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Chinese History - Western Yan Dynasty 西燕 (384-394)

Periods of Chinese History
The Western Yan dynasty Xiyan 西燕 (384-394) is not counted among the so-called Sixteen Barbarian Kingdoms 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 nevertheless belongs to this series of states. The Western Yan was founded by Murong Hong 慕容泓 who belonged to the people of the Xianbei 鮮卑. The empire covered areas in the modern provinces of Shanxi and Henan. The capital was Changzi 長子 (modern Changzhi 長治, Shanxi).
When Fu Jian 苻堅 (r. 357-384), ruler of the Former Qin state 前秦 (351-395), destroyed the state of Former Yan 前燕 (337-370), he settled down almost half a million of Xianbei people around his own capital Chang'an 長安 (modern Xi'an 西安, Shaanxi). After his heavy defeat in the battle of Feishui 肥水, Murong Chui 慕容垂, a relative of the house of the Former Yan, rose in rebellion against the Former Qin in Huayin 華陰. In 384 Murong Hong, a younger brother of the last ruler of the Former Yan, Murong Wei 慕容暐 (r. 360-370), called himself General-in-chief (da jiangjun 大將軍), regional governor (mu 牧) of the province of Yongzhou 雍州 (south of modern Shaanxi) and King of Jibei 濟南. As new ruler of the Yan 燕, he led the exodus of the Xianbei back to the east. Yet he was killed by Xianbei nobles and replaced by his younger brother Murong Chong 慕容沖. The latter proclaimed himself Emperor of Yan (Emperor Wei 西燕威帝, r. 385-386) in 385 and conquered Chang'an after the death of Fu Jian. He planned to remain in Chang'an, while most of the Xianbei wanted to leave. He was therefore killed in 386. The title of King was usurped by general Duan Sui 段隨 for a month, before Duan was killed by Murong Yong 慕容永. The throne was given to Murong Yi 慕容顗 (or Ji 覬), a cousin of the dynastic founder Murong Hong. Murong Yi left Chang'an to the east but was soon killed and replaced by Murong Yao 慕容瑤 (or Wang 望), a son of Murong Chong, and then by Murong Zhong 慕容忠, a son of Murong Hong. All of these emperors were victims to interal power struggles among the Murong family and the Xianbei nobility. It was finally Murong Yong who adopted the titles of General-in-chief, Great Khan (da chanyu 大單于) and King of Hedong 河東. Fu Pi 苻丕 (r. 385), ruler of the Former Qin, tried preventing the Xianbei from leaving the metropolitan region, and both rulers met with their armies on the battlefield at Xiangling 襄陵 (modern Linfen 臨汾, Shanxi). Fu Pi was defeated, and Murong Yong proclaimed himself emperor and took residence in Changzi. His proclamation to emperor caused a conflict with Murong Chui (r. 384-395) who had meanwhile founded the Later Yan dynasty 後燕 (384-409). In 393 Murong Chui undertook a military campaign, besieged Changzi and killed Murong Yong, thus ending the Western Yan dynasty.

Rulers of the Western Yan Dynasty 西燕 (384-394)
Capitals: Pingyang 平陽 (modern Linfen 臨汾, Shanxi), Chang'an 長安 (modern Xi'an, Shaanxi), Wenxi 聞喜/Shanxi, Changzi 長子 (modern Changzhi 長治, Shanxi)
Ethnicity: Xianbi 鮮卑, clan or subtribe of Murong 慕容
dynastic title
-----reign periods
personal name
-----Yanxing 燕興 r. 384 Murong Hong 慕容泓
Xiyan Weidi 西燕威帝 r. 384-386
-----Gengshi 更始 385

Usurper: Duan Sui 段隨 386
-----Changping 昌平 386
Murong Chong 慕容沖
-----Jianming 建明 r. 386 Murong Yi 慕容顗 (or Ji 覬)
-----Jianping 建平 r. 386 Murong Yao 慕容瑤 (or Wang 望)
-----Jianwu 建武 r. 386 Murong Zhong 慕容忠
-----Zhongxing 中興 r. 386-394 Murong Yong 慕容永
394 Western Yan conquered by Later Yan 前燕.

Sources: Lu Caiquan 魯才全 (1992), "Xiyan 西燕", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Zhongguo lishi 中國歷史 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), Vol. 3, pp. 1281-1282. ● 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 (Shanghai: Shanghai cishu chubanshe), Vol. 2, p. 3321.

October 30, 2011 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail

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