Sixteen Kingdoms 十六国


Chinese Name: 十六国

English Name: Sixteen Kingdoms

Other Name:Sixteen Kingdoms of the Five Barbarians 五胡十六国

Duration: About 304 AD – 439 AD

Dynasties: five Liangs, four Yans, three Qins, two Zhaos, Cheng Han, Xia

Sixteen Kingdoms 十六国
Sixteen Kingdoms 十六国

Brief Introduction

The Sixteen Kingdoms 十六国 (304 ~ 439) was a period of great division in Chinese history. The Sixteen Kingdoms period represented the period from the collapse of the Western Jin Dynasty to the unification of North China by the Northern Wei Dynasty. At that time, the South was in the Eastern Jin Dynasty.

Sixteen Kingdoms refers to the five Liangs (Former 前凉Later 后凉Northern 北凉Southern 南凉, and Western 西凉), four Yans (Former, Later, Northern, and Southern), three Qins (Former, Later, and Western), two Zhaos (Former and Later), Cheng Han 成汉 and Xia 夏.

The term “Sixteen Kingdoms” was first used by the 6th-century historian Cui Hong in the Spring and Autumn Annals of the Sixteen Kingdoms 十六国春秋.

Sixteen Kingdoms 十六国
Spring and Autumn Annals of the Sixteen Kingdoms 十六国春秋

There are not only sixteen countries in the north. From all the large and small regimes in the north, he chose 16 countries that are relatively long, influential, and representative.

Cui Hong did not count several other kingdoms that appeared at the time including the Ran Wei 冉威, Zhai Wei 翟威, and Western Yan 西燕. Nor did he include the Northern Wei 北魏 and its predecessor Dai 代, because the Northern Wei is considered to be the first of the Northern Dynasties 北朝 in the period that followed the Sixteen Kingdoms.

Major Historical Events

The Former Qin Briefly Unified 前秦短暂统一

In Sixteen Kingdoms, Fu Hong 苻洪 surrendered to the Eastern Jin Dynasty. During the civil strife in Later Zhao, he intended to seize Guanzhong but was poisoned by the fallen General Ma Qiu 麻秋.

Sixteen Kingdoms 十六国

In 350, his son Fu Jian 苻健 successfully won Guanzhong, and the former Qin Dynasty was established. He was completely cut off from the Eastern Jin Dynasty. We should distinguish it from the Qin Dynasty founded by Ying Zheng 嬴政.

Later, Huan wen 桓温 and others led the army to attack it in the Eastern Jin Dynasty. Fu Jian successfully resisted, and the national power was gradually consolidated. After Fu Sheng 苻生 succeeded to the throne, he killed wantonly, and Fu Jian 苻坚 killed him instead. Fu Jian advocates Confucianism and rewards culture and education. The central government was centralized, the economy was improved, and the country was prosperous.

Sixteen Kingdoms 十六国
The Former Qin Briefly Unified 前秦短暂统一

After the Former Qin was strong and prosperous, Fu Jian, king of Qin, intended to dominate the world. At that time, Former Yan was in chaos. Fu Jian took advantage of the situation and sent Wang Meng 王猛 and Murong Chui 慕容垂 to lead the army to successfully destroy Yan the next year. Then the Chi state was destroyed in 373, and the Dai state and Qianliang were destroyed in 376. From then on, the former Qin Dynasty unified the north.

Continue to Split and Scuffle 继续分裂混战

In November, general Xie Xuan 谢玄 of the Jin Dynasty led his army westward to confront the Qin army in Feishui. In December, Xie Xuan suggested to Fu Jian retreat for a decisive battle. General Qin believed that it was safer to block the enemy by the Fei River 淝水, but Fu Jian believed that he could take the initiative to fight half the way.

