Dai Commandery

Dai Commandery was a commandery (jùn) of the state of Zhao established c.  300 BC and of northern imperial Chinese dynasties until the time of the Wen Emperor of the Sui dynasty (reigned AD 581–604). It occupied lands in what is now Hebei, Shanxi, and Inner Mongolia. Its seat was usually at Dai or Daixian (near present-day Yuzhou in Hebei), although it was moved to Gaoliu (present-day Yanggao in Shanxi) during the Eastern Han.

Dai Commandery
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The ruins of ancient Dai in Yu County, Hebei


The ruins of ancient Dai in Yu County, Hebei.

The name derives from the White Di kingdom of Dai, conquered by the Zhao family of Jin.[1]


Zhao KingdomEdit

A map of Zhao (w "Chao"), showing the town of Dai (w "Tai") in its northeast. The commandery was organized following King Yong's military reforms and expansion into Loufan and Linhu (shown in outline to the northwest).

Dai Commandery was first established around 300 BC during China's Warring States Period by the state of Zhao's King Yong, posthumously known as the Wuling ("Martial-&-Numinous") King.[2] The commandery seat—then known as Dai—was southwest of present-day Yuzhou in Hebei.[3] It was the former capital of the independent state of Dai, which had been conquered by King Yong's ancestors around 476 BC.[4] He created Dai Commandery along with its companion commanderies of Yanmen and Yunzhong to consolidate his conquests[2] from invasions of the Loufan (t 樓煩, s 楼烦, Lóufán) and "forest nomads" (, Línhú) in 306 and 304 BC.[5]

Following the Qin conquest of Zhao, Zhao Jia attempted to regroup at Dai, declaring himself its king.[4] This Kingdom of Dai was ended by Qin in 222 BC,[4] just prior to the declaration of the Qin Empire two years later.

Qin EmpireEdit

Commanderies of the Qin Empire, with Dai in the central north

Dai Commandery was one of the divisions of the Qin Empire.[6] Its seat—then known as Daixian—continued to be near present-day Yuzhou.[7]

Qin-era counties
English Chinese
Trad. Simp. Pinyin
Dai 代縣 代县 Dài Xiàn
Dangcheng 當城 当城 Dāngchéng Xiàn
Yanling 延陵 延陵 Yánlíng Xiàn
New Pingshu 新平舒 新平舒 Xīnpíngshū Xiàn
Pingyi 平邑 平邑 Píngyì Xiàn
East Anyang 東安陽 东安阳 Dōng'ānyáng Xiàn
Yangyuan 陽原 阳原 Yángyuán Xiàn
Lucheng 鹵城 卤城 Lǔchéng Xiàn
Banshi 班氏 班氏 Bānshì Xiàn
Canhe 參合 参合 Cānhé Xiàn
Gaoliu 高柳 高柳 Gāoliǔ Xiàn
Guangchang[a] 廣昌 广昌 Guǎngchāng Xiàn
Qieru[b] 且如 且如 Qiěrú Xiàn

Eighteen KingdomsEdit

The Eighteen Kingdoms during Chu's short-lived hegemony after the fall of Qin

During the interregnum following Qin's collapse, Dai was one of the Eighteen Kingdoms established by Xiang Yu. It was ruled by Zhao Xie and Chun Yu.

Western Han EmpireEdit

Kingdoms and Commanderies of early Han-era China, c. 195 BC

Under the Han, Dai Prefecture formed part of the province of Bingzhou and oversaw 18 counties,[10] both within and beyond the Great Wall.[3] Along with Yunzhong and Yanmen, it also formed part of the Principality of Dai, used as an imperial appanage.[4] The Book of Han records Dai Commandery having 278,754 people living in 56,771 households.[10] The Han administration kept the seat at Daixian near present-day Yuzhou[7] and continued the Qin-era counties (renaming "New Pingshu County" to simply "Pingshu County"), with the addition of:[10]

Additional Han-era counties
English Chinese
Trad. Simp. Pinyin
Sanggan 桑乾 桑干 Sānggān Xiàn
Daoren 道人 道人 Dàoren Xiàn
Macheng 馬城 马城 Mǎchéng Xiàn
Yishi 狋氏 狋氏 Yíshì Xiàn
Lingqiu 靈丘 灵丘 Língqiū Xiàn

Xin EmpireEdit

Under the short-lived Xin dynasty established by Wang Mang, several of the Han counties were renamed.

