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The Northern and Southern dynasties () was a period in the
history of China The earliest known written records of the history of China date from as early as 1250 BC, from the Shang dynasty The Shang dynasty (), also historically known as the Yin dynasty (), was a Chinese dynasty that ruled in the middle and ...

history of China
that lasted from 420 to 589, following the tumultuous era of the
Sixteen Kingdoms The Sixteen Kingdoms (), less commonly the Sixteen States, was a chaotic period in Chinese history from AD 304 to 439 when the political order of northern China fractured into a series of short-lived dynastic states, most of which were founded ...
and the Wu Hu states. It is sometimes considered as the latter part of a longer period known as the
Six Dynasties __NOTOC__ Six Dynasties ( Chinese: 六朝; Pinyin ''Hanyu Pinyin'' (), often abbreviated to pinyin, is the official romanization system for Standard Chinese, Standard Mandarin Chinese in mainland China, Taiwan (ROC), and Singapore. It is o ...
(220 to 589). Though an age of
civil war A civil war, also known as an intrastate war in polemology, is a war between organized groups within the same Sovereign state, state (or country). The aim of one side may be to take control of the country or a region, to achieve independenc ...
and political chaos, it was also a time of flourishing arts and culture, advancement in technology, and the spread of
Mahayana Buddhism Mahāyāna (; "Great Vehicle") is a term for a broad group of Buddhist traditions, texts, philosophies, and practices. Mahāyāna is considered one of the two main existing branches of Buddhism (the other being Theravada). Mahāyāna Buddhism de ...
and
Daoism Taoism (), or Daoism (), is a philosophical tradition of Chinese origin which emphasizes living in harmony with the ''Tao'' (, or ''Dao''). In Taosim the ''Tao'' is the source, pattern and substance of everything that exists. Taoism teaches ...
. The period saw large-scale migration of
Han Chinese The Han Chinese,
. Huayuqiao.org. Retrieved on 2013-04-26.
Hanzu, or Han peopleYangtze The Yangtze or Yangzi ( or ) is the longest river in Asia, the third-longest in the world and the longest in the world to flow entirely within one country. It rises at Jari Hill in the Tanggula Mountains (Tibetan Plateau) and flows in a ...
. The period came to an end with the unification of all of
China proper China proper, Inner China or the Eighteen Provinces was a term used by Western writers on the Manchu people, Manchu-led Qing dynasty to express a distinction between the core and frontier regions of China. There is no fixed extent for China pr ...

China proper
by Emperor Wen of the
Sui dynasty The Sui dynasty (, ) was a short-lived imperial dynasty of China of pivotal significance. The Sui unified the Northern and Southern dynasties and reinstalled the rule of ethnic Han in the entirety of China proper, along with sinicization ...
. During this period, the process of
sinicization Sinicization, sinofication, sinification, or sinonization (from the prefix , 'Chinese, relating to China') is the process by which non-Chinese societies come under the influence of Chinese culture, particularly Han-Chinese culture, language, so ...
accelerated among the non-Chinese arrivals in the north and among the indigenous people in the south. This process was also accompanied by the increasing popularity of Buddhism (
introduced into China in the 1st century
introduced into China in the 1st century
) in both
northern and southern China Northern China () and Southern China () are two approximate mega-regions within China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's ...
and Daoism gaining influence as well, with two essential Daoist canons written during this period. Notable technological advances occurred during this period. The invention of the
stirrup A stirrup is a light frame or ring that holds the foot of a rider, attached to the saddle The saddle is a supportive structure for a professional other load, fastened to an animal's back by a girth. The most common type is the equestria ...

stirrup
during the earlier
Jin dynasty (266–420) The Jin dynasty (; ) or the Jin Empire, sometimes distinguished as the (司馬晉) or the (兩晉), was a Chinese dynasty traditionally dated from 266 to 420 AD. It was founded by Sima Yan, eldest son of Sima Zhao, who was made the K ...
helped spur the development of
heavy cavalry 300px, Spanish Heavy Cavalry - Royal Armoury of Madrid, Spain Heavy cavalry was a class of cavalry intended to deliver a battlefield charge and also to act as a Military reserve, tactical reserve; they are also often termed ''shock cavalry''. ...
as a combat standard. Historians also note advances in
medicine Medicine is the science Science (from the Latin word ''scientia'', meaning "knowledge") is a systematic enterprise that Scientific method, builds and Taxonomy (general), organizes knowledge in the form of Testability, testable explanations ...

medicine
,
astronomy Astronomy (from el, ἀστρονομία, literally meaning the science that studies the laws of the stars) is a natural science that studies astronomical object, celestial objects and celestial event, phenomena. It uses mathematics, physi ...
,
mathematics Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), space (geometry), and calculus, change (mathematical analysis, analysis). It has no generally ...
, and
cartography Cartography (; from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10 ...
. Intellectuals of the period include the mathematician and astronomer
Zu Chongzhi Zu or ZU may refer to: Arts and entertainment Fictional elements * Zu, a mountain featured in the films '' Zu Warriors from the Magic Mountain'' and '' The Legend of Zu'' * ''ZU'', a " furry" anthology published by MU Press * Zu, a large birdlike m ...
(429–500), and astronomer
Tao Hongjing Tao Hongjing (456–536), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in the Sinosphere, including China, Japan, Korea, ...
.


Background

After the collapse of a united China under the
Han dynasty#REDIRECT Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu Bang and ruled by the House of Liu. Preceded by the short-lived Qin dynas ...

Han dynasty
in 220 due in large part to the
Yellow Turban
Yellow Turban
and the
Five Pecks of Rice The Way of the Five Pecks of Rice () or the Way of the Celestial Master, commonly abbreviated to simply The Celestial Masters, was a China, Chinese Taoist movement founded by the first List of Celestial Masters, Celestial Master Zhang Daoling in 1 ...
rebellions, China eventually coalesced into the
Three Kingdoms The Three Kingdoms () from 220 to 280 AD was the tripartite division of China among the states of Wei, Shu Shu may refer to: China * Sichuan, China, officially abbreviated as Shu (蜀) * Shu (state) (conquered by Qin in 316 BC), an ancie ...

Three Kingdoms
. Of these,
Cao Wei Wei (Hanzi Chinese characters, also called ''Hanzi'' (), are logograms developed for the writing of Chinese. They have been adapted to write other East-Asian languages, and remain a key component of the Japanese writing system ...
was the strongest, followed by
Eastern Wu Wu (222–280), commonly known as Dong Wu (Eastern Wu) or Sun Wu, was one of the three major states that competed for supremacy over China in the Three Kingdoms period (220–280). It previously existed from 220–222 as a vassal kingdom nomina ...
and
Shu Han Han (漢; 221–263), known in historiography as Shu Han (蜀漢; often shortened to Shu; ) or Ji Han (季漢) to disambiguate from the preceding Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty ...
, but they were initially in a relatively stable formation. After a 249 coup by
Sima Yi Sima Yi ( ; 179 – 7 September 251), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in the Sinosphere, including China, ...
, the Sima family (司马氏) essentially controlled Cao Wei and the
conquest of Shu by Wei The Conquest of Shu by Wei was a military campaign launched by the state of Cao Wei ("Wei") against its rival Shu Han ("Shu") in late 263 during the Three Kingdoms The Three Kingdoms () from 220 to 280 AD was the tripartite division of Ch ...
rapidly followed. Following a failed coup by the ruling Cao family against the Sima family, the final Cao ruler abdicated. Sima Yan then founded the Jin Dynasty as
Emperor Wu of Jin Emperor Wu of Jin (; 236 – 16 May 290), personal name Sima Yan (), courtesy name Anshi (安世), was the grandson of Sima Yi, nephew of Sima Shi and son of Sima Zhao. He became the first emperor of the Jin dynasty (265–420), Jin dynasty af ...
and the
conquest of Wu by Jin The conquest of Wu by Jin was a military campaign launched by the Jin dynasty (265–420) against the state of Eastern Wu Wu (222–280), commonly known as Dong Wu (Eastern Wu) or Sun Wu, was one of the three major states that competed for ...
occurred in 280, ending the Three Kingdoms period and reuniting China. The Jin dynasty was severely damaged after the
War of the Eight Princes The War of the Eight Princes, Rebellion of the Eight Kings, or Rebellion of the Eight Princes () was a series of civil wars among kings/princes (Chinese: ''wáng'' 王) of the Chinese Jin dynasty from 291 to 306 AD. The key point of contention in t ...

