jin dynasty (265–420)

The Jìn Dynasty (simplified Chinese: 晋朝; traditional Chinese: 晉朝; pinyin: Jìn Cháo; Wade–Giles: Chin⁴-ch'ao²,). 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.

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.

Sovereigns of jin dynasty

Posthumous names

Family name and given names

Durations of reigns

Era namesand their according range of years

Western Jìn Dynasty265–316

Wu Di

Sima Yan


Taishi 266–274
Xianning 275–280
Taikang 280–289
Taixi January 28, 290 – May 17, 290

Hui Di

Sima Zhong


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


Sima Lun


Jianshi February 3 – June 1, 301

Huai Di

Sima Chi


Yongjia 307–313

Min Di

Sima Ye


Jianxing 313–317

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