Yang Yan 杨炎

A financial reformer who founded two tax laws


Chinese Name: 杨炎

English Name: Yang Yan

Other Names: Yang Yazhou 杨崖州

Born: 727

Died: 781


Create and implement the Law of the Two Taxes 创建和推行两税法

Main Works:

Yang Yan Collection 《杨炎集》

Collection Preparation 《制集》

Yang Yan 杨炎
Yang Yan 杨炎

Brief Biography of Yang Yan

Yang Yan, the prime minister of the Tang Dynasty 唐朝 and a financial scientist, was the initiator and advocator of the “the Law of the Two Taxes”.

Yang Yan (727-781), courtesy name Gongnan 公南, was born in Tianxing County 天兴县, Fengxiang Prefecture 凤翔府 (Fengxiang District 凤翔区, Baoji City 宝鸡市, Shaanxi Province 陕西省). He had a literary name and entered the Hexi Jiedu shogunate 河西节度幕府. During the reign of Emperor Dai of the Tang 唐代宗, he successively served as a military doctor, a Shannan Deputy Marshal Judge, a ritual doctor, a Zhizhigao, and a secretary of state. He was promoted by Prime Minister Yuanzai 元载 and moved to the official ministry.

Yang Yan 杨炎
Tang Dynasty 唐朝

After Yuanzai was killed, he was demoted to Sima of Daozhou 道州司马. After Li Shi 李适, Emperor Dezong of the Tang 唐德宗, ascended the throne, he was recommended by Cui Youfu 崔佑甫, the prime minister, to re-enter the imperial court, and his official positions were as follows: Zhongshu Shilang 中书侍郎, Tongping Zhang shi 同平章事. Later, he was framed by Lu Qi 卢杞, transferred to Left servant shoot 左仆射, and demoted to Sima in Yazhou 崖州司马. Yang Yan was sentenced to death at the age of 55.

Personal Life and Major Contributions

Step into officialdom

Yang Yan has a handsome eyebrow, a magnificent literary style, and is forthright and generous. He is known as the “Little Yangshan Man 小杨山人” in the place of Qianlong 汧陇. Lv Chongben 吕崇贲, the envoy of Hexi 河西节度使, once recruited him to take charge of the secretarial affairs, and he became an official. Later, Li Guangbi 李光弼, a famous general of the Tang Dynasty, asked Yang Yan to be a judge, but he did not accept.

Yang Yan 杨炎
Prime Minister–Yang Yan 杨炎宰相

The imperial court recruited Yang Yan as a living servant, but he resolutely refused. He abandoned the official position and took care of his parents. After the death of his relative, Yang Yan lived in the house in front of the tomb during the period of Ding You 丁忧. He cried incessantly and signs appeared, so he was praised.

Ups and downs of the official sea

Yang Yan returned to office after a long period of mourning. He was appointed as Wai Lang, a member of the Si Xun Committee. In the second year of Yongtai 永泰 (the first year of Dali 大历, 766), Yang Yan and Du Ya 杜亚 followed Du Hongjian 杜鸿渐 to Shu 蜀 and served as judges as military commanders.

Later, he was promoted to the post of Zhongshu Sheren and was in charge of the writing of imperial edicts with Chang Gun 常衮. Chang Gun was good at writing Chushu 除书 (the imperial edict appointing officials), and Yang Yan was good at drafting Deyin 德音 (the imperial edict). Their writing style was praised by the court officials, and they were called “Chang Yang”. In the post of secretary of state, Yang Yan also courted the wise and corporal and promoted the backward, which was popular for a while.

Yang Yan 杨炎
The Law of the Two Taxes 两税法

However, it was also during the period of serving as the middle secretary, Yang Yan began to attach to Prime Minister Yuan Zai 元载. On December 25, the ninth year of Dali (January 31, 775), Yang Yansheng was a minister of the Ministry of Officials, writing and revising the national history. At that time, Yuan Zai intended to train one of the courtiers with outstanding literary talent as his successor and promoted Liu Dan 刘单 and Xue Yong 薛邕 successively. However, one died and the other was demoted; Yuan Zai appreciated and promoted Yang Yan because of his outstanding talent.

On March 29, the 12th year of Dali (May 11, 777), Yuan Zai was sentenced to death. Yang Yan was also implicated and demoted to Sima of Daozhou on the second day of April of the same year (May 13, 777).

Create the Law of the Two Taxes

In the early years of the Tang Dynasty, tax collection was regulated by the principle of “rent and mediocrity”. This is a “people-oriented” tax system. By the end of the reign of Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang 唐玄宗, the registered residence system had been abolished, the residents had died, the land had been sold, and the property had changed. It had not been investigated or re-registered for a long time.

Yang Yan 杨炎
Yuan Zai 元载

At this time, the equal field system had been destroyed, but the government, regardless of the actual situation, only collected taxes from the villages based on the old registered residence. After the An Shi Rebellion, household registration was reduced and tax collection according to the national standard could not be carried out. So far, the rent Yong modulation has had many disadvantages.

In order to get rid of the disadvantages of taxation, increase the national financial revenue, and solve the military expenses of the vassal towns, Yang Yan suggested to Dezong that “two tax laws” should be implemented.

Video: Rise and Fall of Tang Empire China

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