Yang Wu (Former Yan)

Yang Wu (died 367), courtesy name Shiqiu, was an official of Former Yan during the Sixteen Kingdoms period. Yang was one of the few officials of Yan who served four generations of Murong Hui's family, from Hui himself to his great-grandson, Murong Wei. He was favoured by all four rulers for his upright and reliable character, and the responsibilities that he held were equal to that of Murong Ke. Prior to Murong Jun's death in 360, Yang was among the few chosen people than Jun entrusted to act as regent to his child heir, Murong Wei.

Yang Wu
Attendant Officer With Separate Carriage of Pingzhou (平州別駕)
In office
? (?)–? (?)
Chief Clerk of the Left (左長史)
In office
333 (333)–? (?)
MonarchEmperor Cheng of Jin/Murong Huang/Murong Jun
Director of Retainers (司隸)
In office
337 (337)–? (?)
MonarchMurong Huang
Prefect of the Household Gentlemen (郎中令)
In office
349 (349)–? (?)
MonarchMurong Jun
General Who Upholds Virtue (輔義將軍)
In office
349 (349)–? (?)
MonarchMurong Jun
Prefect of the Masters of Writing (尚書令)
In office
353 (353)–? (?)
MonarchMurong Jun
Minister of Works (司空)
In office
354 (354)–? (?)
MonarchMurong Jun
Grand Guardian (太保)
In office
360 (360)–? (?)
MonarchMurong Wei
Grand Commandant (太尉)
In office
365 (365)–367 (367)
MonarchMurong Wei
Personal details
Ji County, Tianjin
RelationsYang Yu (cousin)
ChildrenYang Yao
  • Yang Dan (father)
  • Lady Li (mother)
Courtesy nameShiqiu (士秋)
Posthumous nameDuke Jing of Jianning (建寧敬公)


Service under Murong HuiEdit

Yang Wu was from Wuzhong County (無終; in present-day Ji County, Tianjin) in Youbeiping Commandery. His father, Yang Dan (陽耽), was initially the Administrator of Liaoxi for the Jin dynasty. In 313, Dan was captured in Yangle (陽樂; present-day Yi County, Liaoning) by Murong Han during a joint Murong-Tuoba attack on the Duan clan. Murong Hui treated Yang Dan well after his capture and was able to employ him into his administration.

Since young, Yang Wu was honest and knowledgeable. He, too would serve in Murong Hui's governance, eventually rising to the rank of Attendant Officer With Separate Carriage of Pingzhou (平州, modern eastern Liaoning). During his tenure, Yang Wu helped maintain the peace and develop Murong Hui's territory. He would also offer Murong Hui with sound advice, earning the trust of his superior.[1]

Service under Murong HuangEdit

Murong Hui died in 333 and was succeeded by his son, Murong Huang. Following his succession, Huang handed out new appointments to his officials. One in particular was Wang Dan (王誕), who he made Chief Clerk of the Left. However, Wang suggested that the position be given to Yang Wu, who was serving as Administrator of Liaodong, due to his abilities. Huang took his advice and gave the position to Yang Wu instead. In 337, after Huang declared himself Prince of Yan, Yang Wu was appointed as Director of Retainers.

Yang Wu participated in all of Huang's campaign, providing him with strategy within his tent wherever they went.[2] When Murong Huang was dying in 348, one of his final advises to his heir, Murong Jun was in regard to Yang Wu. He told him, "Yang Shiqiu is a noble and honest scholar, loyal and unwavering. You may rely on him for great things. Treat him well!"[3]

Service under Murong JunEdit

Following his father's death, Murong Jun ascended the throne and made Yang Wu the Prefect of the Household Gentlemen. The following year, Murong Jun decided to capitalize on the civil wars occurring in Later Zhao. As he prepared for his conquest, he appointed his brother, Murong Ke, as the General Who Upholds The State, his uncle, Murong Ping, as the General Who Upholds Assistance and Yang Wu as the General Who Upholds Virtue. These three were called the "Three Upholders" (三輔) due to the fact that all three of them were given titles with the word 'upholders' (輔) in them.[4] During Yan's conquest of the Central Plains, it was said that Yang Wu's achievements were only second to that of Murong Ke's.[5]

By September 352, Later Zhao had been destroyed, and Ran Min (the ruler of Ran Wei, Zhao's breakaway state) was also killed. That month, Yang Wu was sent with Murong Ke and Feng Yi to conquer Lukou (魯口; in present-day Raoyang County, Hebei) from Wang Wu (王午), Ran Min's general who declared himself King of Anguo. Wang prepared the defences and also surrendered Ran Min's son, Ran Cao (冉操) over to the Yan army. With Ran Cao at hand, Yang Wu and the others withdrew, but not before gathering the grains from the fields near Wang Wu's base. Lukou would only be captured in 354 by Murong Ke.

Murong Jun ascended as Emperor in January 3rd of 353. Jun handed out imperial offices to his officials, with Yang Wu being made Prefect of the Masters of Writing. In 354, Yang Wu was further made Minister of Works, but he also retained his previous office.

