Military history of the Jin dynasty (266–420) and the Sixteen Kingdoms (304–439)
The military history of the Jin dynasty encompasses the period of Chinese military activity from the 266 AD to 420 AD. The Jin dynasty is usually divided into the Western and Eastern Jin eras. Western Jin lasted from its usurpation of Cao Wei in 266 to 316 when the Uprising of the Five Barbarians split the empire and created a number of barbarian states in the north. The Jin court fled to Jiankang, starting the era of Eastern Jin, which ended in 420 when it was usurped by Liu Yu, who founded the Liu Song dynasty.
The Jin dynasty's military structure was largely inherited from Cao Wei. During the Three Kingdoms period, military leadership was functionally hereditary as long as the successor was loyal to his liege and proved competent. When the commander died, a male member of his family inherited control of his troops, and when a soldier died one of his male relatives inherited his position in the unit. By the end of the Three Kingdoms, the term buqu (部曲) had come to designate the institution of hereditary military leadership. Both bu and qu, meaning battalions and companies, were originally units of military organization during the Han. Under Cao Cao, a more systematic form of hereditary soldiery was implemented through "military families" (士家 shijia) which later became "hereditary troops" (世兵 shibing). As their name implies, able male members born into military families served for life, and when they could no longer serve because of illness or death, their sons or close family members replaced them. Their families lived at the capital and other major centers where they could be used by the government as hostages to ensure the loyalty of their soldiers. They were also forbidden from marrying into non-military families in order to prevent their offspring from exiting the system, thus creating a closed community of military households. Although commoners could still be called up in times of urgent need, the rise of government mandated military communities under Cao Wei and the demobilization of local levies under the Jin dynasty, had by and large, replaced the universal conscription of the Han.
The situation changed after the fall of Western Jin. Having lost the resources of the north, the Eastern Jin army attempted to bolster the number of military families in the south by incorporating convicts, vagrants, and aboriginals. This resulted in a general decline of social status and morale in the military. By the end of the dynasty, military men were regarded little better than government slaves. Terms of service were exceedingly harsh. One in three men from a military family was called upon for a term of service lasting from the age of 15 to their 60s. Essentially their entire life. Those who suffered debilitating injuries had to find a replacement from their family to procure release. Desertion was rampant and exit from the military household system a much sought after reward. By the sixth century the system of hereditary military households had collapsed.
During the following Liu Song dynasty, voluntary recruits began to supplant the defunct military caste system. Many of these soldiers were former members of the previous system who had been freed, and had chosen to re-enlist for better terms, or because they could find no better employment. In practice, many of the military communities which had sprung up during the era of hereditary troops stayed together, and provided the basis for recruitment for the next dynasty.
Single mounting stirrups had already been in use since the Han dynasty, but full double stirrups did not appear until the early 4th century AD. A funerary figurine depicting a stirrup dated 302 AD was unearthed from a Western Jin tomb near Changsha. The stirrup depicted is a mounting stirrup, only placed on one side of the horse, and too short for riding. The earliest reliable representation of a full length double sided riding stirrup was also unearthed from a Jin tomb, this time near Nanjing, dated to the Eastern Jin period, 322 AD. The earliest extant double stirrups were discovered in the tomb of a Northern Yan noble, Feng Sufu, who died in 415 AD. Stirrups have also been found in Goguryeo tombs dating to the 4th and 5th centuries AD, but these do not contain any specific date. The stirrup appeared to be in widespread use across China by AD 477.
The appearance of the stirrup in China coincided with the rise of armoured cavalry, probably as a result of Xianbei influence. Dated to 357 AD, the tomb of Dong Shou shows fully armoured riders as well as horses. By the end of the 4th century murals depicting horse armour covering the entire body were found in tombs as far as Yunnan. References to "iron cavalry" and "iron horse" began to appear at the same time and instances of captured horse armour in numbers as high as 5,000 and 10,000 are recorded. In addition to the stirrups, Feng Sufu's tomb also contained iron plates for lamellar armour. Sources mention the capture of thousands of "armored horses" in a single battle. Armoured heavy cavalry would dominate Chinese warfare from the 4th century AD to the early Tang dynasty when the military transitioned to light cavalry.
