Nian Gengyao

From Academic Kids

Nian Gengyao (年羹尧, style name: Lianggong 亮功; d. January 13 1726) was a Chinese military commander of the Qing Dynasty. He was born a member of the Chinese Bordered Yellow Banner and had extensive military experience on the western frontier of the Qing empire. Nian became commander-in-chief of the Manchu and Chinese armies in the northwest and helped to incorporate the region of what is now Qinghai into the Qing empire.

His father Nian Xialing (年遐龄), served as Governor of Huguang from 1692 to 1704. Nian Gengyao himself became a Jinshi in 1700 and was selected a bachelor of the Hanlin Academy. In March 1709 the Banner company to which the Nian family belonged was assigned to serve Yinzhen, later the Yongzheng Emperor. About the same time a sister of Nian Gengyao became a concubine of Yinzhen.

In October 1709 Nian was appointed Governor of Sichuan and gradually came to the notice of the Kangxi Emperor. During the sixteen years of his administration he quelled several uprisings of the aborigines west of Sichuan. In 1718 he was made Governor-general of Sichuan and was given power to direct military affairs. Following the appointment of Yinti, another of Kangxi's sons, as Border Pacification General-in-chief, there were suggestions about Nian's loyalty to Yinzhen. As General Who Secures the West (定西将军), Nian Gengyao took an active part in supplying Yinti's campaign in Tibet against Tsewang Araptan. In June 1721 he was granted an audience with the elderly Emperor at Rehe and subsequently raised to the rank of Governor-general of Sichuan and Shaanxi.

In December 1722 the Kangxi Emperor died and Yinzhen ascended the throne. He granted an audience to Nian Gengyao early in 1723 and awarded him a minor hereditary rank and the title of Grand Guardian, and made his elder brother Nian Xiyao (年希尧) Governor of Guangdong. A few months later, as reward for his help in ejecting the Dzungars from Tibet, Nian was elevated to a duke of the third class. The Emperor was uncharacteristically informal with him and promoted friendship between Longkedo and Nian.

In 1723 Nian became commander-in-chief of the forces sent to quell the uprising of the Khoshotes of Qinghai under Lobdzan Dandzin. With the help of the able general Yue Zhongqi, Nian won several victories over the rebels and in a few months quelled the revolt, adding Qinghai to the Qing empire. Nian was thereupon raised to a duke of the first class. When Nian made a visit to Beijing in late 1724 and paid his respects to the Emperor, he was given additional honours and privileges normally granted to a Prince of the Blood. His attitude, however, aroused hatred and jealousy, and many officials submitted memorials hostile to Nian.

Nian himself was not slow to discover that he had lost imperial favour, for on his return to Xi'an in January 1725 he submitted a memorial of his own, protesting his loyalty and imploring the Emperor's mercy. Meanwhile it was discovered that Nian Gengyao had engaged in secret correspondence with Yintang, one of the Emperor's brothers. His plea for leave being denied, Nian was, at the end of May, transferred to the post of Tartar General at Hangzhou. The armies he once commanded went under the control of Yue Zhongqi. As accusations accumulated from his former friends and officials, Nian was in a few months progressively degraded in rank until he became merely a bannerman at large. In November he was arrested and taken under escort to Beijing. Early in 1726 his crimes were enumerated under ninety-two heads, and Nian was sentenced to be executed. The Emperor granted him the privilege of committing suicide but his eldest son, Nian Fu (年富), was beheaded and his other sons were banished.

Nian Gengyao is credited with three works on military tactics: General Nian's Art of War (年将军兵法) among others, but all were apparently written by others and falsely attributed to him.


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