I explore the question of the Ru 儒 identity in the Yantielun 鹽鐵論, a 1st century BCE text that depicts a heated court debate on a broad array of policy matters. The term Ru was once commonly translated as “Confucian”, but recently it has been convincingly shown that with respect to the Han period (206 BCE – 220 CE) this rendering is anachronistic and misleading. The Ru identity in Han is therefore a hotly disputed topic in contemporary research. I show that, insofar as the Yantielun is concerned, the Ru identity is defined with sufficient precision. Furthermore, the Ru appear to possess a strong sense of group solidarity and grand political ambitions. They advance a coherent agenda and adopt a distinctive political stance, posing as an alternative elite and constituting a fierce opposition to the contemporary establishment. They are keen to stress the unbridgeable gap between the Ru and the officialdom and thereby endorse the vision of a highly polarized political realm. My analysis the Yantielun helps to elucidate important aspects of the Ru identity and their position on the political map of the Former Han China (206 BCE – 9 CE).