Jin Dynasty (265-420)

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Jin Dynasty Territory

The Jin Dynasty (265–420) ( Chinese  晉朝  /  晋朝 , Pinyin Jìncháo , W.-G. Chin Ch'ao ; IPA Tsin Tsao) is a dynastic period in the history of China . It is divided into two epochs:

The Jin dynasty is of an autochthonous Chinese character and must be strictly differentiated from the Jin dynasty (1125-1234) founded by the Jurchen 700 years later .

The Western Jin Dynasty was founded by Emperor Wu ( 晉武帝  /  晋武帝 , Jìn Wŭdì ) Sima Yan ( 司馬炎  /  司马炎 , Sīmǎ Yán ). Their capital was Luoyang . The Eastern Jin Dynasty was founded by Emperor Yuan ( 晉元帝  /  晋元帝 , Jìn Yuándì ) Sima Rui ( 司馬 睿  /  司马 睿 , Sīmǎ Ruì ), the capital was in Jiankang ( 建康 , Jiànkāng , today's city of Nanjing) . Policy during the Jin Dynasty was determined by the great and powerful noble houses. The political system was in transition from that of the Han dynasty with three arch chancellors ( 三公 , Sāngōng ) and nine ministers ( 九卿 , Jiŭqīng ) to that of the Tang dynasty with three secretariats ( 三省 , Sānshĕng ) and six ministries ( 六部 , Liùbù ). The house of Sima already belonged to the high nobility during the time of the Wei dynasty . After the incident of Gaopingling ( 高 平陵 事件 , Gāopínglíng Shìjiàn ) it became the dominant power in the Wei Dynasty. After Sima Yan made himself emperor, he united all of China. However, he was unable to cope with the burning social problems and rampant corruption. After the central power had lost its influence, the members of the imperial family, who had also been given military power as princes in the provinces, began to fight for priority and power. This led to the confusion of the eight princes ( 八 王 之 亂  /  八 王 之 乱 , Bāwáng zhī Luàn ). This turmoil further weakened the ailing Jin dynasty, so the immigrant peoples took the opportunity to oppose. The confusion of the Five Hu ( 五胡 , Wŭhú ) came. A mass exodus towards the south began. The Sixteen Kingdoms began in northern China .

The power of the Eastern Jin Dynasty emperors was limited. Politics was determined by the noble houses. The distribution of power within the military was particularly precarious with its many generals, some of whom had fled the north and who sometimes acted independently and without coordination. Therefore, their campaigns to restore the rule of the Jin Dynasty over the north failed. The central government also always feared that all too successful generals would proclaim themselves emperor. Therefore one was constantly trying to sabotage these expeditions. In 383, the Empire of the Former Qin mobilized all military reserves to destroy the Eastern Jin. In the face of impending annihilation, all forces of the Eastern Jin united - the only time this was achieved in the time of the Eastern Jin. After the Battle of Feishui ( 淝水之戰  /  淝水之战 , Féishuĭ zhī Zhàn ), the former Qin and the Eastern Jin under Xie An and Xie Xuan ( 謝玄  /  谢玄 , Xiè Xuán ) were able to regain many areas. But resurgent internal power struggles led to the usurpation of Huan Xuan ( 桓玄 , Huán Xuán ), at the same time the heavy labor and tax burden on the common people led to rebellions. Qiao Zong ( 譙 縱  /  谯 纵 , Qiáo Zòng ) became self-employed in Sichuan . In the end, Liu Yu ( 劉裕  /  刘裕 , Liú Yù ) was able to destroy the other competing powers and usurp the imperial throne. China passed into the era of the Southern and Northern Dynasties .

At the beginning of the Eastern Jin Dynasty, ministers like Wang Dao ( 王 導  /  王 导 , Wáng Dăo ) tried to stabilize the situation with a policy of calm. In the realm of Eastern Jin flourished Hofwirtschaft on. Advances in agriculture led to a flourishing economy and trade. The economic center of China gradually shifted south. The economic boom in the south later made it necessary to build the Kaiserkanal as a connecting route between the south and north of China. Great advances were also made in craft and trade.

The Jin Dynasty was a time of cultural exchange. The supremacy of Confucianism was broken during this period. There were innovations in philosophy, literature, art, historiography and technology. Some areas developed into independent sciences. In philosophy there was the development of the Xuanxue ( 玄學  /  玄学 , Xuánxué ) and the further development of Daoism as Chinese philosophies. From India who arrived Buddhism to China. The art of Qingtan ( 清談  /  清谈 , Qīngtán , a kind of philosophical and metaphysical scripture that mixed the ideas of Daoism, Confucianism and Buddhism) was popular between the noble houses . The steppe culture of the nomadic peoples who dominated (and settled) the north mixed with the rural culture of the remaining Han Chinese and also interacted with the culture of the southern China of the Eastern Jin. The ethnic groups themselves also mixed.

Historical overview

History of the Western Jin

The way to the throne and the end of the three realms

The Sima family, from which the emperors of the Jin Dynasty came, came from the north of what is now Henan Province . It was already influential by the time of the Wei Dynasty. Sima Yi , who paved the way for his sons to power, worked like seven of his brothers as civil servants under the emperors of the Wei dynasty. He was particularly distinguished by his political and military skills. So he fought back the Northern Expeditions of Shu Han and won what is now Liaoning for the Wei . This made him an important minister in Wei. When Emperor Ming ( 魏明帝 , Wèi Míngdì ) Cao Rui died in 239 , Sima Yi and Cao Shuang were appointed joint rulers of the empire, but this quickly led to a power struggle between the two. At first, Cao Shuang had the upper hand, but in 249 the gaopingling incident occurred, with Sima Yi killing Cao Shuang and regaining power. From then on, political power passed more and more into the hands of the Sima family, even if the emperors of Wei were initially on the throne. After his death, Sima Yi's sons Sima Shi and Sima Zhao were able to further consolidate their power, although there were three major rebellions ( 壽春 三 叛  /  寿春 三 叛 , Shòuchūn Sānpàn ) against them, all of which were put down. In the course of these battles the power of the Wei emperor finally fell apart.

In 263, Sima Zhao decided to pave the way for his accession to the throne with a spectacular military victory. He ordered Zhong Hui and Deng Ai to launch a military expedition with the aim of destroying Shu Han. The chief general of Shu Han, Jiang Wei, controlled the main roads and camped on Jiange ( 劍閣  /  剑阁 , Jiàngé ). Deng Ai, however, led his troops over impassable mountains and surprisingly appeared at the gates of Chengdu , the capital of Shu Han. The Emperor of Shu Han, Liu Shan recognized his hopeless situation and surrendered. A little later, Deng Ai and Jiang Wei tried to rebel against Sima Zhao. But this was immediately put down by Sima Zhao. After this victory, Sima Zhao planned to ascend to the throne, but died beforehand. In 265 his son Sima Yan usurped the imperial throne and thus established the Jin dynasty. The capital was Luoyang. Historically, this earlier section of the dynasty is called the Western Jin Dynasty.

The war to destroy Wu

At that time, the situation in the Wu Dynasty was very chaotic. The Wu emperor Sun Hao neglected state affairs and indulged in luxury. Because of this, he was very unpopular with his people. In 270 Gansu was invaded by the Xianbei while the Xiongnu invaded at the same time . This situation delayed Sima Yan's plan to destroy the Wu emperor's empire. He ordered his general Yang Hu to keep Wu general Lu Kang in check. At the same time, he began to build ships to cross the Yangtze . Lu Kang died in 274. Yang Hu proposed a campaign against the Wu, but was overruled by ministers like Jia Chong , who opposed a campaign in the south. It was not until 279 that the Xianbei and Xiongnu invading forces were finally repulsed. A group of ministers around Du Yu ( 杜預  /  杜预 , Dù Yù ) believed that the time was now ripe to take action against Wu. Jia Chong and others were still against it, believing the situation in the northwest was still unstable. In December of the same year, however, Sima Yan decided to go on a campaign. He ordered several armies along the entire course of the Yangtze River to attack simultaneously. In 280 the Jin army approached the capital of the Wu Empire, Jianye ( 建業  /  建业 , Jiànyè , today Nanjing). Sun Hao realized that he was in dire straits and surrendered. That was the end of the Three Kingdoms era .

