His original name was Zhongze, courtesy name was Zisheng, and pen name was Dasou. He was born in second year of Daoguang in Qing Dynasty (1822) in Qingzhen. There were two Hanlin Buildings of the late Qing Dynasty in Wuzhen, one belonged to Xia Tongshan, and the other one belonged to Yan Chen, a scholar in the late Qing Dynasty. Yan Chen's Hanlin Building was in the north of Wuzhen. Yan Chen was smart and eager to learn. In the 23th year of Daoguang (1843), he went to visit his relatives in Yunnan Province, and he once lived in Xie Bin’s home, a sibling living in Guiyang. And at that time the government opened the imperial examinations to the public, Yan Chen took the exam as the nationality of Guizhou, but he passed the exam and returned to his original nationality. In the ninth year of Xianfeng (1859), he became a scholar and entered the Hanlinyuan. In the first year of Tongzhi (1862), in the Hanlinyuan's final exam, Empress Dowager Cixi was angry about his prose, so she degraded him from 1st to 10th place and appointed him as Director of the Ministry of Criminal Justice, which ranked sixth among all the official positions. Yan Chen knew that since he had offended the Empress Dowager, his official career seemed to be hopeless, so he made a decision to resign and return home. From then on, he made all his effort to serve his hometown with his knowledge and prestige. "If any place in his hometown needs to carry out reforms, he will positively advocate it." He became a famous country gentleman respected by all the countrymen, because he built schools and bridges and paved roads, and performed good deeds to help the poor.
Yan Chen contributed a lot to his hometown, and there were three major contributions:
First, he suggested that they should try their best to eliminate some of the government's bad policies and do good things for the people. At that time, when the government collected rice, it had a so-called "model", which was used by officials to cheat the people and get profit from them. In the first year of Guangxu (1875), Yan Chen asked the Censor to submit memorials to the throne and approved by the throne, and finally abolished the "model ". He also suggested hoarding "barns" in harvest years to reach the goal of storing both money and grain in case of poor harvest. In the eighth and fifteenth years of Guangxu, there were two famines in Wuzhen, and the "barns" played an important role. It could said that it saved countless people’s lives.
Second, he paid a great attention to the development of local education. After the Fenshui Academy being destroyed by the war, he initiated the establishment of Lizhi Academy. After four years of hard work, it was finally established. He not only served as the headmaster of Lizhi Academy for more than 20 years, but also served as the headmaster of Tongxi Academy and Xiangyun Academy in Tongxiang. In addition, he also focused on the enlightenment education. Six free private schools were established in Wuzhen to received school-age children. At that time the literature was quite prosperous, and there are countless famous scholars in history for reading books. Yan Chen was such an example. Shortly after the establishment of Lizhi Academy, he built Wenchang Pavilion opposite the academy, aiming at promoting the prosperity of literature in Wuzhen and to bring up more outstanding talents.
Yan Chen's third major contribution was to edit the local chronicles, especially the Tongxiang County Chronicle of Guangxu. He believed that compiling local chronicles was very important. "It will make the folk customs of a town pass on, while the people of moral will be remembered by the later generation". During the 10 years of compiling County chronicles, sometimes he did the work at home and sometimes on a boat without stopping. Compiling local chronicles was a very hard work. He not only needed to do the work of writing or editing, but also often needed to travel across mountains and rivers for research. He "measured the height and size of the mountains, in order to correct errors of the old chronicles". Therefore, the “Tongxiang County Chronicle of Guangxu” could be completed because of Yan Chen but Yan Chen was exhausted after this hard work. At the same time, he also revised Wuqing Records.
In the 19th year of Guangxu (1893), Yan Chen went to Anhui for medical treatment because of illness. He died in Anqing at the age of 72. He wrote a masterpiece named Mo Hua Yin Guan Shi Chao. In 1921, the local people were grateful for Yan Chen's contribution to their hometown, so they submitted a joint submission requesting to move Yan Chen's tomb to the Yang Yuan Temple to make the "two virtuous people inspire the later generation ".Keyword: