The Yanshi jiaxun 顏氏家訓 "Family instructions of Master Yan" is a privately written book on a lot of philosophical topics. The 7 juan "scrolls" and 20 chapters long book was written by Yan Zhitui 顏之推 (531-591) with the intention to have it read as an educational handbook for his sons. Yan Zhitui had served as a high official of the Liang dynasty 梁 (502-557). In 554 he was captured by the invading army of the Western Wei empire 西魏 (535-556) but managed to escape to the state of the Northern Qi 北齊 (550-577) from where he intended to return to his home in the south. But the Liang dynasty was in the meantime replaced by the Chen 陳 (557-589), and he could not do but stay in the north where he was able to obtain eminent offices under the Northern Qi, the Northern Zhou 北周 (557-581), and finally the Sui dynasty 隋 (581-618). His book was finished in 589.
Educated in the Confucian sense, Yan Zhitui was a Buddhist believer, but also was a statesman with a good sense for practical politics. This flexibility the reason why he found a job under each one of the different rulers. It was his experience in a time of trouble and final unification of the empire under the Sui that made him one of the most esteemed personalities of his time. In historiographical respect his book Yanshi jiaxun is noteworthy because it provides a lot of details about the society in the late phase of the Southern and Northern dynasties period, as well as information about events and politics. The book is also known for its high literary quality.
The most important commentaries are Wang Liqi’s 王利器 Yanshi jiaxun jijie 顏氏家訓集解 and Zhou Fagao’s 周法高 Yanshi jiaxun huizhu 顏氏家訓彙注.
There is an English translation by Teng Ssu-yü (1968), Family Instructions for the Yen Clan. Leiden: Brill.
Source: Zhou Yiliang 周一良 (1992). "Yanshi jiaxun 顏氏家訓", in: Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Zhongguo lishi 中國歷史, vol. 3, p. 1367. Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe.
1. 序致 Xuzhi Introduction
2. 教子 Jiaozi Education of a son
3. 兄弟 Xiongdi Relationship among brothers
4. 後娶 Houqu Stepmother and stepbrothers
5. 治家 Zhijia Regulate your family
6. 風操 Fengcao Character and behaviour
7. 慕賢 Muxian Yearn for wisdom
8. 勉學 Mianxue Engage well in studies
9. 文章 Wenzhang Learn to write and to compose
10. 名實 Mingshi Make conform theory and practice
11. 涉務 Shewu Gain practical experience
12. 省事 Xingshi Be sparingly with words and deeds
13. 止足 Zhizu Be self-sufficient
14. 誡兵 Jiebing Study the art of war
15. 養生 Yangsheng Preserve your health
16. 歸心 Guixin Submit your heart to the righteous cause
17. 書證 Shuzheng Text sources for the Family Instructions
18. 音辭 Yinci Make sound your words
19. 雜藝 Zayi Miscellaneous arts (painting, shooting, divining, mathematics, medicine etc.)
20. 終制 Zhongzhi Complete the three-year mourning for your parents