Internal unrest and external threats

Sima Yan

Even before the unification of the country, the political culture of the Jin Dynasty began to deteriorate. The Wei Dynasty attempted a policy of promoting civil and military officials on the basis of ability rather than reputation and race. The Sima family, however, feared a repetition of a usurpation similar to theirs, which is why the Jin rulers, officials and military were particularly suspicious of non-family members. This led to the fact that in the Jin dynasty the aristocratic families related to the imperial family were particularly preferred and thus received a special position of power. At the same time, the custom emerged in society to display special luxuries. Smaller officials who did not belong to the big families tried to use corruption to hook up with the powerful. Corruption and exuberant luxury became fashionable. Back then there was hardly an official who was not corrupt. Although Sima Yan repeatedly warned his officials to be thrifty, he could not escape the prevailing zeitgeist. So his admonitions were only lip service. It was reported that a very wealthy man named Shi Chong ( 石崇 , Shí Chóng ) was vying with a relative of the emperor named Wang Kai ( 王 愷  /  王 恺 , Wáng Kăi ) for the size of their own wealth in the capital Luoyang by each having larger palaces built for themselves. The emperor not only failed to prevent this behavior, but also gave his relative a helping hand and thus encouraged the competition to continue.

The most important ministers and generals of the empire were at odds with one another. Above all, over the strategy against Wu and over the question of the succession, bitter fights broke out, which led to the formation of a party. Yang Hu and Zhang Hua ( 張華  /  张华 , Zhāng Huá ) advocated an immediate attack on Wu. Jia Chong and other ministers opposed it. After unification, Jia Chong realized his mistake, but made his opponent his bitter enemy. The dispute became even more serious when it came to the question of the successor. It was already clear at the time that the Crown Prince Sima Zhong was mentally poor. Some ministers therefore advised the emperor to appoint his younger brother Sima You ( 司馬 攸  /  司马 攸 , Sīmǎ Yōu ) as his successor instead of his son , because they were of the opinion that Sima You was better suited to govern the state. However, other ministers were against it as they saw it as a disruption of tradition. Ultimately, Sima Yan followed tradition and decided to designate his son as heir to the throne.

In the military organization, the emperor divided the periphery of the empire into kingdoms and enfeoffed his direct relatives as kings, who also had military power over the corresponding regions. After unification, he also began to curtail military power outside of his own family. These measures were all designed to reduce the threat posed by ambitious generals, but resulted in the peripheral kingdoms gradually becoming more powerful than the central government. At the same time, more and more steppe peoples came to China from the west and north. These were often treated in a derogatory manner by the Han Chinese and were particularly exposed to the arbitrariness of the officials. The conflicts between the Han Chinese and the immigrants led an official in the courtyard to suggest that the emperor expel the immigrants. The emperor rejected the proposal. The conflict between cultures and ethnic groups continued to smolder and erupted when the central government collapsed.

Sima Yan herself was addicted to sex. In 273 he ordered that no marriages were allowed anywhere in the country in order to be able to choose women for his harem without hindrance. After the extermination of Wu, he then took up the 5,000 female harem of Sun Hao, so that his harem housed over 10,000 people. He was unable to solve the serious social problems of corruption, party formation, the shift in power to the outside world and immigration. All of this later led to the outbreak of the turmoil of the eight kings.

The confusion of the eight kings

The eight kings
King title Surname King title Surname
King of Runan Sima Liang King of Chu Sima Wei
King of Zhao Sima Lun King of Qi Jima Jiong
King of Hejian Sima Yong King of Chengdu Sima Ying
King of Changsha Sima Ai King of Donghai Sima Yue

290 Sima Yan died and his son Sima Zhong became emperor. Yang Jun ( 楊駿  /  杨骏 , Yáng Jùn ), who was married into the royal family , became the most important minister at the court. The history books report that he heard frogs croaking while walking in a garden one day and then asked his companion: "Is this call official or private?" Later, when famine broke out, he said to his subordinates, “Why don't you eat meat?” Since the emperor was unable to carry out state affairs , his ambitious Empress Jia Nanfeng ( 賈南 風  /  贾南 风 , Jiă Nánfēng ) took advantage of the opportunity to intervene in politics. Yang Jun and the Empress became bitter enemies. In order to secure his power, Yang Jun filled key positions in the imperial guard with people from his own clan, which led to the rejection of the foreign kings and some officials. In 291, Empress Jia allied herself with the king of Chu ( , Chŭ ) Sima Wei ( 司馬 瑋  /  司马 玮 , Sīmǎ Wĕi ) and commissioned the king of Runan ( 汝南 , Rǔnán ) Sima Liang ( 司馬 亮  /  司马 亮 , Sīmǎ Liàng ) with government business. Soon afterwards she took advantage of the disagreements between the two kings and removed both of their offices. She later accused Sima Wei of high treason and had him killed. With this, Empress Jia won the power struggle. By appointing capable ministers, she was able to calm the situation down first.

In 294 and 296 there were again invasions by the Xiongnu in the northwest. The Jin Army was particularly disturbed by the invasion of 296, which lasted three years. At the court it was suggested that the immigrants be expelled, but in reality this was no longer possible.

The Crown Prince was not born to Empress Jia, so she wanted to get rid of him. 300 she accused the Crown Prince of treason and deposed him. The king of Zhao (  /  , Zhào ) Sima Lun ( 司 馬倫  /  司 马伦 , Sīmǎ Lùn ) first advised Empress Jia to kill the crown prince, but then allied herself with the king of Qi Sima Jiong ( 司馬 冏  /  司马 冏 , Sīmǎ Jiŏng ). The two killed Empress Jia and her confidants on the grounds of avenging the Crown Prince. In 301 Sima Lun proclaimed herself emperor. In March, Sima Jiong allied with the kings of Hejian ( 河 間  /  河 间 , Héjiān ), Sima Yong ( 司馬 顒  /  司马 颙 , Sīmǎ Yóng ), of Chengdu, Sima Ying ( 司 馬穎  /  司 马颖 , Sīmǎ Yĭng ), and Changshan ( 常山 , Chángshān ), Sima Ai ( 司馬 乂  /  司马 乂 , Sīmǎ Ài ). The combined armies defeated Sima Lun. Sima Lun and his followers were killed and the old emperor reinstated. Sima Jiong became regent. In 302 Sima Ying, Sima Ai and Sima Yong allied themselves again, this time against Sima Jiong. Sima Jiong and his followers were killed, Sima Ai became regent.

In 303, Sima Ying allied with Sima Yong against Sima Ai, but was repeatedly beaten by Sima Ai. In early 304, the capital, Luoyang, experienced a food shortage. The King of Donghai ( 東海  /  东海 , Dōng Hǎi ), Sima Yue ( 司馬 越  /  司马 越 , Sīmǎ Yuè ) and soldiers of the Imperial Guards overpowered Sima Ai, opened the city gates and surrendered to the troops Sima Ying and Sima Yongs. Sima Ai was burned alive. The three kings shared the most important state offices among themselves. Sima Ying forced the emperor to appoint him as his successor. A short time later, Sima Yue allied with other forces and attacked Sima Ying. But he was beaten and fled back to his own domain.

That did not end the unrest. Sima Yue allied again with his brother Sima Teng ( 司馬 騰  /  司马 腾 , Sīmǎ Téng ) and other forces and attacked Sima Ying again. Sima Ying and Sima Yong joined forces but were defeated in 305. Both were later killed. Emperor Hui was poisoned shortly thereafter. Sima Chi was proclaimed Emperor Huai, Sima Yue became regent. This ended the turmoil of the eight kings.