War of the Eight Princes
from 291–306. During the reigns of Emperor Huai and Emperor Min, the country was put into grave danger with the uprising of the northern non-Han people collectively known as the
Five BarbariansThe Five Barbarians, or Wu Hu (), is a Chinese historical exonym An endonym (from Greek: , 'inner' + , 'name'; also known as autonym) is a common, internal name A name is a term used for identification by an external observer. They can identify ...
, when numerous nomadic tribal groups resettled in China's north and northwest who had been heavily drafted into the military then exploited the civil wars to seize power. Their armies almost destroyed the dynasty in the
Disaster of Yongjia The Disaster of Yongjia () refers to events in Chinese history The earliest known written records of the history of China date from as early as 1250 BC, from the Shang dynasty (c. 1600–1046 BC), during the king Wu Ding's reign, who was me ...
of 311, when the Five Barbarians sacked
Luoyang Luoyang is a city located in the confluence area of Luo River (Henan), Luo River and Yellow River in the west of Henan province. Governed as a prefecture-level city, it borders the provincial capital of Zhengzhou to the east, Pingdingshan to t ...

Luoyang
.
Chang'an Chang'an (; ) was an ancient capital of more than ten dynasties in Chinese history, today known as Xi'an in Shaanxi Shaanxi (, ; Chinese postal romanization, alternately Shensi) is a landlocked Provinces of China, province of the Ch ...
met a similar fate in 316. However, a scion of the royal house, Sima Rui, Prince of Langya, fled south of the
Huai River The Huai River (), formerly romanized Romanization or romanisation, in linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying ...
to salvage what was left in order to sustain the empire, establishing himself as Emperor Yuan. Cementing their power in the south, the Jin established
Jiankang Jiankang (), or Jianye (), as it was originally called, was capital city of the Eastern Wu (229–265 and 266–280 CE), the Jin dynasty (265–420), Jin dynasty (317–420 CE) and the Southern Dynasties (420–552), including the Chen dynasty (55 ...
on the existing site of Jianke (now
Nanjing Nanjing (; , Mandarin pronunciation: ), Postal Map Romanization, alternately romanized as Nanking, is the capital of Jiangsu Provinces of China, province of the China, People's Republic of China, a sub-provincial city, a megacity and the List ...

Nanjing
) as their new capital, renaming the dynasty as the Eastern Jin since the new capital was located southeast of
Luoyang Luoyang is a city located in the confluence area of Luo River (Henan), Luo River and Yellow River in the west of Henan province. Governed as a prefecture-level city, it borders the provincial capital of Zhengzhou to the east, Pingdingshan to t ...

Luoyang
. In the north, the Five Barbarians established numerous kingdoms, leading to the period being known as the
Sixteen Kingdoms The Sixteen Kingdoms (), less commonly the Sixteen States, was a chaotic period in Chinese history from AD 304 to 439 when the political order of northern China fractured into a series of short-lived dynastic states, most of which were founded ...
. Eventually, the
Northern Wei Maitreya Maitreya (Sanskrit Sanskrit (, attributively , ''saṃskṛta-'', nominalization, nominally , ''saṃskṛtam'') is a classical language of South Asia belonging to the Indo-Aryan languages, Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-Euro ...
conquered the rest of the northern states in 439. Although the Eastern Jin and successive southern dynasties were well-defended from the northern states by placement of naval fleets along the Yangtze, there were still various problems faced with building and maintaining military strength. The designation of specific households for military service in the
tuntian The tuntian system was a state-promoted system of agriculture which originated in the Western Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu Bang and ruled by ...
system eventually led to a falling out in their social status, causing widespread desertion of troops on many occasions. Faced with shortage of troop numbers, Jin generals were often sent on campaigns to capture non-Chinese people in the south in order to draft them into the military. The Eastern Jin dynasty fell not because of external invasion, however, but because General Liu Yu seized the throne from Emperor Gong and establishing himself as
Emperor Wu of Liu Song Emperor Wu of (Liu) Song (()宋武帝; 363–422), personal name Liu Yu (), courtesy name Dexing (), nickname Jinu (), was a statesman and strategist of ancient China, and the founding emperor of the Chinese dynasty Liu Song The Liu Song dyna ...
(r. 420–422), which officially began the Northern and Southern dynasties.


Northern dynasties

The Northern dynasties began in 439 when the
Northern Wei Maitreya Maitreya (Sanskrit Sanskrit (, attributively , ''saṃskṛta-'', nominalization, nominally , ''saṃskṛtam'') is a classical language of South Asia belonging to the Indo-Aryan languages, Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-Euro ...
conquered the
Northern Liang The Northern Liang (; 397-439) was a state of the Sixteen Kingdoms in China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's most populous ...
to unite northern China and ended in 589 when
Sui dynasty The Sui dynasty (, ) was a short-lived imperial dynasty of China of pivotal significance. The Sui unified the Northern and Southern dynasties and reinstalled the rule of ethnic Han in the entirety of China proper, along with sinicization ...
extinguished the
Chen dynasty The Chen dynasty (; 557–589), also known as the Southern Chen (南陳 / 南朝陈), was the fourth and last of the Southern Dynasties in China. Following the Liang dynasty, the Chen dynasty was founded by Chen Baxian (Emperor Wu of Chen, Emperor ...
. It can be divided into three time periods:
Northern Wei Maitreya Maitreya (Sanskrit Sanskrit (, attributively , ''saṃskṛta-'', nominalization, nominally , ''saṃskṛtam'') is a classical language of South Asia belonging to the Indo-Aryan languages, Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-Euro ...
;
Eastern Eastern may refer to: Transportation *China Eastern Airlines, a current Chinese airline based in Shanghai *Eastern Air, former name of Zambia Skyways *Eastern Air Lines, a defunct American airline that operated from 1926 to 1991 *Eastern Air Lin ...
and
Western Wei The Western Wei (;"Wei"
'' Northern Qi The Northern Qi (), also called Later Qi and Gao Qi, was one of the Northern dynasties of imperial China history and ruled northeastern China from 550 to 577. The dynasty was founded by Emperor Wenxuan of Northern Qi, Emperor Wenxuan, and it was en ...
and
Northern Zhou The Northern Zhou (; ) followed the Western Wei, and ruled northern China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's most populou ...
. The Northern, Eastern, and Western Wei along with the Northern Zhou were established by the
Xianbei The Xianbei (; ) were an ancient nomadic people that once resided in the eastern Eurasian steppes in what is today Mongolia Mongolia (, Mongolian language, Mongolian: , Mongolian script, Traditional Mongolian: ') is a landlocked coun ...
people while the Northern Qi was established by Sinicized barbarians. In the north, local Han Chinese gentry clans had consolidated themselves by constructing fortified villages. A clan would carve out a de facto fief through a highly cohesive family-based self-defense community. Lesser peasant families would work for the dominant clan as tenants or serfs. This was a response to the chaotic political environment, and these Han Chinese gentry families largely avoided government service before the Northern Wei court launched the sinicization movement. The northern gentry was therefore highly militarized as compared to the refined southern aristocrats, and this distinction persisted well into the Sui and Tang dynasties centuries later.


