Tufa Shujineng

Tufa Shujineng (died 279) was a Xianbei chieftain who lived during the Three Kingdoms period of China. He led a revolt in Liang Province against the Jin Dynasty (266-420) between 270 and 279. His revolt helped delayed the Jin invasion of Eastern Wu before he was finally killed in battle against the Jin general Ma Long in 279. His great-great-grandnephew, Tufa Wugu, was the founder of the Xianbei Southern Liang state during the Sixteen Kingdoms period.

Tufa Shujineng
Traditional Chinese禿髮樹機能
Simplified Chinese秃发树机能


Tufa Shujineng's grandfather was Tufa Shoutian (禿髮壽闐) and his great-grandfather was Pigu (匹孤). Pigu was the son of the Tuoba Xianbei chieftain Tuoba Jifen (拓跋詰汾) and his brother was Tuoba Liwei. Pigu led his branch of Xianbei to Hexi when Tuoba Liwei succeeded their father as chieftain in 218. There are two theories as to how the Tufa got their name. The first being that the words 'Tufa' (禿髮) and 'Tuoba' (拓拔) were nearly identical to each other, and is used as a derogatory term against Pigu's branch as Tufa meant 'bald hair'.[1] The other being that it was Shoutian who named their clan 'Tufa' after his nickname. It is said that Shoutian was born on a blanket, so his people called him 'Tufa', which is the Xianbei word for 'blanket'.[2] After Tufa Shoutian passed away, he was succeeded by his grandson Tufa Shujineng.

Due to bureaucratic oppression by local Chinese officials, Shujineng rebelled against Jin in 270. The Inspector of Qinzhou, Hu Lie led an attack to quell this revolt but he was defeated and killed at Wanhudui (萬斛堆, located in Gaolan county, Gansu province)[3]. The Prince of Fufeng, Sima Liang, was supposed to send reinforcements through his subordinate Liu Qi (劉旂) to aid Hu Lie but Liu refused to move his troops. Emperor Wu of Jin wanted to punish Liu Qi but Sima Liang defended him and lost his post in the process.

With the removal of Sima Liang, Shi Jian (石鉴) and Tian Zheng (田章) were sent instead by Emperor Wu to put down the uprising. Shi Jian ordered his subordinate, Du Yu, to attack Shujineng. However, Du Yu remonstrated him, stating that the enemy were still riled up from their recent victories, as opposed to the demoralized Jin troops, and that they should wait until the following year to attack. Du Yu's words angered Shi Jian, who had him sent back to the capital as a prisoner. Shi Jian carried out his original plans but he too could not defeat Shujineng.[4]

The next year, the Inspector of Liangzhou, Qian Hong, also tried to defeat Shujineng but Qiang troops within Qian's army, dissatisfied by his poor treatment of them, rebelled and join Shujineng. Qian Hong was killed in battle at Mount Qing (青山, located in Huan county, Gansu province) after the tribal barbarians surrounded his army.[5] Qian Hong's replacement, Su Yu (蘇愉) was also defeated and killed by Shujineng at Mount Jin (金山, located in Shandan county, Gansu province) later that year. Meanwhile, Shujineng's victories inspired revolts by the Xiongnu, led by Liu Meng (劉猛) in Bingzhou. Liu Meng's revolt was short-lived, fortunately for Jin, as he was killed by Hu Fen in 272 after a year it had started.

Shujineng continued to raid northwestern China but his luck came to an end in 275 when he was defeated by the Marshal of Yongzhou and Liangzhou, Sima Jun. Shujineng faced Sima Jun again the following year, this time with Wen Yang under Jun's wing, and he was defeated a second time. Around 200,000 rebels surrendered to Wen Yang. Wen Yang tightened the security in Liangzhou, Qinzhou and Yongzhou by having patrols defend villagers from Shujineng's raids. Faced with repeated defeats, Shujineng negotiated peace with Jin by sending one of his sons to the capital in Luoyang as a hostage in 277.

Peace between Jin and Shujineng did not last, as he revolted again by attacking Liang Province in 279. A junior Jin General by the name of Ma Long volunteered to help defeat Shujineng. During Ma Long's battles with Shujineng, he used tactics that were rather unorthodox for his time. Ma Long implemented what were called 'flat box carts (偏箱車)' which helped protect the troops from the Xianbei arrows as they advanced. It is also said that he placed magnetic stones on the ground to slow down the Xianbei troops, who generally wore iron armor as opposed to the Jin troops wearing rhinoceros hide armor. Regardless of its historicity, Ma Long's campaign saw the end of Shujineng's raids, as the Xianbei chieftain was finally killed in battle by the end of the year.[6] He was replaced with his younger cousin, Tufa Wuwan (禿髮烏孤).


  1. ^ Penglin, Wang (2018). Linguistic Mysteries of Ethnonyms in Inner Asia. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books. pp. Pg. 134. ISBN 1498535283.
  2. ^ (初,壽闐之在孕,母胡掖氏因寢而產於被中,鮮卑謂被為「禿髮」,因而氏焉。) Book of Jin, Volume 126
  3. ^ (六月戊午,秦州刺史胡烈击叛虏于万斛堆,力战,死之。诏遣尚书石鉴行安西将军、都督秦州诸军事,与奋威护军田章讨之。) Book of Jin, Volume 3
  4. ^ (六月,戊午,胡烈讨鲜卑秃发树机能于万斛堆,兵败被杀。都督雍、凉州诸军事扶风王亮遣将军刘旂救之,旂观望不进。亮坐贬为平西将军,旂当斩。亮上言:“节度之咎,由亮而出,乞丐旂死。”诏曰:“若罪不在旂,当有所在。”乃免亮官。遣尚书乐陵石鉴行安西将军,都督秦州诸军事,讨树机能。树机能兵盛,鉴使秦州刺史杜预出兵击之。预以虏乘胜马肥,而官军县乏,宜并力大运刍粮,须春进讨。鉴奏预稽乏军兴,槛车征诣廷尉,以赎论。既而鉴讨树机能,卒不能克。) Zizhi Tongjian, Volumen 79
  5. ^ (泰始七年夏四月,北地胡寇金城,凉州刺史牵弘讨之。群虏内叛,围弘于青山,弘军败,死之。) Book of Jin, Volume 3
  6. ^ (咸宁五年冬,马隆西渡温水,树机能等以众数万据险拒之。隆以山路狭隘,乃作扁箱车,为木屋,施于车上,转战而前,行千馀里,杀伤甚众。自隆之西,音问断绝,朝廷忧之,或谓已没。后隆使夜到,帝抚掌欢笑,诘朝,召群臣谓曰:“若从诸卿言,无凉州矣。”乃诏假隆节,拜宣威将军。隆至武威,鲜卑大人猝跋韩且万能等帅万馀落来降。十二月,隆与树机能大战,斩之,凉州遂平。) Zizhi Tongjian, Volume 80