History of the Southern and Northern Dynasties of China

Oct 2018
137
China
#1
Preceded by the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317-420) and followed by the Sui Dynasty (58-618), the Southern and Northern Dynasties lasted from 420 to 589, which was a time of turmoil and war, but it was also a time of prosperity for art, culture, religion and technology in the history of China.
The Southern Dynasties (420-589) refer to the Liu Song Dynasty (420-479), the Southern Qi Dynasty (479-502), the Liang Dynasty (502-557) and the Chen Dynasty (557-589); the Northern Dynasties (386-581) include the North Wei (386-557), the East Wei (534-550), the West Wei (535-556), the North Qi (550-577) and the North Zhou (557-581) dynasties.
 
Oct 2018
137
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#2
Although there were unceasing social disorders, frequent changes of dynasties and unexpected natural disasters, the Southern Dynasties (420-589) and the Northern Dynasties (386-581) remained in stalemate for over 100 years, and the historians called this period the Southern and Northern Dynasties (420-589).
The Southern Dynasties (420-589)
China was divided into South China and North China in 304, which confronted each other. Four dynasties stepped onto the historical stage successively in North China — the Liu Song Dynasty (420-479), the Southern Qi Dynasty (479-502), the Liang Dynasty (502-557) and the Chen Dynasty (557-589) — which were known as the Southern Dynasties (420-589) in Chinese history.
All of the four dynasties had their capitals in Jiangkang (presently Nanjing of Jiangsu Province), except that Emperor Yuan of the Liang Dynasty (502-557) had his capital at Jiangliang (presently Jiangling of Hubei Province) for three years.
 
Oct 2018
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#3
The Southern Dynasties (420-589) was a changing period for the nobilities from prosperity to decline. Though the nobilities still enjoyed a very high social status in the Southern Dynasties (420-589), they couldn't completely control the political situation owing to the increasingly strengthened imperial power.
With the areas to the south of the Yangtze River becoming further developed, more and more Han people from the lower class stepped into the bureaucratic ranks and received the pleasure of the emperors during the Southern Dynasties (420-589).
 
Oct 2018
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China
#4
Liu Song
As the longest dynasty among the Southern Dynasties (420-589), the Liu Song Dynasty (420-479) was founded by Liu Yu, a general of the Northern Garrison Army of the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317-420), who came into power through suppressing Huan Xuan's rebellion in 404. He didn't even hesitate to lead two northern expeditions against North China just to gain prestige, during which he seized the territories of Henan, Shandong and Guanzhong (the lower valley of the Wei River).
By killing Emperor An (Sima Dezong) and deposing Emperor Gong (Sima Dewen) of the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317-420), Liu Yu crowned himself Emperor Wu of the Liu Song Dynasty (420-479) on July 10th of 420, thus ending the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317-420) and establishing the Southern Dynasties (420-589). Tuoba Gui of the North Wei Dynasty (386-557) unified North China in 440, since the confrontation between North China and South China had begun.
Emperor Wu was very frugal after ascending the throne, but he was not interested in royal education and trusted unworthy men, leading to a great disaster in his court. After realizing the imperial power was threatened by the nobilities, Emperor Wu started to promote humble clan landlords to higher official positions and gave military power to his kinsmen. Owing to his kinsmen often plotting to overthrow him, Emperor Wu was so terrified that he frequently had them killed.
Emperor Wu abdicated the throne in favor of his son, Liu Song (later Emperor Shao), who was deposed and later killed by his men, Xu Xianzhi and Fu Liang, owing to his immoral behavior. The courtiers set up Liu Yilong (another son of Emperor Wu) as Emperor Wen of the Liu Song Dynasty (420-479).
 
Oct 2018
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#5
Emperor Wen later had Xu Xianzhi and Fu Liang killed with the help of General Tan Daoji (a general of the Northern Garrison Army), and during his reign the political situation was rather stable owing to his cleansing of political corruption and advocating frugality; this period was known as the Yuanjia Administration in the history of China.
Emperor Wen had launched several northern expeditions against the North Wei Dynasty (386-557) since 430, ending up with failure each time owing to insufficient preparations and inadequate commands, which had greatly weakened his kingdom. On the contrary, the North Wei Dynasty (386-557) crusaded against the Liu Song Dynasty (420-479) and conquered the Yangtze River area in 445, following which the Liu Song Dynasty (420-479) remained in a weakened state.
Emperor Wen was murdered by the crown prince, Liu Shao, in 453. The third son of Emperor Wen, Liu Jun, killed Liu Shao, crowning himself as Emperor Xiaowu of the Liu Song Dynasty (420-479), but he was very licentious and cruel and even raped his own niece, leading to his kinsmen's rebellion, and he slaughtered them all in Guangling (presently Yangzhou of Jiangsu Province).
After the death of Emperor Xiaowu, Liu Ziye (later Emperor Qianfei of the Liu Song Dynasty) ascended the throne, ordering his own kinsmen to be killed which eventually resulted in his assassination by Liu Yu. After usurping the throne, Liu Yu crowned himself as Emperor Ming of the Liu Song Dynasty (420-479) and killed all the descendants of Emperor Xiaowu.
 
