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China, 16 Kingdoms of

Mentioned in some texts as the Sixteen States, the 16 Kingdoms of China began in 304 AD and lasted in 439 AD where it is listed on the Bible Timeline with World History. This was a period in history that involved the establishment of several sovereign states in northern China; although they were short-lived. The people who set up these states were ethnic minorities and they took part in the overthrowing of the Jin Dynasty in the West in about 400 AD.

Historical Background

In 265, northern China was inhabited by non-Han Chinese. This started during the late Han to the earlier parts of the Jin dynasty. Xianbei and Xiongnu were only a few of the migrants who settled in the northern areas of China. They were originally pastoralist nomads that had once been situated in the northern steppes. Other migrants who remained in northern China included the Qiang and Di. They were herders and farmers who once lived in the western regions. Since they were migrants, they suffered from discrimination among the locals. Yet, some of them assumed official positions in China’s military and the court system. A huge number of these migrants, however, became farm laborers and lived with Han Chinese.

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China,_16_Kingdoms_of
“They were herders and farmers who once lived in the western regions. Since they were migrants, they suffered from discrimination among the locals. Yet, some of them assumed official positions in China’s military and the court system. A huge number of these migrants, however, became farm laborers and lived with Han Chinese.”

During Emperor Hui’s reign, the imperial authority of China underwent problems. It was the period of the War of the Eight Princes, and this resulted to the division of northern China. Several people died while others were forced to flee their homes. There were also numerous rebellions that occurred due to heavy taxation. As for Sichuan, a new kingdom was formed under the leadership of Li Xiong. This Di chieftain established the Cheng Han Kingdom after a victorious rebellion in 304. It was also the start of the formation of several other independent kingdoms or states in the northern part of China. This signaled the decline in the power and supremacy of the Jin authority.

Insights on the 16 Kingdoms

Cui Hong, a Chinese historian during the 6th century, first used the term 16 kingdoms in his texts. The kingdoms included the 5 Liangs, 4 Yans, 3 Qins, 2 Zhaos, Xia and Cheng Han. However, he no longer counted other kingdoms in this list, although there were several others that were formed such as the Western Yan, Zhai Wei, and Ran Wei. Northern Wei and Dai were not included, as well, and one reason for such was the fact that the Northern Wei soon became northern China’s ruling dynasty.

Other historians considered this period in China’s history as the 16 Kingdoms of the 5 Barbarians as ethnic minorities formed these kingdoms including the Dingling, Di, Qiang, Jie, Xianbei, and Xiongnu. These groups only took dynastic names as they founded the kingdoms. Some states that were established by Han Chinese had relations with these ethnic minorities.

These kingdoms did not last long because of political instability and intense competition among the different states. Historians regarded the 16 Kingdoms as one of China’s most difficult periods, and the fall of Western Jin Dynasty also had some resemblance with the decline in Western Rome‘s power because both of these were caused by barbaric tribe invasions.

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