The Former Yan (Chinese: 前燕; pinyin: Qián Yān; 337–370) was a dynastic state ruled by the Xianbei during the era of Sixteen Kingdoms in China.

Former Yan (前燕)
337–370
Former Yan in 338 AD
Former Yan in 338 AD
Former Yan in 369 AD
Former Yan in 369 AD
CapitalJicheng (棘城) (337–341)
Longcheng (341–350)
Jicheng (薊城) (350–357)
Yecheng (357–370)
GovernmentMonarchy
Emperor 
• 337–348
Murong Huang
• 348–360
Murong Jun
• 360–370
Murong Wei
History 
• Murong Huang's claim of princely title
23 November 337[1][2] 337
• Murong Jun's claim of imperial title
4 January 353[3][4]
• Fall of Yecheng
11 December 370[5][6]
• Disestablished
370
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Jin dynasty (266–420)
Ran Wei
Later Zhao
Duan Qi
Former Qin
Today part ofChina

Initially, Murong Huang and his son Murong Jun claimed the Jin dynasty-created title "Prince of Yan," but subsequently, in 352, after seizing most of the former Later Zhao territory, Murong Jun would declare himself emperor, and after that point, the rulers of the Former Yan declared themselves "emperors".

History edit

With the decline of the Xianbei confederation, the Murong tribe resettled themselves around the Liaoxi region. During the Three Kingdoms period, when the Cao Wei commander, Sima Yi, campaigned against Gongsun Yuan in 237, the Murong offered their assistance and were allowed to move into northern Liaodong after the campaign. The Murong became vassals to the Wei and then to their successor, the Western Jin dynasty.

During the upheaval of the Five Barbarians, Murong Hui welcomed many refugees fleeing from the disorder into his territory and recruited Han Chinese officials into his administration.[7] As the Jin was driven out of the north, Hui held independent control over his territory, but retained his vassal status and was given the title of Duke of Liaodong in 321 by the re-established Eastern Jin court from Jiankang.

Following Murong Huang's succession in 333, the Murong conquered their rival Xianbei tribes in Liaoxi, the Duan and Yuwen, and subjugated the Korean states of Buyeo and Goguryeo.[8][9] After repelling a massive Later Zhao invasion in 337, Huang received the title of Prince of Yan from the Jin court, which many historians view as the beginning of the Former Yan dynasty, although Huang was still a vassal of Jin at this point.

In 349, the Later Zhao that ruled most of northern China began to break apart. Taking advantage of the confusion, Murong Jun invaded the Central Plains, conquering the Ran Wei state and other contenders on the North China Plain. The Former Yan became a regional power in the northeast, competing with the Di-led Former Qin in the west and the Eastern Jin in the south. In 353, Jun declared himself emperor, signifying a formal breakaway from the Jin. When the child Murong Wei ascended the throne in 360, his uncle, Murong Ke, became his regent. Ke was regarded as an exceptional statesman and commander, and in 365, he captured the ancient capital, Luoyang, bringing the empire to its peak.

However, although Ke's regency was marked with political stability and military might, corruption was also beginning to take its toll on the empire. The state's fiscal revenue was declining due to the nobility's practice of amassing commoners within their private fiefs. These commoners only had to pay taxes to their lords and not to the state, and so the imperial treasury was stretched thin, with many officials having unpaid salaries and the public grain stores being exhausted. Ke's leadership initially mitigated the issue, but the situation quickly deteriorated after his untimely death in 367.

In 369, the Eastern Jin commander, Huan Wen, launched an expedition to conquer the Former Yan. The Yan court was thrown into a panic, but the general, Murong Chui, decisively repelled the invasion at the Battle of Fangtou. However, his success earned him the suspicion of the regent, Murong Ping, driving him to defect to the Former Qin. Chui’s defection prompted the Qin to begin their conquest of Yan. Despite their numerical advantage, the incompetently-led main Yan force was destroyed by Wang Meng's army. Qin forces eventually reached the capital, Ye, and Murong Wei was captured in 370. The destruction of the Former Yan established Former Qin as the main hegemon in the north, beginning their rapid unification of northern China.

Rulers of the Former Yan edit

Temple names Posthumous names Family names and given name Durations of reigns Era names and their according durations
Chinese convention: use family and given names
Taizu (太祖 Taìzǔ) Wenming (文明 Wénmíng) 慕容皝 Mùróng Huǎng 337–348 Yanwang (燕王 Yànwáng) 337–348
Liezong (烈宗 Lièzōng) Jingzhao (景昭 Jǐngzhāo) 慕容儁 Mùróng Jùn 348–360 Yanwang (燕王 Yànwáng) 348–353
Yuanxi (元璽 Yuánxǐ) 353–357
Guangshou (光壽 Guāngshoù) 357–360
Did not exist You (幽 Yōu) 慕容暐 Mùróng Wěi 360–370 Jianxi (建熙 Jiànxī) 360–370

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ "兩千年中西曆轉換". Sinica.edu.tw. Retrieved 2011-08-03.
  2. ^ Zizhi Tongjian, vol. 95.
  3. ^ "兩千年中西曆轉換". Sinica.edu.tw. Retrieved 2011-08-03.
  4. ^ Zizhi Tongjian, vol. 99.
  5. ^ "兩千年中西曆轉換". Sinica.edu.tw. Retrieved 2011-08-03.
  6. ^ Zizhi Tongjian, vol. 102.
  7. ^ Schreiber, Gerhard (1949). "The History of the Former Yen Dynasty". Monumenta Serica. doi:10.1080/02549948.1949.11730940.
  8. ^ Chinul (1991). Buswell, Robert E. (ed.). Tracing Back the Radiance: Chinul's Korean Way of Zen. Translated by Robert E. Buswell (abridged ed.). University of Hawaii Press. p. 4. ISBN 0824814274. Retrieved 22 April 2014.
  9. ^ Tennant, Charles Roger (1996). A History of Korea. Routledge. p. 22. ISBN 9780710305329. Retrieved 10 October 2016. Soon after, the Wei fell to the Jin and Koguryŏ grew stronger, until in 313 they finally succeeded in occupying Lelang and bringing to an end the 400 years of China's presence in the peninsula, a period sufficient to ensure that for the next 1,500 it would remain firmly within the sphere of its culture. After the fall of the Jin in 316, the proto-Mongol Xianbei occupied the North of China, of which the Murong clan took the Shandong area, moved up to the Liao, and in 341 sacked and burned the Koguryŏ capital at Hwando. They took away some thousands of prisoners to provide cheap labour to build more walls of their own, and in 346 went on to wreak even greater destruction on Puyŏ, hastening what seems to have been a continuing migration of its people into the north-eastern area of the peninsula, but Koguryŏ, though temporarily weakened, would soon rebuild its walls and continue to expand.
  10. ^ Hong, Wontack (2005). "Commencing the Dual System: the Yan Kingdom of Mu-rong Xianbei" (PDF). East Asian History: A Korean Perspective.