Jin dynasty (1115–1234)

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The Jin dynasty, officially known as the Great Jin, lasted from 1115 to 1234 as one of the last dynasties in Chinese history to predate the Mongol invasion of China. Its name is sometimes written as Kin or Jinn in English to differentiate it from an earlier Jìn dynasty of China whose name is identical when transcribed without tone marker diacritics in the Hanyu Pinyin system for Standard Chinese.<ref>Şablon:Cite book</ref> It is also sometimes called the "Jurchen dynasty" or the "Jurchen Jin", because its founding Emperor Taizu of Jin (reign 1115–1123) was of Wanyan Jurchen descent.

The Jin emerged from Taizu's rebellion against the Liao dynasty (907–1125), which held sway over northern China until the nascent Jin drove the Liao to the Western Regions, where they became known as the Western Liao. After vanquishing the Liao, the Jin launched an over hundred-year war against the Song dynasty (960–1279), which was based in southern China. Over the course of their rule, the Jurchens of Jin quickly adapted to Chinese customs, and even fortified the Great Wall against the rising Mongols. Domestically, the Jin oversaw a number of cultural and technological advancements, such as the development of gunpowder and the revival of Confucianism.

In 1234 Jin succumbed to Mongol conquest.


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The Jin dynasty was officially known as the "Great Jin" at that time. Furthermore, the Jin emperors referred to their state as Zhongguo (Şablon:Lang) like some other non-Han dynasties.Şablon:Sfn Non-Han rulers expanded the definition of "China" to include non-Han peoples in addition to Han people whenever they ruled China.Şablon:Sfn Jin documents indicate that the usage of "China" by dynasties to refer to themselves began earlier than previously thought.Şablon:Sfn


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The Jin dynasty was created in modern Jilin and Heilongjiang by the Jurchen tribal chieftain Aguda in 1115. According to tradition, Aguda was a descendant of Hanpu. Aguda adopted the term for "gold" as the name of his state, itself a translation of "Anchuhu" River, which meant "golden" in Jurchen.Şablon:Sfn This river known as Alachuke in Chinese, was a tributary of the Songhua River east of Harbin.<ref>Twitchett, Franke, & Fairbank (1994), p. 221</ref> The Jurchens' early rival was the Khitan-led Liao dynasty, which had held sway over modern north and northeast China and Mongolia, for several centuries. In 1121, the Jurchens entered into the Alliance Conducted at Sea with the Han Chinese-led Northern Song dynasty and agreed to jointly invade the Liao dynasty. While the Song armies faltered, the Jurchens succeeded in driving the Liao to Central Asia. In 1125, after the death of Aguda, the Jin dynasty broke its alliance with the Song dynasty and invaded north China. When the Song dynasty reclaimed the southern part of the Liao where Han Chinese lived, they were "fiercely resisted" by the Han Chinese population there who had previously been under Liao rule, while when the Jurchens invaded that area, the Han Chinese did not oppose them at all and handed over the Southern Capital (present-day Beijing, then known as Yanjing) to them.<ref name="TwitchettFranke1994">Şablon:Cite book</ref> The Jurchens were supported by the anti-Song, Beijing-based noble Han clans.<ref name="TillmanWest1995">Şablon:Cite book</ref> The Han Chinese who worked for the Liao were viewed as hostile enemies by the Song dynasty.<ref>Şablon:Cite book</ref> Song Han Chinese also defected to the Jin.<ref name="Gernet1996">Şablon:Cite book</ref> On 9 January 1127, Jin forces ransacked Bianjing (present-day Kaifeng), the capital of the Northern Song dynasty, capturing both Emperor Qinzong and his father, Emperor Huizong, who had abdicated in panic in the face of the Jin invasion. Following the fall of Bianjing, the succeeding Southern Song dynasty continued to fight the Jin dynasty for over a decade, eventually signing the Treaty of Shaoxing in 1141, which called for the cession of all Song territories north of the Huai River to the Jin dynasty and the execution of Song general Yue Fei in return for peace. The peace treaty was formally ratified on 11 October 1142 when a Jin envoy visited the Song court.<ref name="Hymes">Şablon:Cite book</ref>

