Yan Liang is careless and impatient. He is brave, but he can-not manage alone.
Ju Shou to Yuan Shao

Yan Liang 顏良 was a military general who served Yuan Shao 袁紹 and is believed to have been one of his finest warriors, though also described as careless and impatient.


During the Battle of Guandu in 200 A.D., Yuan Shao, despite objections from his Cavalry Commander Cui Yan, made plans to attack Xu city.[1]

When the people from Xu heard of Yuan Shao's plans, they all became afraid. Kong Rong talked to Xun Yu about Yuan Shao's men and mentioned Yan Liang:

Yuan Shao's lands are broad and his troops are strong. Tian Feng and Xu You are wise men to plan for him, Shen Pei and Pang Ji are loyal ministers acting in his affairs, Yan Liang and Wen Chou are brave generals in command of his troops. Here are serious problems.

Xun Yu was less impressed by Yuan Shao's forces and replied:

Yuan Shao has many soldiers, but his government is not well-ordered. Tian Feng is stubborn and insubordinate; Xu You is greedy and ill-disciplined. Shen Pei is self-opinionated and lacks original ideas; Pang Ji is too adventurous and independent. People like that find it hard to co-operate, and they will certainly disrupt his councils. Yan Liang and Wen Chou have the bravery of common fellows. One battle will be enough to deal with them.

Later, Yan Liang was sent to attack Liu Yan, the Grand Administrator of Dong commandery, at Boma.[2] Ju Shou told Yuan Shao that:

Yan Liang is careless and impatient. He is brave, but he can-not manage alone.

But Yuan Shao would not agree and Yan Liang was sent to battle.

In the fourth month Cao Cao went north to aid Liu Yan and was advised the following, by Xun You:

Our soldiers are too few to match the enemy. In order to win, you must divide our opponents' strength. When you come to the Yan Crossing, pretend to send men across the river against his rear. Yuan Shao will certainly turn west to deal with them. If you then send light troops to Boma and surprise the enemy there, Yan Liang can be taken.

Cao Cao took this advice and the plan was a succes. When Yuan Shao heard of an army supposedly crossing the rear, he sent an army to deal with them. Soon after, Cao Cao launched his attack on Boma. When they were still more then 10 li away when Yan Liang, very startled, came out to fight.

Cao Cao's top general Zhang Liao and Liu Bei-loyalist Guan Yu, who served Cao Cao at that time, were sent ahead and begin the attack. Guan Yu saw Yan Liang's standard in the distance. Whipping his horse, he broke through to Yan Liang among the ten thousand men of his army, took off his head and came back. No-one could withstand him. So the siege of Boma was broken, and the people were shifted west up the Yellow River.[3][4]

Art GalleryEdit


Fact vs. FictionEdit


  • ...Wen Chou 文醜 did not attempt to avenge Yan Liang when he was killed by Guan Yu.
    read about this fictional event here.
  • ...Romance of the Three Kingdoms more or less depicts Yan Liang and Wen Chou as Yuan Shao's finest generals. Historically, however, many consider Qu Yi 麴義 to be Yuan Shao's top general. Qu Yi did not participate at Guandu. He was killed by Yuan Shao because of insubordinate behaviour.
  • ...Yuan Shao did not mention Yan Liang and Wen Chou during the Campaign against Dong Zhuo.


  1. SGZ 12, 367 (2a-b), the Biography of Cui Yan.
  2. Boma lay south of the Yellow River some twenty kilometres southeast of Liyang.
  3. SGZ 1:19, 6:195
  4. Rafe de Crespigny, A Biographical Dictionary of the Later Han, page 937.