The very earliest Chinese representation of a stirrup comes from a tomb figurine from South China dating to AD 302, but this is a single stirrup that must have been used only for mounting the horse. The earliest figurine with two stirrups probably dates from about 322, and the first actual specimens of stirrups that can be dated precisely and with confidence are from a southern Manchurian burial of 415. However, stirrups have also been found in several other tombs in North China and Manchuria that are most likely of fourth century date. Most of these early Northeast Asian stirrups were oval in shape and made from iron, sometimes solid and sometimes applied over a wooden core, and this form would remain in use for many centuries thereafter.— David Graff
On 11 December, 220, Cao Pi deposed the last Han emperor and proclaimed himself Emperor of Cao Wei. During his reign Cao Pi alienated his brothers Cao Zhang and Cao Zhi. Cao Pi deeply distrusted his close kin and reduced their powers out of suspicion of their loyalty. His brothers and half-brothers were sent away to their nominal fiefs and kept under strict supervision. Moreover Cao Pi regularly interfered in the status of his kin by promoting, demoting, revoking, and restoring their titles at will.
Cao Pi died in 226 and was succeeded by his son Cao Rui. Although Cao Rui was already twenty years old, he was nonetheless appointed a regency council by his father prior to his death. By 237, three members of the regency council had died, leaving only Sima Yi. Sima Yi descended from an old and established family from the Henei Commandery. His brother, Sima Lang, joined Cao Cao early on in his career and Sima Yi followed him in 208. He became a close friend of Cao Pi and joined his entourage in 217. By 224, Sima Yi was left in charge of domestic affairs. Shu Han and Sun Wu continued to pressure Wei. In 233, Zhuge Liang occupied Wudu Commandery but was checked there by Sima Yi and died the following year. In 238, Sima Yi invaded the Gongsun state in the northeast and annexed it. This was followed by a campaign into Goguryeo in 244 and 245 under the leadership of Guanqiu Jian. Cao Rui died in 239 without any offspring of his own and was succeeded by his seven year old adopted son Cao Fang, who fell under the regency of Cao Shuang and Sima Yi.
Cao Shuang and his friends Wang Bi and He Yan were devotees of a mind altering drug known as Five Minerals Powder. Together they headed a movement which sought to dispose of meaningless formalities in society and opposed the traditional doctrines of Confucianism. In 249, in a coup, Sima Yi had Cao Shuang stripped of his positions and shortly thereafter had him and his associates executed; effectively seizing state power in Wei. He died two years later and was succeeded by his son Sima Shi, then 40 years old.
Sima Shi campaigned against Wu and the nomads to the north but achieved no major success against either opponents. Cao Fang tried to retake power for himself in 254 but was pre-emptively attacked by Sima Shi and replaced by his cousin, Cao Mao. In 255 the general Guanqiu Jian rebelled and seized the city of Shouchun. He requested help from Wu, but they were unable to assist him, and the city was retaken by the end of the year. Sima Shi died on 23 March, 255, and was succeeded by his younger brother Sima Zhao.
In 257 the Wei general Zhuge Dan rebelled in Shouchun, also requesting assistance from Wu, but none was forthcoming. He was defeated in 258. In 260 Cao Mao, like his brother, attempted to seize control of the state, but failed and died in the process. In 264 Sima Zhao conquered Shu Han, eliminating one of the Three Kingdoms, after which he proclaimed himself King of Jin. He died the following year and was succeeded by his son Sima Yan, then 30 years old.
On 8 February 266, Sima Yan deposed the last emperor of Wei, Cao Huan, and proclaimed himself Emperor of the Jin dynasty. In contrast to the close guarded suspicion with which Cao Pi treated his kin, Sima Yan immediately enfeoffed 27 of his relatives as princes with autonomy over their fiefs as well as positions in the military and government. The Jin dynasty was in its inception, essentially a family run enterprise.
In the northwestern Qin Province, the Xianbei rebelled under Tufa Shujineng. The Jin sent armies against them twice, in 270 and 271, but were defeated on both occasions. Sensing weakness, the Xiongnu leader Liu Meng also started raiding Jin territory, however he was killed in 272. Tufa Shujineng was defeated in 279 and order was restored to the region.