Rise of Northern Wei (386–535) and the Sinicization movement

In the
Sixteen Kingdoms The Sixteen Kingdoms (), less commonly the Sixteen States, was a chaotic period in Chinese history from AD 304 to 439 when the political order of northern China fractured into a series of short-lived dynastic states, most of which were founded ...
period, the
Tuoba The Tuoba (Middle Chinese: *''tʰak-bɛt'') also known as the Taugast or Tabgach ( otk, 𐱃𐰉𐰍𐰲 ''Tabγač''), was a Xianbei clan in ancient China. The Tuoba founded the Northern Wei (386–535), a powerful dynasty that unified northern C ...
family of the Xianbei were the rulers of the state of
Dai (Sixteen Kingdoms) Dai, also Wade-Giles, formerly spelled Tai, was a state of the Xianbei clan of Tuoba, during the era of Sixteen Kingdoms in China. It existed from AD 310 to 376, with its capital at Shengle (盛樂) (near modern Horinger County of Hohhot, Inne ...
. Although it was conquered by the
Former Qin The Former Qin, also called Fu Qin (苻秦) (351–394) was a dynastic state of the Sixteen Kingdoms The Sixteen Kingdoms (), less commonly the Sixteen States, was a chaotic period in Chinese history The earliest known written recor ...
, the defeat of the Former Qin at the
Battle of Fei River The Battle of Fei River, also known as "Feishui" () was a battle in AD 383, where Fu Jiān Fu or FU may refer to: In arts and entertainment * Fool Us, Penn & Teller's magic-competition television show *Fǔ, a type of ancient Chinese vessel * Fu ...
resulted in the collapse of the Former Qin. The grandson of the last prince of Dai
Tuoba Shiyijian Tuoba Shiyijian (; 320–376) was the last prince of the Tuoba The Tuoba (Middle Chinese: *''tʰak-bɛt'') also known as the Taugast or Tabgach ( otk, 𐱃𐰉𐰍𐰲 ''Tabγač''), was a Xianbei clan in ancient China. The Tuoba founded the North ...
, Tuoba Gui restored the fortunes of the Tuoba clan, renaming his state Wei (now known as Northern Wei) with its capital at Shengle (near modern
Hohhot Hohhot (Mongolian language, Mongolian: ', Хөх хот ''Khökh khot'' Help:IPA/Mongolian, ; ), abbreviated Hushi (), formerly known as Kweisui (), is the Capital (political), capital of Inner Mongolia in the North China, north of the Chi ...
). Under the rule of Emperors Daowu (Tuoba Gui), Mingyuan, and Taiwu, the Northern Wei progressively expanded. The establishment of the early Northern Wei state and the economy were also greatly indebted to the father-son pair of Cui Hong and
Cui Hao Cui Hao (崔浩) (died 450 CE), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in the Sinosphere, including China, Japan, Kor ...
. Tuoba Gui engaged in numerous conflicts with the
Later Yan The Later Yan (; 384-407 or 409) was a Murong–Xianbei state, located in modern-day northeast China, during the era of Sixteen Kingdoms in China. All rulers of the Later Yan declared themselves "Chinese nobility, emperors". Rulers of the Later Ya ...
that ended favorably for the Northern Wei after they received help from Zhang Gun that allowed them to destroy the Later Yan army at the
Battle of Canhe Slope
Battle of Canhe Slope
. Following this victory, Tuoba Gui conquered the Later Yan capital of Pingcheng (modern-day Datong). That same year he declared himself Emperor Daowu. Due to Emperor Daowu's cruelty, he was killed by his son Tuoba Shao, but crown prince Tuoba Si managed to defeat Tuoba Shao and took the throne as Emperor Mingyuan. Though he managed to conquer
Liu Song The Liu Song dynasty (420–479 CE; ), also known as Former Song (前宋) or Southern Song (南朝宋), was the first of the four Southern Dynasties in China, succeeding the Eastern Jin and followed by the Southern Qi. The dynasty was founded b ...
's province of Henan, he died soon afterward. Emperor Mingyuan's son Tuoba Tao took the throne as Emperor Taiwu. Due to Emperor Taiwu's energetic efforts, Northern Wei's strength greatly increased, allowing them to repeatedly attack Liu Song. After dealing with the
Rouran The Rouran Khaganate, also Juan-Juan Khaganate (), was a tribal confederation and later state founded by a people of Proto-Mongolic Donghu origin. The Rouran supreme rulers are noted for being the first to use the title of "khagan Khagan ...
threat to his northern flank, he engaged in a war to unite northern China. With the fall of the
Northern Liang The Northern Liang (; 397-439) was a state of the Sixteen Kingdoms in China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's most populous ...
in 439, Emperor Taiwu united northern China, ending the Sixteen Kingdoms period and beginning the Northern and Southern dynasties period with their southern rivals, the Liu Song. Even though it was a time of great military strength for the Northern Wei, because of Rouran harassment in the north, they could not fully focus on their southern expeditions. After uniting the north, Emperor Taiwu also conquered the strong
Shanshan Shanshan (; ug, پىچان, Pichan, Piqan) was a kingdom located at the north-eastern end of the Taklamakan Desert near the great, but now mostly dry, salt lake known as Lop Nur. The kingdom was originally an independent city-state, known in ...
kingdom and subjugated the other kingdoms of Xiyu, or the
Western Regions The Western Regions or Xiyu (Hsi-yu; ) was a historical name specified in the Chinese chronicles between the 3rd century BC to the 8th century AD that referred to the regions west of Yumen Pass, most often Central Asia Central Asia is a r ...
. In 450, Emperor Taiwu once again attacked the Liu Song and reached Guabu (瓜步, in modern Nanjing, Jiangsu), threatening to cross the river to attack Jiankang, the Liu Song capital. Though up to this point, the Northern Wei military forces dominated the Liu Song forces, they took heavy casualties. The Northern Wei forces plundered numerous households before returning north. At this point, followers of the Buddhist Gai Wu (蓋吳) rebelled. After pacifying this rebellion, Emperor Taiwu, under the advice of his Daoist prime minister
Cui Hao Cui Hao (崔浩) (died 450 CE), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in the Sinosphere, including China, Japan, Kor ...
, proscribed Buddhism, in the first of the
Three Disasters of Wu 3 is a number, numeral, and glyph. 3, three, or III may also refer to: * AD 3 __NOTOC__ AD 3 (III) or 3 AD was a common year starting on Monday or Common year starting on Tuesday, Tuesday (link will display the full calendar) of the Julian ca ...
. At this late stage in his life, Emperor Taiwu meted out cruel punishments, which led to his death in 452 at the hands of the eunuch
Zong AiZong Ai (宗愛) (died 452) was a eunuch A eunuch ( ) is a man who has been castration, castrated. Throughout history, castration often served a specific social function. The earliest records for intentional castration to produce eunuchs are f ...
. This sparked off turmoil that only ended with the ascension of Emperor Wencheng later that same year. In the first half of the
Northern Wei dynasty Maitreya, 443 AD. statue. Dated 489 AD. Tokyo National Museum. The Northern Wei (), also known as the Tuoba Wei (拓跋魏), Later Wei (後魏), was a Dynasties in Chinese history, dynasty founded by the Tuoba (Tabgach) clan of the Xianbei, ...
(386–534), the
Xianbei The Xianbei (; ) were an ancient nomadic people that once resided in the eastern Eurasian steppes in what is today Mongolia Mongolia (, Mongolian language, Mongolian: , Mongolian script, Traditional Mongolian: ') is a landlocked coun ...
steppe tribesmen who dominated northern China kept a policy of strict social distinction between them and their Chinese subjects. Chinese were drafted into the bureaucracy, employed as officials to collect taxes, etc. However, the Chinese were kept out of many higher positions of power. They also represented the minority of the populace where centers of power were located. In 446 an ethnic Qiang rebellion was crushed by the Northern Wei. Wang Yu ( 王遇) was an ethnic Qiang eunuch and he may have been castrated during the rebellion since the Northern Wei would castrated the rebel tribe's young elite. Fengyi prefecture's Lirun town according to the
Weishu The ''Book of Wei'', also known by its Chinese name as the ''Wei Shu'', is a classic Chinese historical text compiled by Wei Shou from 551 to 554, and is an important text describing the history of the Northern Wei and Eastern Wei from 386 to ...
was where Wang Yu was born , Lirun was to Xi'ans's northeast by 100 miles and modern day Chengcheng stands at it's site. Wang Yu patronized Buddhism and in 488 had a temple constructed in his birth place. Widespread social and cultural transformation in northern China came with
Emperor Xiaowen of Northern Wei Emperor Xiaowen of Northern Wei ((北)魏孝文帝) (October 13, 467 – April 26, 499), personal name né Tuoba Hong (拓拔宏), later Yuan Hong (元宏), or Toba Hung II, was an emperor of the Northern Wei from September 20, 471 to April 26, ...

Emperor Xiaowen of Northern Wei
(reigned 471–499), whose father was a Xianbei, but whose mother was Chinese. Although of the
Tuoba The Tuoba (Middle Chinese: *''tʰak-bɛt'') also known as the Taugast or Tabgach ( otk, 𐱃𐰉𐰍𐰲 ''Tabγač''), was a Xianbei clan in ancient China. The Tuoba founded the Northern Wei (386–535), a powerful dynasty that unified northern C ...
Clan from the Xianbei tribe, Emperor Xiaowen asserted his dual Xianbei-Chinese identity, renaming his own clan after the Chinese ''Yuan'' (元 meaning "elemental" or "origin"). In the year 493 Emperor Xiaowen instituted a new signification program that had the Xianbei elites conform to many Chinese standards. These social reforms included donning Chinese clothing (banning Xianbei clothing at court), learning the Chinese language (if under the age of thirty), applied one-character Chinese surnames to Xianbei families, and encouraged the clans of high-ranking Xianbei and Chinese families to intermarry. Emperor Xiaowen also moved the capital city from Pingcheng to one of China's old imperial sites,
Luoyang Luoyang is a city located in the confluence area of Luo River (Henan), Luo River and Yellow River in the west of Henan province. Governed as a prefecture-level city, it borders the provincial capital of Zhengzhou to the east, Pingdingshan to t ...