Oct 2018
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#6
As the son of Emperor Ming, Liu Yu (later Emperor Houfei of the Liu Song Dynasty) ascended the throne and the military power fell into the hands of Xiao Daocheng. By deposing Emperor Houfei and setting up Liu Huai (the third son of Emperor Ming) as a puppet emperor, Xiao Daocheng arrogated all powers to himself.
After crushing his political opponents, Yuan Can and Shen Youzhi, Xiao Daocheng deposed Liu Huai and crowned himself Emperor Gao of the Southern Qi Dynasty (479-502), symbolizing the demise of the Liu Song Dynasty (420-479).
Southern Qi
The Southern Qi Dynasty (479-502) was established by Xiao Daocheng (later Emperor Gao) in 479, who was from the Xiao family of Lanling (presently Cangshan County, Shandong), and he was disdained by the nobilities owing to his previously lower social standing.
Like the founding father of the Liu Song Dynasty (420-479), Emperor Gao remained very frugal during his reign. He died after ruling for four years and was succeeded by his eldest son, Xiao Ze (later Emperor Wu of the Southern Qi Dynasty). Xiao Ze made a peace treaty with the North Wei Dynasty (386-557) and maintained security in his territory, and this peaceful period was known as the Yongming Administration in the history of China.
 
Oct 2018
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#7
Emperor Wu was succeeded by his grandson, Xiao Zhaoye, who was assisted by Xiao Luan in conducting state affairs. Xiao Luan usurped the throne by killing Xiao Zhaoye and Xiao Zhaowen (brother of Xiao Zhaoye), crowning himself Emperor Ming of the Southern Qi Dynasty (479-502), who also used government secretaries to monitor his kinsmen and had all the descendants of Emperors Gao and Wu killed.
Xiao Baojuan became emperor after the death of Emperor Ming, and he was so cruel and tyrannical that he even had his assisting ministers killed, sparking rebellions across his kingdom. Just as the saying goes, "when all birds are shot, the bow will be set aside; when all hares are killed, the hounds will be stewed and eaten”, Xiao Baojuan killed his meritorious general, Xiao Yi, after putting down a rebellion. Xiao Yan, brother of Xiao Yi, rose in revolt against Xiao Baojuan to avenge his brother in 501.
After Xiao Yan's conquering of Jiankang (presently Nanjing of Jiangsu Province), Xiao Baojuan was murdered by his general, Wang Zhenguo. Xiao Yan usurped the throne and crowned himself as Emperor Wu of the Liang Dynasty (502-557) in 502, thus ending the Southern Qi Dynasty (479-502).
 
Oct 2018
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#8
Liang Dynasty
The Liang Dynasty (502-557) was established by Xiao Yan (Emperor Wu) in 502, and he was economical, diligent in government affairs and cared for the common people, which enabled his military strength to surpass that of the North Wei Dynasty (386-557) during his reign. Unlike the emperors of the Southern Qi Dynasty (479-502), Emperor Wu of the Liang Dynasty (502-557) was very lenient to his kinsmen.
As a very learned emperor, Emperor Wu advocated cultural exchanges among scholars, who greatly promoted the cultural prosperity of the Liang Dynasty (502-557), but he lent a willing ear to flattery and praise from treacherous court officials during his later years. He even tried to become a monk in Tongtai Temple three times owing to his obsession with Buddhism, but he was persuaded to return to his kingdom each time by abbots, and he donated a large sum of money to the temple.
During Emperor Wu's reign, nearly half of the population became monks in respect of the fact that the Buddhists and Taoists were exempt from taxes according to laws, which caused great damage to the Liang Dynasty (502-557).
The Liang Dynasty (502-557) was at war with the North Wei Dynasty (386-557) near the southern part of Huai River and won it in 503, and the former also defeated the latter in the battle of Shouyang in 516. Emperor Wu was willing to accept the surrendered generals from the North Wei Dynasty (386-557) in order to reap where he had not sowed.
As the North Wei Dynasty (386-557) was rent into the West Wei Dynasty (535-556) and the East Wei Dynasty (534-550), Emperor Wu gave shelter to Hou Jing (the rebellious East Wei general) and sent him to crusade against the East Wei Dynasty (534-550).
 
