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What is Jin Dynasty?

By Licia Morrow
Updated May 23, 2024
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Two Jin Dynasties have existed during the expansive history of China. The first Jin Dynasty lasted from 265 AD to 420 CE and was considered part of the Six Dynasties. The second Jin Dynasty, which can also be referred to as the Jurchen Dynasty, was in place from 1115 AD to 1234 CE, and exerted power during a 119-year period of the Song Dynasty.

During the first Jin period, progress was made in astronomy, health care, and the inclusion of different ethnic groups. Religion also progressed, as Buddhism became a much more common practiced in the south and north. This Jin Dynasty was separated into the Western Jin from 265 to 316, and the Eastern Jin, which lasted from 317 to 420. Sima Yan, or Emperor Wu, began the Western Jin and established its capital in the city of Luoyang. Sima Rui founded the Eastern Jin and created its centralized power in the city of Jiankang, or present day Nanjing.

The Jin Dynasty was successful in unifying the nation of China; however, nomads began attacking and after the War of Eight Princes, the Western Jin Dynasty was weakened. Local aristocrats were instrumental in setting up the Eastern Jin and supporting its ruler, Emperor Yuan. Although the Eastern Jin succeeded in many military battles, it too succumbed to invading forces and relinquished power to rebels in 420.

The second Jin Dynasty in China lasted from 1115 to 1234, and is also referred to as the Jurchen Dynasty. This dynasty was established by relatives of the Manchus, the Wanyan Clan of the Jurchens, or Nuzhens. In 1125, the Jurchen military succeeded in defeating the Liao Dynasty and then turned their attention to the rulers of the Northern Song Dynasty and its capital of Kaifeng. Once the Northern Song was defeated, the new Southern Song Dynasty was lorded over by the Jurchen Clan and fighting continued throughout the early part of the Southern Song period.

The Jurchens had been farmers and hunters, but after adopting a feudal system in this period, their social economy blossomed. Improvements in farming, trade, literature, and craftsmanship were made during this period, with assistance from the Hans.

Having made serious enemies of the Mongolians and suffering from political corruption, the Jin period eventually came to an end. In 1234 the Jurchen Dynasty was destroyed by the collaboration of the Southern Song and Yuan Dynasty militaries. The Southern Song Dynasty went on to enjoy power until 1279 and the Yuan Dynasty was established in Mongolia.

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Discussion Comments
By indigomoth — On Mar 15, 2012

@Iluviaporos - I remember reading a book which covered some of the wars China had gone through in the past. One of the characters was philosophical about encroaching armies and said that whether they took the country or not, they too would be considered Chinese by the time another generation had passed.

I'm not sure which dynasty that timeline followed, but they were all torn by war, as far as I can see.

It's a wonder they managed to make so many beautiful works of art and invent so many engineering marvels when they were always at war with someone.

If you look up the artifacts of the second Jin Dynasty (sometimes called Jinn to differentiate it from the first) you will see some beautiful statues and jade work that's been found in temples and grave sites all over China.

By lluviaporos — On Mar 14, 2012

The history of China is so fascinating. One of the things that surprised me when I was researching the Jin Dynasty was that during their original rule, China looked nothing like what it does now, on a map at least.

It was much smaller, although the lands had actually increased during the rule of the Jin Dynasty as they united what is now considered Southern China with the Sixteen Kingdoms, which was an area to the north.

If you look up a Jin Dynasty map you can see that the borders are quite different to modern China.

I guess it's quite common for countries to shift their borders around, but it's easy to take for granted that certain countries have been around forever.

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