Jin Dynasty (265-420)
Jin Dynasty was founded after the Three Kingdoms Period (220-260) and was preceded by the Southern and Northern Dynasties in China. It was founded by Sima Yan, the grandson of Sima Yi. General Sima Yi was a military strategist and politician during the Three Kingdoms period. During his time, he was able to accumulate power and fame that could have inspired his grandson to found Jin Dynasty, which brought an end to the Three Kingdoms Period.
Jin Dynasty was historically divided into two periods. These are the Western Jin (265-316) and Eastern Jin (317-420). Luoyang became the capital city of Western Jin and Jiankang, which is now presently known as Nanjing, became the capital city of Eastern Jin.
Western Jin (265-316)
In 256 AD, Sima Yan established Jin Dynasty in Luoyang after leaving the emperor of Wei. When Western Jin Dynasty was established, Sima Yan became known as Emperor Wu. His first major struggle was to wipe out the last surviving regime of the Three Kingdoms Period, which he was able to do by conquering the Kingdom of Wu in 280 AD, thereby reuniting the south and north China.
Just like many dynasties, Western Jin also became plague with internal problems. Power struggle broke between his dukes and members of the aristocratic families. From 291 onwards, series of wars were staged by his eight dukes against each other. These wars lasted for 16 years and crippled the kingdom.
Another problem arose when Liuyuan, the chief of Xiongnu tribe crowned himself as the king of Han. He organized his army and staged attacks on the capital of the Western Jin. Luoyang was captured by Liuyuan?s army and they were able to defeat attempts of the Dynasty to reclaim the city. After four emperors and 51 years, Western Jin Dynasty came to an end.
Eastern Jin (317-420)
After the Western Jin was toppled by Liuyuan?s army, survivors move from north to south of China. Ironically, the Han forces also didn?t stay in Luoyong. They moved to Yangtze River. In 317, a member of the Jin royal family, Sima Rui decided to re-establish the Jin supremacy. He founded the Eastern Jin Dynasty in Jiankang, which is presently known as Nanjing in Jiangsu Province.
Sima Rui was known as Emperor Yuan and became the first emperor of Eastern Jin Dynasty. He was supported by the prominent families of Zhu, Gan, Lu, Gu, and Zhou. During his reign, Jin?s control over north was already impossible but this didn?t stop the Emperor from staying powerful in the south. But just like the Western Jin, Eastern Jin also faced crises caused by the noble families fighting for power. These are the families who had control of the empire?s state affairs. The Eastern Dynasty struggled with many rebellions.
Historians believed that while Western Jin Dynasty was successful in unifying China after the Three Kingdoms Period, the Eastern Jin failed to do this because it only controlled a portion of China, which was still undeveloped because of its location. Eastern Jin?s territory was only south of the Yangtze River. North China was left open to be ruled by other minorities.
From the beginning of the fourth century to the first part of the fifth century, ethnic groups founded their own states in the north. This move gave way to the Sixteen Kingdoms that was composed of fifteen major states of north and the Kingdom of Chengdan in the southwest area. This didn't work either because they just kept on fighting, eventually destroying the economy of the northern areas.
The groups which composed Sixteen Kingdoms or less commonly known as Sixteen States were mostly founded by the Wu Hu, the non-Han Chinese ethnicities. Wu Hu originally resided outside China. They migrated into the areas in China when Eastern Han Dynasty and the Three Kingdoms were in trouble.
A man named Fu Jian or Pu Jian was credited for temporarily uniting the north after the fall of Eastern Jin. But his efforts became futile after the Battle of Feishui. The Northern Wei Dynasty came into the scene and again unified northern China in 439. This became the start of the Northern Dynasties Period.
Emperors of Eastern Jin also did their part to reoccupy the northern areas. They launched a couple of expeditions and numerous battles. Although most of these were successful, all efforts to widen their territory were all short lived. They had their own problems inside their empire.
Sun?en and Luxun launched rebellions against the Eastern Dynasty. Civil war broke out. Emperor is being toppled one after the other. The last emperor of Eastern Jin was Emperor Gong, who was installed in 419. He left the throne for Emperor Wu, who ushered in the Song Dynasty and the Southern Dynasties.
The Western and Eastern Jin Dynasties may have been tumultuous but it also left significant changes to the Chinese people. They have laid the foundation for future dynasties to come. Without the lessons learned from these dynasties, Chinese history will never be as colorful.
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