Jin dynasty (266–420)

  (Redirected from Jin Dynasty (265-420))

The Jin dynasty ([tɕîn]; Chinese: 晉朝; pinyin: Jìn Cháo) or the Jin Empire, sometimes distinguished as the Sima Jin (司馬晉) or the Two Jins (兩晉), was a Chinese dynasty traditionally dated from 266 to 420 AD. It was founded by Sima Yan, eldest son of Sima Zhao, who was made the King of Jin and posthumously declared one of the founders of the dynasty, along with Sima Zhao's elder brother Sima Shi and father Sima Yi. It followed the Three Kingdoms period (220–280 AD), which ended with the conquest of Eastern Wu, culminating in the reunification of China proper.

8 February 266–10 July 420
The Jin dynasty (yellow) at its greatest extent, c. 280, during the Western Jin dynasty
The Jin dynasty (yellow) at its greatest extent, c. 280, during the Western Jin dynasty
CapitalLuoyang (266–311)
Chang'an (312–316)
Jiankang (317–420)
Common languagesMiddle Chinese
Buddhism, Daoism, Chinese folk religion
• 266–290 (first)
Emperor Wu of Jin
• 419–420 (last)
Emperor Gong of Jin
• Establishment
8 February 266
• Reunification of China under Jin rule
1 May 280
• Jin evacuates to region south of the Huai River, Eastern Jin begins
• Abdication to Liu Song
10 July 420
280 (Western Jin peak)[1]3,100,000 km2 (1,200,000 sq mi)
347 (Eastern Jin peak)[1]2,800,000 km2 (1,100,000 sq mi)
CurrencyChinese coin, Cash
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Cao Wei
Eastern Wu
Sixteen Kingdoms
Liu Song
Today part ofChina
North Korea
Jin dynasty
Traditional Chinese晉朝
Simplified Chinese晋朝
Sima Jin
Traditional Chinese司馬
Simplified Chinese司马
Liang Jin
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese
Literal meaningTwo Jins
Western Jin
Western Jeun Dynasty 280 CE.png
The Jin Empire (yellow), c. 280
(Western Jin)
Traditional Chinese西晉
Simplified Chinese西晋
Eastern Jin
The Jin Empire (yellow), c. 400
(Eastern Jin)
Traditional Chinese東晉
Simplified Chinese东晋

There are two main divisions in the history of the dynasty. The Western Jin (266–316) was established as a successor state to Cao Wei after Sima Yan usurped the throne and had its capital at Luoyang and later Chang'an (modern Xi'an, Shaanxi province); Western Jin reunited China in 281 but fairly shortly thereafter fell into a succession crisis, the War of the Eight Princes, and suffered from the invasions instigated by the Five Barbarians, who went on to establish various dynastic states along the Yellow River valley in 304 and successfully occupied northern China after the Disaster of Yongjia in 311. These states then immediately began fighting each other, inaugurating the chaotic and bloody Sixteen Kingdoms era. After the fall of Chang'an in 316, the Western Jin dynasty collapsed, forcing survivors of the Jin monarch under Sima Rui to flee south of the Yangtze River to Jiankang (modern Nanjing) and establish the Eastern Jin (317–420). The Eastern Jin dynasty, though under constant threats from the north, remained relatively stable for the next century, but was eventually usurped by general Liu Yu in 420 and replaced with the Liu Song (420–479). The Western and Eastern Jin dynasties together make up the second of the Six Dynasties.



Molded-brick mural, identified as the "Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove and Rong Qiqi", one of two walls a part of the coffin found in a tomb of the capital region of the Southern dynasties (5th–6th. c.), second half of the fifth century, at Xishanqiao, near Nanjing. 88 x 240 cm. Nanjing Museum. This part of the murals may reflect a composition of the famous Lu Tanwei, considered as the single greatest painter of all times by the Chinese critic Xi He (act. 500–536) : ref. from China : Dawn of a Golden Age, 200–750 AD, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Yale University Press 2004. We can recognize Ji Kang (223–262), on the left, under a gingko tree.
Hunping jar of the Western Jin, with Buddhist figures.

