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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: October 2019

Chapter 6 - The Sixteen Kingdoms

from Part 1 - History


Following the disintegration of the briefly unified Western Jin dynasty in the early fourth century, the subsequent Sixteen Kingdoms era in north China became one of the most complicated periods in all of Chinese history. One hundred and thirty-six years elapsed between the establishment of the first “Sixteen Kingdoms” regime in 304 and the next reunification of the North in 439 by the Northern Wei dynasty (386–534). During that period, there were actually as many as twenty-two significant states in northern China (rather than literally sixteen), ranging from true empires (that is, relatively large multiethnic military-conquest polities ruled by monarchs bearing the Chinese title huangdi or “emperor”) to territories administered independently by so-called “governors” who maintained a pretense of loyalty to the still theoretically legitimate Jin dynasty.