Western Jin Dynasty

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The Western Jin Dynasty ( Chinese  西晉  /  西晋 , Pinyin Xījìn ) was a Chinese dynasty between the years 265 and 316 . It was founded by the first Jin emperor Sima Yan ( 司馬炎  /  司马炎 ) after the deposition of the last Wei emperor . In 280 she achieved the reunification of China . But as early as 316 the last Western Jin Emperor had to surrender to the army of Han-Zhao State ( 漢 趙  /  汉 赵 ) - the end of the Western Jin Dynasty.

A member of the imperial family was able to establish the Eastern Jin Dynasty ( 東晉  /  东晋 , Dōngjìn ) in southern China on the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River , while the Chinese heartland on the middle and lower reaches of the Yellow River fell into chaos. The Western Jin Dynasty, which lasted 52 years, is a fairly short-lived dynasty in Chinese history. Nevertheless, it represents a short period of unification within the long period of division between the Han and Sui .

The capital of the first three Western Jin Emperors was Luoyang , and the capital of the last Jin Emperor was Chang'an .

Rise of the Sima family

The rise of the Sima family began with the grandfather of the first Jin emperor, Sima Yi ( 司馬 懿  /  司马 懿 ). Initially an officer in Cao Cao's army , he rose through his military successes. After the establishment of the Wei Dynasty, Sima Yi was tasked with defending the country against the incursions of Shu Han . In 238 he was able to successfully conquer what is now the Chinese province of Liaoning for the Wei dynasty, whereby he rose enormously in the hierarchy. When Emperor Ming von Wei died in 239 , he was appointed as one of the two most important ministers to introduce the nine-year-old heir to the throne into the business of government. The personal rivalry between the two ministers, however, intensified over time and led to fierce power struggles. In 249 Sima used his military might, killed the other minister and captured the emperor whom he was supposed to help.

After Sima Yi's death, his sons, the brothers Sima Shi and Sima Zhao, successively assumed the position of regent, with the position of Wei emperor becoming more shaky every day. In 254 , Emperor Cao Fang ( 曹 芳 ) was deposed without further ado , in 260 Emperor Cao Mao ( 曹 髦 ) was even killed, which made Sima Zhao all-powerful.

Family table

Family tree of the Jin Dynasty

Unification of the country

In 263 Sima Zhao was able to take advantage of Shu Han’s inner unrest and take over this (partial) state. Death prevented him from realizing further plans, but in 265 his son Sima Yan († 289, posthumously: Wu Di ) deposed the last Wei emperor and had himself proclaimed emperor.

After that, the new emperor prepared intensively for the conquest of the state of Wu , avoiding the mistake of Cao Cao at the Battle of Chibi and building his own navy. Only after 7 years of preparation did he set his army in motion. After a few months, the Wu emperor Sun Hao capitulated in his encircled capital ( 280 ).

Reconstruction of the country and the immigration of minority peoples

After the unification of the country, the Jin Emperor had to try to demilitarize the army and get the economy going again. At that time there were large areas of land that were undeveloped. Sima confiscated this land by decree and distributed it to all who were willing to till the land. Army members in particular were rewarded with tax breaks if they wanted to take up a country life. In order for the population to recover as quickly as possible, Sima encouraged (and sometimes forced) minority peoples in the north and west of the country to immigrate and settle down. Many of these tribes settled in the middle of the Yellow River. On the one hand, this policy actually had a stimulating effect on the country, but on the other, it led to conflicts between cultures, peoples and customs, which sometimes led to bloody disputes.

Enfeoff of the imperial kinship and confusion of the eight kings

The first emperor of the Jin dynasty believed that the reason why the Wei emperor was so easily ousted was that the Wei imperial family was very weak. She had hardly any blood relatives in important positions and relied mainly on the "foreign" ministers. He viewed the increase in power of the unrelated ministers as the greatest threat to his imperial family. Therefore he enfeoffed his relatives generously with the land he had won and endowed them with great power. These blood-related princes were allowed to maintain armies and mint their own coins, for example. These foreign princes should keep the ministers in the capital in check in an emergency.

It was basically exactly the opposite of what the Western Han emperors had taken. Ironically, this state philosophy had done exactly the opposite of what the first Jin emperor intended: it had made the Jin government a very fragile government.

Sima Yan's son, who succeeded him as emperor, was mentally handicapped. The government business had to be taken care of by his mother and the maternal relatives. The conflicts between the ministers, who were mainly set by the relatives of the imperial widows, and the foreign princes, who all bore the name Sima, i.e. were direct relatives of the first emperor, intensified over the years until there were military conflicts came. In the later phase there were conflicts between eight princes who were all closely related and vying for control of the central government. They weakened the Jin dynasty so much that it perished a few years after the end of the conflict. This process is referred to in historiography as the wars of the eight princes .


While the members of the imperial house tore one another and weakened the house decisively, the conflict between the immigrant nomad tribes from the north and west and the Chinese resident there and the administration intensified. At the end of the Western Jin Dynasty, there were uprisings every year in the sensitive regions directly around the capital Chang'an. The power-hungry and rising upper class of immigrants was no longer willing to submit to the corrupt Jin government.

In 304 the military governor of today's Shanxi Province , who was originally a Xiongnu , arose : Liu Yuan had himself proclaimed ruler and thus established the first of the smaller and short-lived kingdoms later known as the Sixteen Kingdoms: the Han Zhao dynasty. In 311 the army of his son and successor Liu Cong Luoyang attacked and took the Jin Emperor Jin Huaidi prisoner. In 316 Chang'an was conquered and the last western Jin emperor, Jin Mindi , was also taken prisoner.

See also


Web links

Commons : Western Jin Dynasty  - Album containing pictures, videos and audio files