Zhāng Yān was a Chángshān Zhēndìng man, originally surnamed Chǔ.
When the Yellow Headscarves rebelled , Yān gathered many youths into a bandit horde, ravaged Shānzé, and returned to Zhēndìng with an army of over ten thousand men. Bólíng’s Zhāng Niújiǎo “Oxhorn” also raised an army, styling himself a General and leading troops, and joined with Yān. Yān deferred to Niújiǎo as the commander, and together they attacked Yǐngtáo. Niújiǎo was hit by an arrow. He was seriously wounded and near death, and ordered the army to follow Yān, telling them: “Yān must be the commander.” Niújiǎo died and the army followed Yān, so he changed his surname to Zhāng.
Yān was swift in evading blows and nimble and fast surpassing other men, so the army called him Fēi-Yān “the Flying Swallow.”
Later the men grew numerous and expansive, so the hills and valleys across Chángshān, Zhào-jùn, Zhōngshān, Shàngdǎng, Hénèi were united. Smaller commanders Sūn Qīng, Wáng Dāng, and others led separate divisions that followed Yān. The horde reached a million, and was called the Hēishān “Black Mountain” bandits. Líng-dì could not suppress them, and all the prefectures north of the Hé suffered harm. Yān sent men to the capital to negotiate nominal surrender, and so Yān was appointed Pacifying Disasters Internal Cadet-General. (1)
- (1) Jiǔzhōu Chūnqiū states: Zhāng Jué had rebelled. Hēishān “Black Mountain,” Báibō “White Wave,” Huánglóng “Yellow Dragon,” Zuǒ Xiào “Colonel,” Niújiǎo “Oxhorn,” Wǔlù “Five Stags,” Dīgēn “Ram Roots,” Kǔqiú “Bitter Worm,” Liú Shí “Rock,” Píng-Hàn “Pacifying Hàn,” Dàhóng “Great Flood, Sīlì “Director of Retainers,” Yuánchéng “Fate City,” Luóshì “Silk Market,” Léigōng “Lord of Thunder,” Fúyún, “Floating Cloud,” Fēi-Yān “Flying Sparrow,” Báijué, “White Noble,” Yáng Fèng “Phoenix,” Yú Dú “Poison,” and others each raised troops. The largest had twenty to thirty thousand, the smallest did not have less than several thousand. Líng-dì could not suppress them, so he sent envoys to appoint Yáng Fèng as Colonel of Hēishān, to command the various mountain bandits, and nominate Xiàolián “Filial Incorrupt” candidates for office. After this they spread and grew, and could no longer be counted.
- Diǎnlüè states: The various commanders of the Black Mountain and Yellow Scarves were originally not capped, and so gave each other appellations. They called the one who rode a white horse as Zhāng Báiqí “White Rider,” and the one who was swift and agile as Zhāng Fēi-Yān “Flying Swallow,” they called the one with a loud voice Zhāng Léigōng “Lord of Thunder,” the one with a lush beard called himself Yú Dīgēn “Ram Roots,” and the one with large eyes called himself Lǐ Dàmù “Big Eye.”
- Zhāng Fán’s Hànjì says there was also Zuǒ Xiào, Guō Dàxián “Great Worthy,” Zuǒ Zīzhàngbā “Eighty-foot mustache,” three divisions.
After this, Dǒng Zhuó moved Heaven’s Son to Cháng’ān, and soldiers across the realm rose up. Yān then led his horde to strive with the leading figures. Yuán Shào and Gōngsūn Zàn fought in Jìzhōu, and Yān sent his subordinate officers Dù Zhǎng and others to assist Zàn, which fought with Shào, and were defeated by Shào, and some of the men deserted and scattered. When Tàizǔ was about to settle Jìzhōu, Yān sent an envoys to ask in assisting in the rule and command, and was appointed General Pacifying the North. He led his horde to go to Yè [to surrender], and was appointed Ānguó precinct Marquis, with a fief of five hundred households.
Yān died, and his son Fāng succeeded. Fāng died, and his son Róng succeeded. (2)
- Lù Jī’s Jìn Huìdì Qǐjūzhù states: Director Official of Gate Communication Zhāng Lín was Fēi-Yān’s great-grandson. Lín joined the King of Zhào [Sīmǎ] Lún’s usurpation, and within a year reached the Director of the Secretariat, General of the Guard, and title as a Duke of a prefecture, but was killed by [Sīmǎ] Lún.