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Chinese History - The Sixteen Barbarian States 五胡十六國 (300~430)

Periods of Chinese History
The Sixteen Barbarian States Wuhu shiliuguo 五胡十六國 (300~430) were one and a half dozen of polities mostly founded by Non-Chinese tribal leaders that ruled over northern China for about 150 years in the early phase of the Southern and Northern Dynasties period 南北朝 (300~600). Contrary to the name, some of the states were founded by Chinese, and the number of sixteen does not include all state foundations during that period of time (like Western Yan 西燕, Dai 代 or Qiuchi 仇池). The Sixteen States were not considered as righteous dynasties by Chinese historians.
The Sixteen States were:

Arranged by name, colours indicating ethnicity (Di 氐 D, Jie 羯 J, Qiang 羌 Q, Xianbei 鮮卑 Xb, Xiongnu 匈奴 Xn, Chinese no colour):
Cheng-Han 成漢 (304-347 D)
Former Zhao 前趙 (304-329 Xn) , Later Zhao 後趙 (319-350 J)
Former Yan 前燕 (337-370 Xb) , Later Yan 後燕 (384-409 Xb) , Northern Yan 北燕 (409-436) , Southern Yan 南燕 (398-410 Xb)
Former Liang 前涼 (314-376) , Later Liang 後涼 (386-403 D) , Northern Liang 北涼 (398-439 Xn) , Southern Liang 南涼 (397-414 Xb) , Western Liang 西涼 (400-421)
Former Qin 前秦 (351-395 D) , Later Qin 後秦 (384-417 Q) , Western Qin 西秦 (385-431 Xb)
Xia 夏 (407-432 Xn)

Arranged by geographical distribution and time:
前趙 Former Zhao 前涼 Former Liang
後趙 Later Zhao [代 Dai]
前燕 Former Yan 前秦 Former Qin
Western Yan]
Later Yan
後秦 Later Qin 後涼 Later Liang [仇池 Qiuchi]
Southern Yan
Northern Yan
Western Qin

Southern Liang
Western Liang
Northern Liang

The Population

The mixed ethnicity of the population in northern China caused different models of living and societies. Some Di communities in the provinces of Qinzhou 秦州 and Yongzhou 雍州 (modern Shaanxi), and the Xiongnu in the province of Bingzhou 並州 (modern Shanxi) still retained tribal characteristics. Slavery was very common among many tribal societies, and slaves were a traditional part of the households of the "barbarians". The turbulent politics and the many migrations contributed to a levelling of the differnt parts of society in northern China, so that at the end of the Sixteen States period, the differences between Chinese and Non-Chinese were smaller than at the beginning of this era. In the mid-5th century the Xiongnu, Di, Jie and the Western Xianbei had merged with the Chinese, and their peoples had disappeared.
Peasants and inhabitants of town were normally listed in household registers (huji 戶籍) that served as the base for taxation. With the increasingly precarious situation after many decades of war a lot of peasants gave up their own land and became subject to large landowners and transformed from free peasants living in their own household (hukou 戶口) into tenant farmers or servants in the household of a mighty landowner belonging to an eminent family (daxing haoqiang 大姓豪強). These landowners took over the responsibility over large tracts of land not only because they owned it but because the weak central governments were not able to built up a regular administration throughout their country. The landowners so also had a political responsibility. Many of them protected themselves with an own army and had fortified their manours. The many people living among their households were called "hidden and dependant households" (yinfu hukou 蔭附戶口). They were not listed in the tax registers (bian hu 編戶). A similar situation was to be found in the households of the Non-Chinese nobles that likewise of lot of servants and slaves that were not tax-liable.

Source: Tang Changru 唐長儒 (1992), "Shiliuguo 十六國", 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. 2, pp. 922-928.

October 30, 2011 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail

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