The Jin dynasty or the Jin
Empire (/dʒɪn/; Chinese: 晉朝;
pinyin: Jìn Cháo, sometimes distinguished as the Sima Jin or Liang
Jin) was a Chinese dynasty traditionally dated from AD 265 to
420. It was founded by Sima Yan, son of
Sima Zhao who was made Prince
of Jin and posthumously declared the founder of the dynasty. It
Three Kingdoms period (220-280 AD), which ended with the
Eastern Wu by the Jin.
There are two main divisions in the history of the dynasty. The
Western Jin (265–316) was established as a successor state to Cao
Wei after Sima Yan usurped the throne, and had its capital at Luoyang
Chang'an (modern Xi'an); Western Jin reunited
China in 280, but
fairly shortly thereafter fell into a succession crisis, civil war,
and invasion by the "Five Barbarians." The rebels and invaders began
to establish new self-proclaimed states in the Yellow River valley in
304, inaugurating the "Sixteen Kingdoms" era. These states immediately
began fighting each other and the Jin Empire, leading to the second
division of the dynasty, the Eastern Jin (317–420) when Sima Rui
moved the capital to
Jiankang (modern Nanjing). The Eastern Jin
dynasty was eventually overthrown by the Liu Song.
2 Government and demography
2.1 Menfa politics
2.2 Qiaoren and baiji
2.3 Lodged administrative divisions in Jin dynasty
2.4 Tu duan policy in Jin dynasty
3 Society and culture
3.1 Material culture
4 List of emperors
5 Major events
6 See also
8 External links
Main article: History of the Jin dynasty (265–420)
Molded-brick mural, identified as the "Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove
and Rong Qiqi", one of two walls apart of the coffin found in a tomb
of the capital region of the
Southern dynasties (5th-6th. c.), second
half of the fifth century, at Xishanqiao, near Nanjing. 88 x 240 cm.
Nanjing Museum. This part of the murals may reflect a composition of
the famous Lu Tanwei, considered as the single greatest painter of all
times by the Chinese critic Xi He (act. 500-536) : ref. from
China : Dawn of a Golden Age, 200-750 AD, The Metropolitan Museum
of Art, Yale University Press 2004. We can recognize Ji Kang
(223-262), on the left, under a gingko tree.
Hunping jar of the Western Jin, with
Under the Wei, who dominated China's
Three Kingdoms period, the Sima
clan rose to prominence, particularly after the 249 coup d'état at
the Gaoping Tombs.
Sima Zhao assisted the throne in suppressing other
rebellions, recovering Shu and capturing Liu Shan in 263 and opposing
Zhong Hui's rebellion the next year. His ambitions for the throne
remain proverbial in Chinese but he died before he could rise higher
than prince of Jin, a title named for the Zhou-era marchland and duchy
around Shaanxi's Jin River. (He was granted the title as his ancestral
home was located in Wen County within Jin's former lands.)
The Jin dynasty was founded in AD 265 by Sima Yan, posthumously
known as Emperor Wu (the "Martial Emperor of Jin"). He forced Cao
Huan's abdication but permitted him to live in honor as the Prince of
Chenliu and buried him with imperial ceremony. The Jin dynasty
Eastern Wu in 280, and united the country. The period of
unity was short-lived as the state was soon weakened by corruption,
political turmoil, and internal conflicts. Sima Yan's son Zhong,
posthumously known as Emperor Hui (the "Benevolent Emperor of Jin"),
was developmentally disabled. Conflict over his succession in 290
expanded into the devastating War of the Eight Princes. The weakened
dynasty was then engulfed by the Uprising of the
Five Barbarians and
lost control of northern China. Large numbers of Chinese fled south
from the Central Plains; among other effects, these refugees and
colonizers gave Quanzhou's Jin River its name as they settled its
valley in Fujian. The Jin capital
Luoyang was captured by Liu Cong in
311. Sima Chi, posthumously known as Emperor Huai (the "Missing
Emperor of Jin"), was captured and later executed. His successor Sima
Ye, posthumously known as Emperor Min (the "Suffering Emperor of
Jin"), was captured at
Chang'an (present-day Xi'an) in 316 and also
The remnants of the Jin court fled to the east, reestablishing their
Jiankang within present-day Nanjing, Jiangsu. Sima Rui,
the prince of Langya (琅琊), was enthroned in 318, posthumously
becoming known as Emperor Yuan (the "First Emperor of the Eastern
Jin"). The rival northern states, who denied the legitimacy of his
succession, sometimes referred to his state as "Langya".
