jin dynasty (1115–1234)

The Jīn Dynasty (Jurchen: Anchun Gurun; Chinese: 金朝; pinyin: Jīn Cháo; Wade–Giles: Chin Dynasty); Manchu: Aisin Gurun; Khitan language: Nik, Niku; Mongolian: Altan Ulus; 1115–1234), also known as the Jurchen dynasty or Jurched Dynasty, was founded by the Wanyan (完顏 Wányán) clan of the Jurchens, the ancestors of the Manchus who established the qing dynasty some 500 years later. The name is sometimes written as Jinn to differentiate it from an earlier Jìn Dynasty of China whose name is identically spelled using the Latin alphabet.


The jin dynasty was founded in what would become northern Manchuria by the Jurchen tribal chieftain Wanyan Aguda (完顏阿骨打) in 1115. The Jurchens' early rival was the Liao Dynasty, which had held sway over northern China, including Manchuria and part of the Mongol region for several centuries. In 1121, the Jurchens entered into the Alliance on the Sea with the song dynasty and agreed to jointly invade the Liao. While the Song armies faltered, the Jurchens succeeded in driving the Liao to Central Asia.

In 1125, after the death of Aguda, the Jin broke the alliance with the Song and invaded North China. On January 9, 1127, Jin forces ransacked Kaifeng, capital of the northern song dynasty , capturing both Emperor Qinzong, and his father, Emperor Huizong, who had abdicated in panic in the face of Jin forces. Following the fall of Kaifeng, Song forces under the leadership of the succeeding liu song continued to fight for over a decade with Jin forces, eventually signing the Treaty of Shaoxing in 1141, calling for the cession of all Song land north of the Huai River to the Jin and the execution of Song General Yue Fei in return for peace.

The migration south

After taking over Northern China, the jin dynasty became increasingly Sinicized. About three million people, half of them Jurchens, migrated south into northern China over two decades, and this minority governed about thirty million people. The Jurchens were given land grants and organized society into 1,000 households - meng'an) and 100 households - mouke). Many married Hans, although the ban on Jurchen nobles marrying Hans was not lifted until 1191. After Jin Emperor Tàizōng died in 1135, the next three Jin emperors were grandsons of Wányán Āgǔdǎ by three different princes. Young Jin Emperor Xīzōng (r. 1135–1149) studied the classics and wrote Chinese poetry. He adopted Han cultural traditions, but the Jurchen nobles had the top positions.

Later in life, Emperor Xīzōng became an alcoholic and executed many officials for criticizing him. He also had Jurchen leaders who opposed him murdered, even those in his own Wanyan family clan. In 1149 he was murdered by a cabal of relatives and nobles, who made his cousin Wányán Liàng the next Jin emperor. Because of the brutality of both his domestic and foreign policy, Wanyan Liang was posthumously demoted from the position of emperor. Consequently, historians have commonly referred to him by the posthumous name of King Hǎilíng.

Rebellions in the north

Having usurped the throne, Wanyan Liang embarked on the program of legitimizing his rule as an emperor of China. In 1153, he moved the empire's main capital from Huining Fu in northern Manchuria (south of present-day Harbin) to the former Liao capital, Yanjing (now Beijing ). Four years later, in 1157, to emphasize the permanence of the move, he razed the nobles' residences in Huining. Hǎilíng also reconstructed the former Song capital, Bianjing (now Kaifeng), which had been sacked in 1127, making it the Jin's southern capital.

Prince Hǎilíng also tried to suppress dissent by killing Jurchen nobles, executing 155 princes.

To fulfill his dream of becoming the ruler of all China, Prince Hǎilíng attacked the southern song dynasty in 1161. Meanwhile, two simultaneous rebellions erupted in Manchuria: one of Jurchen nobles, led by Hǎilíng's cousin, soon-to-be crowned Wányán Yōng (完顏雍), and the other of Khitan tribesmen. Hǎilíng had to withdraw Jin troops from southern China to quell the uprisings. The Jin were defeated in the Battle of Caishi and Battle of Tangdao. With a depleted military force, Prince Hǎilíng failed to make headway in his attempted invasion of the southern song dynasty . Finally he was assassinated by his own generals in December of 1161, due to his defeats. His son and heir was also assassinated in the capital.

