3 Kingdoms period- Division of China on 3 states, which were rivals, very turbulent era full of wars
Major events: As it was mentioned that name 3 kingdoms were in fact empires as rulers considered themselves as emperors not kings but it was mistranslated to the West and so the name has stayed. It was period of division of China on 3 other states that balanced against each other as each state considered itself as legitimate inheritor of Han throne. Each state focused on its own reforms in economy, society and on keeping borders secure. Each state had its own territory, capital city and they acted as rivals to each other. All 3 of them aimed to reunify whole China under own dynasty and claimed Mandate of Heaven.
On the north there was a state of Cao Wei ruled by Emperor Cao Pi( son of Cao Cao). Cao Wei state included territories of Northern, eastern, northeastern and northwestern parts of China including Yellow Sea coast. It included also some territories of Korea. Its capital was Luoyang. In 226 Cao Pi son of Cao Cao died and he was succeeded by Cao Rui son of Cao Pi. However regency was ruling instead of Cao Rui among which most notable was General Sima Yi who was very influential in Cao Wei State. In 240ies Sima Yi fought against Manchu tribes in north and defeated them. Also he defeated Gogureyo Kingdom( Korean Kingdom) which initiated war against Cao Wei for Korean territories. Sima Yi built his authority in wars and put under his dominance Emperor Cao Rui who became his puppet. So basically General Sima Yi had primary position in Cao Wei state. Legitimacy of Cao rulers was based on claim that they are descendants of Zhuanxu grandson of Yellow Emperor. So basically it was based on divine legitimacy like it was based by most of Chinese imperial rulers. State system of Cao Wei was based on concept of Han dynasty state. Cao Wei had strongest army among all 3 states.
Dong Wu state occupied territories of eastern, south eastern and southern parts of China and also part of todays Vietnam. Its emperor was Sun Qian. After Sun Qians death he was succeeded by Sun Liang and Sun Xiu later. Capital of Dong Wu was city on Yangtze river Jianye todays Nanjing. Unlike in Han dynasty they established hereditary system in state service. State system had very organized bureaucracy and despite efforts to centralize state warlords were disrupting effective governance of central government and emperor. There were often among warlords and between them and Wu state. Civil war and instability were common for Dong Wu. Dong Wu had often wars against Cao Wei and one of most famous was battle of Hefei in 234. Despite not too big loses Dong Wu was unable to expand towards north as they attempted few times. Dong Wu was on constant attacks by Shu Han troops and such often attacks caused population to migrate southern of Yangtze river where they felt more safe. Also in this area Dong Wu allowed non-Chinese tribes to settle and live freely but assimilated them in its culture partially what will be spoken later in part about society during 3 Kingdoms Period.
Shu Han was state that had parts of todays central, southern and southwestern parts of China. Also it included some areas of todays Burma. Its capital was Chengdu same as todays Chengdu in Sichuan province. First emperor was Liu Bei who died in 223 soon after defeat at Xiaoting by Dong Wu troops when he attempted to expand to east. His son Liu Shan came to power and he was only 16 so regency governed and basically premier Zhuge Liang had highest power in state. He initiated several military campaigns against Dong Wu and Cao Wei. It was because Shu Han had less favorable geographic position as they didn’t have access to sea and had limited resources so they wanted to get more important areas. Between 228 and 234 Zhuge Liang organized 5 expeditions against Cao Wei .This led to large battles where on both sides hundreds of thousands of soldiers were involved. However Cao Wei had better strategies and prevented Shu Hans troops to conquer its territories. Jiang Wan came to power as premier in Shu Han which also organized large scale attacks on Wei. They lasted until 262 and in total there were 9 attacks which caused defeat to Shu Han. Basically Shu Hans invasions dug a tomb to themselves because they decreased already limited resources after heavy defeats.