At first, the southerners were resistant to the new ruler from the
north. The circumstances obliged the Emperors of Eastern Jin to
dependent on both local and refugee gentry clans, the latter convinced
the former of the emperor enjoying high prestige by showing
superficial respect to Rui, which was also the pinnacle of menfa
politics (門閥政治), Several immigrated gentry clans were very
active and they grasped the national affairs: Wang (王) clans from
Langya and Taiyuan, Xie (謝) clan from
Chenliu (陳留), Huan (桓)
clan from Qiao Commandery (譙郡) and Yu (庾) clan from Yingchuan
(潁川). The Emperors of Eastern Jin had limited power. There was a
prevalent remark that "王與（司）馬，共天下 (
Wang Dao and
the emperor Sima Rui, they dominate the nation together)" among the
people. It is said that when Emperor Yuan was holding court, he
even invited Dao to sit by himself accepting jointly the
congratulations from ministers, but Dao declined it.
The local gentry clans were at odds with the immigrated. As such
tensions increased, they loomed larger in Jin's domestic politics. Two
biggest ones of local clans: Zhou (周) clan from
Yixing (義興) and
Shen (沈) clan from Wuxing (吳興)'s ruin was a bitter blow from
which they never quite recovered. Moreover, there was a conflict among
the immigrated clans' interests, it was a faction led to a virtual
balance somewhat benefited the emperor's ruling.
Although there was a stated goal of recovering the "lost northern
lands", paranoia within the royal family and a constant string of
disruptions to the throne caused the loss of support among many
officials. Military crises—including the rebellions of the generals
Wang Dun and
Su Jun but also lesser fangzhen (方鎮, "military
county") revolts—plagued the Eastern Jin throughout its 104 years of
Special "commanderies of immigrants" and "white registers" were
created for the massive amount of northern origin Han Chinese who
moved south during the Eastern Jin dynasty. The southern Chinese
aristocracy was formed from the offspring these migrants. Celestial
Masters and the nobility of northern
China subdued the nobility of
China during the Eastern Jin and Western Jin in Jiangnan in
particular. The most populous region of
China was southern China
after the depopulation of the north and the migration of northern
Chinese to southern China. Different waves of migration of
aristocratic Chinese from northern
China to the south at different
times resulted in distinct groups of lineages, with some lineages
arriving in the 300s-400s and others in the 800s-900s.
The Eastern Jin recovered its unity in the face of the 383 invasion by
the Former Qin. The short-lived coöperation among
Huan Chong (brother
of General Huan Wen) and Prime Minister
Xie An helped provide a major
victory at the Fei River. A large amount of
Former Qin territory was
then taken or retaken. Later, Huan Xuan, Huan Wen's son, usurped the
throne and changed the dynasty's name to Chu. He, in turn, was toppled
by Liu Yu, who reinstated Sima Dezong, posthumously known as Emperor
An (the "Peaceful Emperor of Jin"). Meanwhile, as civilian
administration suffered, there were further revolts led by Sun En and
Western Shu became an independent kingdom under Qiao Zong. Liu
Yu had Sima Dezong strangled and replaced by his brother Sima Dewen,
posthumously known as Emperor Gong (the "Respectful Emperor of Jin"),
in 419. Sima Dewen abdicated in 420 in favor of Liu Yu, who declared
himself the ruler of the Song; he was asphyxiated with a blanket the
following year. In the north, Northern Liang, the last of the Sixteen
Kingdoms, was conquered by the
Northern Wei in 439, ushering in the
Northern dynasties period.
Northern Wei accepted the Jin refugees Sima Fei
(司馬朏) and Sima Chuzhi (司馬楚之). They both married Xianbei
princesses. Sima Fei's wife was named Huayang (華陽公主), who was
the daughter of Emperor Xiaowen; Sima Chuzhi's son was Sima Jinlong
(司馬金龍), who married a
Northern Liang princess who was a
Xiongnu King Juqu Mujian. Much later, Sima Guang
(1019–1086), who served as prime minister to the Song, claimed
descent from the Jin dynasty.
Government and demography
Administrative divisions of Eastern Jin dynasty, as of 382 AD
Qiaoren and baiji
The uprising of the five barbarians led to one northerner in eight
immigrated to the south. These immigrants were called "qiaoren
(僑人, literally the lodged people)" accounting for one sixth the
then people lived in the south. Considering most property of these
refugees had been lost or exhausted as they arrived, they were
privileged to be free from diao (調), a special poll tax was paid via
the silken or cotton cloth etc. in the ancient China, and service.