Within (Cao) Wei, who dominated the northern parts of China during the Three Kingdoms period, the Sima clan—with its most accomplished individual being Sima Yi—rose to prominence, particularly after the 249 coup d'état; historically known as the Incident at the Gaoping Tombs, where the Sima clan began to surpass the Cao clan in power. After Sima Yi's death, his eldest son, Sima Shi, kept a tight grip on the political scene, and after his own death, his younger brother, Sima Zhao, assisted his clans' interests by further suppressing rebellions and dissent, as well as recovering all of Shu (Han) and capturing Liu Shan, son of Liu Bei in 263. His actions rewarded him the rank of King of Jin, a title named for the Zhou-era marchland and duchy around Shaanxi's Jin River. (He was granted the title as his ancestral home was located in Wen County within Jin's former lands); this is the last achievable position while following an emperor. His ambitions for the throne were visible (proverbial in Chinese), but he died in 265 before any usurpation attempt could be made; he passed the Kingdom onto an ambitious son, Sima Yan.


The Jin dynasty was founded in AD 266 by Sima Yan, posthumously known as Emperor Wu (the "Martial Emperor of Jin"). As King of Jin, he forced Cao Huan's abdication but permitted him to live in honor as the Prince of Chenliu and buried him with imperial ceremony. The Jin dynasty conquered Eastern Wu in 280 and united the country. The period of unity was short-lived as the state was soon weakened by corruption, political turmoil, and internal conflicts. Sima Yan's son Zhong, posthumously known as Emperor Hui (the "Benevolent Emperor of Jin"), was developmentally disabled.


Conflict over his succession in 290 expanded into the devastating War of the Eight Princes. The weakened dynasty was then engulfed by the Uprising of the Five Barbarians and lost control of northern China. Large numbers of Chinese fled south from the Central Plains; among other effects, these refugees and colonizers gave Quanzhou's Jin River its name as they settled its valley in Fujian. The Jin capital Luoyang was captured by Xiongnu King Liu Cong in 311. Sima Chi, posthumously known as Emperor Huai (the "Missing Emperor of Jin"), was captured and later executed. His successor Sima Ye, posthumously known as Emperor Min (the "Suffering Emperor of Jin"), was captured at Chang'an (present-day Xi'an) in 316 and also later executed.[2]

Eastern JinEdit

The remnants of the Jin court fled to the south-east, reestablishing their government at Jiankang (present-day Nanjing). Sima Rui, the prince of Langya, was enthroned in 318, posthumously becoming known as Emperor Yuan (the "First Emperor of the Eastern Jin").[2] The rival northern states, who denied the legitimacy of his succession, sometimes referred to his state as "Langya".

At first, the southerners were resistant to the new ruler from the north. The circumstances obliged the Emperors of Eastern Jin to depend on both local and northern aristocrat clans. This was also the pinnacle of menfa (門閥, "gentry clans") politics : Several powerful immigrant elite clans controlled national affairs, such as Wang () clans of Langya and Taiyuan, Xie () clan of Chenliu, Huan () clan of Qiao Commandery, and Yu () clan of Yingchuan, while the emperors' authority were limited. There was a prevalent remark that "Wang Dao and the emperor Sima Rui, they dominate the nation together" (王與馬,共天下) among the people.[3] It is said that when Emperor Yuan was holding court, he even invited Dao to sit by himself accepting jointly the congratulations from ministers, but Dao declined it.[4]

The local aristocrat clans were at odds with the immigrants. As such, tensions increased; they loomed large in Jin's domestic politics. Two of the most prominent local clans: Zhou () clan of Yixing and Shen () clan of Wuxing's ruin was a bitter blow from which they never quite recovered. Moreover, there was a conflict among the immigrant clans' interests; it was a faction that led to a virtual balance which somewhat benefited the emperor's ruling.

Although there was a stated goal of recovering the "lost northern lands", paranoia within the royal family and a constant string of disruptions to the throne caused the loss of support among many officials. Military crises—including the rebellions of the generals Wang Dun and Su Jun, but also lesser fangzhen (方鎮, "military command") revolts—plagued the Eastern Jin throughout its 104 years of existence.

