Jin Dynasty (265–420)

The Jìn Dynasty (simplified Chinese: 晋朝; traditional Chinese: 晉朝; pinyin: Jìn Cháo;), was a dynasty in Chinese history, lasting between the years 265 and 420 CE. There are two main divisions in the history of the Dynasty, the first being western jin dynasty (ch: 西晉, 265–316) and the second eastern jin dynasty (ch: 東晉 317–420). western jin dynasty was founded by Sima Yan, with its capital at Luoyang, while eastern jin dynasty was begun by Sima Rui, with its capital at Jiankang.

The two periods are also known as Liang Jin (ch: 兩晉 lit, two Jin) and Sima Jin by scholars, to distinguish this dynasty from other dynasties that use the same Chinese character, such as the Later jin dynasty (ch: 後晉).


The Sima clan was initially subordinate to the Wei dynasty, but the clan's influence and power grew greatly after the incident at Gaoping tombs in 249. In 265, Sima Yan forced emperor Cao Huan of Wei to abdicate the throne to him, ending Wei and starting Jin (as Emperor Wu).

He named his dynasty after the state of Jin of the spring and autumn period that once ruled the Sima clan's home county of Wen in Henei (present day Wen County, Henan ). In 280, the Jin conquered Eastern Wu and unified China, but internal conflicts, corruption, and political turmoil quickly weakened the dynasty, and the unification lasted only ten years.

Upon the advent of the second Jin emperor, Emperor Hui, various imperial princes tried to grab power in the devastating War of the Eight Princes. The wu hu uprising followed, during which large numbers of refugees fled south while the north was occupied by various nomadic groups. This marked the end of the western jin dynasty in 316 when the Jin court evacuated to the region south of the Huai River, and the beginning of the eastern jin dynasty and the sixteen kingdoms period.

Sima Rui founded the eastern jin dynasty at Jiankang in 317, with its territory stretching across most of today's southern China. The combination of the eastern jin dynasty and sixteen kingdoms period is sometimes called the eastern jin dynasty sixteen kingdoms (ch: 東晉十六國).

During this period, huge numbers of people moved south from the central plain, stimulating the development of Southern China. The Emperors of eastern jin dynasty had limited power, with most of it concentrated in the royal family's hands, whilst military power was mostly wielded by non-royals. Many fangzhen (ch:方鎮 lit. military county) started to have ambitions which resulted in military revolts, like the rebellions of Wang Dun, Su Jun, and the dictatorship of Huan Wen.

Even though there was the stated goal of getting back the "northern lost lands", paranoia within the royal family and a constant string of disruptions to the throne caused the loss of support of many officials. In 383, Former Qin mobilized its troops and intended to conquer eastern jin dynasty. Faced by the threat of invasion, many Jin officials cooperated hoping to repel the attack. After the battle of Fei river, Xie An, Xie Xuan, and other generals were able to push back the Qin's assault and seized back a huge amount of territory from their enemy.

However, more internal political battles from different groups of officials followed Huan Xuan's usurpation of the throne. As civilian administration suffered, more revolts from Sun En, Lu Xun, and the declaration of a new kingdom called Western Shu by the militarist Qiao zong in eastern jin dynasty's Shu region. Ultimately, Liu Yu's rise ended major chaos and later he took the throne for himself, marking the ending of the jin dynasty and the start of the liu song dynasty, and the southern and northern dynasties period of Chinese history.


The Western Jìn Dynasty (ch: 西晉, 265–316) was founded by Emperor Wu, better known as Sima Yan. Although it provided a brief period of unity after conquering Eastern Wu in 280, the Jìn suffered a devastating civil war, War of the Eight Princes, after which they could not contain the revolt of nomadic tribes known as the Wu Hu. The capital, Luoyang was captured in 311, and Emperor Huai was captured. His successor, Emperor Min was also captured in Chang'an in 316.

The remnants of the Jìn court fled to the east and reestablished the government at Jiankang, near modern-day Nanjing, under a member of the royal family named the Prince of Langye. The prince was proclaimed Emperor Yuan of the Eastern Jìn Dynasty (ch: 東晉 317–420) when news of the fall of Chang'an reached the south. (The rival Wu Hu states in the north, which did not recognize the legitimacy of Jin, would sometimes refer to it as "Langye. ")

Military crises, such as the rebellions of generals Wang Dun and Su Jun, plagued the Eastern Jìn throughout its 104 years of existence. However, the Battle of Fei River turned out to be a major Jìn victory, due to the short-lived cooperation of Huan Chong, brother of a great general Huan Wen, and Prime Minister Xie An. Later, Huan Xuan, son of Huan Wen, usurped the throne and changed the dynasty's name to Chu. He, in turn, was toppled by Liu Yu, who after reinstating Emperor An, ordered him strangled and installed his brother, Emperor Gong, in 419.

Emperor Gong abdicated in 420 in favor of Liu Yu, ushering in the liu song dynasty the first of the Southern Dynasties. The jin dynasty thus came to an end.

Meanwhile, North China was ruled by the sixteen kingdoms, many of which were founded by the Wu Hu. The last of these, Northern Liang, was conquered by the northern wei Dynasty in 439, ushering in the Northern Dynasties period.

Rise of the Jin


The jin dynasty was founded by the Sima family, a prominent family within cao wei, the most powerful of China's three kingdoms. They effectively controlled cao wei's military forces after 250, becoming the real rulers of the state. In 265 CE, the last Wei emperor abdicated and gave up his throne to Sima Yan, who became the first Jin emperor.

