Yang Xian (Ming dynasty)

Yang Xian (simplified Chinese: 杨宪; traditional Chinese: 楊憲; pinyin: Yáng Xiàn; 1330–1370) was a Chinese official who lived in the early Ming dynasty. He served as the Governor of Yangzhou from 1368–70 and later became the Chief of the Central Secretariat in 1370 during the reign of the Hongwu Emperor.


Yang Xian was born in Taiyuan, Shanxi province on 1330. He was a scholar from Hanlin Academy and a student of Liu Bowen. He served as the eight rank official in the early Ming dynasty.

Governor of YangzhouEdit

In 1368, the first year of Ming dynasty, the Hongwu Emperor launched a northern inspection. He was accompanied by Liu Bowen and Yang Xian. When they reached Yangzhou, the emperor saw Yangzhou was in ruins as a result of long term war during the transition from the Yuan dynasty to the Ming dynasty. Liu Bowen recommended Yang Xian to the Hongwu Emperor, saying that Yang Xian was the right person to rebuild Yangzhou city. The emperor agreed and appointed Yang Xian as the Governor of Yangzhou and promoted him to the third rank of Officials. Yang Xian refused the third rank officials promotion and promised to rebuild Yangzhou prosperity in five years as eight rank officials. The Hongwu Emperor was very pleased and returned to the capital with Liu Bowen.

Yang Xian's first act was to rebuild the farm land. He ordered all officials and citizens to plant including himself. Every official in Yangzhou had their own square of farm land to plant. Two years later, Yangzhou farm land was rebuilt and the economic climate was growing rapidly. Thousand of people who fled from Yangzhou because of the war returned. A large amount of Yangzhou yield was sent to Ming's capital as taxes. The Hongwu Emperor was very pleased and issued an edict to recall Yang Xian to the capital.

Chief of Grand SecretariatEdit

In 1370, Yang Xian came back to the capital with some half-metre rice plants, saying they were from his own farmland. The Hongwu Emperor was very pleased and promoted Yang Xian as third-rank official and appointed him as Chief of the Grand Secretariat. From then on, Yang Xian was the most favourite official of the Hongwu Emperor. As Chief of Grand Secretariat, Yang Xian became rivals with Prime Minister Li Shanchang and his assistant Hu Weiyong. He avoided advice from his master, Liu Bowen, which saying that as officials must act according to the dynasty rule and do not seek problem with other officials.

Yang Xian become a different personality since becoming the Hongwu Emperor's trusted man. He was arrogant and looked down on other senior officials such as Hu Weiyong and Lu Chang. Lu Chang received a report saying that Yang Xian, as Yangzhou Governor was corrupt, using the tax money to buy grains and rice to please the emperor. One day, Lu Chang suggested several names to be chosen as new Officials, but Yang Xian removed all the names and replaced them with his own relatives and family members. Lu Chang was angered and involved in arguments with Yang Xian. Lu Chang accused Yang Xian of plotting to build his own power base within the Ming government. Yang Xian then planned to eliminate Lu Chang and, with other officials, were plotting to slander Lu Chang.

The next day on daily meeting with the Hongwu Emperor, some officials reported to the emperor that Lu Chang was a corrupt official because funds from the imperial treasury were used for Lu Chang's own property. Another official said that Lu Chang was still loyal to previous Yuan dynasty since he kept some gifts from the Yuan emperors even the dynasty itself had fallen. The Hongwu Emperor was upset and removed Lu Chang from his post, exiling him to the northern border and will not be used as officials again.

Er Hu, Chief of Palace Bodyguard, received report from one official, saying that one day before Yang Xian and Lu Chang were involved in serious debate. On the way to the northern border, the bodyguards escorting Lu Chang were given orders to kill Lu Chang. Er Hu had the escorting bodyguard arrested. They admitted that the one who ordered them to kill Lu Chang was the Chief of Grand Secretariat, Yang Xian. Er Hu reported this information to the Hongwu Emperor but the emperor did not believe it. Hu Weiyong, who was Yang Xian's rival, found proof that the Yangzhou farm land had not been rebuilt well. Officials Li Jin which originally from Yangzhou reported that Yang Xian was a cruel governor and did not hesitate to torture or kill citizens to reach his objectives. Provincial Secretary, Lu Mingyi reported that the "half-metre rice plant" was not from Yang Xian's farmland but was bought from western traders at a price of "15 Liang". The traders were then killed by Yang Xian.


All Yang Xian's crimes can be proved. Officials previously did not dare to report because Yang Xian was the favourite official of the Hongwu Emperor. Later, the Hongwu Emperor ordered the arrest and investigation of Yang Xian. Yang Xian admitted all his crimes and begged for his life but the emperor did not grant him parole. The Hongwu Emperor ordered Yang Xian to be tied up to five oxen and pulled until his body was ripped into five pieces. Yang Xian died instantly; he was only 40 years old.


  • "Biography of the 15th Ming Dynasty"
  • 《明朝那些事儿》

See alsoEdit