Wèi Yán appellation Wéncháng was a Yìyáng man. As a bodyguard retainer he accompanied Xiānzhǔ [Liú Bèi] into Shǔ, repeatedly had battlefield achievements, and was promoted to Ivory Gate General. When Xiānzhǔ became King of Hànzhōng, he moved capital to Chéngdū, and was about to use an important officer to guard the Hàn river, and everyone discussed and believed it certainly must be Zhāng Fēi, and [Zhāng] Fēi also in his heart himself agreed. Xiānzhǔ then selected Yán as Commander of Hànzhōng and General Defending the Distant, with office as Hānzhōng Administrator, and the entire army was completely surprised.
Xiānzhǔ held a great meeting with the various ministers, and asked Yán: “Now you are entrusted with heavy responsibility; what do you occupying it wish to say?”
Yán replied: “If Cáo Cāo raised the realm Under Heaven and came, I would ask to on the Great King’s behalf resist him; if a subordinate officer with a hundred thousand army arrived, I would ask to on the Great King’s behalf destroy them.” Xiānzhǔ praised it as excellent, and everyone was all impressed with his words.
Xiānzhǔ claimed Imperial Title , and advanced his rank to General Defending North. Jiànxīng Inaugural Year  he was given fief as a capital precinct Marquis. Fifth Year , Zhūgě Liàng stationed at Hànzhōng, and again appointed Yàn as Front Division Commander, with office as the Chancellor’s Major and Liáng Province Inspector. Eighth Year , he sent Yán west to enter among the Qiāng. Wèi General Fèi Yáo and Yōng Province Inspector Guō Huái with Yán battled at Yángxī, Yán greatly defeated [Guō] Huái and the rest, and was promoted to Front Master of the Army and General-in-Chief Campaigning West, with Acting Staff, and advanced in fief to Marquis of Nánzhèng.
Yán in every time he accompanied [Zhūgě] Liàng in setting out, at once wished to request troops of ten thousand men, to go on different road from [Zhūgě] Liàng and rejoin at Tóngguān, like Hán Xìn’s [traveling separately from Liú Bāng] former example, but [Zhūgě] Liàng always stopped him and would not agree. Yán always said [Zhūgě] Liàng was timid, and sighed in regret that his own [Wèi Yán’s] talent was not thoroughly employed [by Zhūgě Liàng]. (1) Yán both was good at caring for soldiers, and had valor surpassing others, and also by nature was boastful, and at the time all avoided and deferred to him. Only Yáng Yí did not accommodate Yán, and Yán because of this was of utmost indignation, and they were like water and fire.
Twelfth Year , [Zhūgě] Liàng set out north of Gǔkǒu, and Yán was the front line. From [Zhūgě] Liàng’s camp by ten lǐ, Yán dreamed atop his head grew a horn, asked about this to dream diviner Zhào Zhí, and [Zhào] Zhí lied to Yán: “A qílín has horns but does not use it, this is a sign of the bandits destroying themselves without battle.” He withdrew and told someone: “The word ‘horn’ 角, is a ‘knife’ 刀 with ‘use’ 用 below it. Atop the head using knife, this is extremely inauspicious.”
- (1) Wèilüè states: Xiàhóu Mào was General Securing West, defending Cháng’ān, [Zhūgě] Liàng at Nánzhèng with his various subordinates discussed plans, and Yán said: “One hears Xiàhóu Mào is young, the ruler’s son-in-law, and timid and without planning. Now if I Yán lead elite troops of five thousand, carrying provisions of five thousand, directly from Bāozhōng setting out, following the Qínlǐng [mountain range] eastward, at Zǐwǔ turning north, without exceeding ten days we can arrive at Cháng’ān. [Xiàhóu] Mào will hear that I Yán suddenly arrived, and certainly ride ship and flee away. Cháng’ān’s inside will only have the Censorate and Jīngzhào administrator and that is all, and Héngmén Dǐgé [supply depot]’s and the scattered people’s grain are sufficient for thorough supply. For the east to gather together, it will take about twenty days, but if your Excellency from Xiégǔ comes, it will certainly be enough to arrive. In this way, then in one move everything from Xiányáng on west can be settled.” [Zhūgě] Liàng believed this dangerous, and not as good as securely following open road, to be able to pacify and obtain Lǒng’s right [west], to be completely certain to succeed and have no worries, and therefore did not use Yán’s plan.