The five Hu

The tribal areas of the northern peoples during the Western Jin. Light brown is Xiongnu, yellow is Jie, light blue is Xianbei, light green is Qiang, pink is Di

The surrounding nomadic peoples began to immigrate to China as early as the Han period. During the Wei period, these nomadic peoples were actively brought into the country, among other things as military auxiliary troops. By the time of the Jin, this process was already irreversible.

During the turmoil of the eight kings, the power of the Sima family continued to weaken, both in the central government and at the local level. The immigrant ethnic groups increasingly rebelled. In 304 Li Xiong ( 李雄 , Lĭ Xióng ) proclaimed himself king and established the kingdom of Cheng-Han . Two years later he made himself emperor. Also in 304, Sima Ying called the Xiongnu leader Liu Yuan for help during a siege . Liu started her own business on this occasion. In 308 he was proclaimed emperor and founded the state of Han-Zhao . This marked the beginning of the Age of Sixteen Kingdoms .

Liu Yuan's son Liu Cong looted Luoyang in 311, and the general Shi Le ( 石勒 , Shí Lè ) attacked in eastern China. In addition to the chaos of war, there was also a plague of locusts. Sima Yue decided to face Shi Le.

In 311 Sima Yue died of an illness. When Shi Le withdrew, his army was surprisingly attacked and defeated. With this, the elite Jin troops were destroyed. Liu Cong took the opportunity and let his troops advance as far as Luoyang, which was still captured in 311. Over 30,000 people were killed in the subsequent looting and the emperor was captured. In 313, Emperor Huai was killed. Sima Ye ascended the throne as Emperor Min in Chang'an . But Chang'an himself was soon besieged by Han-Zhao. In 316 the emperor capitulated to Liu Cong and was later killed. With that the Western Jin went under. The Age of Sixteen Kingdoms began in northern China.

After the fall of the Western Jin, there were initially three separate areas in the north that were loyal to Jin. However, these were either destroyed or forced to give up their positions in the following years.

History of the Eastern Jin

Escape to the south and inner unrest

The first emperor of the Eastern Jin Dynasty, Sima Rui, was originally a supporter of Sima Yue. At that time, the area south of the Yangtze River had hardly been devastated by war and unrest. The residents of the area were divided into large clans. They felt disadvantaged by the Jin emperors, which is why many of them wanted to rebuild the old Wu state . There were repeated uprisings in the years 303, 305 and 310, but these were suppressed by Jin-friendly forces of the Zhou clan. After the turmoil of the eight kings, Sima Rui accepted his advisers' proposal and moved his army to Jiankang. He tried to win over the local clans and was able to stabilize the situation. This led to many large aristocratic families and members of the imperial family following him.

In 317, after the fall of the Western Jin Dynasty, Sima Rui had the Jin court moved to Jiankang. He himself became Emperor Yuan. In history, this dynasty is called the Eastern Jin Dynasty. After the situation had calmed down, preference was given to the old noble families who had fled from the north at the new Jin Court. This caused resentment among the established clans. There were several coup attempts, all of which failed due to betrayal. In order to calm the situation, the Jin court tried to divide the powerful clan associations and at the same time to promote smaller, local clans. Even so, tension persisted between the immigrants and the local residents. At the same time, the conflicts between the noble families and the common people, the central government and the periphery, and the noble families and the imperial family, which were already widespread in the Western Jin, persisted. As a result, the Eastern Jin remained troubled overall.

With the threat from the north remaining, the Eastern Jin Dynasty had to rely on generals to protect the border. These generals, in turn, were mostly members of the powerful noble families. They commanded strong troops and were often ambitious. There was always the danger that they would rebel against the central government. At first Jin Yuandi trusted the Wang family, especially Wang Dun ( 王敦 , Wáng Dūn ) was entrusted with the military leadership. Wang Dun was very haughty, so the emperor gradually drifted away from him. In order to curtail his power, the emperor appointed other ministers. This caused resentment among Wang Dun. In 322 he attacked the capital and killed the ministers appointed by the emperor. The emperor suffered a shock and died shortly afterwards. His Crown Prince Jin Mingdi ( 晉明帝  /  晋明帝 , Jìn Míngdì ) ascended the throne. Wang Dun prepared to take power, but became seriously ill in 324. Jin Mingdi took the opportunity and dropped Wang Dun. Nevertheless, the Wang family continued to set the tone at the court.

In 325 Jin Mingdi died, his crown prince Jin Chengdi ( 晉成帝  /  晋成帝 , Jìn Chéngdì ) became emperor. There were serious differences between the central government and the generals who guarded the border north of the Yangtze River. In 327 the army on the border of the Huai River rebelled . They stormed the capital and took the emperor prisoner. With the help of General von Hubei , the rebellion 329 could be put down.

Northern expeditions

After the establishment of the Eastern Jin Dynasty, many of those who fled south demanded that their homeland be recaptured. However, some of the large aristocratic families had settled comfortably in the south and were content with their situation. More serious was the fear at court that successful generals could become folk heroes and thus endanger the imperial throne. Because of this, large-scale northern expeditions were not seen with pleasure.

In the beginning of the Eastern Jin Dynasty, the court used a strategy of defense. In 317, Zu Ti ( 祖逖 , Zŭ Tì ) wanted to start a northern expedition, but the court provided him with only a few troops. Zu Ti then organized an army from the refugees. In cooperation with the local militias, he was able to successfully recapture the entire area south of the Yellow River. Since unrest broke out in the country at the same time and the court feared for its reputation, he was replaced in 321. His plans to conquer further areas north of the Yellow River had become obsolete. Zu Ti died very disappointed. The land he had conquered was lost again. Later, several other generals tried to advance north from what is now Hubei. However, their plans were all rejected by the court.

In 346 Huan Wen ( 桓温 , Huán Wēn ), general in Hubei, successfully destroyed Cheng-Han. This gave him great prestige and the envy of the grand nobility. Although he repeatedly asked for permission to carry out expeditions to the north, this was refused. Instead, in order to meet the wishes of the people, other generals were entrusted with this task. However, all of these expeditions failed, so Court 354 was forced to comply with Huan Wen's request. Huan Wen started three expeditions to the north. As early as February 354, he attacked the former Qin. The emperor of the early Qin, Fu Jian ( 苻 健 , Fú Jiàn ), pursued a defensive strategy. Huan Wen could not provide enough supplies and had to leave. In 356 he started another expedition. He was able to conquer the ancient capital Luoyang. In 358 he suggested using Luoyang as the capital again, but the court refused. During the reigns of Jin Aidi ( 晉 哀帝  /  晋 哀帝 , Jìn Āidì ) and Jin Feidis ( 晉 廢帝  /  晋 废帝 , Jìn Fèidì ) he already had the court largely under control. In 369, Huan Wen wanted to pave the way for taking over the throne with another successful northern expedition. He first defeated the Former Yan's army . Since he could not secure his supplies again, he had to leave again. The withdrawal was badly organized. Former Yan's army seized the opportunity and defeated Huan Wen. 371 deposed Huan Wen Jin Feidi and put Jin Jianwendi ( 晉 簡 文帝  /  晋 简 文帝 , Jìn Jiănwéndì ) on. He died the following year, Jin Xiaowudi ( 晉孝武 帝  /  晋孝武 帝 , Jìn Xiàowŭdì ) became emperor. Huan Wen requested to receive the Nine Medals of Honor ( 九錫  /  九锡 , Jiŭxī ). Minister Xie An held out Huan Wen, who died of illness shortly afterwards, saving the Eastern Jin from ending prematurely.

