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Far East Kingdoms



(Former) Yan Kingdom (Sixteen Kingdoms China)
AD xxx - xxx

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 (Former) Yan territory was located to the north-east of China's contemporary borders. It abutted the Korean kingdom of Koguryo to its east and may have been responsible for introducing Buddhism there, which was formally introduced in AD 372. This was a Xianbei kingdom, which was ruled by the Murong clan.

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), from A History of Korea, Charles Roger Tennant (Routledge, 1996), and from External Link: Kidarites (Encyclopaedia Iranica).)










? - 367

Murong Ke



In a winter campaign Murong Ke attacks the Korean kingdom of Koguryo. Its capital, Hwando, is destroyed during the attack and fifty thousand prisoners are taken to be used as slaves. In addition, the queen and dowager queen are both taken prisoner and the king, Gogugwon, is forced to temporarily flee the city. Buyeo is similarly attacked and ransacked, which increases the flow of Koreans from this northern-most state southwards into Koguryo and the Korean peninsula.


The short-lived Ran Wei kingdom self-destructs under the weight of its own internal conflicts, gifting much of its territory to an opportunistic (Former) Yan. Its recent ally, (Former) Qin, also makes territorial gains as a result of the kingdom's collapse.

367 - ?

Murong Ping

Defeated in battle. Fled, and surrendered to (Former) Qin.


The death of the capable ruler of (Former) Yan and a succession which places the less impressive Murong Ping in charge encourages Fu Jiān to plan the conquest of that kingdom. However, before he can act no less than four of his relatives rebel, requesting aid from (Former) Yan and offering submission. Remarkably, Murong Ping refuses so that Fu Jiān is able to defeat each of the rebellious dukes in turn.


The powerful Jin general, Huan Wen, launches a major campaign against the kingdom of (Former) Yan. His forces reach the capital city of Yecheng but the general hesitates to launch the final attack. (Former) Yan's Prince Murong Chi soon arrives with a relief force from (Former) Qin and defeats the general.

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)


The tactically skilful prime minister of (Former) Qin, Wang Meng, in spring 370 forces the surrender of Luoyang. His subsequent progress through the Hu Pass (in today's Shanxi Province) sees him defeating all (Former) Yan resistance so that he is able to capture Jinyang (in Taiyuan, Shanxi).

Murong Ping leads a numerically superior force of 300,000 men whose morale drops through the floor when he tries to charge them for chopping firewood. When battle is joined the defending force is destroyed, and Murong Ping flees to Yecheng alone. (Former) Yan officially surrenders itself to the conquering Wang Meng, and he is gifted control as viceroy of the captured territories until 372 by his master, Fu Jiān of (Former) Qin.

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