Special "commanderies of immigrants" and "white registers" were created for the massive amounts of Han Chinese from the north who moved to the south during the Eastern Jin dynasty.[5] The southern Chinese aristocracy was formed from the offspring of these migrants.[6] Celestial Masters and the nobility of northern China subdued the nobility of southern China during the Eastern Jin and Western Jin in Jiangnan in particular.[7] Southern China overtook the north in population after the depopulation of the north and the migration of northern Chinese to southern China.[8][9] Different waves of migration of aristocratic Chinese from northern China to the south at different times resulted in distinct groups of lineages.[10]

The Eastern Jin recovered its unity in the face of the 383 invasion by the Former Qin. The short-lived cooperation among Huan Chong (brother of General Huan Wen) and Prime Minister Xie An helped provide a major victory at the Fei River. A large amount of Former Qin territory was then taken or retaken.


Later, Huan Xuan, Huan Wen's son, usurped the throne and founded the dynasty of Huan Chu. He, in turn, was toppled by Liu Yu, who instated Sima Dezong, posthumously known as Emperor An (the "Peaceful Emperor of Jin"). Meanwhile, as civilian administration suffered, there were further revolts led by Sun En and Lu Xun; Western Shu became an independent kingdom under Qiao Zong. Liu Yu had Sima Dezong strangled and replaced by his brother Sima Dewen, posthumously known as Emperor Gong (the "Respectful Emperor of Jin"), in 419. Sima Dewen abdicated in 420 in favor of Liu Yu, who declared himself the ruler of the Song; Sima was asphyxiated with a blanket the following year. In the north, Northern Liang, the last of the Sixteen Kingdoms, was conquered by the Northern Wei in 439, ushering in the Northern dynasties period.

The Xianbei Northern Wei accepted the Jin refugees Sima Fei (司馬) and Sima Chuzhi (司馬楚之). They both married Xianbei princesses. Sima Fei's wife was named Huayang (公主), who was a daughter of Emperor Xiaowen; Sima Chuzhi's son was Sima Jinlong (司馬金龍), who married a Northern Liang princess who was a daughter of Xiongnu King Juqu Mujian.[11] More than fifty percent of Tuoba Xianbei princesses of the Northern Wei were married to southern Han Chinese men from the imperial families and aristocrats from southern China of the Southern dynasties who defected and moved north to join the Northern Wei.[12] Much later, Sima Guang (1019–1086), who served as prime minister to the Song, claimed descent from the Jin dynasty (specifically, Sima Fu, brother of Sima Yi).

Government and demographyEdit

Menfa Politics: Administrative divisions of Eastern Jin dynasty, as of 382 AD

Qiaoren and BaijiEdit

The uprising of the five barbarians led to one in eight northerners migrating to the south. These immigrants were called "qiaoren (僑人, literally the lodged people)", accounting for one sixth of the then people living in the south. Considering most property of these refugees had been lost or exhausted as they arrived, they were privileged to be free from diao (調), a special poll tax that was paid via the silk or cotton cloth in ancient China, and other services. Their registers which were bound in white papers were called baiji (白籍). The ordinary ones which were bound in yellow papers were called huangji (黃籍) in comparison.

When the situation settled down, the preferential treatment not only was a heavy burden for the nation, but also aroused dissatisfaction from the natives. Hence, tu duan was an increasingly important issue for the Eastern Jin.

Lodged administrative divisionsEdit

The Eastern Jin court established the lodged administrative divisions which served as strongholds of the qiaoren. More effective administration for them was a realistic starting point for that. Consisting of three levels: qiaozhou (僑州, the lodged province), qiaojun (僑郡, the lodged commandery), and qiaoxian (僑縣, the lodged county), these lodged administrative divisions were merely nominal without possessing actual domain, or rather, they were local government in exile; what could scarcely be denied was their significance in Jin's legitimacy for the northern territory as somewhat an announcement. Furthermore, it was also an action done to appease the refugees' homesickness, which was evoking their desire to resume what had been lost.

