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Far East Kingdoms



Han Zhao / (Former) Zhao / Northern Han Kingdom (Sixteen Kingdoms China)
AD 304 - ?

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 Han Zhao (or (Former) Zhao as it became in 319) was a Xiongnu dynasty. The use of 'former' was to distinguish it from the (Later) Zhao kingdom which was formed a few decades later.

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).)

304 - 310

Liu Yuan

Xiongnu noble. Founded Han state.


Liu He


310 - 318

Liu Cong



Liu Can

Overthrown by Jin Zhun.


Liu Can is overthrown by his own official, Jin Zhun. The new ruler of Han Zhao initially indicates his acceptance of Sima Rui as Emperor Yuan of the Eastern Jin, but before the emperor can send an army to support him he is swept away by the forces of Liu Yao. Han Zhao is secured against Jin interference.

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)


Jin Zhun

Usurper. Quickly defeated.

318 - 329

Liu Yao

Claimed throne and re-titled dynasty to (Former) Zhao.


General Shi Le declares the formation of the (Later) Zhao kingdom. Having served the Han Zhao kingdom until now he has conquered much territory in the name of that kingdom but has retained it under his own personal control. Now he breaks away and turns his conquered territories into a kingdom in its own right.


Liu Yao is captured by Shi Le of the (Later) Zhao kingdom.


Liu Ze

Crown prince.