Yan Pingzhong (晏平仲) was the courtesy name of Yan Zhong (晏仲), a chief minister of the state of Qi (齊) who was famous for his ability to forge close relationships with people of all social stations during the course of a career that spanned over four decades and the reigns of three dukes.
With his excellent interpersonal skills, Yan played a critical role in mediating between the dukes and their officials, as well as in carrying out diplomatic missions to other states. In addition, his close relationships with the dukes meant he was in a position to give them candid advice at appropriate times, such as when he admonished Duke Jing (齊景公) [ca. 547 – 490 BC] to cut taxes and relax the penal code in order to gain more popularity among the people of the state.
Confucius was great admirer of Yan, who died during his lifetime in ca. 506 BC. Such was his reputation that a book called The Annals of Yanzi (晏子春秋), which featured stories about Yan and the advice he gave to the dukes of Qi, was published after his death. A chapter of Sima Qian’s Records of the Grand Historian (史記/shǐjì) is also devoted to him and Guan Zhong (管仲), another great chief minister of the state of Qi.
Appearances in the Analects of Confucius
Book 5, Chapter XVII
Confucius said: “Yan Pingzhong was a master of the art of social interaction: no matter how long he knew someone, he always maintained the same level of scrupulous respectfulness.”