In the spring of 280, Jin launched an invasion of Wu from the north and west, led by Sima Zhou and Wang Jun respectively. Sun Hao surrendered on 1 May 280 when his troops deserted him, putting an end to the era of the Three Kingdoms.
War of the Eight Princes
Sima Yan, Emperor Wu of Jin, died on 16 May 290, and was succeeded by his 30 year old son Sima Zhong, posthumously Emperor Hui of Jin. Emperor Hui proved to be mentally deficient, possibly even mentally handicapped, and his father was aware of the situation. However he feared that to skip his eldest son in the line of succession would destabilize the empire with a succession struggle, so he maintained Zhong's position as heir apparent. The decision proved to be a disaster. Upon Sima Zhong's accession, the former empress' uncle Yang Jun took regency and removed his rival Sima Liang from power. Emperor Hui's wife Jia Nanfeng organized a coup and removed Yang Jun from power on 23 April 291. With assistance from the empress, the fifth son of Sima Yan, Sima Wei, then killed Liang. The empress Jia Nanfeng turned on Wei and killed him immediately afterwards, becoming de facto ruler of Jin.
On 27 April 300, Empress Jia Nanfeng had the heir apparent Sima Yu killed. On 7 May 300, the sons of Sima Yan, Sima Lun, his elder brother Sima Yong and nephew Sima Jiong, rebelled in Luoyang. They imprisoned Jia Nanfeng and forced her to commit suicide a few days later. Lun's cousin Sima Yun attempted to oust him from power but was killed in a skirmish. On 3 February 301, Lun forced Emperor Hui to abdicate and took the throne for himself. In April, Sima Yong, Sima Jiong, and Sima Ying defeated Lun and restored Emperor Hui with Jiong as regent. In May 302, the last sons of Yu died, and the line of succession fell into confusion. Sima Ai removed Jiong from power and took regency for himself. The next year Ying and Yong attacked Ai. While Ai managed to hold off their forces, he was betrayed by Sima Yue. Ai was burnt at the stake on 19 March 304. On 1 May 304, Ying became heir apparent. Yue became jealous and attacked Ying at Ye city, but was utterly defeated and the emperor was captured by the enemy forces. In the north, the general Wang Jun, previously under the Jia regime, attacked Ying, forcing him to flee to Luoyang. Ying was usurped by Zhang Fang. Zhang Fang moved the court west to Chang'an where he was killed early in 306 by Yong. On 5 June, Chang'an was captured by a Wuhuan and Xianbei army under Wang Jun's general Ji Hong. Yong and Ying were killed while Yue took control of the court.
Emperor Hui died on 8 January 307 and was succeeded by his younger brother, Sima Chi, posthumously Emperor Huai of Jin. The court had exhausted most of its power with feuds between the imperial family and the empire fell into chaos. In 308 the bandit Wang Mi captured Xuchang.
|Sima Liang||Sima Yi, Lady Fu||Prince of Ru'nan||233-291|
|Sima Wei||Sima Yan, Consort Shen||Prince of Chu||271-291|
|Sima Lun||Sima Yi, Lady Bai||Prince of Zhao||250-301|
|Sima Jiong||Sima You||Prince of Qi||?-302|
|Sima Ai (Yi)||Sima Yan, Consort Shen||Prince of Changsha||277-304|
|Sima Ying||Sima Yan, Lady Cheng||Prince of Chengdu||279-306|
|Sima Yong||Sima Gui||Prince of Hejian||?-307|
|Sima Yue||Sima Tai||Prince of Donghai||?-311|
|Jin Dynasty and Chu|
Uprising of the Five Barbarians
When Wang Jun brought Wuhuan and Xianbei troops from the north to attack Sima Ying in the south, Ying released the Xiongnu chieftain Liu Yuan in the hope that he would rally the Xiongnu to his cause. According to the Book of Wei, Liu Yuan was 184 cm tall and that had red strains in his long beard. While Liu Yuan did raise an army, he was too late to be of any help to Ying. Instead Liu Yuan declared himself Emperor of the Han dynasty in Bing Province. The ones responsible for defending Bing Province either fled or were killed. Liu Yuan died in 310 and was succeeded by his son Liu Cong. On 13 July 311, Liu Cong's general, Shi Le, sacked the Jin capital of Luoyang and took Emperor Huai of Jin as hostage. The fall of Luoyang came to be known as the Disaster of Yongjia.