Because of all defeats and internal problems with corruption, clashes between clans and competition with eunuchs Shu Han was soon annexed by Cao Wei. In 263 famous Cao Wei general Deng Ai launched large scale military campaign against Shu Han. He broke through lines of defense and thanks to good strategy conquered Chengdu. This resulted to fall of Shu Han and its former emperor Liu Shan was taken to Luoyang and spared and he got honorary tittle of Duke of Peace. This title actually had no power.
Next to fall was Cao Wei. Situation in Cao Wei was similar to one in Shu Han and also to that one by end of Han dynasty. Corruption and conspiracies between various aristocratic clans were common. Each clan competed for better position and often plotted assassinations against each others figures. When Emperor Cao Mao was killed in 260 Cao Huan came to power. Grandson of Sima Yi Sima Yan was becoming very powerful and started to pressure Emperor Cao Huan to abdicate. Finally he succeeded that in 265. With this step shortlasting Cao dynasty died. In same year Sima Yan declared himself as Emperor and declared beginning of Jin dynasty. Legitimacy of new Jin dynasty was based on Sima Yans claim that his ancestors are members of once famous Jin dynasty which ruled kingdom of Jin during Spring and Autumn and Warring States Period.
Finally only remained new state of Jin and Dong Wu. In the Dong Wu also internal chaos came when Sun Hao came to power in 254. He was very tyrannical emperor unlike his father and grandfather. Sun Hao used to torture and kill all his opponents. Many rebellions against his rule started in northern parts of his land. Because of weak control of northern parts of Dong Wu it was easier for Jin to capture them. Until 280 Sima Yan launched 5 strong campaigns against Dong Wu both from north and southwest. When his troops and fleet seized both banks of Yangtze river fall of Jianye capital of Dong Wu was inevitable and it happened in 280. Sun Hao got honorary tittle and land but had no effective power. Sima Yan declared former Dong Wu state as part of new empire under Jin dynasty. With this 3 kingdoms period ended and period of Jin dynasty started.
Society and Culture: Each Kingdom focused on improving its own governance. All 3 kingdoms were characterized as states with wide bureaucracy and similar system like it existed in Han dynasty. Basically 3 kingdoms inherited governing principles and institutions from former period with emperors on the top and councils as main advisory and enforcing bodies. Territories were like previously divided on commanderies, magistrates and counties.
Because of so many wars and competitions between clans decentralization occurred in all 3 states. Aristocratic families because of instability and wars took care of their own land and focused on defending it rather than on dealing with state affairs.
When it comes to economy there was big centralization in state of Cao Wei. Because of wars many peasants left Cao Wei to more remote area of todays Sichuan province which was part of Shu Han state at that time. So Cao Wei wanted to use small number of peasants in more organized way and created agrarian colonies in order to systematically approach agriculture and assure productivity. It was first such example in history of China of organizing peasants. Because of lack of peasant workforce in Cao Wei soldiers were also engaged in agriculture. They were organized in military agrarian colonies where they could exploit land and harvest it. Aristocrats developed own self-sufficient micro-economies within Cao Wei. It appears that these measures were productive as Cao Wei remained strongest economy and strongest state of those 3 that was able to wage wars and defeat other kingdoms.
In Shu Hans economy it was quite different and decentralized. Unlike in Cao Wei there didn’t exist military agrarian colonies as they had great number of workforce. It was like that because many peasants that were escaping Cao Wei during wars they inhabited todays Sichuan and parts of Yunnan. Also large number of peasants from south inhabited Sichuan. Thanks to that agriculture was spontaneously blooming in Shu Han. Trade of silk and natural materials developed. Cooper coins were used as currency. Production of silk, salt and iron and development of transport were under control of state like in case of Han dynasty.