The migration south

After taking over Northern China, the Jin dynasty became increasingly sinicised. About three million people, half of them Jurchens, migrated south into northern China over two decades, and this minority governed about 30 million people. The Jurchens were given land grants and organised into hereditary military units: 300 households formed a mouke (company) and 7-10 moukes formed a meng-an (battalion).<ref>Şablon:Cite book</ref> Many married Han Chinese, although the ban on Jurchen nobles marrying Han Chinese was not lifted until 1191. After Emperor Taizong died in 1135, the next three Jin emperors were grandsons of Aguda by three different princes. Emperor Xizong (r. 1135–1149) studied the classics and wrote Chinese poetry. He adopted Han Chinese cultural traditions, but the Jurchen nobles had the top positions.

Later in life, Emperor Xizong became an alcoholic and executed many officials for criticising him. He also had Jurchen leaders who opposed him murdered, even those in the Wanyan clan. In 1149 he was murdered by a cabal of relatives and nobles, who made his cousin Wanyan Liang the next Jin emperor. Because of the brutality of both his domestic and foreign policy, Wanyan Liang was posthumously demoted from the position of emperor. Consequently, historians have commonly referred to him by the posthumous name "Prince of Hailing".<ref name="multiref1">Ethics of China 7 BC To 1279 by Sanderson Beck</ref>

Rebellions in the north

Having usurped the throne, Wanyan Liang embarked on the program of legitimising his rule as an emperor of China. In 1153, he moved the empire's main capital from Huining Prefecture (south of present-day Harbin) to the former Liao capital, Yanjing (present-day Beijing).<ref name="multiref1"/><ref name=tao44>Tao (1976), p. 44</ref> Four years later, in 1157, to emphasise the permanence of the move, he razed the nobles' residences in Huining Prefecture.<ref name="multiref1"/><ref name=tao44/> Wanyan Liang also reconstructed the former Song capital, Bianjing (present-day Kaifeng), which had been sacked in 1127, making it the Jin's southern capital.<ref name="multiref1"/>

Wanyan Liang also tried to suppress dissent by killing Jurchen nobles, executing 155 princes.<ref name="multiref1"/> To fulfil his dream of becoming the ruler of all China, Wanyan Liang attacked the Southern Song dynasty in 1161. Meanwhile, two simultaneous rebellions erupted in Shangjing, at the Jurchens' former power base: led by Wanyan Liang's cousin, soon-to-be crowned Wanyan Yong, and the other of Khitan tribesmen. Wanyan Liang had to withdraw Jin troops from southern China to quell the uprisings. The Jin forces were defeated by Song forces in the Battle of Caishi and Battle of Tangdao. With a depleted military force, Wanyan Liang failed to make headway in his attempted invasion of the Southern Song dynasty. Finally he was assassinated by his own generals in December 1161, due to his defeats. His son and heir was also assassinated in the capital.<ref name="multiref1" />

Although crowned in October, Wanyan Yong (Emperor Shizong) was not officially recognised as emperor until the murder of Wanyan Liang's heir.<ref name="multiref1" /> The Khitan uprising was not suppressed until 1164; their horses were confiscated so that the rebels had to take up farming. Other Khitan and Xi cavalry units had been incorporated into the Jin army. Because these internal uprisings had severely weakened the Jin's capacity to confront the Southern Song militarily, the Jin court under Emperor Shizong began negotiating for peace. The Treaty of Longxing (隆興和議) was signed in 1164 and ushered in more than 40 years of peace between the two empires.

In the early 1180s, Emperor Shizong instituted a restructuring of 200 meng'an units to remove tax abuses and help Jurchens. Communal farming was encouraged. The Jin Empire prospered and had a large surplus of grain in reserve. Although learned in Chinese classics, Emperor Shizong was also known as a promoter of Jurchen language and culture; during his reign, a number of Chinese classics were translated into Jurchen, the Imperial Jurchen Academy was founded, and the imperial examinations started to be offered in the Jurchen language.<ref name=tao69>Tao (1976), Chapter 6. "The Jurchen Movement for Revival", Pages 69-83.</ref> Emperor Shizong's reign (1161–1189) was remembered by the posterity as the time of comparative peace and prosperity, and the emperor himself was compared to the mythological rulers Yao and Shun.<ref name="tao69" />