Eastern Han EmpireEdit

Under the Eastern Han, Dai Commandery formed part of the province of Youzhou.[11] Its seat—then known as Gaoliu—was southwest[3] of present-day Yanggao in northeastern Shanxi.[7]

Wei KingdomEdit

During China's Three Kingdoms Period, Wei returned the commandery seat to Daixian (near present-day Yuzhou, Hebei).[7]

Sixteen KingdomsEdit

During China's Sixteen Kingdoms Period, both Later Yan and the Northern Wei had commanderies named Dai.[7] Northern Wei's lay to the west, with its seat at Pingcheng (present-day Datong, Shanxi).[7]

Separate from these, Tuoba Yilu was declared "Duke of Dai" () by the Jin in AD 310 and (vassal) "King of Dai" by the same court in 315.[4] This Xianbei Kingdom of Dai lasted until 376, and its dynasts were responsible for the later state of Northern Wei.[4] It held some lands in northern Shanxi and Hebei but was mostly to their north in what is now Inner Mongolia, with their capital at Shengle (northwest of present-day Horinger).[4]

Sui EmpireEdit

Dai Commandery continued until its abolishment under the Wen Emperor of Sui, who replaced it in 585 with Dai Prefecture, whose seat was at Guangwu or Yanmen (present-day Daixian, Shanxi).[12]


  1. ^ Guangchang is not included in the counties listed by Hou,[6] but appears in Sima Qian's Records of the Grand Historian.[8]
  2. ^ Qieru is not included in the counties listed by Hou,[6] but appears in Sima Qian's Records of the Grand Historian.[9]



  1. ^ Johnston (2017), pp. 170–1.
  2. ^ a b Di Cosmo (2002), p. 143.
  3. ^ a b c Hua & al. (2017), s.v. "Dai zhou".
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Xiong (2009), s.v. "Dai".
  5. ^ Spring (2015), p. 176.
  6. ^ a b c Hou (2009).
  7. ^ a b c d e f Xiong (2009), s.v. "Daijun".
  8. ^ Records of the Grand Historian, "Biography of Fan Kuai".
  9. ^ Records of the Grand Historian, "Biography of Zhou Bou".
  10. ^ a b c Book of Han, Vol. 28B, "Treatise on Geography", Pt. 8B.
  11. ^ De Crespigny (2016), p. 250.
  12. ^ Xiong (2009), s.v. "Daizhou".


  • Ban Gu; et al., Book of Han. (in Chinese)
  • De Crespigny, Rafe (2016), Fire over Luoyang: A History of the Later Han Dynasty, 23–220 AD, Sinica Leidensia, No. 134, Leiden: Brill, ISBN 9789004325203.
  • Di Cosmo, Nicola (2002), Ancient China and Its Enemies: The Rise of Nomadic Power in East Asian History, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 9780521543828.
  • Gu Yanwu (2017), Johnston, Ian (ed.), Record of Daily Knowledge and Collected Poems and Essays, Translations from the Asian Classics, New York: Columbia University Press, ISBN 9780231542678.
  • Hou Xiaorong (2009), 《秦代政区地理》 [Qíndài Zhèngqū Dìlǐ, An Atlas of Qin-Era Administrative Divisions], Beijing: Social Science Academic Press. (in Chinese)
  • Li Shizhen (2017), Hua Linfu; et al. (eds.), Ben Cao Gang Mu Dictionary, Vol. II: Geographical and Administrative Designations, Berkeley: University of California Press, ISBN 9780520291966.
  • Sima Qian; et al., Records of the Grand Historian. (in Chinese)
  • Spring, Peter (2015), Great Walls and Linear Barriers, Barnsley: Pen & Sword Books, ISBN 9781473854048.
  • Xiong, Victor Cunrui (2009), Historical Dictionary of Medieval China, Historical Dictionaries of Ancient Civilizations and Historical Eras, No. 19, Lanham: Scarecrow Press, ISBN 9780810860537.

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