In 355, the ruler of Duan Qi, Duan Kan, had angered Murong Jun after Duan denounced his decision to become emperor in a letter. Jun ordered Murong Ke to subdue him, but not before making Yang Wu Ke's adjutant. They defeated Duan Kan in the spring of 357, and Murong Jun subsequently executed him.

In 358, Murong Jun issued a campaign against the semi-independent warlords, Zhang Ping, Li Li (李歷) and Gao Chang (高昌). Yang Wu was tasked in attacking Gao Chang at Dongyan (東燕; in present-day Fengyang, Anhui) but was unable to capture one of Gao Chang's subordinates at Liyang (黎陽; present-day Xun County, Henan). Of the three warlords, Gao Chang was the only one who the Yan forces could not subdue. Meanwhile, Jin's Administrator of Taishan, Zhuge You (諸葛攸), attacked Yan at Dong Commandery and breached into Wuyang. Jun ordered Yang Wu, Murong Ke and Murong Zang (慕容臧) to repel Zhuge You, and so they did. Zhuge You fled back to Taishan while the Yan generals occupied the Jin territory south of the Yellow River.

Murong Jun grew critically ill in the beginning of 360. In spite of that, he was still keen on holding a grand invasion of Jin that year, with Murong Ke and Yang Wu acting as commanders. However, in February, his illness grew worse to the point that he was on the verge of death. Before he died, he ordered Yang Wu to serve as regent to his heir, Murong Wei, who was too young to rule at the time. Others who Jun entrusted were Murong Ke, Murong Ping and Muyu Gen.[6]

Service under Murong WeiEdit

Following Murong Wei's ascension, Yang Wu was appointed Grand Guardian. Even with Murong Wei, he received personal favour from the young emperor and was shown the same respect as one of the Three Excellencies. In 365, he took over Feng Yi's position as Grand Commandant following Feng's death that year. Yang was reluctant in accepting the office at first, telling Murong Wei, "In the past, Chang Lin and Xu Miao were both famous ministers. Yet, even as the realm parted into three, they refused the positions of the Three Excellencies. Who am I, some fellow of no account, that my virtue is sufficient to be worthy of such an office?"[7] Wei found this an eloquent response, but he still insisted that Yang Wu take the position.

Yang Wu served four generations of the Murong clan up to an old age. Due to his modesty and courtesy, he was able to get the respect of almost everyone including Murong Ke. Yet despite his prestigious position, he successfully stressed to his children and grandchildren to never break the law.[8] Yang Wu died in December 367 and was posthumously honoured as Duke Jing of Jianning (建寧敬公). Yang was very frugal, with accounts stating that he often rode a worn-out carriage pulled by an old horse. By the time he died, he had left no wealth.[9]


  1. ^ (陽騖,字士秋,右北平無終人也。父耽,仕廆,官至東夷校尉。騖少清素好學,器識沈遠。起家為平州別駕,屢獻安時強國之術,事多納用,廆甚奇之。) Book of Jin, Volume 111
  2. ^ (皝即王位,遷左長史。東西征伐,參謀幃幄。) Book of Jin, Volume 111
  3. ^ (燕王皝有疾,召世子俊屬之曰:「今中原未平,方資賢杰以經世務。恪智勇兼濟,才堪任重,汝其委之,以成吾志!」又曰:「陽士秋士行高潔,忠幹貞固,可托大事,汝善待之!」九月,丙申,薨。) Zizhi Tongjian, Volume 98
  4. ^ ( 以慕容恪爲輔國將軍,慕容評爲輔弼將軍,左長史陽鶩爲輔義將軍,謂之“三輔”。慕容霸爲前鋒都督、建鋒將軍。選精兵二十餘萬,講武戒嚴,爲進取之計。) Zizhi Tongjian, Volume 98
  5. ^ (俊之將圖中原也,騖制勝之功亞于慕容恪。) Book of Jin, Volume 111
  6. ^ (春,正月,癸巳,燕主俊大閱於鄴,欲使大司馬恪、司空陽騖將之入寇;會疾篤,乃召恪、騖及司徒評、領軍將軍慕輿根等受遺詔輔政。甲午,卒。) Zizhi Tongjian, Volume 101
  7. ^ (暐既嗣偽位,申以師傅之禮,親遇日隆。及為太尉,慨然而歎曰:「昔常林、徐邈先代名臣,猶以鼎足任重而終辭三事。以吾虛薄,何德以堪之!」固求罷職,言甚墾至,暐優答不許。騖清貞謙謹,老而彌篤,既以宿望舊齒,自慕容恪已下莫不畢拜。) Book of Jin, Volume 111
  8. ^ (騖歷事四朝,年耆望重,自太宰恪以下皆拜之。而騖謙恭謹厚,過於少時;戒束子孫,雖朱紫羅列,無敢違犯其法度者。) Zizhi Tongjian, Volume 101
  9. ^ (騖清貞謙謹,老而彌篤,既以宿望舊齒,自慕容恪已下莫不畢拜。性儉約,常乘弊車瘠馬,及死,無斂財。) Book of Jin, Volume 111