During the rule of Emperor Yuan, Emperor Ming, and Emperor Cheng, the lodged administrative divisions were concentrated in the area south of the Huai River and the Lower Yangtze Plain. At first there was the lodged Langya Commandery within lodged Fei County in Jiankang, but when it began is not exactly known. Then the lodged Huaide County was also established in Jiankang, around 320. According to the Book of Song:

晉永嘉大亂,幽、冀、青、並、兗州及徐州之淮北流民,相率過淮,亦有過江在晉陵郡界者……又徙流民之在淮南者于晉陵諸縣,其徙過江南及留在江北者,並立僑郡縣以司牧之。徐、兗二州或治江北,江北又僑立幽、冀、青、並四州……(After Disaster of Yongjia, the refugees from You, Ji, Qing, Bing, Yan and Xu provinces came across the Huai River, some even came across the Yangtze River and stayed in Jinling Commandery... The lodged administrative divisions were established to govern them. The seats of Xu and Yan provinces perhaps were moved to the area north of the Yangtze River, where the lodged You, Ji, Qing, Bing provinces were established.)[13]

The lodged Pei, Qinghe, Xiapi, Dongguang, Pingchang, Jiyin, Puyang, Guangping, Taishan, Jiyang, and Lu commanderies were established when Emperor Ming ruled. The rebellions and invasions occurring in Jianghuai area led to more refugees switching to settle in the south of the Yangtze River, where the lodged Huainan Commandery was established afterwards.

However, carrying these out was more complex than the policy was formulated. Several actual counties were under the jurisdiction of the lodged commanderies.

A few lodged administrative divisions are still retained in China nowadays. For instance, Dangtu County was originally located in the area of Bengbu, however, the lodged Dangtu County was established in where it is now, and the latter replaced the former, inheriting its place name.

Tu Duan policyEdit

The tu duan (土斷) is the abbreviation for yi tu duan (以土斷, means classifying people according to their present habitation to register). It was a policy to ensure the ancient hukou system working since the Western Jin. These terms were first recorded in the biographies of Wei Guan and Li Chong included in the Book of Jin:



Hence, it was perhaps initially proposed by these two people, but was only seriously implemented during the Eastern Jin and the Southern dynasties.

Society and cultureEdit

Material cultureEdit

Yue ware with motif, 3rd century CE, Western Jin, Zhejiang.

The Jin dynasty is well known for the quality of its greenish celadon porcelain wares, which immediately followed the development of proto-celadon. Jar designs often incorporated animal, as well as Buddhist, figures.[16]

Examples of Yue ware are also known from the Jin dynasty.[17]


Taoism was polarized in the Jin dynasty. The Jin emperors repressed Taoists harshly, but also tried to exploit it, given the way it had been used near the end of the Han era in the poor peasants' revolts. Amidst the political turmoil of the era, many successful merchants, small landowners, and other moderately comfortable people found great solace in Taoist teachings and a number of major clans and military officers also took up the faith. Ge Hong emphasized loyalty to the emperor as a Taoist virtue; he even taught that rebels could never be Taoist immortals,[18] which made Taoism more palatable to the imperial hierarchy. As a result, popular Taoist religions were considered heterodoxy while the official schools of the court were supported, but the popular schools like Tianshi Taoism were still secretly held dear and promulgated amongst ordinary people.

Disunity, disintegration, and chaos also made Buddhism more popular, in part due to the focus on addressing suffering. The Jin dynasty marked a critical era for Mahayana in China. Dharmarakṣa’s 286 translation of the Lotus Sutra was the most important one before Kumārajīva’s 5th-century translation. It was said that there were 1,768 Buddhist temples in the Eastern Jin.[19]

Furthermore, Taoism advanced chemistry and medicine in China, whereas the contribution of Mahayana was concentrated in philosophy and literature.