Autumn, [Zhūgě] Liàng was critically ill, and secretly with his Chief Clerk Yáng Yí, Major Fèi Yī, Protector of the Army Jiāng Wéi and the rest made decision to after his death withdraw the army, ordering Yán to cut the rear, and Jiāng Wéi after him; if Yán possibly did not follow orders, then the army was to itself set out. [Zhūgě] Liàng died, and it was kept secret and mourning not begun, [Yáng] Yí ordered [Fèi] Yī to go judge Yán’s intentions. Yán said: “Although the Chancellor is gone, I myself am still here. His office’s close officials and subordinates can lead the coffin back for burial, I myself can lead the various armies to strike the bandits. How can because of one man’s death we abandon the realm Under Heaven’s affairs? Moreover who am I, Wèi Yán, to be Yáng Yì’s subordinate, and be their officer cutting the rear?” Therefore he with [Fèi] Yī together made plans to remain, and ordered [Fèi] Yī to hand write and sign together with his own [Wèi Yán’s] name, to inform the subordinate officers. [Fèi] Yī deceived Yán saying: “I will on your behalf return to explain to Chief Clerk Yáng [Yí]. The Chief Clerk is a civil official, does not understand military affairs, and will certainly not disobey command.” [Fèi] Yī went out the gate and hurriedly on horse left, Yán was regretful, and pursued him but could not reach him. Yán sent someone to observe [Yáng] Yí and the rest, and therefore found they wished to follow [Zhūgě] Liàng’s established regulations, with the various camps one after the other lead the army back. Yán was greatly furious, and before [Yáng] Yí set out, led those he commanded to directly first return south, and wherever they passed they burned and cut off the plank roads. Yán and [Yáng] Yí each memorialized the other was rebelling, and within one day, the feather dispatches arrived. Hòuzhǔ [Liú Shàn] asked about this to Attendant Internal Dǒng Yǔn and Remaining Office Chief Clerk Jiǎng Wǎn, and [Jiǎng] Wǎn and [Dǒng] Yǔn both believed [Yáng] Yí and suspected Yán. [Yáng] Yí and the rest cut through mountains to connect roads, in both day and night traveling, and also followed Yán’s rear. Yán first arrived, occupied south of Gǔkǒu, and sent troops to oppose and strike [Yáng] Yí and the rest, and [Yáng] Yí and the rest ordered Hé Píng to at the front resist Yán. [Hé] Píng scolded Yán for first ascending: “His Excellency [Zhūgě Liàng] is dead, his body not yet cold, but you sort dare act like this!” Yán’s soldiers and army knew the wrong was on Yán, and none would follow his orders, and the army all scattered. Yán alone with his sons of several men fled, hurrying to Hànzhōng. [Yáng] Yí sent Mǎ Dài to pursue and behead them, presented the head to [Yáng] Yí, and [Yáng] Yí rose and personally stepped on it, saying: “Common slave, can you again do evil or not?” Therefore they exterminated Yán’s clan to the third degree. Previously, Jiǎng Wǎn lead the Night Guard’s various regiments to go to the trouble and went north, they had gone several tens of lǐ, when news of Yán’s death arrived, he therefore returned.
Considering Yán’s intentions were not to go north to surrender to Wèi but to return south, he only wished to remove and kill [Yáng] Yí and the rest. Ordinarily various officers are by nature not the same, and he hoped the time’s discussions would be that he certainly should succeed [Zhūgě] Liàng. His original intentions were like this. He did not rebel. (1)
- (1) Wèilüè states: Zhūgě Liàng was ill, and said to Yán and the rest: “After I die, only thoroughly defend, and certainly do not again come here.” He ordered Yán to take over his [Zhūgě Liàng’s] matters, and secretly escort the coffin and go. Yán therefore hid it, went and reached Bāokǒu, and then began mourning. [Zhūgě] Liàng’s Chief Clerk Yáng Yí previously with Yán were not in harmony, and seeing Yán take over military affairs, was afraid he [Yáng Yí] would come to harm, and therefore spread word that Yán wished to lead the army to go north and submit, and then led his own army to attack Yán. Yán originally did not have these intentions, did not fight the army and fled, but they pursued and killed him.
- Your Servant Sōngzhī believes: this overall are words of an enemy state’s rumors, and cannot but disagree in details with the base biography.