Emperor Shizong's grandson, Emperor Zhangzong (r. 1189–1208), venerated Jurchen values, but he also immersed himself in Han Chinese culture and married an ethnic Han Chinese woman. The Taihe Code of law was promulgated in 1201 and was based mostly on the Tang Code. In 1207, the Southern Song dynasty attempted an invasion, but the Jin forces effectively repulsed them. In the peace agreement, the Song dynasty had to pay higher annual indemnities and behead Han Tuozhou, the leader of the hawkish faction in the Song imperial court.<ref>Chinese History - Song dynasty 宋 event history (www.chinaknowledge.de)</ref>

Fall of Jin

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Starting from the early 13th century, the Jin dynasty began to feel the pressure of Mongols from the north. Genghis Khan first led the Mongols into Western Xia territory in 1205 and ravaged it four years later. In 1211 about 50,000 Mongols horsemen invaded the Jin Empire and began absorbing Khitan and Jurchen rebels. The Jin army had a half million menŞablon:Citation needed with 150,000 cavalry but abandoned the "western capital" Datong (see also the Battle of Yehuling). The next year the Mongols went north and looted the Jin "eastern capital", and in 1213 they besieged the "central capital", Zhongdu (present-day Beijing). In 1214 the Jin made a humiliating treaty but retained the capital. That summer, Emperor Xuanzong abandoned the central capital and moved the government to the "southern capital" Kaifeng, making it the official seat of the Jin dynasty's power. In 1216, a hawkish faction in the Jin imperial court persuaded Emperor Xuanzong to attack the Song dynasty, but in 1219 they were defeated at the same place by the Yangtze River where Wanyan Liang had been defeated in 1161. The Jin dynasty now faced a two front war that they could not afford. Furthermore, Emperor Aizong won a succession struggle against his brother and then quickly ended the war and went back to the capital. He made peace with the Tanguts of Western Xia, who had been allied with the Mongols.

Many Han Chinese and Khitans defected to the Mongols to fight against the Jin dynasty. Two Han Chinese leaders, Shi Tianze and Liu Heima (Şablon:Lang),<ref>Şablon:Cite book</ref> and the Khitan Xiao Zhala (蕭札剌) defected and commanded the three tumens in the Mongol army.<ref>Şablon:Cite book</ref> Liu Heima and Shi Tianze served Genghis Khan's successor, Ögedei Khan.<ref>Şablon:Cite book</ref> Liu Heima and Shi Tianxiang led armies against Western Xia for the Mongols.<ref>Şablon:Cite book</ref> There were four Han tumens and three Khitan tumens, with each tumen consisting of 10,000 troops. The three Khitan generals Shimo Beidi'er (石抹孛迭兒), Tabuyir (塔不已兒), and Xiao Zhongxi (Şablon:Lang; Xiao Zhala's son) commanded the three Khitan tumens and the four Han generals Zhang Rou (Şablon:Lang), Yan Shi (Şablon:Lang), Shi Tianze and Liu Heima commanded the four Han tumens under Ögedei Khan.<ref>http://d.wanfangdata.com.cn/periodical/xbsdxb-shkxb200106008</ref><ref>http://www.nssd.org/articles/article_detail.aspx?id=5638208</ref><ref>https://zh.wikisource.org/zh-hant/新元史/卷146</ref><ref>http://www.klxsw.com/files/article/html/87/87953/23237374.html</ref>Şablon:Better source