Emperor Huai died in captivity in 313 and was succeeded by his 11 year old nephew Sima Ye, posthumously Emperor Min of Jin. In 315 Tuoba Yilu became King of Dai for his service under the Jin. Chang'an was surrounded by the Xiongnu and finally surrendered in 316, though it would be retaken the next year. Emperor Min was taken and killed a few months later.
In 321, the secretariat Diao Xie convinced the emperor confiscate slaves and other independent retainers from powerful families. This sparked a rebellion by Wang Dun in 322. From Wuchang, Wang Dun descended on the Changjiang and defeated Diao Xie's army of ex-slaves. He set up his headquarters in Gushu, within striking distance of the capital. However Wang then became seriously ill and died in 324. Zu Ti died and the Henan region was lost.
In 325, Sima Shao died and was succeeded by Sima Yan, Emperor Cheng of Jin.
Su Jun rebelled in 327 and sacked Jiankang in 328. The Jin court was able to suppress the rebellion with the help of Tao kan, but Tao Kan himself set up a semi-independent state in the middle of the Changjiang.
In 342, Sima Yan died and was succeeded by Sima Yue, posthumously Emperor Kang of Jin.
In 344, Sima Yue died and was succeeded by Sima Dan, posthumously Emperor Mu of Jin.
In 365, Murong Wei took Luoyang. Sima Pi died and was succeeded by Sima Yi, posthumously Emperor Fei of Jin.
In 371, Huan Wen deposed Sima Yi and enthroned Sima Yu, posthumously Emperor Jianwen of Jin.
In 372, Sima Yu died and was succeeded by Sima Yao, posthumously Emperor Xiaowu of Jin.
In 373, Former Qin seized Sichuan. Huan Wen died.
In 379, Former Qin seized Xiangyang.
In 380, Teng Dunzhi became governor of Jiaozhi after Du Yuan killed Li Xun.
Battle of Fei River
In 383, a Jin army attacked Xiangyang and was repelled by a Qin relief force of 50,000. The Qin committed an all out attack on the south, mobilizing 270,000 cavalry and 600,000 infantry. Shouchun fell to the Qin vanguard (250,000) under Fu Rong. A Qin force 50,000 strong moved east to block a Jin army of 70,000. Disaster struck when a small Jin strike force of only 5,000 attacked the Qin position at night, dealing 15,000 casualties. The Jin army continued its march to Fei River, where it met the larger force under Fu Rong. Seeing that the situation had come to a stalemate at the river, the Jin commander offered Fu Rong to a fair battle if he would let them cross the river, and thus grant the Qin a much better position with their larger army. Fu Rong consented, but as he signaled to move back and make room for the Jin, the army fell into disarray, causing a panic stricken rout. Fu Rong himself was caught up in the commotion and killed in the stampede.
In 396, Sima Yao died and was succeeded by Sima Dezong, posthumously Emperor An of Jin.
Wang Gong rebelled in 398 and was defeated.
Meanwhile, Huan Xuan had sacked Jiankang in 402 and created a large territory for himself while the government was busy with Sun En. The Jin's primary general Liu Laozhi chose to defect to Huan's side, but he was killed. Huan declared himself emperor at the end of 403. Liu Laozhi's former lieutenant Liu Yu marched on Jiankang, forcing Huan to retreat to Jiangling before returning with a much larger force. The decisive battle was fought on Zhengrong Island, near modern Echeng, on 10 June 404. Both sides arrived with their flotillas. Liu's subordinate Liu Yi took advantage of the upwind position to set fire to Huan's ships. The ensuing chaos destroyed Huan's army and he was forced to flee to Sichuan where he was killed by one of his associates.
Sixteen Kingdoms (and minor states)
Chouchi (296–371, 385–506)
Former Zhao/Han (304–329)
Former Zhao was a Xiongnu kingdom founded by Liu Yuan in 304. At this point in time the Xiongnu were no longer nomadic, but a sedentary people focused on stockbreeding and agriculture, tending towards sinicization.