The Battle of Feishui

Xie An installed his nephew Xie Xuan as general for the area between the Huai and Yangtze Rivers. In order to strengthen the army of the central government, he recruited troops from among the inhabitants of this area as well as among the refugees who were particularly interested in defending against the north. With this he created the Beifu Army ( 北 府 軍  /  北 府 军 , Bĕifŭ Jūn ), which later became the main army of the Jin and the southern dynasties.

As early as when the Emperor of the Former Qin Fu Jian ( 苻 堅  /  苻 坚 , Fú Jiān ) had destroyed the Former Yan in 370, he was planning an attack on the Eastern Jin to unite China. In 378 he captured Hubei and tried to take Xuzhou , but was repulsed. 382 his troops were able to pacify the western hinterland. In August of the following year, Fu Jian believed that the time was ripe for an attack on the south. He mobilized the entire military in the country and moved south. The news of Fu Jian's march came as a shock to the Eastern Jin. Xie An tried to calm the situation, gave Xie Shi ( 謝 石  /  谢 石 , Xiè Shí ) the command of the main forces and used Xie Xuan as the commander of the vanguard to fend off Fu Jian. At that time Fu Jian had a troop of 600,000 men, while the Jin Beifu army numbered only 80,000 soldiers.

Fu Jian sent General Zhu Xu ( 朱 序 , Zhū ​​Xù ), who had just surrendered to him, to Xie Shi to get him to surrender as well. However, Zhu Xu revealed to Xie Shi the strengths and weaknesses of the Qin Army and worked with him to develop a strategy to defend against Fu Jian's army. In November 383, the two armies met on the Fei River ( 淝 水 , Féishuĭ ) in what is now Anhui Province. Xie Shi had his troops burying standards in the tall grass everywhere to make his army appear larger in number to prevent an attack by Fu Jian. In December, Xie asked Xuan Fu Jian to step back a little so that the Army of the South could cross the river and fight a decisive battle. Fu Jian agreed. However, the retreat was disorderly and the Jin generals, who had previously surrendered, spread to the back ranks of Fu Jian's troops that the battle was lost and the army was therefore in retreat. The entire Qin order of battle began to shake even before contact with the enemy was made. The Jin vanguard seized the opportunity and attacked. The Qin Army suffered a total defeat. Fu Jian was injured by an arrow. This battle was of paramount importance in the history of the Eastern Jin.

After the battle, Xie An became the commander in chief of the military and took on the task of conquering the now-crumbling Former Qin. In 384 he ordered Xie Xuan to campaign north. In order to better guarantee the supply this time, a canal was built. This expedition was able to recapture all areas north of the Yellow River. The Jin Army was also able to regain the lost Sichuan . While Xie Xuan made preparations for further expeditions north of the Yellow River, the envy of his successes smoldered at court. The then Minister of State Sima Daozi ( 司 馬道子  /  司 马道子 , Sīmǎ Dàozĭ ) ordered Xie Xuan to abandon the preparations because he believed that the army had overstretched its capacities. This prevented further campaigns to the north.

Party fighting and Huan Xuan seizure of power

Sima Daozi was the younger brother of Emperor Xiaowu ( 晉孝武 帝  /  晋孝武 帝 , Jìn Xiàowǔdì ) and enjoyed his great confidence. After the Battle of Feishui, he began scheming against Xie An and Xie Xuan. After these died shortly afterwards, the unity that had ruled during the crisis fell apart. The command of the Beifu Army was taken over by Wang Gong ( 王恭 , Wáng Gōng ). Huan Xuan became the head of the powerful Huan family. In 390, Emperor Xiaowu became increasingly dissatisfied with his brother. To weaken its power, he installed members of the Wang family as a counterweight to Sima Daozi. However, this also ensured that important posts went to his own people. As in the periphery, party formation and struggles began at court to an ever greater extent. In 396 Emperor Xiaowu was murdered by one of his concubines. His successor was Emperor An ( 晉安帝  /  晋安帝 , Jìn Āndì ), who is said to have been moronic, which meant that he was unable to put a stop to the escalating party fighting. Wang Gong and Huan Xuan even fought against Sima Daozi militarily. Both sides had mutual successes. A peace agreement did not solve the problem either. Huan Xuan in particular became more and more powerful.

Since Sima Daozi had doubts about the loyalty of the Beifu army, he ordered his son Sima Yuanxian ( 司馬 元 顯  /  司马 元 显 , Sīmǎ Yuánxiăn ) to recruit his own army among the farmers of the local extended families. This aroused resistance from these families. They supported the rebellion of the Daoist sect Five Bushels of Rice ( 五 斗 米 道 , Wŭdŭomĭ Daò ) with their leader Sun En ( 孫恩  /  孙恩 , Sūn Ēn ). In 401 this sect even attacked the capital, but was repulsed by Liu Yu. But even after Sun En's death in March 402, the uprising continued.

Sima Yuanxian was afraid that Huan Xuan could use the rebellion to attack, so she decided to launch a pre-emptive strike against Huan Xuan. At the same time, Huan Xuan also attacked. In the end, Sima Yuanxian was defeated and Huan Xuan was quickly able to conquer the capital through betrayal. Sima Yuanxian and Sima Daozi were killed. Huan Xuan became the most powerful man at court. Initially, Huan Xuan tried to reform the court. However, he had no control over government affairs. He ruled with increasing arbitrariness and former allies became enemies. In 403, Huan Xuan deposed Emperor An and proclaimed himself Emperor of Chu, later known as Huan Chu ( 桓楚 , Huán Chŭ ), but only ruled for about a year. The following year, Liu Yu and other generals in the Beifu Army rebelled. They drove Huan Xuan from the capital and was killed while fleeing to Sichuan. However, members of his family continued the fight. It was not until 405 that the Huan family was completely defeated. Emperor An was reinstated, but the most powerful man in the state was now Liu Yu.

Liu Yu becomes emperor

After Liu Yu seized power at the court, he attacked the governor of Hubei in 412 to eliminate a competitor. In 413 he annexed Sichuan, which had meanwhile become independent.

Another threat to him was the Five Bushels Rice Rebellion. After Sun En's death, his brother-in-law Lu Xun ( 盧循  /  卢循 , Lú Xún ) continued the uprising. 404 Lu Xun occupied Guangzhou . The court then appointed him governor of Guangzhou to buy some peace before the uprising. In 410, while Liu Yu was on a campaign against the Southern Yan , Lu Xun seized the opportunity and attacked the capital. Liu Yu rushed back and hit Lu Xun. The following year, Lu Xun was killed and the rebellion finally put down.

After getting rid of his adversaries, Liu Yu carried out two campaigns in preparation for taking the throne. The first was directed against the Southern Yan in 409 . The Emperor of the Southern Yan Murong Chao ( 慕容 超 , Mùróng Chāo ) had invaded the Jin area repeatedly. Liu Yu conquered the capital of the Southern Yan and captured Murong Chao, thereby ending the Southern Yan dynasty. Only Lu Xun's rebellion forced him to withdraw. In December 416, Liu Yu started his second campaign. This time against the later Qin . The Later Qin was already under severe pressure from the Kingdom of Xia at that time . 417 conquered Liu Yu Chang'an and thus destroyed the Later Qin. But at the same time the general died, whom he had left behind in his capital to see to the maintenance of order during his campaign. Fearing riots and a coup d'état, Liu Yu hastily returned. The generals he left in Chang'an were at odds while facing attacks by the Xia. Liu Yu realized the situation and ordered them to withdraw. After that, Liu Yu began preparing to take over the government. He killed Emperor An and put the Emperor's younger brother, Sima Dewen ( 司馬 德文  /  司马 德文 , Sīmǎ Déwén ), as his successor. In 420 Liu Yu finally deposed Sima Dewen and proclaimed himself Emperor of the Former Song Dynasty . This ended the Eastern Jin Dynasty.