Luoyang
, which had been the capital during the earlier Eastern Han and Western Jin dynasties. The new capital at Luoyang was revived and transformed, with roughly 150,000 Xianbei and other northern warriors moved from north to south to fill new ranks for the capital by the year 495. Within a couple of decades, the population rose to about half a million residents and was famed for being home to over a thousand Buddhist temples. Defectors from the south, such as Wang Su of the prestigious Langye Wang family, were largely accommodated and felt at home with the establishment of their own Wu quarter in Luoyang (this quarter of the city was home to over three thousand families). They were even served tea (by this time gaining popularity in southern China) at court instead of yogurt drinks commonly found in the north. In the year 523, Prince Dongyang of the Northern Wei was sent to
Dunhuang Dunhuang () is a county-level city A county-level municipality (), county-level city or county city, formerly known as prefecture-controlled city (1949–1970: ; 1970–1983: ), is a Administrative divisions of China#County level ( ...
to serve as its governor for a term of fifteen years. With the religious force of
Buddhism Buddhism (, ) is the Major religious groups#Largest religions, world's fourth-largest religion with over 520 million followers, or over 7% of the global population, known as Buddhists. Buddhism encompasses a variety of traditions, beliefs and ...
gaining mainstream acceptance in Chinese society, Prince Dongyang and local wealthy families set out to establish a monumental project in honor of Buddhism, carving and decorating Cave 285 of the
Mogao Caves The Mogao Caves, also known as the Thousand Buddha Grottoes or Caves of the Thousand Buddhas, form a system of 500 temples southeast of the center of Dunhuang, an oasis located at a religious and cultural crossroads on the Silk Road The Sil ...

Mogao Caves
with beautiful statues and murals. This promotion of the arts would continue for centuries at Dunhuang and is now one of China's greatest tourist attractions. The Northern Wei started to arrange for Han Chinese elites to marry daughters of the Xianbei
Tuoba The Tuoba (Middle Chinese: *''tʰak-bɛt'') also known as the Taugast or Tabgach ( otk, 𐱃𐰉𐰍𐰲 ''Tabγač''), was a Xianbei clan in ancient China. The Tuoba founded the Northern Wei (386–535), a powerful dynasty that unified northern C ...
royal family in the 480s. More than fifty percent of Tuoba Xianbei princesses of the Northern Wei were married to southern Han Chinese men from the imperial families and aristocrats from southern China of the
Southern dynasties The Northern and Southern dynasties () was a period in the history of China that lasted from 420 to 589, following the tumultuous era of the Sixteen Kingdoms and the Five Barbarians, Wu Hu states. It is sometimes considered as the latter pa ...
who defected and moved north to join the Northern Wei. Some Han Chinese exiled royalty fled from southern China and defected to the Xianbei. Several daughters of the Xianbei
Emperor Xiaowen of Northern Wei Emperor Xiaowen of Northern Wei ((北)魏孝文帝) (October 13, 467 – April 26, 499), personal name né Tuoba Hong (拓拔宏), later Yuan Hong (元宏), or Toba Hung II, was an emperor of the Northern Wei from September 20, 471 to April 26, ...

Emperor Xiaowen of Northern Wei
were married to Han Chinese elites, the
Liu Song The Liu Song dynasty (420–479 CE; ), also known as Former Song (前宋) or Southern Song (南朝宋), was the first of the four Southern Dynasties in China, succeeding the Eastern Jin and followed by the Southern Qi. The dynasty was founded b ...
royal Liu Hui (刘辉), married Princess Lanling (蘭陵公主) of the Northern Wei,.> Princess Huayang (華陽公主) to Sima Fei (司馬朏), a descendant of
Jin dynasty (266–420) The Jin dynasty (; ) or the Jin Empire, sometimes distinguished as the (司馬晉) or the (兩晉), was a Chinese dynasty traditionally dated from 266 to 420 AD. It was founded by Sima Yan, eldest son of Sima Zhao, who was made the K ...
royalty, Princess Jinan (濟南公主) to Lu Daoqian (盧道虔), Princess Nanyang (南阳长公主) to
Xiao Baoyin Xiao Baoyin (蕭寶寅) (487–530), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in the Sinosphere, including China, Japan, ...
(萧宝夤), a member of
Southern Qi The Southern Qi ( or ) (479–502) also known as Xiao Qi() was the second of the Southern dynasties The Northern and Southern dynasties () was a period in the history of China that lasted from 420 to 589, following the tumultuous era of t ...
royalty.
Emperor Xiaozhuang of Northern Wei Emperor Xiaozhuang of Northern Wei (, 507–531; r. 528-530), personal name Yuan Ziyou (), was an emperor of China Emperor of China, or ''Huáng dì'' was the monarch A monarch is a head of stateWebster's II New College DictionarMonarch Hought ...
's sister the Shouyang Princess was wedded to The
Liang dynasty The Liang dynasty () (502–557), also known as the Southern Liang (), was the third of the Southern Dynasties The Northern and Southern dynasties () was a period in the history of China that lasted from 420 to 589, following the tumultuou ...
ruler
Emperor Wu of Liang Emperor Wu of Liang (梁武帝) (464–549), personal name Xiao Yan (蕭衍), courtesy name Shuda (叔達), nickname Lian'er (練兒), was the founding emperor of the Liang Dynasty of Chinese Northern and Southern dynasties, Northern and southern ...

Emperor Wu of Liang
's son Xiao Zong 蕭綜. One of
Emperor Xiaowu of Northern Wei Emperor Xiaowu of Northern Wei ((北)魏孝武帝) (510 – February 3, 535), personal name Yuan Xiu (元脩 or 元修), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's ...
's sisters was married to Zhang Huan, a Han Chinese, according to the
Book of Zhou The ''Book of Zhou'' (''Zhōu Shū'') records the official history of the History of China, Chinese/Xianbei ruled Western Wei and Northern Zhou dynasties, and ranks among the official Twenty-Four Histories of imperial China. Compiled by the Tang ...
(Zhoushu). His name is given as Zhang Xin in the
Book of Northern Qi The ''Book of Northern Qi'' (Chinese language, Chinese: 北齊書, pinyin Běi Qí Shū), was the official history of the History of China, Chinese dynasty Northern Qi. It was written by the Tang Dynasty historian Li Baiyao (李百藥) and was com ...
(Bei Qishu) and
History of the Northern Dynasties History (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 millio ...
(Beishi) which mention his mariage to a Xianbei princess of Wei. His personal name was changed due to a
naming taboo A naming taboo is a cultural taboo A taboo is an implicit prohibition on something (usually against an utterance or behavior) based on a cultural sense that it is excessively repulsive or, perhaps, too sacred for ordinary people.''Encyclopædia B ...
on the emperor's name. He was the son of Zhang Qiong. When the Eastern Jin dynasty ended Northern Wei received the Han Chinese Jin prince Sima Chuzhi ( 司馬楚之) as a refugee. A Northern Wei Princess married Sima Chuzhi, giving birth to Sima Jinlong ( 司馬金龍).
Northern Liang The Northern Liang (; 397-439) was a state of the Sixteen Kingdoms in China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's most populous ...
Xiongnu King
Juqu Mujian Juqu Mujian (; before 420 – 447), named Juqu Maoqian (沮渠茂虔) in some sources, formally Prince Ai of Hexi (河西哀王), was a king of the Xiongnu state Northern Liang—with most Chinese historians considering him the last king, althoug ...
's daughter married Sima Jinlong.


Split into Eastern Wei (534–550) and Western Wei (535–557)

In that same year of 523 a revolt of several military garrisons, the Rebellion of the Six Garrisons (''Liu Zhen'') was caused by a food shortage far north of Luoyang. After this was suppressed, the government had 200,000 surrendered garrison rebels deployed to Hebei, which proved later to be a mistake when a former garrison officer organized another rebellion in the years 526–527. The cause of these wars was the growing rift between the governing aristocracy which was increasingly adopting Chinese-style sedentary policies and lifestyles and their nomadic tribal armies who continued to preserve the old steppe way of life. The Wei court was betrayed by one of their own generals, who had the empress dowager and the young emperor thrown into the Yellow River while establishing his own puppet ruler to maintain authority. As conflict swelled in the north between successive leaders,
Gao Huan Gao Huan () (496–547), Xianbei name Heliuhun (賀六渾), formally Prince Xianwu of Qi (齊獻武王), later further formally honored by Northern Qi initially as Emperor Xianwu (獻武皇帝), then as Emperor Shenwu (神武皇帝) with the temp ...