Their registers which bound in white papers were called baiji (白籍)
in Chinese. The ordinary ones which bound in yellow papers were called
huangji (黃籍) in comparison.
Since situation settled down, the preferential treatment not only was
the heavy burden for the nation, but also aroused dissatisfaction from
the natives. Hence, tu duan was an increasingly important issue for
the Eastern Jin.
Lodged administrative divisions in Jin dynasty
The Eastern Jin court established the lodged administrative divisions
in where were strongholds of qiaoren. More effective in administration
for them was a realistic starting point for that. Consisting of three
levels: qiaozhou (僑州, the lodged province), qiaojun (僑郡, the
lodged commandery) and qiaoxian (僑縣, the lodged county), these
lodged administrative divisions were merely nominal without possessing
actual domain, or rather, they were local government in exile, what
could scarcely be denied was their significance of Jin's legitimacy
for the north territory as somewhat an announcement. Furthermore, it
was also an action to appease refugees' homesickness or home town
complex, evoking their desire to resume the lost.
During the Emperor Yuan, Emperor Ming and Emperor Cheng period, the
lodged administrative divisions were concentrated in the area south of
Huai River and the Lower Yangtze Plain. At first there was the
lodged Langya Commandery within lodged Fei County in Jiankang, but
when it began was not exact. Then the lodged Huaide County was also
established in Jiankang, around 320. According to the Book of Song:
Disaster of Yongjia, the refugees from You, Ji, Qing, Bing, Yan and Xu
provinces came across the Huai River, some even came across the
Yangtze River and stayed in Jinling Commandery... The lodged
administrative divisions were established to govern them. The seats of
Xu and Yan provinces perhaps were moved to the area north of the
Yangtze River, where the lodged You, Ji, Qing, Bing provinces were
The lodged Pei, Qinghe, Xiapi, Dongguang, Pingchang, Jiyin, Puyang,
Guangping, Taishan, Jiyang, Lu commanderies were stablished when
Emperor Ming ruled. The rebellions and invasions occurred in Jianghuai
area led to more refugees switched to settle in the south of the
Yangtze River, where the lodged Huainan Commandery was established
However, carrying out was more complex than the policy was formulated.
Several actual counties were under the jurisdiction of the lodged
A few lodged administrative divisions are still retained in China
nowadays. For instance,
Dangtu County was originally located in the
area of Bengbu, however the lodged
Dangtu County was established in
where it is now, and the latter replaced the former, inheriting its
Tu duan policy in Jin dynasty
The tu duan (土斷) is the abbreviation for yi tu duan (以土斷,
means classifying people according to their present habitation to
register). It was a policy to ensure the ancient hukou system working
since the Western Jin. These terms were firstly recorded in the
biographies of Wei Guan and Li Chong included in the Book of Jin:
Hence, it perhaps proposed initially by these two persons, but was
implemented seriously in the Eastern Jin and the Southern dynasties.
Society and culture
Yue ware with motif, 3rd century CE, Western Jin, Zhejiang.
The Jin dynasty is well known for the quality of its greenish celadon
porcelain wares, which immediately followed the development of
proto-celadon. Jar designs often incorporated animal, as well as
Yue ware are also known from the Jin dynasty.
Celadon lion-shaped bixie, Western Jin, 265–317 CE.
Celadon lian bowl with
Buddhist figures, Western Jin, 265–317 CE.
Celadon jar, Eastern Jin, 317–420 CE.
Celadon jar with brown spots, Eastern Jin, 317-420 CE.
'Palace Lady' detail from 'Admonitions of the Instructress to the
Palace Ladies' (女史箴图), 344 - 405 AD
Taoism was polarized in the Jin dynasty. The Jin emperors repressed
Taoists harshly, but also tried to exploit it, given the way it had
been used near the end of the Han era in the poor peasants' revolts.
Amidst the political turmoil of the era, many successful merchants,
small landowners, and other moderately comfortable persons found great
solace in Taoist teachings and a number of major clans and military
officers also took up the faith.
Ge Hong emphasized loyalty to the
emperor as a Taoist virtue; he even taught that rebels could never be
Taoist immortals, which made Taoism more palatable to the imperial
hierarchy. As a result, popular Taoist religions were considered
heterodoxy while the official schools of the court were supported, but
the popular schools like Tianshi Taoism were still secretly held dear
and promulgated amongst ordinary people.
Disunity, disintegration, and chaos also made
Buddhism more popular,
in part due to the focus on addressing suffering. The Jin dynasty
marked a critical era for Mahayana in China. Dharmarakṣa’s
translation of the Saddharmapundarika Sūtra was the most important
sutra before Kumārajīva’s Lotus Sutra. It was said that there were
Buddhist temples in the Eastern Jin.