Liu Yuan was the son of Liu Bao, one of the Southern Xiongnu chieftains settled in Taiyuan Commandery during the Three Kingdoms period. He studied in Luoyang as a youth and was both literate and fond of studying. However his position at court remained that of a subordinate barbarian and he chafed at this disgrace. When Sima Ying sent Liu Yuan to raise an army for him, he took the opportunity to proclaim himself "King of Han" and made a bid for the imperial throne as a legitimate successor to the Han dynasty.
After failing to take Taiyuan, Liu Yuan moved south to gather support from bandits and other barbarian peoples, notably the former slave Shi Le, hailing from the Jie tribes. With his bolstered army, Liu Yuan defeated the Jin forces and plundered his way to Luoyang in 309. Liu Yuan did not live to see the fall of the capital and died of illness on 29 August, 310.
Realizing that defending the city was hopeless, Sima Yue fled with 40,000 men on 22 December, 310. He died on 23 April, 311. Sima Yue's army continued marching east, hoping to give their master a coastal burial. However before they were able to reach the coast, they were overtaken by Shi Le's cavalry and surrounded. The barbarian horse archers rained down arrows on them, causing a stampede. In the end, none survived.
Back at Luoyang, the Han army broke through the gates in the southern wall, capturing the city. Emperor Huai of Jin was taken prisoner and the city burnt to the ground. He would die in confinement in 313.
Liu Cong died in 318. His son and heir, Liu Can, was murdered by an official, Jin Zhun. The throne went to Liu Yao, an orphan raised by Liu Yuan. Liu Yao relocated the capital from Pingyang to Chang'an and renamed the dynasty from Han to Zhao. In the northeast, Shi Le also proclaimed himself King of Zhao, the kingdom which historians refer to as Later Zhao. In 328, Liu Yao attacked Shi Le's holdings in Pingyang and took it after a siege lasting 100 days. Judging that Liu Yao's forces had been sufficiently weakened, Shi Led an army of 27,000 cavalry and 60,000 foot soldiers against him. Liu Yao was completely defeated and in 329, Shi Le's army marched into Former Zhao and annexed it.
Cheng Han (304–347)
Dai was conquered by Former Qin in 376.
Later Zhao (319–350)
Later Zhao was a Xiongnu/Jie kingdom founded by Shi Le in 319. The Jie were likely originally a Central Asian people and were described as having deep-set eyes, high nose bridges, and heavy facial hair. They also believed in Zoroastrianism.
Shi Le was a Xiongnu raised among the Jie tribes of southern Shanxi. At an early age he was seized by the Jin governor of Bing Province and sold into slavery. At some point Shi Le gained his freedom and became involved with a group of brigands who specialized in stealing horses from the imperial pastures. Together they formed a large following made up of escaped slaves and outlaws. During the War of the Eight Princes, they plundered south of the Yellow River, but suffered defeat at the hands of a Jin army. Shi Le then entered the service of Liu Yuan and became a major warlord in the northeast. When Liu Yuan died and Liu Yao moved the capital to Chang'an, proclaiming himself King of Zhao, Shi Le did the same in his territory. In 328, Liu Yao attacked Shi Le's holdings in Pingyang and took it after a siege lasting 100 days. Judging that Liu Yao's forces had been sufficiently weakened, Shi Le led an army of 27,000 cavalry and 60,000 foot soldiers against him. Liu Yao was completely defeated and in 329, Shi Le annexed Former Zhao.
Shi Le died in 333 and was succeeded by his son Shi Hong, who was soon deposed by his cousin, Shi Hu, in 334. Shi Hu put to work enormous numbers of men on his palace complexes, dug up the tombs of former emperors for treasure, and was apparently addicted to his harem and hunting. At one point he had a quarrel with his heir apparent and killed him as well as his 26 children. They were buried in a single coffin.