When it comes to Dong Wu this state also experienced significantly stable economy. In first phases Dong Wu had weaker economy because of lack of workforce and constant wars with southern non-Chinese tribes. But later more peasant and aristocratic refugees came to reside on territories of Dong Wu so they got more workforce there. Land was rich and fertile and crops were easily harvested when people who were able to work on them came. In Dong Wu economic system was mixed as there were private agricultural lands owned by peasants or aristocrats but also state ones on which peasant labor or peasant soldiers worked. State kept monopoly on salt, silk, transport and trade like Shu Han and Han Empire too. Ship production was very developed as Dong Wu had large coastal territories. Dong Wu had rich trade with other countries over the sea routes. It had good trade relations with Gogureyo ( one of Korean Kingdoms), Wa( Japanese state), some Indian states, Funan and Linyi states which are located in modern Vietnam and Cambodia. Also Dong Wu sent expeditions to todays Chinese Taiwan and it was first contact of mainland kingdom with Taiwan island and since that period legitimacy of China over Taiwan is traced.
When it comes about Chinese culture it experienced real boom and expansion during this relatively short period. Chinese culture was even accepted by Yue a southern non-Chinese tribe ancestors of Thai people. Arts, pottery and medicine developed during this time. Buddhist also had expanded its influence in Chinese culture. Taoist sect Xuaxue appeared which focused on reinterpretations of Tao Te Qing and Zhuangtzu.
Despite its shortness period is very significant even large novel about it was written in 14th century known as Three Kingdoms Romance.
Jin Dynasty( 265-420)
Major events: With fall of Dong Wu and stabilization of Jin dynasty 3 Kingdoms period ended. But peace and unity under Jin dynasty lasted very shortly. Jin dynasty period is divided on Western and Eastern Jin. Capital of Western Jin was in Luoyang. Peace was really short and lasted until 290 when Emperor Wu of Jin died. His successors started fighting for the throne and civil war started. Civil war was ongoing until 307. Xiongnu tribes which were living within Chinese territory and served often as slaves in labor. They started a rebellion in 304 in a already exhausted from war China. In 317 because of their often attacks Jin emperor Sima Rui withdrew whole administration with large number of population to south-eastern Jiankang( Nanjing) and declared it as new capital.
So with moving of capital period of Eastern Jin started. Jiankang was very good positioned city on Yangtze river and thanks to that it was hardly conquerable since enemies had to cross river in order to take it. It was very turbulent period too. During this period whole northern parts of China were broken on 16 new states and few were founded by 5 “barbaric” ethnicities whose culture and system was different than Chinese one. Those 5 ethnicities were made by Huns, Di, Qiang, Jie and Xiabei Very turbulent era came and large number of people suffered as well as the economy. During 4th century strongest state was Qian Qin which conquered vast northern and central areas.
Until 383 strongest state on north was Qian Qin. Qian Qin attacked Eastern Jin with 300 000 soldiers while Jin had only 100 000. They fought at Feishui where Qian Qin was severely defeated. After that Qian Qin soon collapsed on more states. Also other strongest states collapsed on 2 or 3 other states so in total there were 16 of them and these 16 states were: Qian Zhao, Hou Zhao, Cheng Han, Qian Yan, Hou Yan, Nan Yan, Bei Yan, Qian Liang, Hou Liang, Nan Liang, Bei Liang, Xi Liang, Qian Qin, Hou Qin, Xi Qin and Xia.
Despite big victory Jin was becoming weaker and exhausted more and more. In 386 was founded state by Tuoba Turkic tribe in northern China which Sinicized significantly accepting Chinas state system and state was known as Northern Wei. Other states appeared too in northern and northeastern China. Power of Jin within own state was weakening and gradually surpassed by Liu Yu a successful military commander of Jin army. Between 406 and 416 he was leading big offensives against northern states such as Northern Wei, Liang, Northern Yan, Southern Yan and Xia. He managed to defeat them all except Xia and returned many Chinese territories. Liu Yu was getting more influence in Jin Empire and usurped Jin throne and declared his own Song dynasty in 420 which became known as Southern Song Dynasty. Therefore Northern and Southern Dynasties period started.