Gao Huan
took control of the east and Luoyang (holding
Emperor Xiaojing of Eastern Wei Emperor Xiaojing of Eastern Wei ((東)魏孝靜帝) (524–552), personal name Yuan Shanjian (元善見), was the only emperor of the Eastern Wei The Eastern Wei (;Yuwen Tai Yuwen Tai () (507–556), nickname Heita (黑獺), formally Duke Wen of Anding (安定文公), later further posthumously honored by Northern Zhou initially as Prince Wen (文王) then as Emperor Wen (文皇帝) with the temple name Taizu (太 ...

Yuwen Tai
took control of the west and the traditional Chinese capital of
Chang'an Chang'an (; ) was an ancient capital of more than ten dynasties in Chinese history, today known as Xi'an in Shaanxi Shaanxi (, ; Chinese postal romanization, alternately Shensi) is a landlocked Provinces of China, province of the Ch ...
by 535. The Western regime was dominated by the sinicized nobles and their Han Chinese bureaucrats while the Eastern regime was controlled by the traditional steppe tribes.


Northern Qi (550–577) and Northern Zhou (557–581)

Eventually, Gao Huan's son Gao Yang forced the Eastern Wei emperor to abdicate in favor of his claim to the throne, establishing the
Northern Qi The Northern Qi (), also called Later Qi and Gao Qi, was one of the Northern dynasties of imperial China history and ruled northeastern China from 550 to 577. The dynasty was founded by Emperor Wenxuan of Northern Qi, Emperor Wenxuan, and it was en ...
dynasty (551–577). Afterward, Yuwen Tai's son
Yuwen Jue Emperor Xiaomin of Northern Zhou ((北)周孝閔帝) (542–557), personal name Yuwen Jue (宇文覺), nickname Dharani (陀羅尼), was an emperor of the Xianbei dynasty Northern Zhou (although he used the alternative title "Heavenly Prince" (''Ti ...
seized the throne of power from
Emperor Gong of Western Wei Emperor Gong of Western Wei ((西)魏恭帝) (537–557), personal name né Yuan Kuo (元廓), later changed to Tuoba Kuo (拓拔廓), was the last emperor of the Western Wei -- a rump state of and successor to Northern Wei Maitreya Ma ...
, establishing the
Northern Zhou The Northern Zhou (; ) followed the Western Wei, and ruled northern China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's most populou ...
dynasty (557–580). The Northern Zhou dynasty was able to defeat and conquer Northern Qi in 577, reunifying the north. However, this success was short-lived, as the Northern Zhou was overthrown in 581 by Yang Jian, who became
Emperor Wen of Sui Emperor Wen of Sui (隋文帝; 21 July 541 – 13 August 604), personal name Yang Jian (), Xianbei The Xianbei (; ) were an ancient nomadic people that once resided in the eastern Eurasian steppes in what is today Mongolia Mongolia ...
. With greater military power and morale, along with convincing propaganda that the Chen dynasty ruler
Chen Shubao Chen Shubao (, 553–604), also known as Houzhu of Chen (), posthumous name Duke Yáng of Chángchéng (), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. ...
was a decadent ruler who had lost the
Mandate of Heaven The Mandate of Heaven () is a Chinese political philosophy that was used in ancient Ancient history is the aggregate of past eventsAztec King Nezahualpiltzintli of Texcoco King is the title given to a male monarch in a variety of cont ...
, the Sui Dynasty was able to effectively conquer the south. After this conquest, the whole of China entered a new golden age of reunification under the centralization of the short-lived Sui dynasty and succeeding
Tang dynasty The Tang dynasty (, ; ), or Tang Empire, was an imperial dynasty of China that ruled from 618 to 907, with an interregnum between 690 and 705. It was preceded by the Sui dynasty and followed by the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period. H ...
(618–907). The core elite of the Northern dynasties, mixed-culture, and mixed-ethnicity military clans, would later also form the founding elite of the Sui and Tang dynasties. Hence, they tended to have a flexible approach to steppe nomads, viewing them as possible partners rather than intrinsic enemies.


Southern dynasties

The Jin were succeeded by a series of short-lived dynasties:
Liu Song The Liu Song dynasty (420–479 CE; ), also known as Former Song (前宋) or Southern Song (南朝宋), was the first of the four Southern Dynasties in China, succeeding the Eastern Jin and followed by the Southern Qi. The dynasty was founded b ...
(420–479),
Southern Qi The Southern Qi ( or ) (479–502) also known as Xiao Qi() was the second of the Southern dynasties The Northern and Southern dynasties () was a period in the history of China that lasted from 420 to 589, following the tumultuous era of t ...
(479–502),
Liang Liang may refer to: Chinese history * Liang (state) (梁) (8th century BC – 641 BC), a Spring and Autumn period state * Wei (state) (403–225  BC), a Warring States period state, also known as Liang (梁) after moving its capital to Daliang ** ...
(502–557) and Chen (557–589). Because all of these dynasties had their capital at Jiankang except Liang, they are sometimes grouped together with Eastern Wu and Eastern Jin as the
Six Dynasties __NOTOC__ Six Dynasties ( Chinese: 六朝; Pinyin ''Hanyu Pinyin'' (), often abbreviated to pinyin, is the official romanization system for Standard Chinese, Standard Mandarin Chinese in mainland China, Taiwan (ROC), and Singapore. It is o ...
. The rulers of these short-lived dynasties were generals who seized and then held power for several decades but were unable to securely pass power of rule onto their heirs to continue their dynasty successfully.
Emperor Wu of Liang Emperor Wu of Liang (梁武帝) (464–549), personal name Xiao Yan (蕭衍), courtesy name Shuda (叔達), nickname Lian'er (練兒), was the founding emperor of the Liang Dynasty of Chinese Northern and Southern dynasties, Northern and southern ...

Emperor Wu of Liang
(502–549) was the most notable ruler of his age, being a patron of the arts and of Buddhism. After the failure of the Liu Song's efforts to form an alliance with the
Rouran The Rouran Khaganate, also Juan-Juan Khaganate (), was a tribal confederation and later state founded by a people of Proto-Mongolic Donghu origin. The Rouran supreme rulers are noted for being the first to use the title of "khagan Khagan ...
,
Goguryeo Goguryeo (; , 37 BC–668 AD), also called Goryeo (; ), was a Korean kingdom located in the northern and central parts of the Korean Peninsula and the southern and central parts of Manchuria. At its peak of power, Goguryeo controlled most of t ...
,
Tuyuhun Tuyuhun (; Eastern Han Chinese, LHC: *''tʰɑʔ-jok-guənʔ''; Wade-Giles: ''T'u-yühun''), also known as Azha (Standard Tibetan, Tibetan: ''‘A-zha''), was a dynastic kingdom established by the Nomads, nomadic peoples related to the Xianbei in th ...
and smaller local powers to defeat the Northern Wei, the North and South were forced into tacitly acknowledging their equal status, for example, by granting each other the highest positions as the most esteemed envoys. As the ''Wei Shu'' and ''Song Shu'' testify, there was a shift from imperial rhetoric denouncing the other side as illegitimate barbarians, towards a new conception referring to the two as distinct 'Northern' and Southern' parallels, using unique local customs to distinguish themselves and compete for legitimacy. Under the later waning leadership of the Chen dynasty, the southern Chinese were unable to resist the military power amassed in the north by Yang Jian, who declared himself
Emperor Wen of Sui Emperor Wen of Sui (隋文帝; 21 July 541 – 13 August 604), personal name Yang Jian (), Xianbei The Xianbei (; ) were an ancient nomadic people that once resided in the eastern Eurasian steppes in what is today Mongolia Mongolia ...
and invaded the south. The Southern dynasties, except for the last Chen dynasty, were strongly dominated by the ''shijia'', the great families, who monopolised political power until the mid-6th century. This class was created by
Cao Cao Cao Cao (; ; ; – 15 March 220), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in the Sinosphere, including China, Ja ...
during the late
Han dynasty#REDIRECT Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu Bang and ruled by the House of Liu. Preceded by the short-lived Qin dynas ...