Territory and administrative structure

The territory of Jin at the beginning of the dynasty

The Western Jin inherited the territory of Wei State and later conquered that of Wu as well. To the north, the present-day provinces of Shanxi , Hebei and Liaoning formed its border, where the peoples of the Xiongnu, Xianbei and Goguryeo lived. In the east the Pacific coast formed its border. To the south the territory extended to the north of what is now Vietnam. To the west, the Western Jin extended into what is now Gansu and Yunnan . There they bordered on the territories of the Xiongnu, Qiang and Di .

The Western Jin took over the territorial division of the Eastern Han and divided the country into provinces ( , Zhōu ), prefectures ( , Jùn ) and counties (  /  , Xiàn ). Wei owned 12 provinces. After Wei annihilated Shu Han, the number rose to 14,265 when the Western Jin Wei inherited, implemented territorial reform and divided the country into 17 provinces. 280 after the destruction of Wu, four more provinces were added, two of which were immediately amalgamated with existing provinces. Jin consisted of 19 provinces at the time. This was gradually divided, so that in 307 there were a total of 21 provinces. Under the provinces, the country was divided into prefectures and kingdoms. Emperor Wu feared a coup by too powerful ministers or generals and therefore enfeoffed his direct relatives with the kingships. The kings had tax rights and the right to raise and maintain troops, although these were mainly intended for local defense. The kingdoms and prefectures were considered to have the same administrative level. The plain below formed the circles, with duchies and counties on the same level as the circles.

Eastern Jin (yellow area) before (black) and after (red) the Battle of Feishui

The Eastern Jin adopted the three-tier system of the Western Jin. But over the years the areas were divided and the subdivision units became smaller and smaller. At the beginning of the Eastern Jin, many refugees came from the north. In order to satisfy the interests of the fled noble families, the state still assigned refugees from the north to the provinces, prefectures and districts from which they originally came. These areas had no territory, but the people who were assigned to them still officially performed their taxes and labor services for them. Later these units, which were called immigrant provinces, prefectures and districts ( 僑 州郡 縣  /  侨 州郡 县 , Qiáo Zhōujùnxiàn ), were also assigned areas.

Depending on military success or failure, the northern border of the Eastern Jin changed greatly. In the west, independent governments repeatedly emerged in the province of Sichuan . Only in the south did the border remain largely stable. Initially, the Eastern Jin only had the area south of the Huai River. During the northern expeditions of Huan Wen, Shandong and Henan were recaptured. Before the Battle of Feishui, the Eastern Jin only had seven provinces and nine immigrant provinces. After this battle, their territory expanded to the Yellow River. When Huan Xuan came to power, the area shrank again. Liu Yu was even able to retake Chang'an during his second northern expedition, but soon had to give up what he had conquered. At the end of the Eastern Jin it had 17 provinces and eight immigrant provinces, for a total of 25 provinces.

Political system

The political system of the two Jin dynasties was determined by the great noble houses. The system of the great noble houses already emerged at the time of the Han and Wei dynasties. They were mainly formed by local giants and families who had been in higher civil service for generations. Wei used a nine-tier system of officials to promote capable officials, replacing the Han testing and recommendation system, which was no longer feasible due to the chaos of war. In the Jin times, however, the system became an instrument of power for the noble houses. Since the higher offices were primarily occupied by their members, only their relatives and favorites got into higher offices. This went so far that soon there were no members of the common people in the higher official levels and no members of the large noble families could be found in the lower levels.

During the time of the Eastern Jin there were conflicts between the immigrant noble families and the local noble families. Power, however, was concentrated in the hands of the immigrants who tried to outdo the locals. This separation would continue for a very long time, until much later it was overcome by the increasing economic power of the locals.

From a structural point of view, decision-making bodies gradually separated from executive bodies. The three secretariats Shangshu ( 尚書 省  /  尚书 省 , Shàngshū Shĕng ), Zhongshu ( 中書省  /  中书省 , Zhōngshū Shĕng ) and Menxia ( 門下 省  /  门下 省 , Ménxià Shĕng ) became independent. The Han system, with three arch chancellors and nine ministers, changed over time to the Sui and Tang system with three secretariats and six ministries. Of the three secretariats, Zhongshu ranked behind Shangshu, but was the most powerful of the three because it was the decision-making body, while Shangshu was the executive. Menxia was the auditor, but also participated in the decision-making process and, like Zhongshu, gained power. In terms of occupation, Shangshu was the most complete secretariat. During the Western Jin, it had three stages internally. Zhongshu and Menxia were only completed during the Eastern Jin. Zhongshu was given its own sub-secretariat and Menxia gained power as the emperor tried to counterbalance Zhongshu.

During the Jin time, Arch Chancellor was only an honorary title. The most powerful ministers in particular were honored with this title. You were then an arch-chancellor and chairman of one or all three secretariats, some also had the title of grand general ( 大 將軍  /  大 将军 , Dàjiāngjūn ) and commander-in-chief of the central and peripheral armies ( 都督 中外 諸 軍事  /  都督 中外 诸 军事 , Dūdū Zhōngwài Zhūjūn Shì ). The Yushitai ( 御史臺  /  御史台 , Yùshĭtái ) facility, originally intended as a disciplinary unit , also became an independent authority. However, during the Jin period, the yushitai had more ceremonial duties than examining officials and fighting corruption. The yushitai was fully expanded, with different officials for the different areas.

Legislators believed early on that the Wei code was too complicated. Sima Zhao already ordered a new code to be written using the Han and Wei codes as a reference. The Jin Law Book ( 晉 律  /  晋 律 , Jìn Lǜ ) was completed in 267 and came into force the following year. For a long time it was the only valid code of law in all of China. Later on, a few comments were written about it, which the Jin Emperor Wu gave the same status as the law book itself. This practice had a major impact on Chinese legal history and was later used again in the Tang period.

Military affairs

The Western Jin adopted the soldier box system from Wei. Emperor Wu also operated the downsizing of troops in the provinces and prefectures and placed military power in the hands of the kings. The Eastern Jin adopted the soldier caste system, but also used a recruiting system to increase troop strength. The weakness of the central power was also reflected in the strength of the armies of the central state and the periphery. The local military governors often refused to obey the central government's orders. To counteract these tendencies, Xie An created the Beifu Army.

The armies of the Western Jin were divided into three categories: the central army, the peripheral armies, and the armies of the provinces and prefectures. Members of the central and peripheral armies generally belonged to the soldier caste. The central army was controlled directly from the court and was stationed in the capital or the surrounding area, but could also move out in times of war. Its nominal strength was 100,000 men and it was led by a general in the Central Army. The peripheral armies were armies stationed in strategically important locations and on the borders. Their commanders were generals or grand generals. The armies of the provinces and prefectures were local armies. After Jin unified China, Emperor Wu tried to abolish these armies. Instead, police officers should ensure local security. Large prefectures were allowed 100 police officers, smaller ones 50. In reality, however, very few local armies were abolished.

Emperor Wu enfeoffed his relatives with kingdoms that were equal to the prefectures. The larger kingdoms were allowed to maintain three armies with a total of 5,000 men, the middle two armies with a total of 3,000 men, the smaller one with 1,500 men. In addition, some kings have also been appointed commanders of peripheral armies. Emperor Wu wanted to keep power over the military in the family and prevent ministers or generals from becoming too powerful. This, however, gave the kings great power which later threatened to surpass even that of the headquarters.

The Eastern Jin took over the system, but the situation had changed. Since the court was very weak, the central army hardly existed. To compensate for this, the Yangzhou Army was also stationed in the capital. The peripheral armies were controlled by the noble houses, and the generals were kings in their own territories. The Jingzhou Army in particular outnumbered the headquarters. Many power-hungry generals took advantage of this situation to take power. Due to the turmoil of the war, the soldiers' coffers had been greatly decimated, which is why the Eastern Jin also recruited the common people and occasionally even forcibly recruited them. The Beifu Army, made up of members of the refugees, struck strong enemies several times and, at the end of the Eastern Jin, had replaced the actual Central Army.