Although crowned in October, Wányán Yōng was not officially recognized as Jin Emperor Shìzōng (世宗) until the murder of Prince Hǎilíng's heir. The Khitan uprising was not suppressed until 1164; their horses were confiscated so that the rebels had to take up farming. Other Khitan and Xi cavalry units had been incorporated into the Jin army. Because these internal uprisings had severely weakened the Jin's capacity to confront the southern song dynasty militarily, the Jin court under Emperor Shizong began negotiating for peace. The Treaty of Lóngxīng (隆興和議) was signed in 1164 and ushered over 40 years of peace between the two empires.

In the early 1180s Emperor Shìzōng instituted a restructuring of 200 meng'an units to remove tax abuses and help Jurchens. Communal farming was encouraged. The Jin empire prospered and had a large surplus of grain in reserve. Although learned in Chinese classics, Shizong was also known as a promoter of Jurchen language and culture; during his reign, a number of Chinese classics were translated into Jurchen, the Imperial Jurchen Academy was founded, and the Imperial examinations started to be offered in the Jurchen language. Shizong's reign (1161–1189) was remembered by the posterity as the time of comparative peace and prosperity, and the emperor himself was compared to the legendary Yao and Shun

Shìzōng's grandson, Emperor Zhāngzōng (章宗) (r. 1189–1208) venerated Jurchen values, but he also immersed himself in Chinese culture and married an ethnic Han woman. The Taihe Code of law was promulgated in 1201 and was based mostly on the Tang Code. In 1207 the Song tried to invade, but the Jin forces effectively repulsed them. In the peace agreement the Song had to pay higher annual indemnities and behead Hán Tūozhòu (韩侂胄), the leader of their war party.

Fall of Jin

Starting from the early 13th century the jin dynasty began to feel the pressure of Mongols from the north. Genghis Khan first led the Mongols into western xia territory in 1205 and ravaged them four years later. In 1211 about 50,000 Mongols on horses invaded the Jin Empire and began absorbing Khitan and Jurchen rebels. The Jin army had a half million men with 150,000 cavalry but abandoned the "western capital" Datong (see also Badger's Mount Campaign). The next year the Mongols went north and looted the Jin "eastern capital", and in 1213 they besieged the "central capital", Zhongdu (Beijing). In 1214 the Jin made a humiliating treaty but retained the capital.

That summer, Jin Emperor Xuānzōng (宣宗) abandoned the central capital and moved the government to the "southern capital" of Kaifeng, making it the official seat of jin dynasty power. In 1216 a war faction persuaded Xuānzōng to attack the Song, but in 1219 they were defeated at the same place by the Yangtze River, where Prince Hǎilíng had been defeated in 1161.

The Jin now faced a two front war which they could not afford. Furthermore, the Jin Emperor Āizōng (哀宗) won a succession struggle against his brother and then quickly ended the war and went back to the capital. He made peace with the Tanguts, who had been allied with the Mongols. Genghis Khan died in 1227 while his armies were conquering the Western xia dynasty. His son Ögedei Khan invaded the Jin Empire in 1232 with assistance from the southern song dynasty .

The Jurchens tried to resist; but when Kaifeng was attacked, Āizōng fled south. An allied army of Song and Mongols looted the capital in 1233, and the next year Āizōng committed suicide to avoid being captured, ending the jin dynasty in 1234. The territory of the Jin was to be divided between the Mongols and the Song. However, due to lingering territorial disputes, the Song and the Mongols eventually went to war with one another over these territories.

In Empire of The Steppes, René Grousset reports that the Mongols were always amazed at the valor of the Jin warriors, who held out until seven years after the death of Genghis Khan.

The Jin military

Contemporary Chinese writers ascribed Jurchen success in overwhelming the Liao and northern song dynasty mainly to their cavalry. Already during Aguda's rebellion against the Liao, all Jurchen fighters were mounted. It was said that the Jurchen cavalry tactics were a carryover from their hunting skills. Jurchen horsemen were provided with heavy armor; on occasions, they would use a team of horses attached to each other with chains (拐子马, guaizi ma)

As the Liao Empire fell apart and the Song retreated beyond the Yangtze, the army of the new jin dynasty absorbed many soldiers who formerly fought for the Liao or Song. The new Jin empire adopted many of the Song's weapons, including various machines for siege warfare and artillery. In fact, the Jin use of cannons, grenades, and even rockets to defend besieged Kaifeng against the Mongols in 1233 is considered the first ever battle in human history in which gunpowder was used effectively, even though it failed to prevent the eventual Jin defeat.

