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Han Zhao


The Han Zhao (sim. ch 汉赵, trad. ch 漢趙, pinyin han4 zhao4) (304-329) was a state of the Sixteen Kingdoms during the Chinese Jin Dynasty (265-420). It represented two states, the Han state (ch. 漢) proclaimed in 304 by Liu Yuan and the Former Zhao state (ch. 前趙) in 318 by Liu Yao. Since they were both ruled by the partially sinicized Xiongnu or Hunnic Liu family, historians combined them into a single Han Zhao state. Some western texts referred to the Han state as the Northern Han, a nomenclature in diminishing use as the term now referring to the Northern Han in the Period of Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms.

Although chronologically the Han Zhao was not the first of the kingdoms, its armies sacked the Jin dynastic capitals of Luoyang in 311 and Chang'an in 316. Emperor Huai and Emperor Min of the Jin were captured, humiliated and executed. In 318, Liu Can and the ruling family resided at Pingyang were toppled and executed by the coup d'etat of Jin Zhun who was in turn eliminated by Shi Le and Liu Yao. The Former Zhao state was proclaimed and lasted until 329 when Shi Le defeated Liu Yao at the river Luo. Liu Yao was captured and executed; his sons succumbed to the follow-up military advancement.

Remnants of the Jin court fled to Jiankang, located eastward of Luoyang and Chang'an, and founded the so-called Eastern Jin Dynasty, under the Prince of Longya, who later became Emperor Yuan. They had the support of the prominent local Zhu, Gan, Lu, Gu and Zhou families.

Table of contents
1 Conditions of Huns in Northern China and their uprising
2 Rulers of the Han Zhao

Conditions of Huns in Northern China and their uprising

By the 280s, a huge number (approximately 400,000) of Hunnic herdsmen resided in the Ordos and the Bing province, a political division including modern-day areas of the whole Shanxi province, southwestern part of Inner Mongolia and eastern part of Shaanxi province, after Cao Cao moved them there and split them into "five departments" (wu bu, ch. 五部). These Xiongnu seemed to substantially change from the nomadic lifestyles of the steppes to stockbreeding and to some extent, agriculture.

Sinicization was evident, especially among the elite; Liu Yuan, the hereditary chieftain of the "Left Department" (zuo bu. ch. 左部) was educated at Luoyang, capital of the Jin Dynasty, and proficient in Chinese literature, history, military strategies and tactics - expertise of a perfect person in the classical sense. Speculations had recounted that Liu Yuan was once considered the commander of the Jin forces in the conquest of the Kingdom of Wu; consideration was later dropped due to his Hunnic ethnicity.

Nonetheless, among the Hunnic elite and herdsmen, including Liu Yuan himself, a keen sense of separate identity from the Chinese was retained. Most herdsmen still kept their horseback raiding and combat skills. Discontentment against the Jin dynastic rule and of their subordinate position prompted them to seek an independent or self-governing Xiongnu entity. As one of the elite adequately put it, "since the fall of Han [Dynasty], [Kingdom of] Wei and Jin [Dynasty] have risen one after the other. Although our [Xiongnu] king (Shanyu) had been given a nominal hereditary title, he no longer has a single foothold of sovereign territory."

Developments in the War of the Eight Princes (also known as the Rebellion of the Eight Kings) finally favored the Huns. Liu Yuan took advantage of a commission from the desperate Prince of Chengdu (Sima Ying), who was just being driven out of his base at Ye (near modern-day Linzhang County ch. 临漳县, Hebei province) to gather 50,000 Hunnic warriors. Liu Yuan then proceeded to proclaim himself the "King of Han" - a deliberate adoption of the long fallen Han Dynasty based on the earlier intermarriages of Xiongnu shanyu and Han princesses to render the Jin and Wei usurpers. Liu fully wished that such legitimist stance would earn him substantial support from the Chinese elite. His motives also explained the extent of his adoption of the ideology and political practices from the same elite.

Nevertheless such proclamation was to remain titular - his war effort would eventually outdo his legitimist plan. His Han state attracted the support of some chieftains of other non-Chinese Xianbei and Di and certain bandit forces including those of an ex-slave Shi Le of the Jie ethnicity. However the neighboring Tuoba tribe, the powerful Xianbei nomads in modern-day Inner Mongolia and northern parts of Shanxi province, intruded into the Hunnic residence of the Han State under their chieftain Tuoba Yilu (ch. 拓拔猗盧 py. tou4 ba2 yi1 lu2). A powerful Hunnic state would dash Tuoba's hope of migrating into the region.

On one hand they would hence assist the Jin governor of the Bing province to launch counteroffensive against the Han state. On the other hand Hunnic cavalry, successful in plundering the countryside, failed to capture the fortified Jinyang (modern-day Taiyuan city, the provincial capital of the Shanxi province), the provincial capital of the Bing province even though the former governor Sima Teng had fled to the North China Plain and left a mess. Liu Kun, the new governor, reorganized the defense and exploited the feud between the Han and the Tuoba to his advantage. Allegiance between the Jin court and the Tuoba was sealed - five prefectures were rewarded in 310 to Tuoba Yilu, who was also made the Prince of Dai. The areas around Jinyang would remain in Jin hands until the death of Tuoba Yilu in 316 when Jinyang was captured after a disastrous counteroffensive. Liu Kun fled but was later murdered by a Xianbei chieftain Duan Pidi.

By 309, The Hunnic armies defeated the Jin armies on the field and pushed all the way up to the gates of Luoyang.

Rulers of the Han Zhao

Temple names Posthumous names Family names and given name Duration of reigns Era names and their according range of years
Chinese convention: use family and given names
Han 304-318
Gao Zu (高祖 gao1 zu3) Guangwen, ch 光文, pinyin guang1 wen2 Liu Yuan, ch 劉淵, pinyin liú yuan1 304-310 Jianxing (建興 jian4 xing1) 304-308
   Yongfeng (永鳳 yong3 feng4) 308-309
Herui (河瑞 he2 rui4) 309-310
Did not exist Prince of Liang, ch. 梁王, py. liang2 wang2 Liu He, ch. 劉和 py. liú he2 7 days in 310 Did not exist
Lie Zong (烈宗 lie4 zong1) Zhaowu, ch. 昭武, py. zhao1 wu3 Liu Cong, ch. 劉聰 py. liú cong1 310-318 Guangxing (光興 guang1 xing1) 310-311
   Jiaping (嘉平 jia1 ping2)   311-315
Jianyuan (建元 jian4 yuan2) 315-316
Linjia (麟嘉 lin2 jia1) 316-318
Did not exist Yin, ch. 隱 py. yin3 Liu Can, ch. 劉粲 py. liú can4 a month and days in 318 Hanchang (漢昌 han4 chang1) 318
Former (Qian) Zhao 318-329
Did not exist Hou Zhu (後主 hou4 xhu3) Liu Yao ch. Liu Yao 劉曜 py. liú yao4 318-329 Guangchu (光初 guang1 chu1) 318-329

See also