Yan initially accepted its military formation in China then with the Imperial Military academy of Japan. In Japan he became a member of the Revolutionary Alliance of Sun Yat-SEN and following the Chinese Révolution of 1911 he seized the power in the province of the Shanxi. Although member of the Armed with Beiyang and affiliated with Duan Qirui, it avoided the political combats violent one of the time by applying a policy of neutrality which released its province of the civil wars. This period finished when it joined the Expédition of North Guomindang and that it became obvious that it would be victorious.
Although Yan was known like the “Model Governor” for his lit policies, he was not less one military dictator. In 1926, it the Jura fidelity with the new government of Tchang Kaï-chek, but in 1929 it joined Feng Yuxiang and Wang Jingwei in their attempt at inversion of Tchang. After a short retirement with the beginning of the year 1930, Yan returned to the capacity to the Shanxi and undertaken social and military reforms to thwart the development of Communism in the province. It supported the capture of Tchang Kaï-chek by Zhang Xueliang in 1936 during Xi' year the incidental . During the Second world war, Yan resisted the attempts Japanese woman of capture of Shanxi and its troops resisted to the Communists during the Chinese Civil war until the town of Taiyuan fell in April 1949. Yan flees with the provincial treasure on the island of Taiwan with the remainder of the government of the Republic of China on December 8th, 1949 after its expulsion by the communist had been marked.
He died in Taipei, Taiwan.
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