Han dynasty
when he attempted to consolidate his power by building an endogamous military caste of professional soldiers. This led to the rise and usurpation of the Sima family who ruled the Jin dynasty, and subsequent leaders were similarly unable to bring the other great families in line. When the Jin dynasty fled south, the weakness of the central government was greatly exacerbated, and the great families who accompanied the Emperor in his flight, along with the most wealthy clans of earlier settlers along the Zhejiang coast, were the primary power of the Eastern Jin. With the greatly increased importance of proving one's pedigree to receive privileges, there was a rise in compiling of genealogy records, and the great families moved to legally outlaw intermarriage with common families. The lower class Northern migrants were forced to become "guests" (dependents) of the great families who established private guard forces. When the Eastern Jin attempted to draft the dependents of the great families, they were quickly overthrown. However, with the fall of the Eastern Jin in 420, the balance of power shifted in favour the central government. The subsequent Liu Song, Qi, Liang and Chen dynasties were ruled by military leaders from low social status backgrounds. They gradually stripped the powerful clans of military power, authority and wealth. They stationed regional armies around the country under the command of the imperial relatives, and recruited officers from humble backgrounds. They appointed low-level officials to monitor the powerful elites in the top government posts. The southern aristocracy declined with the rise of the Indian Ocean trade in the mid 5th century, which led to the court revenues shifting to trade and the disappearance of the caste by the Chen dynasty. As landowning aristocrats were unable to convert cash from the produce of their estates, the resurgence of trade and the money-based economy forced them to break up and sell their lands to the burgeoning merchant class. Influential merchants increasingly occupied political offices, displacing the old aristocrats. On the other hand, the economic developments also drove peasants, unable to cope with inflation or to pay taxes in cash, to become mercenary soldiers, wandering through the country selling their services to the warring princes and plundering the populace. These upheavals devastated the south which eased the fall of the south to the Sui dynasty.


Liu Song (420–479)

Liu Song founder Liu Yu was originally a leader of the Army of the Northern Garrison () that notably won the
Battle of Fei River The Battle of Fei River, also known as "Feishui" () was a battle in AD 383, where Fu Jiān Fu or FU may refer to: In arts and entertainment * Fool Us, Penn & Teller's magic-competition television show *Fǔ, a type of ancient Chinese vessel * Fu ...
in 383. In 404, he helped suppress
Huan Xuan Huan Xuan (桓玄) (369 – 19 June 404), courtesy name Jingdao (敬道), nickname Lingbao (靈寶), formally Emperor Wudao of Chu (楚武悼帝), was a Jin Dynasty (265-420) warlord who briefly took over the imperial throne from Emperor An of Ji ...
's rebellion, leading to his dominance over the Eastern Jin court. In order to gain popularity to take the throne he led
expeditions Exploration is the act of searching for the purpose of discovery of information Information can be thought of as the resolution of uncertainty; it answers the question of "What an entity is" and thus defines both its essence and the nat ...
against the Sixteen Kingdoms, capturing
Shandong Shandong (; alternately romanized as Shantung) is a coastal province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnati ...

Shandong
,
Henan Henan (; ; alternatively Honan) is a landlocked province of China Provincial-level administrative divisions () or first-level administrative divisions (), are the highest-level Chinese administrative divisions. There are 34 such divisio ...

Henan
and, briefly,
Guanzhong Guanzhong (, formerly romanised as Kwanchung) region, also known as the Guanzhong Basin, Wei River Basin, or uncommonly as the Shaanzhong region, is a historical region Historical regions (or historical areas) are geographic areas which at some ...
by 416. He gave up Guanzhong to try to take the throne. Because he believed in a
prophecy A prophecy is a message that is claimed by a prophet In religion, a prophet is an individual who is regarded as being in contact with a divinity, divine being and is said to speak on behalf of that being, serving as an intermediary with humanit ...
saying there would be one more emperor after Emperor An of Jin, Emperor An, he deposed the former and, soon afterwards, his replacement, Emperor Gong in 420, ending the Eastern Jin dynasty. Even after crowning himself Emperor Wu, Liu Yu remained frugal. However, he did not care for education and trusted unsavory people. He felt that the nobility had too much power, so he tended to appoint the lower classes to government positions and gave military power to imperial kinsmen. Ironically, because the imperial kinsmen stabilized their military power and wished to gain political power, Emperor Wu was afraid they would have thoughts of usurping the throne. Thus, he also frequently killed his kinsmen. After the death of Emperor Wu, his son Emperor Shao of Liu Song, Emperor Shao ruled briefly before being judged incompetent and killed by government officials led by Xu Xianzhi, replacing him with Emperor Wen of Liu Song, Emperor Wen, a different son, who soon killed the officials who supported him. Emperor Wen's reign was a period of relative political stability because of his frugality and good government; the period was called the Reign of Yuanjia (). In 430, Emperor Wen started a number of northern expeditions against Northern Wei. These were ineffective because of insufficient preparations and excessive micromanagement of his generals, increasingly weakening the dynasty. Because of his jealousy of Tan Daoji, a noted leader of the Army of the Northern Garrison, he deprived himself of a formidable general to the great delight of the Northern Wei. Thus, they were unable to capitalize when Northern Wei suffered the Wuqi Incident. Starting in 445, Northern Wei, taking advantage of Liu Song's weakness, made major incursions in the lands between the Yangtze and the Huai (modern Shandong, Hebei, and Henan) and devastating six provinces. Emperor Wen lamented that if Tan were still alive, he would have prevented Northern Wei advances. From then on, Liu Song was in a weakened state. Emperor Wen was assassinated by Crown Prince Shao and Second Prince Jun in 453 after planning to punish them for witchcraft. However, they were both defeated by Third Prince Jun, who become Emperor Xiaowu of Liu Song, Emperor Xiaowu. proved to be licentious and cruel, supposedly committing incest with the daughters of an uncle who had helped him gain the throne; his rivals also claimed he had incest with his mother. This led to two rebellions by the imperial clan, one of which saw him slaughter the inhabitants of Yangzhou, Guangling. The following ballad gives an idea of those times: : ''Looking toward Jiankang city'' : ''the little river flows against the current'' : ''in front, one sees sons killing fathers'' : ''and behind, one sees younger brothers killing older brothers'' Emperor Xiaowu died naturally in 464 and was succeeded by his son, who became Former Deposed Emperor of Liu Song, Emperor Qianfei. Emperor Qianfei proved to be similar to his father, engaging in both kin-slaughter and incest. In a scandalous move, because his sister complained about how it was unfair that men were allowed 10,000 concubines, he gave her 30 handsome young men as lovers. His uncle Liu Yu, the Prince of Xiangdong, whom he called the "Prince of Pigs" for his obesity, eventually assassinated him and became Emperor Ming of Liu Song, Emperor Ming. Emperor Ming began his reign by killing all the descendants of Emperor Xiaowu, and his suspicious nature resulted in the loss of the provinces north of the Huai River, which were only briefly regained in the other Southern dynasties. Emperor Ming's young son became Latter Deposed Emperor of Liu Song, Emperor Houfei. The political situation was volatile. General Xiao Daocheng slowly gained power and eventually deposed Emperor Houfei in favor of his brother, who became Emperor Shun of Liu Song, Emperor Shun. After defeating the rival general Shen Youzhi, Xiao forced Emperor Shun to yield to throne and crowned himself Emperor Gao of Southern Qi, thus ending the Liu Song dynasty.


Southern Qi (479–502)

Though distantly related, the Southern Qi and the following Liang dynasty were members of the Xiao (蕭) family from Lanling (蘭陵, in modern Cangshan County,
Shandong Shandong (; alternately romanized as Shantung) is a coastal province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnati ...

Shandong
). Because Emperor Gao had a low social standing, he earned the disdain of nobility. His style of governance was similar to the early style of the Liu Song dynasty and was very economical. He died in the fourth year of his reign and his heir, who was only 13 years younger than him, succeeded him as Emperor Wu of Southern Qi. Emperor Wu made peace with the Northern Wei, content to protect his borders. This period of peace was known as Reign of Yongming, Yongming Administration (永明之治). He also used government secretaries (典簽官) appointed with provincial governors and members of the imperial clan to monitor them. The short reigns of Emperor Wu's grandsons, Xiao Zhaoye and Xiao Zhaowen (his first son predeceased him), were dominated by Xiao Luan, Emperor's Wu's first cousin. He killed them in turn and crowned himself as Emperor Ming of Southern Qi. Using the government secretaries, he slaughtered all the sons of Emperors Gao and Wu. Emperor Ming soon became very ill and started following Daoism, changing his whole wardrobe to red. He also passed an edict making officials try to find whitebait (銀魚). He died in 498 and was succeeded by his son Xiao Baojuan, who killed high officials and governors at whim, sparking many revolts. The final revolt in 501 started after Xiao Baojuan killed his prime minister Xiao Yi, leading his brother Emperor Wu of Liang, Xiao Yan to revolt under the banner of Xiao Baojuan's brother who was declared Emperor He of Southern Qi. Xiao Baojuan was killed by one of his generals during the siege of his capital at Jiankang, and after a short puppet reign by Emperor He, Xiao Yan overthrew the Southern Qi and established the Liang dynasty.