When the Western Jin was founded, the population was far from that of the Eastern Han period. The turmoil of the eight kings and the sixteen empires further reduced the population. There were repeated massacres nationwide during the Sixteen Kingdoms. The wars were followed by epidemics and famine, which further decimated the population. Conditions prevailed where “people eat each other and die of hunger from ten five to six.” In addition, many people tried to evade the statistics in order to avoid taxes and compulsory labor. In the time of the Jin, these benefits were collected on a household basis. However, the military, militias, monks and slaves did not belong to the household category, which is why many tried to find shelter as dependents in large houses or monasteries in order to avoid taxes and forced labor. Due to wars and riots, there were large waves of refugees who tried to report the size of their households to the Jin office as smaller than they were. All of this had a negative effect on the accuracy of the official statistics.

The turmoil of war in the north led to large flows of refugees, especially to the south. In the north, the population tried to protect themselves with castles. There were six large groups of refugees in the north. 296 there was an uprising among the Di people in today's Shaanxi, which led to the flight of tens of thousands to Sichuan. These refugees later established the Cheng-Han Kingdom. Another group, who was later taken in by Han-Zhao, fled to the Huai River. The establishment of the Cheng-Han in Sichuan in turn led to refugee movements to Hubei and Hunan . There, conflicts arose between the refugees and local residents. In what is now Shandong and Hebei, gangs of beggars were formed, who wandered around and organized themselves. The area in what is now Gansu had been less devastated by the war, so many people fled there, and eventually many people went to Liaoning, where they were taken in by the Xianbei and helped establish the Earlier Yan.

The largest migratory movement was represented by the migrations from the catchment area of ​​the Yellow River to the south of the Yangtze. At the time of the Eastern Jin there were a total of five such large migrations: At the time of the establishment of the Eastern Jin, 317 when the northern expedition from Zu Ti was abandoned, after Northern campaign of Huan Wen, after the battle of Feishui and after the campaigns of Liu Yu. The great noble houses that fled south were the mainstays of the Eastern Jin. Most of the refugees settled directly on the Yangtze River, some moved even further to Fujian or Guangdong . Initially, the refugees were assigned to the immigrant provinces. However, they were very difficult to manage and monitor. This led to tax losses for the government. Therefore, later attempts were made to assign the refugees directly to their place of residence. The Eastern Jin attempted such reform four times. Back then, the population was a country's most important resource, so both attacking and attacked states forced locals to relocate with them.

Population figures at the time of the Wei, Jin, and Northern and Southern Dynasties
year households population annotation
156 (Eastern Han) 16,079,600 50,066,856
280 (Western Jin) 2,495,804 16,163,863 At the time, Jin had most of the households
464 (previous song) 906.874 4,685,501
606 (Sui) 3,590,000 approx. 9,009,600 At the time, Sui had most of the households. At the beginning of Sui, the household number was around 3 million.
Note: The values ​​are from The figures should only be taken as approximate values, as at that time the statistics were subject to major inaccuracies as explained in the text.


Plowing, drawing on a brick in a tomb of the Wei or Jin period

After being unified by the Western Jin, the government abandoned Wei's nationalization of the country. The land was divided among the population. A tax system was introduced for land tax. However, this led to the powerful buying up land from the small farmers and forcing them to become dependent. The new tax system was theoretically more difficult than that introduced by Cao Cao , but the dependent farmers only had to pay their levy to the landowner, which was a relief for the farmers. This too led to the land being concentrated in the hands of large landowners. So in the end, these policies caused tax shortfalls while the wealth of the great aristocratic families increased.

In the time of the Eastern Jin, the farm economy made up an even larger share of the economy. The economy on the Yangtze River began to develop at the time of the Wu. At that time, many resident large noble families already had huge farms. After migrating south, the population in the sparsely populated areas also increased. The immigrant noble families seized many abandoned lands and began to reclaim them. They built courtyards of several thousands to tens of thousands of square kilometers. At the same time, this measure sharpened the difference between rich and poor. In 330 the Jin court reformed the tax law, taxes were levied according to the area of ​​the country. In 336, the arbitrary confiscation of the abandoned lands was prohibited. In addition to militias and servants, the courts of that time also had courtiers and slaves. The immigrants introduced better cultivation techniques from the north, plowing with oxen became popular. In addition, the Eastern Jin and the subsequent Southern Dynasties promoted the expansion of irrigation systems, which led to the spread of rice cultivation. Productivity and production volume increased. In the long term, there was a shift in the economic center from the north to the south of China.

Collecting silkworms, drawing on a brick in a tomb of the Wei or Jin period

Handicraft businesses were mostly state-owned during the Jin period. In the field of metallurgy , steel was invented, a material that stands between pig iron and soft iron. The process of forging gradually became the predominant steel working process. In the Jin times, most textiles were made of linen . The looms were improved to make them of higher quality and more different types. Methods were developed to use creepers for paper production in addition to linen , whereby the quality of the paper was already very high. In the Southern Dynasties that followed the Jin period, paper completely replaced all other materials that had been written on until then, such as silk and bamboo . Porcelain manufacture spread in the south , and many well-known manufacturers were established. Tea was highly regarded among the population of Jin and tea began to be preferred to alcoholic beverages , which is why tea cultivation spread throughout the coastal area. The ship was officially verified at that time, which was also due to its importance and profitability in southern China, which is rich in waterways. The larger ships that were built could hold up to ten thousand bushels .

Due to the population migration, many riches came south. The capital Jiankang became a trading center. Due to the many wars, copper became a scarce commodity, which made it difficult to mint new copper coins and led to a shortage of money. The monetary system was also subject to frequent changes of government, which led to a confusion of the different coins. Trade between the north and south and overseas was largely state controlled, but private companies were still very large. Mainly food , textiles , salt and some luxury goods were traded. Guangzhou became an overseas trade center, importing jadeite , rhinos , elephants and spices , and exporting silk in particular.


During the Jin time, nomadic peoples came to China, mixed with the Chinese, and became part of the Chinese people. They brought the steppe cultures with them and these became part of the Chinese culture. The migration of the Han Chinese to the south led to a leap in development there. The separation between north and south China after the Jin Empire lost the north and the intermingling of cultures in the north led to the development of differences between north and south. South of the Yangtze, a cultural counterbalance to the catchment area of ​​the Yellow River, the former center of Chinese culture, gradually formed. In a time of turmoil, the decline in morality and social norms was not surprising. The Confucianism thus suffered a major setback. Qingtan was popular among the educated, especially those with ambition, while those who stayed away from politics devoted themselves to xuanxue . The Xuanxue increasingly mixed with the Buddhism introduced from India, so that over time there was a mixture of the teachings of Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism. At the same time, Daoism and Buddhism increasingly reached the common people and no longer just the upper classes. Although the Jin period was generally viewed as a time of cultural decline, there were new impulses in philosophy, literature, art, historiography, science, and technology. The calligraphers Wang Xizhi and Wang Xianzhi and the painter Gu Kaizhi were particularly prominent figures in cultural life . During the Jin period, the great aristocratic houses provided social support. Especially in the south, the courts of the noble houses were the most important cultural and scientific educational and development centers, while the state institutions are negligible in this regard.


The seven wise men from the bamboo forest with a hermit from the time of the spring and autumn annals (top left), tomb painting from the Southern Dynasty

In the Jin time, the Xuanxue had replaced Confucianism as the main social ideology. Among the officials was Qingtan very popular. As the Sima family prepared to take power in Wei, there was great unrest among the officials. A small utterance could mean the difference between life and death. Even the large families were marked by this uncertainty. This is one of the reasons why nihilistic Qingtan, removed from the real world, were very popular. That was the background to the strengthening of the Xuanxue.

