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Far East Kingdoms



Eastern Wei Kingdom (Northern & Southern Dynasties China)
AD 534 - 550

The 'Northern & Southern Dynasties' period of Chinese history saw the continuance of a chaotic period of internecine warfare. Restored to unity following the bitter, highly destructive wars of the 'Three Kingdoms' period, China almost immediately fractured again at the start of the 'Sixteen Kingdoms' period. Much of the conflict took place in the north, above the line of the Yangtze River, and between various Chinese states and barbarian states. Towards the end of this period it became harder to tell the difference between Chinese and barbarian as the Northern Wei managed to secure control of the entire north. This triggered the start of the 'Northern & Southern Dynasties' period, which saw further warfare and fracturing.

Several regional kingdoms rose and fell, and each fought the other for power and territory. This process continued to permit various barbarian empires also to rise and fall along China's western borders. To the north-west this included the Rouran khaganate, which governed much of Mongolia until the middle of the sixth century AD.

The Northern Wei were also known as the Tuoba Wei, 'tuoba' due to their being drawn from the Tuoba (Tabgach) clan of the Xianbei, whose state of Dai had been conquered by (Former) Qin in 376 when a massacre had been inflicted on a population of Turkified Xianbei, who may have re-emerged soon afterwards as the Göktürks of the Eastern Steppe. Another, much mangled variation of the dynasty name is Juan Vej, 'juan' from Yuan, the Sinicised surname later adopted by the Wei, and 'vej' pronounced 'wey' to stand for 'wei'.

The Eastern Wei are not to be confused with many other usages of the same name in Chinese history, including the Wei who were conquered by the Xia of Bronze Age China around 1766 BC, the Wei state of the 'Warring Sates' era, the Cao Wei dynasty of the 'Three Kingdoms' period, the Eastern Wei and Western Wei which were later divisions of the Northern Wei kingdom, or even the brief eighth century AD Wei dynasty.

Northern & Southern Dynasties / Six Dynasties

(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 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), and from External Links: China between empires: the northern and southern dynasties (Internet Archive), and Zizhi Tongjian: Comprehensive mirror to aid in government (ChinaKnowledge.de).)


Eastern Wei becomes Northern Qi.

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