Yen Hsi-shan (1883-1960)

Photograph of Yen Hsi-shan

Wikipedia Commons

Yen Hsi-shan (Yan Xishan) was born in Shansi province, China, and was educated at the Taiyuan Military Academy. He studied at the Japanese Military Academy in 1908-1910, during which time he made contacts with Chinese nationalists. He participated in the 1911 revolution and served with Yuan Shih-k'ai, deserting him in 1915 when it became clear that Yuan's quest to become Emperor would fail. Yen gained control of Shansi and nominally joined the Kuomintang in 1927 during the drive on Peiping. However, he was exiled to Dairen in 1930 for scheming against Chiang, though he was back in control of Shansi within six months. Thereafter he maintained a low profile, concentrating his efforts on ruling Shansi in a progressive manner, encouraging education, industrialization, and modernization.

Chiang secured Yen's nominal loyalty in 1937 by giving him the 2 War Area, but Yen spend the Pacific War playing off the Kuomintang, the Communists, and the Japanese to maintain his own autonomy. At this he was largely successful. Following the Japanese surrender, Yen gained control of an entire Japanese army of four divisions, which allowed him to keep the Communists out of Shansi until April 1949. The Communists allowed him to retire peacefully until his death.

Though an autocratic warlord, Yen ran a relatively progressive regime, and emphasized the political indoctrination of his troops. As a result, he never suffered from a revolt, and his troops were notable for their loyalty to him.

Service record


Born in Shansi province

Military governor of Shansi province

Commander, Peiping and Tientsin Garrison Command

Director, Suiyuan Pacification Headquarters

State Councilor, National Government
Commander, 2 War Area

Chairman, Shansi province

President, Executive Yuan, Republic of China


Dorn (1974)

Dupuy et al. (1992) (accessed 2008-5-5)

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