Furthermore, Taoism advanced chemistry and medicine in China, whereas
the contribution of Mahayana was concentrated in the philosophy and
List of emperors
See also: Emperor's family tree and Family tree of Sima Yi
Family name and given names
Durations of reigns
Era names and their according range of years
Chinese convention: "Jin" + posthumous name + "di"
Western Jin dynasty 265–316
Taixi January 28, 290 – May 17, 290
Yongxi May 17, 290 – February 15, 291
Yongping February 16 – April 23, 291
Yuankang April 24, 291 – February 6, 300
Yongkang February 7, 300 – February 3, 301
Yongning June 1, 301 – January 4, 303
Taian January 5, 303 – February 21, 304
Yongan February 22 – August 15, 304; December 25, 304 – February
Jianwu August 16 – December 24, 304
Yongxing February 4, 305 – July 12, 306
Guangxi July 13, 306 – February 19, 307
Jianshi February 3 – June 1, 301
Yongjia 307 – 313
Eastern Jin dynasty 317–420
Battle of Fei River
War of the Eight Princes
Wu Hu people
History of Imperial
List of tributaries of Imperial China
Liu Song dynasty
Northern Wei dynasty
Romance of the Three Kingdoms
^ a b Taagepera, Rein (1979). "Size and Duration of Empires:
Growth-Decline Curves, 600 B.C. to 600 A.D." Social Science History. 3
(3/4): 128. doi:10.2307/1170959. Retrieved 16 September 2016.
^ "Jin". Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary.
^ a b Grousset, Rene (1970). The
Empire of the Steppes. Rutgers
University Press. pp. 56–57. ISBN 0-8135-1304-9.
^ Book of Jin.
^ Gernet (1996), p. 182.
^ Nicolas Olivier Tackett, The Transformation Of Medieval Chinese
Elites (850-1000 C.E.) p. 81.
^ John Lagerwey; Pengzhi Lü (30 October 2009). Early Chinese
Religion: The Period of Division (220-589 Ad). BRILL. pp. 831–.
^ Historical Atlas of the Classical World, 500 BC--AD 600. Barnes
& Noble Books. 2000. p. 2.25.
^ Haywood, John; Jotischky, Andrew; McGlynn, Sean (1998). Historical
Atlas of the Medieval World, AD 600-1492. Barnes & Noble.
p. 3.21. ISBN 978-0-7607-1976-3.
^ Hugh R. Clark (2007). Portrait of a Community: Society, Culture, and
the Structures of Kinship in the Mulan River Valley (Fujian) from the
Late Tang Through the Song. Chinese University Press.
pp. 37–38. ISBN 978-962-996-227-2.
^ China: Dawn of a Golden Age, 200-750 AD, Metropolitan Museum of Art,
2004, pp. 18 ff., ISBN 978-1-58839-126-1
^ Book of Song, Vol.35.
^ Book of Jin, Vol. 36.
^ Book of Jin, Vol. 46.
Shanghai Museum permanent exhibit
Guimet Museum permanent exhibit
^ Baopuzi, Vol. 3.
Shiheng (劉世珩,1874–1926) 南朝寺考 quoted from 釋迦氏譜
Gernet, Jacques (1996). A History of Chinese Civilization. Cambridge
University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-49781-7.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Jin dynasty (265-420).
Chinese History, the Jin Dynasty 晉
Largest Jin Dynasty Tomb Discovered in NW China
de Crespigny, Rafe. "THE THREE KINGDOMS AND WESTERN JIN A HISTORY OF
CHINA IN THE THIRD CENTURY AD" (PDF). Retrieved 11 July 2016.
Dynasties in Chinese history
Northern and Southern dynasties
Jin dynasty (265–420)
Jin dynasty (265–420) topics
War of the Eight Princes
Uprising of the Five Barbarians
Disaster of Yongjia
Huan Wen's expeditions
Battle of Fei River
Liu Yu's expeditions
Emperors' family tree
Sima clan family trees
Migration of the eight clans
Eighteen History Books of Jin
Book of Jin
In Search of the Supernatural
Uprising of the Five Barbarians
Disaster of Yongjia
Shi Le's unification of North China
Fu Jian's unification of North China
Huan Wen's expeditions
Battle of Fei River
Liu Yu's expeditions
The 16 Kingdoms
Histories of the Era
Spring and Autumn Annals of the Sixteen Kingdoms
Book of Jin
Eastern Ganga dynasty
ancient great powers
medieval great powers
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