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Far East Kingdoms



Cheng Han Kingdom (Sixteen Kingdoms China)
AD 306 & 338 - 347

The 'Sixteen Kingdoms' period of Chinese history was the result of internecine feuding very shortly after China had only just been reunified following the bitter, highly destructive wars of the 'Three Kingdoms' period. The division was largely caused by the 'Succession Civil Wars' between 301-307 and the increasing belligerence of two rival kingdoms, both of which claimed the imperial title kingdom from the ruling Western Jin dynasty.

In the face of increasing military conflict the Jin imperial regent became the supreme power in all but name. In 310 that regent, Sima Yue, abandoned both the capital of Luoyang and the emperor, such was his increasingly desperate focus on defending the dynasty from its enemies. However, beset on all sides by stronger enemies he fell ill and died the following year. Luoyang and Emperor Sima Chi were captured by rival Han Zhao forces in the same year. The final Western Jin emperor, Sima Ye, was also captured, in 316, and then executed. Prince Sima Rui inherited the Jin title and ensured the continuity of the dynasty by withdrawing south of the River Huai to survive as the Eastern Jin while Han Zhao governed a large swathe of the north.

The kingdom of Cheng was founded in 306 by Li Xiong (then the Jin governor) on the western central edge of China. The Han kingdom was soon formed by another branch of the same family in 338 in territory that was generally indivisible from that of Cheng in this borderland region. For the most part the two kingdoms are combined by scholars into one, known as Cheng Han. Names shown below are personal names followed by posthumous names (if one exists).

Like the founder of the contemporary (Former) Qin kingdom, Li Xiong was a member of the Di, a Chinese people who were clearly distinct from the dominant Han people of the north. They are not to be confused with the earlier Di nomads of the previous Zhou period. Instead they may have been proto-Tibetans or proto-Turks, the latter exhibiting many differing forms in various groups and tribes during this period of time, notably in the form of the Wusun, Xionites, and proto- Bulgars.

Sixteen Kingdoms

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from The Origin of the Turks and the Turkish Khanate, Gao Yang (Tenth Türk Tarih Kongresi, Ankara 1986), from Türkiye halkının kültür kökenleri: Giriş, beslenme teknikleri, Burhan Oğuz (1976), from The Turks in World History, Carter Vaughin Findley (Oxford University Press 2005), from The Origins of Northern China's Ethnicities, Zhu Xueyuan (Beijing 2004), from Ethnogenesis in the tribal zone: The Shaping of the Turks, Peter Benjamin Golden (2005), from Shiliuguo Chunqiu (Spring and Autumn Annals of the Sixteen Kingdoms), Cui Hong (Sixth Century Compiler, although not all of his work survives), and from External Link: Kidarites (Encyclopaedia Iranica).)

306 - 334

Li Xiong / Wu

Former Jin governor. Founded kingdom of Cheng.


Although his kingdom is officially created in 306, the act of Li Xiong declaring himself to be prince of Cheng in 304 - and therefore no longer under the authority of the Western Jin emperor - is sometimes taken as the kingdom's start date. Li Xiong is generally lenient with his subjects, choosing to follow a generally hands-off policy regarding the minutiae of his kingdom. As the warfare of the 'Sixteen Kingdoms' does not impinge upon Cheng's borders during Li Xiong's lifetime, the state remains at peace and is able to accommodate refugees from the other states.


Li Ban

Nephew. Assassinated.


Despite being Li Xiong's chosen successor, Li Ban is assassinated later in the same year as he accedes. The assassin is Li Yue, a son of Li Xiong, who then places one of his own sons on the throne, the decadent Li Qi.

Map of Sixten Kingdoms China AD 350
By the early fourth century AD China had fractured once again, with the north splintering into the 'Sixteen Kingdoms of the Five Barbarians' and the Jin imperial dynasty having retreated south of the River Huai to retain their claim of imperial superiority in the form of the Eastern Jin (click or tap on map to view full sized)

334 - 338

Li Qi

Grandson of Li Xiong. Oversaw a Cheng decline. Deposed.


Li Qi's indolent rule has brought about a swift decline in the kingdom's standards. He is removed from power by a cousin of his father. That cousin, Li Shou, effectively rebrands the kingdom as Han, although to all intents and purposes it is the same kingdom as before. Li Shou's reign starts effectively enough, with him following the same principles as Li Xiong.

338 - 343

Li Shou / Zhaowen

Cousin. Founded kingdom of Han.

343 - 347

Li Shi

Son. Failed to defend his state and surrendered.


The later years of Li Shou's reign had been harsh and oppressive, weakening the loyalty of the people to the crown. His son is unable to halt the slide. After some years of diplomatically requesting that Cheng Han renounce its independence and return to Jin control, the increasing weakness of the junior kingdom now prompts the launch of a Jin expeditionary force. Cheng Han forces fail to repulse it and the king flees his capital before surrendering. He is created a marquess of the newly-reunified territory, while the Jin enjoy an increase in their territory.

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