Oct 2018
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China
#9
After the Liang army led by Hou Jing was defeated, Emperor Wu was to sacrifice Hou Jing as a peace offering. Hearing the news, Hou Jing rose in revolt against Emperor Wu and conquered Jiankang (presently Nanjing), and Emperor Wu fled to Taicheng.
Hou Jing ordered the slaughter of the nobilities after capturing Jiankang, dealing a crushing blow to the Liang Dynasty (502-557), and it turned out that Emperor Wu was starved to death. Hou Jing made Xiao Gang (the eldest son of Emperor Wu) a puppet emperor and took his place later, and he even established the Han State. Later, Chen Baxian, the governor of Guangzhou, collaborated with Wang Sengbian, a general under the command of Xiao Yi (governor of Jiangling), to crusade against Hou Jing and had him killed.
Xiao Yi succeeded to the throne and crowned himself Emperor Yuan of the Liang Dynasty (502-557). Xiao Cha guided the East Wei army to attack Jiangling and killed Emperor Yuan the following year, and he was made a puppet emperor of the West Liang Dynasty (502-557).
After Emperor Yuan was killed, Chen Baxian and Wang Sengbian set up Xiao Fangzhi (son of Emperor Yuan) as Emperor Jing. The Liang army retreated in defeat again and again during the wars with the North Qi Dynasty (550-577), and Wang Sengbian was forced to depose Emperor Jing and to set up Xiao Yuanming (backed up by the North Qi Dynasty) as emperor, under great pressure from the North Qi Dynasty (550-577).
Out of great dissatisfaction with Wang Sengbian's decision, Chen Baxian led his army to attack Wang Sengbian and had him killed, and he deposed Xiao Yuanming and re-established Xiao Fangzhi as Emperor Jing. Chen Baxian usurped the throne and established the Chen Dynasty (557-589) in 557, claiming the title of Emperor Wu of the Chen Dynasty (557-589), thus ending the Liang Dynasty (502-557).
 
Oct 2018
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#10
Chen Dynasty
The Chen Dynasty (557-589) was established by Chen Baxian in 557, who was from Wu (presently Shanghai). Owing to the Wu and Qiao clans being greatly weakened during the Hou Jing Rebellion, a number of independent regimes emerged in South China after the wars. Chen Baxian (Emperor Wu of the Cheng Dynasty) adopted a pacifying policy to these regimes due to his limited military power.
Chen Qian, the nephew of Emperor Wu, succeeded to the throne and became Emperor Wen after the death of Emperor Wu. As the Liang Dynasty (502-557) fell, Wang Lin established a kingdom in Lianghu (presently Hubei and Hunan Provinces) and, allied with the North Qi Dynasty (550-577) and the North Zhou Dynasty (557-581) to attack Jiankang, ended up with being defeated by the Chen army. Emperor Wen made every effort to make his kingdom prosperous during his reign, greatly improving the economic situation in South China.
After Emperor Wen died, the crown prince Chen Bozong (later Emperor Fei) ascended to the throne, and he was deposed by his own uncle, Chen Wangxu, who claimed himself Emperor Xu of the Chen Dynasty (557-589). The North Wei Dynasty (386-557) intended to invade the North Qi Dynasty (550-577) and invited the Chen Dynasty (557-589) to assist with the attack. Emperor Xuan accepted the offer and sent General Wu Mingche to assist the cause in 573, recovering the lost territory in the southern area of the Huai River two years later.
After the fall of the North Qi Dynasty (550-577), the North Wei Dynasty (386-557) crusaded against the Chen Dynasty and defeated it in 577, leaving it in a precarious situation. All of a sudden, Emperor Wu of the North Zhou Dynasty (557-581) died, which stopped the southern advance of the North Zhou Dynasty's (557-581) army. The death of Emperor Wu also resulted in internal strife, and Yang Jian took the opportunity and seized the throne, establishing the Sui Dynasty.
After the death of Emperor Xuan, Chen Baoshu ascended the throne as Emperor Houzhu of the Chen Dynasty (557-589), who was very licentious and wasteful during his reign, leading to chaos and corruption in his kingdom. The Sui troops burned the farmlands of the Chen Dynasty (557-589) during the harvest time, which greatly weakened the strength of the Chen Dynasty (557-589).
Emperor Wen of the Sui Dynasty (581-618) sent his son, Yang Guang (later Emperor Yang), to launch a war against the Chen Dynasty (557-589) in 588. Chen Shubao continued to live a licentious life with his concubines owing to relying on the natural barrier of the Yangtze River, and the Sui army seized Jiankang and captured Chen Shubao, leading to the fall of the Chen Dynasty (557-589).