (齊王), nickname Sanhu (三胡), was an imperial prince of the Chinese Tang Dynasty. He was a son of the dynasty's founder Emperor Gaozu of Tang, and in the intense rivalry developed between his older brothers Li Jiancheng the Crown Prince and Li Shimin the Prince of Qin, he sided with Li Jiancheng and often advocated drastic actions against Li Shimin, including assassination. In 626, Li Shimin, fearing that Li Jiancheng and Li Yuanji were about to kill him, laid an ambush for them at Xuanwu Gate outside the palace and killed them. Li Shimin then effectively forced Emperor Gaozu to yield the throne to him.

Xuanwu Gate Incident

The Xuanwu Gate Incident was a palace coup for the throne of the Tang dynasty on 2 July 626, when Prince Li Shimin and his followers assassinated Crown Prince Li Jiancheng and Prince Li Yuanji. Li Shimin, the second son of Emperor Gaozu, was in an intense rivalry with his elder brother Li Jiancheng and younger brother Li Yuanji. He took control and set up an ambush at Xuanwu Gate, the northern gate leading to the Palace City of the imperial capital Chang'an. There, Li Jiancheng and Li Yuanji were murdered by Li Shimin and his men. Within three days after the coup, Li Shimin was installed as the crown prince. Emperor Gaozu abdicated another sixty days later and passed the throne to Li Shimin, who would become known as Emperor Taizong.

Yang Guan, courtesy name Gongren, better known as Yang Gongren, formally Duke Xiao of Guan, was an official and general during the Sui and Tang dynasties, at one point serving as a Tang chancellor.

Chen Shuda, courtesy name Zicong, formally Duke Zhong of Jiang, was an imperial prince of the Chen dynasty, who, after the destruction of Chen, served as an official under the Sui and Tang dynasties, becoming a chancellor during the reigns of the Tang emperors Gaozu and Taizong.

Yuwen Shiji, courtesy name Renren, formally Duke Zong of Ying, was an official of the Sui and Tang dynasties, serving as a chancellor, as Shizhong (侍中) (625–626) and Zhongshu Ling (中書令) (626–627), during the reigns of Emperors Gaozu and Taizong of Tang. He was previously an imperial prince in the short-lived state of Xu (許), which was ruled by his brother Yuwen Huaji.

Xiao Yu

Xiao Yu (574–647), courtesy name Shiwen, posthumously known as Duke Zhenbian of Song, was an imperial prince of the Western Liang dynasty who later became an official under the Sui and Tang dynasties. He served as a chancellor during the reigns of the emperors Gaozu and Taizong in the early Tang dynasty.

Fang Xuanling

Fang Qiao, courtesy name Xuanling, better known as Fang Xuanling, posthumously known as Duke Wenzhao of Liang, was a Chinese statesman and writer who served as a chancellor under Emperor Taizong in the early Tang dynasty. He was the lead editor of the historical record Book of Jin and one of the most celebrated Tang dynasty chancellors. He and his colleague, Du Ruhui, were often described as role models for chancellors in imperial China.

Wang Gui (571–639), courtesy name Shujie, posthumously known as Duke Yi of Yongning, was a Chinese official who served as a chancellor during the reign of Emperor Taizong in the Tang dynasty. He had previously served Li Shimin's elder brother, Li Jiancheng, with whom Li Shimin was locked in an intense rivalry during the reign of their father, Emperor Gaozu, but after Li Shimin killed Li Jiancheng and then took the throne, he knew that Wang was faithful to Li Jiancheng and was capable, and therefore retained him, eventually making him chancellor. Wang was known for his honest and blunt criticism of the emperor, and for that was honored by Taizong, who appreciated such criticism.

Linghu Defen (582–666), formally Duke Xian of Pengyang (彭陽憲公), was Chinese historian and politician. He was an official of the Chinese dynasties Sui Dynasty and Tang Dynasty. During Tang, he was a major proponent for the compilation of the histories of Sui and its predecessor Northern Zhou and was eventually put in charge of compiling Northern Zhou's official history Book of Zhou, which was completed in 636.


  1. The Old Book of Tang indicates that his courtesy name was Jianzhi, but the New Book of Tang indicates that his formal name was Jian (簡) but went by the courtesy name of Silian. Compare Old Book of Tang , vol. 73 with New Book of Tang, vol. 102.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Old Book of Tang , vol. 73.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 New Book of Tang , vol. 102.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Zizhi Tongjian , vols. 184, 189, 191, 192, 194