List of emperors and erasEdit

Posthumous names Family name and given names Durations of reigns Era names and their according range of years
Western Jin dynasty 266–316
Wu Sima Yan 266–290
  • Taishi 266–274
  • Xianning 275–280
  • Taikang 280–289
  • Taixi January 28, 290 – May 17, 290
Hui Sima Zhong 290–307
  • Yongxi May 17, 290 – February 15, 291
  • Yongping February 16 – April 23, 291
  • Yuankang April 24, 291 – February 6, 300
  • Yongkang February 7, 300 – February 3, 301
  • Yongning June 1, 301 – January 4, 303
  • Taian January 5, 303 – February 21, 304
  • Yongan February 22 – August 15, 304; December 25, 304 – February 3, 305
  • Jianwu August 16 – December 24, 304
  • Yongxing February 4, 305 – July 12, 306
  • Guangxi July 13, 306 – February 19, 307
none Sima Lun 301
  • Jianshi February 3 – June 1, 301
Huai Sima Chi 307–311
  • Yongjia 307 – 313
Min Sima Ye 313–316
  • Jianxing 313–316
Eastern Jin dynasty 317–420
Yuan Sima Rui 317–323
  • Jianwu 317–318
  • Taixing 318–322
  • Yongchang 322–323
Ming Sima Shao 323–325
  • Taining 323–326
Cheng Sima Yan 325–342
  • Xianhe 326–335
  • Xiankang 335–342
Kang Sima Yue 342–344
  • Jianyuan 343–344
Mu Sima Dan 344–361
  • Yonghe 345–357
  • Shengping 357–361
Ai Sima Pi 361–365
  • Longhe 362–363
  • Xingning 363–365
none Sima Yi 365–372
  • Taihe 365–372
Jianwen Sima Yu 372
  • Xianan 372–373
Xiaowu Sima Yao 372–396
  • Ningkang 373–375
  • Taiyuan (太元) 376–396
An Sima Dezong 396–419
  • Longan 397–402
  • Yuanxing 402–405
  • Yixi 405–419
Gong Sima Dewen 419–420
  • Yuanxi 419–420

Major eventsEdit

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ a b Taagepera, Rein (1979). "Size and Duration of Empires: Growth-Decline Curves, 600 B.C. to 600 A.D.". Social Science History. 3 (3/4): 128. doi:10.2307/1170959. JSTOR 1170959.
  2. ^ a b Grousset, Rene (1970). The Empire of the Steppes. Rutgers University Press. pp. 56–57. ISBN 978-0-8135-1304-1.
  3. ^ Book of Jin. 帝初鎮江東,威名未著,敦與從弟導等同心翼戴,以隆中興,時人為之語曰:「王與馬,共天下。」
  4. ^ "司马睿".
  5. ^ Gernet (1996), p. 182.
  6. ^ Nicolas Olivier Tackett, The Transformation Of Medieval Chinese Elites (850–1000 C.E.) Archived 4 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine p. 81.
  7. ^ John Lagerwey; Pengzhi Lü (30 October 2009). Early Chinese Religion: The Period of Division (220–589 Ad). BRILL. pp. 831–. ISBN 978-90-04-17585-3.
  8. ^ Historical Atlas of the Classical World, 500 BC--AD 600. Barnes & Noble Books. 2000. p. 2.25. ISBN 978-0-7607-1973-2.
  9. ^ Haywood, John; Jotischky, Andrew; McGlynn, Sean (1998). Historical Atlas of the Medieval World, AD 600-1492. Barnes & Noble. p. 3.21. ISBN 978-0-7607-1976-3.
  10. ^ Hugh R. Clark (2007). Portrait of a Community: Society, Culture, and the Structures of Kinship in the Mulan River Valley (Fujian) from the Late Tang Through the Song. Chinese University Press. pp. 37–38. ISBN 978-962-996-227-2.
  11. ^ China: Dawn of a Golden Age, 200–750 AD, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2004, pp. 18 ff, ISBN 978-1-58839-126-1
  12. ^ Tang, Qiaomei (May 2016). Divorce and the Divorced Woman in Early Medieval China (First through Sixth Century) (PDF) (A dissertation presented by Qiaomei Tang to The Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the subject of East Asian Languages and Civilizations). Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University. pp. 151, 152, 153.
  13. ^ Book of Song, Vol.35.
  14. ^ Book of Jin, Vol. 36.
  15. ^ Book of Jin, Vol. 46.
  16. ^ Shanghai Museum permanent exhibit
  17. ^ Guimet Museum permanent exhibit
  18. ^ Baopuzi, Vol. 3. 欲求仙者,要當以忠孝和順仁信為本。若德行不修,而但務方術,皆不得長生也。
  19. ^ 「東晉偏安一百四載,立寺乃一千七百六十有八,可謂侈盛……」Liu Shiheng (劉世珩,1874–1926) 南朝寺考 quoted from 釋迦氏譜


External linksEdit

Preceded by Jin dynasty
Succeeded by