Although they both use Laozi , Zhuangzi, and Yi Jing as their base, Xuanxue and Daoism are different. The core of Xuanxue is "nothing" ( Chinese    /  , Pinyin ). She is of the opinion that everything arises from nothing, and nothing can rule everything. In politics, Xuanxue advocates ruling by doing nothing . At the same time, Xuanxue from Confucianism combined the term education with nature from Daoism and advocates “education from nature” (名教 出於 自然). This doctrine was of the opinion that the difference between the nobility and the common people, between the upper and lower classes, is a natural thing. The people should submit to their fate (順天 知命). This teaching was of course very strongly supported by the rulers.

The principle of "education from nature" was already established at Wei time. In the early days of Western Jin, the "Seven Wise Men from the Bamboo Forest" were the representatives of the Xuanxue. Of these, Xi Kang was the most important. They advocate “doing nothing naturally” (自然 無為) and “the more educated, the more natural” (越 名教 而 放 自然). At first, Xuanxue was more of a kind of escape from the cruel political reality, but was quickly discovered and adapted by the upper class themselves. Under the pretext “Let nature run wild” (任 自然) every conceivable luxury was acted out and justified. Later in the Western Jin period, even the Xuanxue theorists opposed this trend. The doctrine "Education is nature" then formed the conclusion of the theoretical development of Xuanxue. At the same time, Xuanxue and Qingtan also spread among the upper class. Even the most powerful and corrupt talked about Xuanxue. They clung to their power, made use of intrigues and betrayal, did not shrink from mass murder and devastation of entire regions and at the same time longed for Wu Wei and escape into nature.

The debauchery was somewhat subdued during the Eastern Jin, but Qingtan remained a fashion at court. Many nobility built villas in mountains or on the banks of the lake and operated Qingtan as a kind of social entertainment. With the spread of Buddhism, their philosophies were also included, and some monks also took part. Nevertheless, there were also votes against Qingtan and Xuanxue, especially from the lower classes. However, they did not set the tone. It was only during the Sui period that Qingtan slowly went out of fashion, and it was not until the Middle Tang Period that it stopped completely.


Portrait of the monk Huiyuan, from a book from 1921 (晩 笑 堂 竹 荘 畫 傳)

During the two Jin dynasties, Buddhism and Daoism were the predominant religions, with Buddhism being the stronger. However, there were clear differences between north and south. In the north, Buddhism was strongly promoted by some rulers, while in the south, Daoism moved towards Confucianism and was predominant, while Buddhism mixed with Xuanxue . In the south religion did not find its way into politics either and the competition between the two main religions was mainly expressed in Qingtan .

Buddhism came to China during the Eastern Han Dynasty. Back then, Confucianism was the predominant state ideology, so Buddhism was difficult to spread. During the Jin period, however, the social order fell apart and Confucianism lost its importance. Buddhism was very popular with its teachings of karma and six realms . At that time it began to spread widely in China. At the same time, critical voices against Buddhism began to report around this time.

During the Eastern Jin, Qingtan was very widespread, so Buddhist monks also took part and spread Buddhist teachings. This mainly led to the spread of Buddhism in the upper class in the south. There was quite a difference between northern and southern Buddhism at the time. Northern Buddhism emphasized karma , while southern Buddhism was more concerned with problems of the nature of nirvana and similar theological issues. During the late Eastern Jin, the monk Huiyuan (慧遠) was a very important figure. Huiyuan was very knowledgeable about Confucianism. He was one of the driving forces behind the mixing of Buddhism, Confucianism and Xuanxue. He accelerated the Sinization of Buddhism. He is also revered as the founder of Sukhavati Buddhism. Huiyuan advocated the translation of Buddhist sutras into Chinese, he exchanged and discussed problems relating to the translation with the monk Kumārajīva from the north. In 399, Faxian was the first Chinese monk to set out for India to solicit Buddhist sutras for China. In 414 he returned to China by sea. He then translated many of the texts he had brought with him. His travel report The Land of the Buddhas ( 佛 國 記  /  佛 囯 记 ) is considered an important contemporary report on Central Asia and India.

Longhushan, mountain of the dragon and the tiger, this is where the Taoist sect Five Bushels of Rice originated

In Daoism, the different currents Taipingdao (太平道, the way of peace) and five bushels of rice emerged at the time of the three kingdoms . In particular, Five Bushels of Rice was later able to develop as Heavenly Master Daoism and split into very different currents.

Taoism was particularly well received by the lower classes. In the south on the Yangtze River delta and on the coast, Daoism was very widespread, even among aristocratic families there were followers. Calligrapher Wang Xizhi , for example, came from a family that had been followers of the Five Bushels of rice for generations. Later on, Sun En and Lu Xun were able to hold out against the government for so long because they were able to mobilize the believers in the Five Bushels of Rice.

At the beginning of the Eastern Jin there was no organizational structure or rules of conduct in Daoism, these only developed during the Eastern Jin. In the north, the focus was on rules of conduct and monastic rules, while in the south more emphasis was placed on text study and theology. In order to react to the spread of Buddhism, Daoism also took up suggestions from Confucianism and Xuanxue in order to complete its theoretical basis. A branch of Daoism dealt with Chinese alchemy , the highest goal of which was to find a divine medicine that would give people immortality and deification as Xian .

In the time of the Eastern Jin, Ge Hong wrote down the most important principles of Daoism in his script. Unlike him, the Shangqing School (上清 派), which mainly dealt with meditation , came into being a little later . Influenced by both, the book Lingbao Jing (靈寶 經) was created by Ge Hong's grandson , which later led to the Lingbao Pai movement , which was mainly concerned with recitation. Daoism had a strong influence on literature and art during the Jin period, but also later. The preoccupation with a healthy lifestyle and alchemy also had influences on medicine, chemistry, biology and technology.


Portrait of the poet Tao Yuanming, from a book from 1921 (晩 笑 堂 竹 荘 畫 傳)

Without the limitations of Confucianism, literature developed more freely and diversely during the Jin period. Particular attention was paid to form and technology. In the prose, under the influence of Fu, particularly strict texts were created in which the number of characters and accentuation were strictly regulated. The lyrics were extremely elaborate. These texts led to an intensified study of Chinese phonetics, the result of which crystallized in Shen Yue's theory of sounds from the Liang dynasty . In the field of novels, numerous ghost novels were written at this time. Historiography at that time was mainly done by individuals, including the Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms by Chen Shou and the Book of the Later Han by Fan Ye .

At the beginning of the Western Jin the texts of the above-mentioned Xi Kang should be mentioned, which acted particularly freely and fearlessly against the grievances of the time.

In the beginning of the Western Jin, gluttony was the predominant fashion. The texts began to bloat a lot and to be worked out extremely artistically. Particularly famous was the text The three capitals (三 都赋) by Zuo Si (左思), a prose text about the three capitals of the three realms. At the same time, the author's dissatisfaction was also noticeable in his poems, as he did not come from a noble family and had no prospect of a higher office. Another important text was About the Texts (文 賦) by Lu Ji (陆 机), a very important literary theoretical work.

After the fall of the Western Jin, the poems of Liu Kun (刘琨), in which he expressed grief and the will to fight, remained unique. The texts of Wang Xizhi were particularly characteristic of the literature of the Eastern Jin. From his texts one can also understand the emotional world and the value system of a member of a noble family. Many texts from this period dealt with topics from Qingtan or were ghost stories that represented a kind of escape from reality, but which indirectly criticized reality again and again. For the later Eastern Jin, the texts and poems by Tao Yuanming (陶淵明) deserved special mention. Tao Yuanming's story of peach springs reflected the desire for a harmonious world and an escape from a country devastated by the chaos of war. Tao wrote his texts in an old, simple style, contrary to the custom of the time. He had a long-lasting influence on later writers such as Wang Wei , Li Bai , Du Fu , Su Shi etc.