Shi Hu died in 349 and was succeeded by Shi Zun. Shi Zun reigned for 33 days before his brother, Shi Jian, deposed him. Shi Jian reigned for 183 days before he was also deposed, by Shi Zhi, who lasted 103 days. Shi Zhi was ousted by Shi Min, an adopted nephew of Han Chinese origin. In reality, Shi Min had already been de facto ruler of Later Zhao since Shi Hu died. Shi Min then changed his name back to Ran Min, creating the kingdom of Wei in 350. Ran Min committed genocide on the Jie people, whose features made them physically distinct from the rest of the population. “The dead numbered more than 200,000. Corpses were piled outside the city walls, where they were all eaten by jackals, wolves, and wild dogs.”
Former Liang (320–376)
In the western Liang Province, Zhang Gui dutifully defended Jin territory against various Xianbei groups. When Zhang Gui's son, Zhang Shi, died in 320, Liang became an autonomous kingdom under the rule of the Zhang family. They remained nominal vassals of Jin until they were forced to become vassals of Zhao in 323. A few years later they proclaimed allegiance to Jin again. In 376, Former Qin conquered Former Liang.
Former Yan (337–370)
Former Yan was a Xianbei kingdom founded by Murong Huang in 337. It invaded Goguryeo in 342, destroyed the Yuwen tribe in 344, annexed Duan Qi in 356, took Xuchang in 364, and Luoyang in 365. It was conquered by Former Qin in 370.
Ran Wei (350–352)
Ran Min usurped the throne of Later Zhao in 350, creating Ran Wei. Ran Min committed genocide on the Jie people, whose features made them physically distinct from the rest of the population. “The dead numbered more than 200,000. Corpses were piled outside the city walls, where they were all eaten by jackals, wolves, and wild dogs.” The survivors who made it out sought help from the Xianbei kingdom of Former Yan to the northeast. Murong Jun led three armies south and defeated Ran Min in battle and annexed Ran Wei in 352.
Duan Qi (350–356)
Former Qin (351–394)
Former Qin was Di kingdom founded by Fu Jian in 351. Fu Jian's father Fu Hong was a leader under the service of Later Zhao. When Shi Hu died, Fu Hong led his people, 100,000 strong, westward. They defeated another group of Qiang exiles and captured Chang'an in 351. His son, Fu Jian, declared himself Emperor of Qin in 352. Jin forces tried to invade them in 354 but ultimately withdrew. Fu Jian died in 355 and was succeeded by his son Fu Sheng. Fu Sheng was deposed by Fu Jian (337–385) in 357.
Fu Jian subjugated the nomadic Qiang tribes and in 370, he sent his general Wang Meng to attack Former Yan. Wang Meng successfully defeated Former Yan in battle and annexed the kingdom. In 371 Fu Jian conquered Chouchi. In 373, Fu Jian seized Sichuan. Three years later, he annexed Former Liang and Dai. In 379, Xiangyang was conquered. By 381, Fu Jian had united all of North China under his control.
In 383, a Jin army attempted to take Xiangyang and was repelled by Qin relief force of 50,000. Fu Jian responded with a renewed all out attack on the south, mobilizing 270,000 cavalry and 600,000 infantry. Shouchun fell to the Qin vanguard (250,000) under Fu Rong. A Qin force 50,000 strong moved east to block a Jin army of 70,000. Disaster struck when a small Jin strike force of only 5,000 attacked the Qin position at night, dealing 15,000 casualties. The Jin army continued its march to Fei River, where it met the larger force under Fu Rong. Seeing that the situation had come to a stalemate at the river, the Jin commander offered Fu Rong to a fair battle if he would let them cross the river, and thus grant the Qin a much better position with their larger army. Fu Rong consented, but as he signaled to move back and make room from the Jin, the army fell into disarray, causing a panic stricken rout. Fu Rong himself was caught up in the commotion and killed in the stampede.
The Former Qin empire collapsed under the weight of rebellion. In 384 Murong Chui reconquered his territory in the northeast, proclaiming himself emperor of what would be known as Later Yan in 386. Other members of the Murong family besieged Fu Jian in Chang'an from 384-385. He escaped only to be intercepted by and killed by Yao Chang. Yao proclaimed himself emperor of Later Qin in 386. In 384, Western Yan was founded by Murong Hong. In 385, Qifu Guoren founded Western Qin. Chouchi was also revived. Dai was revived in 386 in what would become known as Northern Wei. In 387, Lü Guang founded Later Liang.