Liang (502–557)

Emperor Wu was economical, worked hard at governing, and cared for the common people. His early reign was known as Reign of Tianjian (天監之治). The Liang dynasty's military strength gradually surpassed the strength of the Northern Wei, who suffered internal strife due to their policy of
sinicization Sinicization, sinofication, sinification, or sinonization (from the prefix , 'Chinese, relating to China') is the process by which non-Chinese societies come under the influence of Chinese culture, particularly Han-Chinese culture, language, so ...
. In 503, the Northern Wei invaded but were defeated at Zhongli (modern Bengbu). Emperor Wu supported the Northern Expeditions but did not aggressively take advantage of his victory in 516 at Shouyang County, Shouyang due to heavy casualties. Given the excessive kin-slaughter in the Liu Song and Southern Qi dynasties, Emperor Wu was very lenient to imperial clansmen, not even investigating them when they committed crimes. Because he was very learned, supported scholars, and encouraged the flourishing education system, the Liang dynasty reached a cultural peak. An avid poet, Emperor Wu was fond of gathering many literary talents at court, and even held poetry competitions with prizes of gold or silk for those considered the best. In his later years, however, sycophants surrounded him. Three times he dedicated his life (捨身) to Buddhism and tried to become a monk, but each time he was persuaded to return by extravagant court donations to Buddhism. Furthermore, since Buddhists and Daoists were exempt from taxation, nearly half of the population fraudulently named themselves as such, badly damaging state finances. Imperial clansmen and officials were also greedy and wasteful. Emperor Wu was willing to accept generals who defected from Northern Wei. So when Northern Wei suffered major revolts in their Six Frontier Towns, northern garrison towns, he sent his general Chen Qingzhi to support the pretender Yuan Hao. Despite the fact that Chen was only given 7,000 troops, he still managed to defeat army after army and even captured Luoyang, the capital of Northern Wei. Ultimately, Chen was insufficiently supplied and was defeated by troops ten times his size. After the Northern Wei split into Eastern and Western Wei, Emperor Wu granted asylum to rebel Eastern Wei commander Hou Jing, sending him on Northern Expeditions against Eastern Wei. After some initial successes, Liang forces were decisively defeated. Rumors abounded that Emperor Wu intended to give Hou as a peace offering. Despite Emperor Wu's assurances, Hou decided to rebel in the name of Xiao Dong, the grandson of the former crown prince Xiao Tong who died in 531 and was removed from crown prince because of conflicts with his father. Hou surprised Emperor Liang by besieging the Liang capital at Jiankang. Attempts by Liang forces to break the siege failed, and Emperor Wu was forced to negotiate a ceasefire and peace. However, Hou thought that peace was unsustainable, so he broke the ceasefire and captured the palace, leading to the slaughter of the nearby populace. Emperor Wu was starved to death and after the short puppet reigns of crown prince Xiao Gang and Xiao Dong, Hou seized power and established the Han dynasty. In spite of conquering Jiankang, Hou essentially only controlled the nearby areas. The rest of the Liang dynasty lands were under the control of members of the imperial clan. Their squabbling amongst themselves weakened their efforts to defeat Hou. In the end, Xiao Yi with the aid of his generals Wang Sengbian and Chen Baxian defeated Hou, crowning himself Emperor Yuan of Liang. His brother Xiao Ji based in Sichuan was still a major threat. Emperor Yuan asked for assistance from Western Wei to defeat Xiao Ji, but after subduing Xiao Ji, they kept Sichuan. Due to a diplomatic faux pas, he incited the anger of Yuwen Tai, the leading general of Western Wei, which resulted in him being deposed and dying. Western Wei set up the puppet state of Western Liang (555–587), Western Liang with capital at Jiangling. Northern Qi also had designs on the Liang throne and sent an expedition under the banner of a cousin of Emperor Yuan. Chen Baxian and Wang Sengbian set up the last surviving son of Emperor Yuan, Emperor Jing of Liang, Xiao Fangzhi, as Liang ruler, but he was not given the imperial title. After some defeats to the forces of Northern Qi, Wang Sengbian allowed their pretender, Xiao Yuanming to establish himself as Emperor Min of Liang. However, Chen Baxian was displeased with the arrangements, and in a surprise move killed Wang and deposed Emperor Min in favor of Xiao Fangzhi who became Emperor Jing of Liang. After a short reign, Chen deposed Emperor Jing and took power himself as Emperor Wu of Chen in 557.


Chen (557–589)

Emperor Wu of Chen came from the region of Wu-speaking peoples, Wu (a region near modern-day Shanghai). At that time, due to the Hou Jing rebellion, the Qiao and Wu clans were greatly weakened, and many independent regimes emerged. Emperor Wu could not pacify all the independent regimes, so he adopted conciliatory measures. After the sudden death of Emperor Wu, his nephew Chen Qian took power as Emperor Wen of Chen. After the fall of Liang, the general Wang Lin (general), Wang Lin had established an independent kingdom based in modern-day Hunan and Hubei provinces and was now starting to cause trouble. Wang Lin allied with
Northern Zhou The Northern Zhou (; ) followed the Western Wei, and ruled northern China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's most populou ...
and
Northern Qi The Northern Qi (), also called Later Qi and Gao Qi, was one of the Northern dynasties of imperial China history and ruled northeastern China from 550 to 577. The dynasty was founded by Emperor Wenxuan of Northern Qi, Emperor Wenxuan, and it was en ...
to conquer the Chen capital at Jiankang. Emperor Wen first defeated the combined forces of Northern Qi and Wang Lin before preventing the forces of Northern Zhou from entering the South at Yueyang. Furthermore, through Emperor Wen's extensive efforts at good governance, the economic situation of the South was greatly improved, restoring his kingdom's national strength. Following the death of Emperor Wen, his son, the weak-willed Chen Bozong, took power and became Emperor Fei of Chen. His uncle, Chen Xu, after essentially controlling the country through his short reign, eventually deposed him and took power as Emperor Xuan of Chen. At that time, the Northern Zhou intended to conquer Northern Qi and thus invited the Chen dynasty to help. Emperor Xuan agreed to help because he wanted to recover the lost territories south of the Huai River. In 573, he sent general Wu Mingche to assist the effort; in two years, he managed to recover he lost territories south of the Huai River. At the time, Northern Qi was in a precarious situation with little military strength and Emperor Xuan could have taken advantage of the opportunity to entirely defeat Northern Qi. However, he only wanted to protect his territories south of the Huai River. Northern Zhou instead took advantage of Northern Qi's weakness and following their defeat of Northern Qi, in 577, they sent troops to the territories south of the Huai River, where they decisively defeated the Chen dynasty forces. The Chen dynasty was in imminent danger. In a stroke of fortune, Northern Zhou's Emperor Wu suddenly died and his general Emperor Wen of Sui, Yang Jian attempted to take the throne. This stopped the southern advance of the Northern Troops. The respite was short though as after Yang Jian defeated his rival General Yuchi Jiong, he usurped the throne from Emperor Jing of Northern Zhou and established the
Sui dynasty The Sui dynasty (, ) was a short-lived imperial dynasty of China of pivotal significance. The Sui unified the Northern and Southern dynasties and reinstalled the rule of ethnic Han in the entirety of China proper, along with sinicization ...
, crowning himself
Emperor Wen of Sui Emperor Wen of Sui (隋文帝; 21 July 541 – 13 August 604), personal name Yang Jian (), Xianbei The Xianbei (; ) were an ancient nomadic people that once resided in the eastern Eurasian steppes in what is today Mongolia Mongolia ...
. He proceeded to invade the south to reunify China. Emperor Xuan had just died and his incompetent son
Chen Shubao Chen Shubao (, 553–604), also known as Houzhu of Chen (), posthumous name Duke Yáng of Chángchéng (), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. ...
(Houzhu of Chen) took power. He was licentious and wasteful, resulting in chaos and corruption in the government; many officials heavily exploited the people, causing great suffering. In planning tactics to defeat the Chen dynasty, Emperor Wen of Sui took the suggestion of his general Gao Jiong and waited until the South were harvesting their crops to entirely burn the farmland, crippling the strength of the Chen dynasty. In 588, Emperor Wen of Sui sent his son Yang Guang (who would become Emperor Yang of Sui) to finally vanquish the Chen dynasty. Chen Shubao relied on the natural barrier of the Yangtze River and continued as always with his festive and licentious activities. The next year, Sui forces captured the Chen capital of Jiankang. Chen Shubao and his favorite concubine Consort Zhang Lihua, Zhang Lihua attempted to hide in a well but eventually were captured by Sui forces, thus ending the Chen dynasty.