The story of Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai (梁山伯 與 祝英台), which is very famous in China , also happened at the time of the Eastern Jin.


Wife and Official, Excerpt, Eastern Jin, Gu Kaizhi

During the Jin period, the nobility lived in abundance and unimagined luxury, which is why many extraordinary artists emerged at their courts. Qingtan strengthened logical thinking, while the orientation to the nature of Daoism and Xuanxue gave the art new impetus. Without the restrictions of Confucianism, arts such as painting unfolded in unimagined freedom. The spread of Buddhism also brought in new stories and motifs.

Influenced by the gradual system of officials and by Xuanxun, painting at that time emphasized the appearance and movements of people. At this time painting was also influenced by Indian art, which was introduced at the same time as Buddhism . This led to the maturation of person painting in Chinese art. The images of that time emphasized peculiarities of a person. The people portrayed looked alive and had their own expressions. This was very different from the painting of the Han period, which paid more attention to shapes. The hand movements and clothing that were moved by the wind had a marine effect. The painter Gu Kaizhi in particular was venerated as a saint painter (畫聖). The painting "Woman and Official" (女 史 箴 图) was considered a masterpiece of his. Another masterpiece, "Image of the God of the Luo River" (洛神賦 圖) is considered lost. However, landscape painting was still in the initial phase. It was only further developed during the Southern Dynasties.

Orchid Pavilion, calligraphy by Wang Xianzhi, Eastern Jin. The original has already been lost, this copy dates from the Tang period and is kept in the Beijing Museum

It created many famous calligraphers and theories on calligraphy . Many variants emerged from the chancellery script (隶书), and the grass script (草書) developed further. Rule script (楷書) became increasingly mature. The orchid pavilion (蘭亭 集 序) is a masterpiece of italics .

Green porcelain was particularly widespread in the south. They were mostly used as liquid containers, but they had a very unusual appearance. Some were depicted as a frog or as a lying sheep. Another very common container was intended to store food for the dead as an addition to the dead. These containers often have very elaborately designed lids with figures and Buddha keyboard. On the body they have images of people, gods and animals. They are also a living testimony to the religion and cult of the dead at that time.

science and technology

The elimination of the restrictions imposed by Confucianism and the blossoming of different philosophical thoughts, coupled with attempts by numerous states to strengthen agriculture and handicrafts in their respective areas, led to developments in science and technology. Daoism also dealt with alchemy, among other things. Her striving for a balanced life and inner harmony led to the development of meditation and qigong .

Excerpt from Baopuzi, print from the Song Dynasty

Famous scientists of the time were the mathematician Liu Hui from the beginning of the Western Jin, the geographer Pei Xiu (裴 秀) during the Western Jin and the alchemist and medicin Ge Hong. Liu Hui was interested in mathematics from an early age. He commented on the standard work Jiu Zhang Suanshu and wrote mathematical books himself. Jiuzhang Suanshu and Liu Hui's comments were very sustained on Chinese mathematics and led to a focus on arithmetic . Pei Xiu was a minor civil servant, he made maps for the then well-known China with mountains, rivers and administrative structures. His maps paid attention to the conditions, directions, distances as well as the height of the places and their connecting routes.

Ge Hong came from a poor background, but was very inquisitive and hardworking. He studied alchemy and medicine. His alchemical work Baopuzi contained knowledge from chemistry, biology and mineralogy and was an important source for the Chinese history of science. It was in his medical works that he first described tuberculosis and smallpox .

See also


Web links

Commons : Jin Dynasty (265-420)  - collection of pictures, videos, and audio files


  1. Zizhi Tongjian , chap. 88
  2. The tension was also economically justified, since the local clans saw themselves disadvantaged by the immigrants here too. Eventually, the immigrant families recognized the areas in present-day Zhejiang as the territory of the local clans and shifted their sphere of interest to the coastal regions of Fujian and Guangdong. That in turn led to a conflict with local clans. That is why the clans there were more inclined towards Jin and supported the later rebellions in the coastal regions.
  3. 鄒 紀 萬 (1992 年): «中國 通史 魏晉 南北朝 史》 第一 章 〈魏晉 南北朝 的 政治 變遷›, Zhou Jiwang, 1992, History of China, History of the Wei, Jin, Northern and Southern Dynasties. Cape. 1: Political Changes, p. 56.
  4. 萬 蠅 楠 (1994 年): «魏晉 南北朝 史 論 稿》 第八 章 〈論 淝水之戰 前 東晉 的 鎮 之 以 靜 政策›, Wan Yingnan, 1994, monologue on the history of Wei, Jin, Southern and Northern Dynasties. Cape. 8: The Eastern Jin's strategy of calming down before the Battle of Feishui, p. 193.
  5. The nine decorations were nine ceremonial items reserved only for the emperor. A bestowal of the nine gifts was usually a preliminary stage of the accession to the throne.
  6. This is not the same Fu Jian as in the Northern Expeditions section. For details, see Earlier Qin .
  7. To clarify the number of his soldiers, the Jin Shu speaks of the fact that it would interrupt the Yangtze River if all of Fu Jian's soldiers hit the river with their riding whips ( Chinese  投 鞭 斷流  /  投 鞭 断流 , Pinyin tóu biān duàn liú ).
  8. Jin Shu, Zaiji 14, Record of Fu Jian the Former Qin, Part Two .
  9. Jin Shu, Liezhuan 49, Annals of Xie Shang and Others.
  10. 萬 蠅 楠 (1994 年): «魏晉 南北朝 史 論 稿》 第六 章 〈世族 統治 下 的 西晉›, Wan Yingnan, 1994, monologue on the history of the Wei, Jin, Southern and Northern Dynasties. Cape. 6: Western Jin under the rule of the great noble houses, p. 111.
  11. The Book of Jin. Biography of Ren Kai.
  12. Chinese  人 相 食 , 飢 死者 十五 六  /  人 相 食 , 饥 死者 十五 六 , Pinyin Rén xiāng shí, jī sǐ zhě shí wǔ liù .
  13. 萬 蠅 楠 (1994 年): «魏晉 南北朝 史 論 稿》 第八 章 〈論 淝水之戰 前 東晉 的 鎮 之 以 靜 政策›, Wan Yingnan, 1994, monologue on the history of Wei, Jin, Southern and Northern Dynasties. Cape. 8: The Eastern Jin's strategy of calming down before the Battle of Feishui, p. 193.
  14. 鄒 紀 萬 (1992 年): «中國 通史 魏晉 南北朝 史》 第三 章 〈大 動亂 時代 的 人口 流動 與 民族 融合› , 第 124 頁, Zhou Jiwan (1992): History of China, History of Wei, Jin , Northern and Southern Dynasties. Cape. 3: Migration and mixing of peoples during the great turmoil, p. 124.
  15. 萬 蠅 楠 (1994 年): «魏晉 南北朝 史 論 稿》 第八 章 〈論 淝水之戰 前 東晉 的 鎮 之 以 靜 政策›, Wan Yingnan, 1994, monologue on the history of Wei, Jin, Southern and Northern Dynasties. Cape. 8: The Eastern Jin's strategy of calming down before the Battle of Feishui, p. 187.
  16. 萬物 皆 產生 於 無, Liezi , chapter Tianrui: 夫 道 之 而 無語 , 名 之 而 無名 , 視 之 而 而 無形 , 聽 之 而 無聲 , 則 道 之 全 焉.
  17. 萬 蠅 楠 (1994 年): «魏晉 南北朝 史 論 稿》 第十 章 〈淝水 戰後 的 東晉› , 第 235 頁 .Wan Yingnan, 1994, monologue on the history of the Wei, Jin, Southern and Northern Dynasties. Cape. 10: Eastern Jin after the Battle of Feishui, p. 235.
  18. The Book of the Later Han by Fan Ye is indeed an edition of numerous contemporary and timely texts.