Society and culture of Jin:
System of governance didn’t change much since times of Han and 3 Kingdoms Period. There were some significant reforms related to agriculture, taxes and military. Unlike in Cao Wei during Kingdoms Period Jin emperors released peasants from serving army and allowed them to keep land borrowed from state. . Peasants that refuged from more turbulent north got land for free as they were searching way to secure income and survival. They were freed from army but had to pay taxes imposed on household and couldn’t leave place of residence and their strata Peasants got permission to trade but couldn’t become merchants. Hukou system of registering households was applied to refugees in order for having evidence of population and taxing. At beginning refugees had lower taxes than permanent residents of Jin Empire since they had lower income. But from beginning of 4th century in whole empire taxes were reduced because of poor economic conditions. “The first kind of tax was the tax in kind (diao 調) that consisted in silk and brocade that every person had to deliver to the state, depending on gender and age. But in fact, also the size of the owned land, the size of the farm, the number of the owned trees and the production rate was considered too when levying the nine degrees of tax in kind. The second kind of tax, a grain tax (zu 租) was oriented at the size of the land. Every person, depending on age and gender, was alloted a certain size of land (zhantian 佔田 or 占田). The levied tax was measured out at the size of the taxable land (ketian 課田) that could theoretically not surpass a certain size.” (http://www.chinaknowledge.de/History/Division/jin-econ.html ) Generally there was stagnation in economy because of so many wars and big investments in army.
During this period there was some stagnation in culture too but wasn’t severe. There is a lot of evidence of pots, wares and figures from jade, ceramic, porcelain and bronze. Carvings and paintings of animals, Taoist and Buddhist scenery were found that date from this period. End of Jin period and beginning of Northern and Southern dynasties period influenced northern tribes such as Di and Tuoba to Sinization and broaden Chinese culture.
Religion and philosophy during Jin period moderately developed. Confucianism was stable and incorporated in state ideology and principles. Taoism was spreading among ordinary people and peasants mostly. It is often seen as religion of the people with lower income since it was more suiting them while Confucianism more suited those on top of society because of obvious reasons. More and more Taoist movements were emerging across China mostly in folk communities as a solace for poor life. Strong connection for nature was another reason why peasants were identifying themselves with Taoist teaching. Taoists developed alchemy, alternative medicine and meditation and were becoming popular among people. People were visiting Taoist doctors in case of illness and going to Taoist fortune tellers in case of some question, problem or when searching a blessing.
Taoist alchemist Ge Hong was active in 4th century who created new scripts such as Shangqing( Supreme Clarity) and Linbao( Sacred Threasures). Shangqing scripts were speaking about supreme heaven. Yang Xi was another Taoist at taht time who spoke about immortality and apocalypse too. From some of these concepts idea of apocalypse appeared that was supposed to hit in 384 and only aristocratic circle would survive according to revelation of Yang Xi.
Also Buddhism was blooming during Jin dynasty. By the end of Jin dynasty there were almost 2000 Buddhist temples in China. Buddhist sutras and scriptures were translated by Taoist scholars under Taoist terminology but also with assistance of Indian Buddhist scholars. Buddhism was sometimes seen as danger to Chinese economy and society since it wasn’t contributing to Chinese economic and political system due to its isolation from society and monastic lifestyle. Taoists and others were seeing Buddhism as something similar to their teaching and accepted it positively.
Peasants saw Buddhism as another alternative for hard life and thus like Taoism it started to influence their life and beliefs. Many Buddhist sects emerged such as Pure Land Sect. Often parents in order to assure better life of their children were giving them to Taoist or Buddhist monasteries in order as it was guaranteeing their well being, food, health and survival. However there were aristocratic circles following some Taoist or Buddhist schools too. Taoist and Buddhist spreading was regionalized since in some regions Taoists were more present and in other Buddhists. In next periods core of Buddhist settling in China occurred.