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Chinese History - Later Yan Dynasty 後燕 (384-409)

The Later Yan Dynasty Houyan 後燕 (384-409) ruled over one of the so-called Sixteen Barbarian States 五胡十六國 (300~430) that dominated northern China during the early Southern and Northern Dynasties period 南北朝 (300~600). It was founded by Murong Chui 慕容垂 who belonged to the people of the Xianbei 鮮卑. The empire included the region of the modern provinces of Hebei and Shandong, as well as parts of Liaoning, Shanxi and Henan. The capital was Zhongshan 中山 (modern Dingxian 定縣, Hebei).
Murong Chui had left the court of the Former Yan dynasty 前燕 (337-370) because of interal struggles among the members of the family Murong. He was given a command by the ruler of the Former Qin empire 前秦 (351-395), Fu Jian 苻堅 (r. 357-384). After the defeat in the battle of Feishui 肥水, Murong Chui returned to Ye 鄴 (near modern Anyang 安陽, Hebei), where the tombs of his forefathers were located. When Zhai Bin 翟斌, leader of a Dingling 丁零 people, raised in rebellion, Fu Pi 苻丕 ordered Fu Feilong 苻飛龍 and Murong Chui to suppress the rebellion. Murong Chui used this chance to kill Fu Feilong and to break with the Former Qin dynasty. In 384 he adopted the title of General-in-chief (da jiangjun 大將軍), area commander-in-chief (da dudu 大都督) and called himself King of Yan 燕. The besieged the city of Ye and expelled Fu Pi to Jinyang 晉陽 (modern Taiyuan 太原, Shanxi), so that he was able to control the area north of the Yellow River. In 386 he adopted the title of emperor (Emperor Wucheng 後燕武成帝, r. 384-395). He wiped out the last rebels of the Dingling as was able to restore the territory over which the Former Yan dynasty 前燕 (337-370) had ruled.
Murong Chui's ambitions led him to wage war against the Northern Wei empire 北魏 (386-534). In 395 the crown prince Murong Bao 慕容寶 fought against the Northern Wei at Canhepo 參合陂 (modern Yanggao 陽高, Shanxi), in 396 Murong Chui himself conquered the city of Pingcheng 平城 (modern Datong 大同, Shanxi). Yet he died in the same year, and Murong Bao (Emperor Huimin 後燕惠閔皇帝, r. 396-397) succeeded him. Tuoba Gui 拓跋珪, ruler of the Northern Wei, used this moment to conquer Jinyang and lay siege to the capital Zhongshan. Murong Bao escaped and fled to Longcheng 龍城 (modern Chaoyang 朝陽, Liaoning). Murong Xiang 慕容詳, Duke of Kaifeng 開封公, and Murong Lin 慕容麟, Prince of Zhao 趙 (both brothers of Murong Bao), proclaimed themselves emperors. Tuoba Gui conquered Zhongshan and divided the empire of the Later Yan in two parts. In 398 Murong Bao was killed by Lan Han 蘭汗. His son Murong Sheng 慕容盛 (Emperor Zhaowu 後燕昭武帝, r. 398-400) mounted the throne. He was killed in 401 and replaced by Murong Xi 慕容熙 (Emperor Zhaowen 後燕昭文帝, r. 401-407), another brother of Murong Bao. Murong Xi was killed in 407 by general Feng Ba 馮跋. The powerful military leader enthroned Murong Yun 莫容雲, an adoptive son of Murong Bao. Yun actually came from Koguryŏ 高句麗 and was formerly called Gao Yun 高雲. Gao Yun himself was killed in 409 by Li Ban 離班, and the territory of the Later Yan was taken over by Feng Ba who had proclaimed himself emperor of the Northern Yan 北燕 (409-436). The Later Yan empire took over the administrative structures of the Former Yan. Besides normal households, there were some military garrisons that were not administered by the provinces and commanderies. The dynasty was supported by the large landowners, Chinese as well as Non-Chinese. Most of them owned their own fortified manors (wubao 塢堡) that were virtually independent of all government control. Under the reign of Murong Bao, the family registers of the large landowners were revised, in order to have a better overview of the state of affairs. Yet this also enabled the powerful families to underline their economical and political importance. Murong Bao abolished the system of the inheritable military households and put them under the administration of the civilian government. There was originally made no difference between the household of Chinese and Non-Chinese. When Murong Bao was crown prince he was given the title of Great Khan (da chanyu 大單于) and took residence in Longcheng. This circumstance made it evident that there was still a difference between the Chinese and the nomad peoples. Murong Sheng established an office for Non-Chinese in Longcheng, the so-called Yantai 燕臺 (perhaps translatable as "Xianbei office"). Murong Xi took over this institution and renamed it to the Office of the Great Khan (da chanyu tai 大單于臺), in which the left and right wing commanders (zuoyoufu 左右輔) resided.

Source: Lu Caiquan 魯才全 (1992). "Houyan 後燕", in: Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Zhongguo lishi 中國歷史, vol. 1, p. 378. Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe.

For the following table, see also titles of rulers.
Note: The rulers of the sideline dynasties are usually not called with their posthumous dynastic titles but with their personal names as they are not accepted as righteous rulers by official historiographies.
Rulers of the Later Yan Dynasty 後燕 (384-409)
Capitals: Pingyang 平陽 (modern Linfen 臨汾, Shanxi), Chang'an 長安 (modern Xi'an 西安, Shaanxi), Wenxi 聞喜 (modern Wenxi, Shanxi), Changzi 長子 (modern Changzhi 長治, Shanxi)
Ethnicity: Xianbi 鮮卑, clan or subtribe of Murong 慕容
dynastic title {temple name}
-----reign periods
personal name
Houyan Wuchengdi 後燕武成帝 (Chengwudi 成武帝) {Shizu 世祖} r. 384-395
-----Yanyuan 燕元 384-385
-----Jianxing 建興 386-395
Murong Chui 慕容垂
Houyan Huimindi 後燕惠閔皇帝 {Liezu 烈祖, Liezong 烈宗} r. 395-397
-----Yongkang 永康 396-397
Murong Bao 慕容寶
The Duke of Kaifeng 開封公 397
-----Jianshi 建始 397
Murong Xiang 慕容詳
The Prince of Zhao 趙王 397
-----Yanping 延平 397
Usurper: Lan Han 蘭汗 398
-----Qinglong 青龍 398
Murong Lin 慕容麟
Houyan Zhaowudi 後燕昭武帝 {Zhongzong 中宗} r. 397-400
-----Jianping 建平 398
-----Changle 長樂 399-400
Murong Sheng 慕容盛
Houyan Zhaowendi 後燕昭文帝 r. 400-407
-----Guangshi 光始 401-406
-----Jianshi 建始 407
Murong Xi 慕容熙
Houyan Huiyidi 後燕惠懿帝 r. 407-409
-----Zhengshi 正始 407-409
Gao Yun 高雲,
adoptive son of Murong Bao
409 Later Yan conquered by Northern Yan 北燕.

Source: Zhongguo lishi da cidian bianzuan weiyuanhui 中國歷史大辭典編纂委員會 (ed. 2000). Zhongguo lishi da cidian 中國歷史大辭典, vol. 2, p. 3320. Shanghai: Shanghai cishu chubanshe.


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September 14, 2011 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail