Sixteen realms

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Sixteen Kingdoms ( Chinese  十六 國  /  十六 国 , Pinyin shíliù guó ) is the name of a period in Chinese history . It began in 304 with the establishment of the Han-Zhao Kingdom and ended with the annihilation of Northern Liang State by the Northern Wei Dynasty in 439 . During this time, the 16 eponymous empires ruled in northern and central China in quick succession, fighting and replacing one another. Most of these states were founded by minority peoples such as the Xiongnu , which is why the period is also known as the Sixteen Kingdoms of the Five Barbarians (五胡 十六 国). At the same time, the Eastern Jin Dynasty ruled southern China . The turmoil that had lasted for over 100 years had severely devastated the former central land of Chinese culture - the lower and middle reaches of the Yellow River . Many people fled south. The population migration and the relative calm in the south made the former border region on the course of the Yangtze River rise culturally and productively into a new center of Chinese culture. In northern China, the immigration of peoples from the north and west led to an increased mixing of peoples and the spread of new ideas and philosophies, for example Buddhism.

The 16 eponymous kingdoms are:

However, these 16 empires were not all independent governments that arose in northern China during this period. There were several other very short-lived governments whose rulers proclaimed themselves king or emperor. However, these are not listed as kingdoms in official Chinese historiography. It should also be mentioned at this point that most of the rulers of these states saw themselves as emperors and thus their governments could actually be described as empires. In Chinese historiography, however, only those governments are referred to as empires or dynasties that (at least nominally) controlled a considerable part of the country and carried a kind of stability in themselves. Therefore these 16 states were posthumously referred to as kingdoms.


Nördliche Yan Xia (Königreich) Westliche Liang Südliche Yan Nördliche Liang Südliche Liang Spätere Liang Westliche Qin Spätere Yan Spätere Qin Frühere Qin Frühere Yan Spätere Zhao Frühere Liang Cheng-Han Han-Zhao


  • Thomas J. Barfield: The Perilous Frontier: Nomadic Empires and China. Blackwell, Cambridge (MA) / Oxford 1989, ISBN 1-55786-043-2 , pp. 97 ff.
  • Albert E. Dien: Six Dynasties Civilization. Yale University Press, New Haven / London 2007, ISBN 978-0-300-07404-8 .
  • David A. Graff: Medieval Chinese warfare, 300–900. Routledge, London a. a. 2002, ISBN 0-415-23954-0 , p. 54 ff.