Shi Tianze was a Han Chinese who lived under Jin rule. Inter-ethnic marriage between Han Chinese and Jurchens became common at this time. His father was Shi Bingzhi (史秉直). Shi Bingzhi married a Jurchen woman (surname Nahe) and a Han Chinese woman (surname Zhang); it is unknown which of them was Shi Tianze's mother.<ref name="ed. de Rachewiltz 1993">Şablon:Cite book</ref> Shi Tianze was married to two Jurchen women, a Han Chinese woman, and a Korean woman, and his son Shi Gang was born to one of his Jurchen wives.<ref name="Cosmopolitanism and the Middle Ages">Şablon:Cite book</ref> His Jurchen wives' surnames were Monian and Nahe, his Korean wife's surname was Li, and his Han Chinese wife's surname was Shi.<ref name="ed. de Rachewiltz 1993" /> Shi Tianze defected to the Mongol forces upon their invasion of the Jin dynasty. His son, Shi Gang, married a Keraite woman; the Keraites were Mongolified Turkic people and considered as part of the "Mongol nation".<ref name="Cosmopolitanism and the Middle Ages" /><ref>Şablon:Cite book</ref> Shi Tianze, Zhang Rou, Yan Shi and other Han Chinese who served in the Jin dynasty and defected to the Mongols helped build the structure for the administration of the new Mongol state.<ref>Şablon:Cite journal</ref>

The Mongols created a "Han Army" (Şablon:Lang) out of defected Jin troops, and another army out of defected Song troops called the "Newly Submitted Army" (Şablon:Lang).<ref>Şablon:Cite book</ref>

Genghis Khan died in 1227 while his armies were attacking Western Xia. His successor, Ögedei Khan, invaded the Jin dynasty again in 1232 with assistance from the Southern Song dynasty. The Jurchens tried to resist; but when the Mongols besieged Kaifeng in 1233, Emperor Aizong fled south to the city of Caizhou. A Song–Mongol allied army looted the capital, and the next year Emperor Aizong committed suicide to avoid being captured when the Mongols besieged Caizhou, ending the Jin dynasty in 1234.<ref name="multiref1"/> The territory of the Jin dynasty was to be divided between the Mongols and the Song dynasty. However, due to lingering territorial disputes, the Song dynasty and the Mongols eventually went to war with one another over these territories.

In Empire of The Steppes, René Grousset reports that the Mongols were always amazed at the valour of the Jurchen warriors, who held out until seven years after the death of Genghis Khan.


Contemporary Chinese writers ascribed Jurchen success in overwhelming the Liao and Northern Song dynasties mainly to their cavalry. Already during Aguda's rebellion against the Liao dynasty, all Jurchen fighters were mounted. It was said that the Jurchen cavalry tactics were a carryover from their hunting skills.<ref name=tao21>Tao (1976), Chapter 2. "The Rise of the Chin dynasty", Pages 21-24.</ref> Jurchen horsemen were provided with heavy armor; on occasions, they would use a team of horses attached to each other with chains (Guaizi Ma).<ref name=tao21/>

The Chengling Pagoda of Zhengding, Hebei Province, built between 1161 and 1189.

As the Liao dynasty fell apart and the Song dynasty retreated beyond the Yangtze, the army of the new Jin dynasty absorbed many soldiers who formerly fought for the Liao or Song dynasties.<ref name=tao21/> The new Jin empire adopted many of the Song military's weapons, including various machines for siege warfare and artillery. In fact, the Jin military's use of cannons, grenades, and even rockets to defend besieged Kaifeng against the Mongols in 1233 is considered the first ever battle in human history in which gunpowder was used effectively, even though it failed to prevent the eventual Jin defeat.<ref name="tao21" />

On the other hand, the Jin military was not particularly good at naval warfare. Both in 1129–30 and in 1161 Jin forces were defeated by the Southern Song navies when trying to cross the Yangzi River into the core Southern Song territory (see Battle of Tangdao and Battle of Caishi), even though for the latter campaign the Jin had equipped a large navy of their own, using Han Chinese shipbuilders and even Han Chinese captains who had defected from the Southern Song.<ref name="tao21" />

In 1130, the Jin army reached Hangzhou and Ningbo in southern China. But heavy Chinese resistance and the geography of the area halted the Jin advance, and they were forced to retreat and withdraw, and they had not been able to escape the Song navy when trying to return until they were directed by a Han Chinese defector who helped them escape in Zhenjiang. Southern China was then cleared of the Jurchen forces.<ref>Şablon:Cite book</ref><ref>Şablon:Cite book</ref>

The Jin Great Wall

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In order to prevent incursion from the Mongols, a large construction program was launched. The records show that two important sections of the Great Wall were completed by the Jurchens.

