Yan Zhitui: Family Instructions for the Yen Clan

(ca. 560–590)

Family Instructions for the Yen Clan, which Yan Zhitui (531–ca. 590) completed in the last year of his life, is an assessment of what a sixth-century, broadly educated man thought were the most essential lessons to impart to his descendants. The scion of an influential northern family that had settled in southern China in the fourth century, Yan Zhitui was a knowledgeable scholar and talented writer who became an official at the tender age of nineteen. He personally experienced the political turmoil and vicissitudes that characterized China’s Period of Disunion (220–589 CE): In 550...