In 384, Former Qin lost Xiangyang and in the next year, all their territory in Sichuan and south of the Yellow River.
Western Yan (384–394)
Later Yan (384–409)
Later Yan was a Xianbei kingdom founded by Murong Chui in 384. It conquered Zhai Wei in 393 and Western Yan in 394. Northern Wei defeated Later Yan northeast of Liangcheng in 395 and took Bing Province from it in 396. Later Yan lost Zhongshan and Pingcheng to Northern Wei by 398. Gao Yun came to power in 407 as head of Northern Yan.
Later Qin (384–417)
Later Qin was a Qiang kingdom founded by Yao Chang in 384. Yao Chang killed Fu Jian in 385 and proclaimed himself emperor in 386. It conquered Former Qin in 394 and obtained submission from Western Qin in 400 and Later Liang in 403. It was conquered by Jin in 417.
Western Qin (385–400, 409–431)
Western Qin was a Xianbei kingdom founded in 385 by Qifu Guoren. It came under the control of Southern Liang and then Later Qin in 400. It was revived in 409, conquering Southern Liang in 414, and was ultimately itself conquered by Xia in 431.
Later Liang (387–403)
Zhai Wei (388–393)
Southern Liang (397–414)
Northern Liang (397–439)
Southern Yan (398–410)
Western Liang (400–421)
Xia was a Xiongnu kingdom founded by Helian Bobo in 407. Helian took Chang'an in 418. Northern Wei attacked Xia in 426 and captured Chang'an, but Xia retook it in 428. Xia conquered Western Qin in 431, but was itself conquered by the Tuyuhun in the same year.
From 388–9, he established dominion over the Kumoxi, Jieru, and Tutulin in the east. From 390–1, he defeated the Gaoju, Yuange, Helan, Gexi, Getulin, Chinu, and Chufu north of the Yellow River. From 391–2, he defeated the Xiongnu south of the Yellow River.
In the summer of 395, the heir apparent of Later Yan, Murong Bao, attacked Northern Wei. Tuoba Gui chose not to confront him head on and fled west across the Yellow River, leaving the east undefended. When Murong Bao reached the east bank of the Yellow River, a series of protracted skirmished occurred, lasting until winter. At that point Murong Bao started to retreat, but Tuoba Gui overtook him with a column of cavalry at Canhe Slope, northwest of modern Horinger. The entire Yan army was taken by surprise and routed on 8 December 395. Murong Chui led another invasion into Northern Wei territory in 396 and defeated an army near Pingcheng, but the offensive came to an abrupt halt when he grew ill and died. The momentum reversed and Northern Wei armies captured Bing Province in the fall, Zhongshan in 397, and Ye city in 398.
Tuoba Gui died in 409 and was succeeded by his son, Tuoba Si, posthumously Emperor Mingyuan of Northern Wei. Tuoba Si was heavily involved in Chinese poetry and literature and lacked the martial drive of his predecessor. Under his reign, there were two campaigns against the Rouran to the north.
Tuoba Si died in 423 and was succeeded by his son Tuoba Tao, posthumously Emperor Taiwu of Northern Wei. Tuoba Tao was the polar opposite of his father. According to Sima Guang, the heir of Tuoba Si was courageous and stalwart, often leading the charge in assaulting heavily defended cities, and acted indifferently towards the sight of death. In 426 he attacked the kingdom of Xia, taking Chang'an and Tongwancheng in 427. However Chang'an was retaken the next year. In 430 Northern Wei took Luoyang from the Liu Song dynasty, conquered Northern Yan in 436, and Northern Liang in 439. Thus ended the Sixteen Kingdoms.
|Chronology of the Sixteen Kingdoms with Ethnicity of Founders|
|Xianbei Xiongnu Jie Di Qiang Dingling Han Chinese|
|303||Jin Dynasty's rule over northern China and Sichuan begins to break down in 304||WESTERN|
|377||From 376 to 383, Former Qin briefly unites northern China|
|440||In 439, the Northern Wei reunites northern China|
|asterisk (*) denotes kingdoms not counted among the sixteen in the Spring and Autumn Annals of the Sixteen Kingdoms|
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