Conquest of Wu

As Emperor Wu of Jin, Sima Yan immediately focused on conquering the last of the three kingdoms, Wu, which controlled southeastern China. In 280 CE, 200,000 Jin troops in six columns, travelling by river and land, invaded Wu from both Sichuan and the North. They quickly broke through all resistance, including an attempt by Wu's chancellor Zhang Di to stop them with 30,000 troops. Very soon, Jin forces were besieging the Wu capital, Nanjing, which had only 20,000 defenders. Realizing he was doomed, the Wu ruler surrendered to Jin, and China was reunified.

Prosperity of the Taikang Era

During the rule of Emperor Wu, China entered an era of prosperity. The Jin encouraged recovery by lowering taxes and subsidizing the construction of dikes and other works to benefit agriculture. The reunification of China also spurred on trade to help stimulate the economy.

This prosperity was reflected in the growing luxury of the emperor. One official reportedly entertained Emperor Wu with pork that had been fed on human milk, while another spent over 20,000 strings of cash each day on food alone. This decadence was criticized by other Jin officials, who also worried about increasing barbarian migration into China.

Fall of the western jin dynasty

War of the Eight Princes

Emperor Wu believed that Wei's fall had been caused by the royal family losing power and support. To prevent this in his own dynasty, he appointed many of his brothers and sons as "kings" of individual provinces, in effect creating a series of powerful regional governments alongside the central government.

Consequently, following Emperor Wu's death, control of his weak heir Emperor Hui of Jin was fought over by the regional princes in the devastating War of the Eight Princes (301-305 CE), severely weakening the jin dynasty.

wu hu uprising

Following the War of the Eight Princes, the barbarian tribes in north China, under the collective Wu Hu, saw an opportunity to take advantage of the chaos in China. Their forces, under Liu Yuan, revolted against the jin dynasty in 304 CE. Although Jin forces fought hard to contain wu hu uprising, they suffered a major defeat in 310 CE that wiped out an army of over 100,000 troops, and afterwards could not hold north China. In 311 CE, the Wu Hu sacked the Jin capital, Luoyang, killing over 30,000 people, and Jin's secondary capital, Chang'an, was also captured in 316 CE.

The Middle Jin (316-383)

Internal crisis

The remaining followers of the jin dynasty retreated south and formed the eastern jin dynasty, whose control was limited to South China. Throughout this period, the Jin court was severely weakened, allowing the eastern jin dynasty to be dominated by strong generals such as Wang Bo and Huan Wen.

Huan Wen's expeditions

Huan Wen, who effectively controlled the Jin state from 346 CE to 373 CE, launched a series of expeditions against the Wu Hu, in an attempt to strengthen both the Jin and his own prestige. However, most of these expeditions failed due to lack of supplies and the Jin court's suspicion of Huan Wen.

The Late Jin (383-420)

Battle of Fei River

By 376 CE, the North had been reunified under the state of Former Qin, putting Jin in grave danger. In 383 CE, Fu Jian, ruler of Former Qin, invaded Jin with 300,000 troops, against which the Jin could only deploy 80,000 troops. However, the Chinese troops were well-trained and equipped, while the Qin army was made up mostly of conscripts. In the Battle of Fei River, the Qin army was routed by the Jin army.

After this victory, Chancellor Xie An, taking advantage of Former Qin's collapse, reclaimed much of the territory north of the Huai River for Jin. However, a rebellion by Huan Wen's son Huan Xun distracted the Jin, who were unable to defeat it until the rise of Liu Yu.

Liu Yu's expeditions

Usually regarded as the best general of the southern and northern dynasties, Liu Yu defeated and killed Huan Xun in 406 CE. He then launched a series of expeditions against Former Qin, Xia, Southern Yan, and northern wei, all of which succeeded with the exception of Xia. These victories allowed the Chinese to retake the heartland of China and fixed their northern border at the Yellow River. Following these victories, Liu Yu's prestige rose, to the point where he usurped the Jin throne in 420 CE, ending the dynasty. Under the rule of him and his son, China would enter a brief golden age, lasting until the Xianbei again conquered north China during the rule of Emperor Ming of Liu Song.

Jin ceramics

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.

List of emperors of the Eastern Jìn Dynasty

Posthumous names

Family name and given names

Durations of reigns

Era namesand their according range of years

Eastern Jìn Dynasty 317–420

Yuan Di

Sima Rui


Jianwu 317–318
Taixing 318–322
Yongchang 322–323

Ming Di

Sima Shao


Taining 323–326

Cheng Di

Sima Yan


Xianhe 326–335
Xiankang 335–342

Kang Di

Sima Yue


Jianyuan 343–344

Mu Di

Sima Dan


Yonghe 345–357
Shengping 357–361

Ai Di

Sima Pi


Longhe 362–363
Xingning 363–365

Fei Di

Sima Yi


Taihe 365–372

Jianwen Di

Sima Yu


Xianan 372–373

Xiaowu Di

Sima Yao


Ningkang 373–375
Taiyuan 376–396

An Di

Sima Dezong


Longan 397–402
Yuanxing 402–405
Yixi 405–419

Gong Di

Sima Dewen


Yuanxi 419–420

Site Search


Random Articals


Join Our Newsletter



Send This Page to Friend

To Email this page to a friend

1. Use Your Default Email Client
2. Use Our Recommend Page

Online Contact



+ 86 158 00 323 707

+ 86 158 00 323 707


Go back to the previous page

Missing / Incorrect

If you like this article please feel free to share it to your favorite site listed below:

Choose A Style:

Font Family


Courier New

Sans MS

New Roman



Font Colors
black blue green purple red white
Font Size
Site Options Help | Admin Login
control panel