On the other hand, Jin Empire was not particularly good at naval warfare. Both in 1129–30 and in 1161 Jin forces were defeated by the southern song dynasty navies when trying to cross the Yangtze River into the core southern song dynasty territory (see Battle of Tangdao and Battle of Caishi), even though for the latter campaign the Jin had equipped a large navy of their own, using Chinese shipbuildiers and even Chinese captains who had defected from the southern song dynasty .

In 1130 the Jin army reached Hangzhou and Ningbo in southern China. But heavy Chinese resistance and the geography of the area halted the Jin advance, and they were forced retreat and withdraw, and they had not been able to escape the Song navy when trying to return until they were directed by a Chinese defector who helped them escape in Chenkiang. Southern China was then cleared of the Jurchen forces.


Rise of the Manchus

After thirty years of struggle, the Jurchen chief Nurhaci (努爾哈赤) combined the three Jurchen tribes and founded the Later jin dynasty (1616–1636). Nurhaci's eighth son and heir, Huáng Tàijí (皇太極), later changed the name of his people from Jurchen to Manchu in 1635. The next year, he changed the name of the Later Jin to Qing in 1636.


A caste of "degraded" outcasts said to be descended from the jin dynasty existed in Ningbo city during the qing dynasty, around 3,000 people in a class called "to min". Samuel Wells Williams gave an account of them in his book "The Middle kingdom: a survey of the . . . Chinese empire and its inhabitants": "There are local prejudices against associating with some portions of the community, though the people thus shut out are not remnants of old castes.

The tankia, or boat-people, at Canton form a class in some respects beneath the other portions of the community, and have many customs peculiar to themselves. At Ningpo there is a degraded set called to min, amounting to nearly three thousand persons, with whom the people will not associate. The men are not allowed to enter the examinations or follow an honorable calling, but are play-actors, musicians, or sedan-bearers; the women are match-makers or female barbers and are obliged to wear a peculiar dress, and usually go abroad carrying a bundle wrapped in a checkered handkerchief.

The tankia at Canton also wear a similar handkerchief on their head, and do not cramp their feet. The to min are supposed to be descendants of the Kin, who held northern China in AD 1100, or of native traitors who aided the Japanese, in 1555–1563, in their descent upon Chehkiang. The tankia came from some of the Miaotsz' tribes so early that their origin is unknown. "

List of jin dynasty Emperors

Temple Name
Miao Hao

Posthumous Name
Shi Hao

Birth Name


Years of

Era Name
Nian Hao
and Years

Convention: "Jin" + temple name or posthumous name


Quite long and thus
not used when referring
to this sovereign.

Wányán Āgǔdǎ
Wányán Min


Shōuguó (收國, 1115–1116) 

Tiānfǔ (天輔, 1117–1123)


Quite long and thus
not used when referring
to this sovereign.

Wányán Wúqǐmǎi
Wányán Shèng


Tiānhuì (天會, 1123–1135)


Quite long and thus
not used when referring
to this sovereign.

Wányán Hélá
Wányán Dǎn


Tiānhuì (天會, 1135–1138) 

Tiānjuàn (天眷, 1138–1141) 

Huángtǒng (皇統, 1141–1149)



Wányán Dígǔnǎi
Wányán Liàng


Tiāndé (天德, 1149–1153) 

Zhènyuán (貞元, 1153–1156) 

Zhènglóng (正隆, 1156–1161)


Quite long and thus
not used when referring
to this sovereign.

Wányán Wūlù
Wányán Yōng


Dàdìng (大定, 1161–1189)


Quite long and thus
not used when referring
to this sovereign.

Wányán Jǐng


Míngchāng (明昌, 1190–1196) 

Chéng'ān (承安, 1196–1200) 

Tàihé (泰和, 1200–1208)



Wányán Yǒngjì


Dà'ān 大安 1209-1212

Chóngqìng 崇慶 1212-1213

Zhìníng 至寧 1213


Quite long and thus
not used when referring
to this sovereign.

Wányán Xún


Zhēnyòu 貞祐 1213-1217

Xīngdìng 興定 1217-1222



Quite long and thus
not used when referring
to this sovereign.

Wányán Shǒuxù


Zhèngdà 正大 1224-1232

Kāixīng 開興 1232

Tiānxīng 天興 1232-1234



Wányán Chénglín



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