Sixteen Kingdoms 十六国
Battle-of-Fei River-淝水之战

When the Qin army moved backward, the Jin army crossed the water and made a surprise attack, shouting that the Qin army had been defeated. At this time, the Qin army was in chaos, Xie Xuan and others pursued the victory, and the Qin army collapsed completely. Fu Jian hit the arrow and returned to the North alone, which was called the Battle of Fei River 淝水之战 in history.

As the main force of the Former Qin Dynasty was in the front, the capital was short of troops. Xianbei 鲜卑, Qiang 羌族, Jie 羯, and other ethnic groups became independent after learning of the defeat of the Former Qin Dynasty.

Sixteen Kingdoms 十六国
Separatist regimes of various countries 各国割据

The following year, the Eastern Jin Dynasty launched the Northern Expedition and captured the area of Shandong 山东 and Henan 海南. At this point, the former Qin Dynasty collapsed, and the North returned to the situation of scuffling among the heroes again.

The year after the battle of Feishui (384), all Barbarians ethnic groups became independent. Later Yan, Later Qin, Western Qin, and other countries have established. The North fell into war again.

The Rise of the Northern Wei Dynasty 北魏崛起

In Kanto 关东, Western Yan was destroyed by Murong Chui, the late Yan Emperor in 394. As the Northern Wei emperor Tuoba sent troops to help Western Yan, the next year Murong Chui sent crown prince Murong Bao 慕容宝 to attack the Northern Wei Dynasty.

Sixteen Kingdoms 十六国
Murong Chui 慕容垂

After the disastrous defeat of Murong Baozhan to Tuoba Gui, he asked his father Murong Chui 慕容垂 to vindicate him. So Murong Chui led a large army to attack Wei and capture Pingcheng 平城 the next year.

However, Murong Chui died on his way back, and then Later Yan gradually weakened. In 396, he conquered Bingzhou 并州. The next year, Murong Bao tried to fight back against Bingzhou but was finally defeated by Tuoba. Then he invaded on a large scale and moved the capital to Pingcheng.

The Northern Wei Dynasty adopted an inclusive attitude towards the cultures and systems of all ethnic groups. This reduced the obstacles of the Northern Wei Dynasty but also complicated the northern households.

Sixteen Kingdoms 十六国
The war of the Northern Wei Dynasty 北魏战争

In 423, Tuoba Tao 拓跋焘 of the Northern Wei Dynasty continued to establish, and he worked hard to make the country prosperous. After removing the gentle threat from the north, Tuoba Tao began to attack other countries with the intention of unifying North China. Until 439, the Northern Wei army besieged Northern Liang. So far, the Northern Wei Dynasty unified North China and entered the Northern and Southern Dynasties.

Important Influences

The division of Barbarians and Han

One of the characteristics of the rule in the Sixteen Kingdoms period is the division of Barbarians and Han. The Han and Barbarians were ruled by different systems.

Sixteen Kingdoms 十六国
In tents 以帐篷为单位

Before Zhao, for example, Liu Cong 刘聪 lived as both the Emperor (the monarch of the Han people) and Shan Yu (the leader of the Barbarians people). The Han people set up officials to rule by households. The Hu people live in tents. Officials of different systems are set up to rule.

Buddhism flourished

Buddhism 佛教 was introduced into China as early as the Eastern Han Dynasty. At that time, due to the prosperity of Confucianism 儒教, it did not develop widely. By the time of the Sixteen Kingdoms period, the North was in turmoil, so that everyone was tired of suffering and looked forward to relief.

Sixteen Kingdoms 十六国
Buddhism 佛教

At this time, the monarchs hope to use the Buddhist doctrine of abstaining from evil and cultivating goodness, and the six-wheel return to appease the people of all ethnic groups. Finally, Buddhism became popular in the north and interacted with Buddhism in the south.

How China’s Dark Age started | SIXTEEN KINGDOMS History of China

Chinese Dynasties

Eastern Jin Dynasty 东晋

2022-7-14 10:55:16

Chinese Dynasties

Northern Dynasties 北朝

2022-7-14 11:02:19

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