Culture

During the Northern and Southern dynasties, the Yangtze valley transformed from a backwater frontier region with less than 25% of China's population to a major cultural center of China with 40% of China's population, and after China was subsequently unified under the Tang dynasty, they became the core area of Chinese culture.


Philosophy

Confucianism's unchallenged domination of Chinese culture and thought was greatly weakened during the Jin dynasty (265–420), Jin dynasty, which led to a wide diversification of political thought and philosophy by the time of the Northern and Southern dynasties. This era produced a myriad of writers that advocated practical systems of governance and administration, such as
Cao Cao Cao Cao (; ; ; – 15 March 220), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in the Sinosphere, including China, Ja ...
and Zhuge Liang in the Three Kingdoms Period, Wang Dao and Bao Jingyan of the Eastern Jin, as well as Fan Zhen, Xing Shao (), and Fan Xun () of the Northern and Southern period. Much of the philosophy of the period is despondent and dispirited, and a number of scholars and poets became reclusive mountain hermits living apart from society. Of these various trends, the most influential was Xuanxue, Neo-Daoism (). Neo-Daoism was highly influential during the Southern Dynasty, to the point that Emperor Wen of Liu Song established a Neo-Daoist Academy and promoted it, along with Confucianism, literature, and history, as the four great subjects of study. A phenomenon known as "empty chat" () became common, where educated men would meet and talk about philosophy all day without paying any attention to "mundane" things such as their profession or family. The phenomenon gradually waned during the
Sui dynasty The Sui dynasty (, ) was a short-lived imperial dynasty of China of pivotal significance. The Sui unified the Northern and Southern dynasties and reinstalled the rule of ethnic Han in the entirety of China proper, along with sinicization ...
, though it did not fully disappear until the
Tang dynasty The Tang dynasty (, ; ), or Tang Empire, was an imperial dynasty of China that ruled from 618 to 907, with an interregnum between 690 and 705. It was preceded by the Sui dynasty and followed by the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period. H ...
.


Literature

Literature was particularly vibrant during the Southern Dynasty and tended to be flowery and frilly, while Northern Dynasty literature was rougher and more straightforward. Notable writers include Yu Xin, Xing Fang, Wei Shou, and Wen Zisheng of the Northern Dynasty. In poetry, Fu (poetry), ''fu'' poetry continued to be a dominant genre, though the five-syllable form that achieved great prominence during the
Tang dynasty The Tang dynasty (, ; ), or Tang Empire, was an imperial dynasty of China that ruled from 618 to 907, with an interregnum between 690 and 705. It was preceded by the Sui dynasty and followed by the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period. H ...
gradually increased in popularity. In the Southern Dynasty, a type of essay known as ''pian wen'' (), which used metered rhyme, flowery language, and classical allusions, became popular. Writings often spoke of removing oneself from everyday material existence and jettisoning cares and anxiety. Poets of the Northern and Southern dynasties focused on imitating older classical poets of History of China#Ancient China, Ancient China, formalizing the rhyme patterns and meters that governed poem composition. However, scholars realized that ancient songs and poems, like those of the Shijing, in many instances no longer rhymed due to sound shifts over the previous centuries. The introduction of Buddhism to China, which began in the late
Han dynasty#REDIRECT Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu Bang and ruled by the House of Liu. Preceded by the short-lived Qin dynas ...

Han dynasty
and continued through the Tang dynasty, introduced Chinese scholars to Sanskrit. The Brahmi script, with its sophisticated phonology, phonological organization, arrived in China in the 5th century, and was studied by Xie Lingyun, who produced a (since-lost) glossary of Chinese transcriptions of Sanskrit terms "arranged according to the 14 sounds". The four tones (Middle Chinese), four tones of early Middle Chinese were first described by Shen Yue and Zhou Yong.


Other arts

The southern dynasties of China were rich in cultural achievement, with the flourishing of
Buddhism Buddhism (, ) is the Major religious groups#Largest religions, world's fourth-largest religion with over 520 million followers, or over 7% of the global population, known as Buddhists. Buddhism encompasses a variety of traditions, beliefs and ...
and Daoism, especially the latter as two new canons of scriptural writings were created for the Shangqing School, Supreme Purity sect and its rival the Lingbao School, Numinous Treasure Sect. The southern Chinese were influenced greatly by the writings of Buddhist monks such as Huiyuan (Buddhist), Huiyuan, who applied familiar Daoist terms to describe Buddhism for other Chinese. The Chinese were in contact and influenced by cultures of India and trading partners farther south, such as the kingdoms of Kingdom of Funan, Funan and Champa (located in modern-day Cambodia and Vietnam). The sophistication and complexity of the Chinese arts of poetry, calligraphy, painting, and playing of music reached new heights during this age. The earlier Cao Zhi, son of
Cao Cao Cao Cao (; ; ; – 15 March 220), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in the Sinosphere, including China, Ja ...
, is regarded as one of the greatest poets of his day. His style and deep emotional expression in writing influenced later poets of this new age, such as Tao Yuanming, Tao Qian (365–427) or Tao Yuanming. Even during his lifetime, the written calligraphy of the "Sage of Calligraphy", Wang Xizhi (307–365), was prized by many and considered a true form of personal expression like other arts. Painting became highly prized with artists such as Gu Kaizhi (344–406), who largely established the tradition of landscape art in classical Chinese painting (to learn more, refer to the "Far East" section of the article for Painting). Institutions of learning in the south were also renowned, including the Zongmingguan (Imperial Nanjing University), where the famed Zu Chongzhi (mentioned above) had studied. Zu Chongzhi devised the new Daming Calendar in 465, calculated one year as 365.24281481 days (which is very close to 365.24219878 days as we know today), and calculated the number of overlaps between sun and moon as 27.21223 (which is very close to 27.21222 as we know today). Using this number he successfully predicted 4 eclipses during a period of 23 years (from 436 to 459). Although multiple-story towers such as guard towers and residential apartments existed in previous periods, during this period the distinct Chinese pagoda tower (for storing Buddhist scriptures) evolved from the stupa, the latter originating from Buddhist traditions of protecting sutras in ancient India.


Demographic changes

It was during the Northern and Southern dynasties period that the earliest recorded migration of ethnic
Han Chinese The Han Chinese,
. Huayuqiao.org. Retrieved on 2013-04-26.
Hanzu, or Han peopleWright, Arthur F. (1959). ''Buddhism in Chinese History''. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Page 44.


Maps

File:Northern and Southern Dynasties 1.png, Northern and Southern Dynasties circa 460: Northern Wei and Liu Song File:Northern and Southern Dynasties 2.png, Northern and Southern Dynasties circa 497: Northern Wei and Southern Qi File:Northern and Southern Dynasties 3.png, Northern and Southern Dynasties circa 541: Eastern Wei, Western Wei and Liang File:Northern and Southern Dynasties 4.png, Northern and Southern Dynasties circa 562: Northern Qi, Northern Zhou, Liang and Chen


See also

* Military history of the Northern and Southern dynasties * Timeline of the Northern and Southern dynasties * Northern and southern China * Chinese sovereign * List of tributaries of Imperial China * Buddhism in China * Empress Dowager Hu (Northern Wei) * Yan Zhitui * Jinping Commandery


Notes


References


Further reading

* * * * * * Miller, Roy Andrew (1959): ''Accounts of Western Nations in the History of the Northern Chou Dynasty''. University of California Press. * Wright, Arthur F. (1959). ''Buddhism in Chinese History''. Stanford: Stanford University Press.


External links


Period of the Northern and Southern Dynasties

Early Imperial China: A Working Collection of Resources
{{DEFAULTSORT:Northern and Southern dynasties Northern and Southern dynasties, States and territories established in the 420s States and territories disestablished in the 580s Dynasties in Chinese history Former countries in Chinese history 5th century in China, . 6th century in China, . Medieval Asia 420 establishments 5th-century establishments in China 589 disestablishments 6th-century disestablishments in China