The Great Wall as constructed by the Jurchens differed from the previous dynasties. Known as the Border Fortress or the Boundary Ditch of the Jin, it was formed by digging ditches within which lengths of wall were built. In some places subsidiary walls and ditches were added for extra strength. The construction was started in about 1123 and completed by about 1198. The two sections attributable to the Jin dynasty are known as the Old Mingchang Walls and New Great Walls, together stretching more than 2,000 kilometres in length.<ref>[1]</ref>


The government of the Jin dynasty merged Jurchen customs with institutions adopted from the Liao and Song dynasties.Şablon:Sfn The pre-dynastic Jurchen government was based on the quasi-egalitarian tribal council.Şablon:Sfn Jurchen society at the time did not have a strong political hierarchy. The Shuo Fu (說郛) records that the Jurchen tribes were not ruled by central authority and locally elected their chieftains.Şablon:Sfn Tribal customs were retained after Aguda united the Jurchen tribes and formed the Jin dynasty, coexisting alongside more centralised institutions.Şablon:Sfn The Jin dynasty had five capitals, a practice they adopted from the Balhae and the Liao.Şablon:Sfn The Jin had to overcome the difficulties of controlling a multi-cultural empire composed of territories once ruled by the Liao and Northern Song. The solution of the early Jin government was to establish separate government structures for different ethnic groups.Şablon:Sfn


Because the Jin had few contacts with its southern neighbor the Song, different cultural developments took place in both states. Within Confucianism, the "Learning of the Way" that developed and became orthodox in Song did not take root in Jin. Jin scholars put more emphasis on the work of northern Song scholar and poet Su Shi (1037–1101) than on Zhu Xi's (1130–1200) scholarship, which constituted the foundation of the Learning of the Way.Şablon:Sfn

A significant branch of Taoism called the Quanzhen School was founded under the Jin by Wang Zhe (1113–1170), a Han Chinese man who founded formal congregations in 1167 and 1168. Wang took the nickname of Wang Chongyang (Wang "Double Yang") and the disciples he took were retrospectively known as the "seven patriarchs of Quanzhen". The flourishing of ci poetry that characterized Jin literature was tightly linked to Quanzhen, as two thirds of the ci poetry written in Jin times was composed by Quanzhen Taoists.

The Jin state sponsored an edition of the Taoist Canon that is known as the Precious Canon of the Mysterious Metropolis of the Great Jin (Da Jin Xuandu baozang 大金玄都寶藏). Based on a smaller version of the Canon printed by Emperor Huizong (r. 1100–1125) of the Song dynasty, it was completed in 1192 under the direction and support of Emperor Zhangzong (r. 1190–1208).Şablon:Sfn In 1188, Zhangzong's grandfather and predecessor Shizong (r. 1161–1189) had ordered the woodblocks for the Song Canon transferred from Kaifeng (the former Northern Song capital that had now become the Jin "Southern Capital") to the Central Capital's "Abbey of Celestial Perpetuity" or Tianchang guan 天長觀, on the site of what is now the White Cloud Temple in Beijing.Şablon:Sfn Other Daoist writings were also moved there from another abbey in the Central Capital.Şablon:Sfn Zhangzong instructed the abbey's superintendent Sun Mingdao 孫明道 and two civil officials to prepare a complete Canon for printing.Şablon:Sfn After sending people on a "nationwide search for scriptures" (which yielded 1,074 fascicles of text that was not included in the Huizong edition of the Canon) and securing donations for printing, in 1192 Sun Mingdao proceeded to cut the new woodblocks.Şablon:Sfn The final print consisted of 6,455 fascicles.Şablon:Sfn Though the Jin emperors occasionally offered copies of the Canon as gifts, not a single fragment of it has survived.Şablon:Sfn

A Buddhist Canon or "Tripitaka" was also produced in Shanxi, the same place where an enhanced version of the Jin-sponsored Taoist Canon would be reprinted in 1244.Şablon:Sfnm The project was initiated in 1139 by a Buddhist nun named Cui Fazhen, who swore (and allegedly "broke her arm to seal the oath") that she would raise the necessary funds to make a new official edition of the Canon printed by the Northern Song.Şablon:Sfn Completed in 1173, the Jin Tripitaka counted about 7,000 fascicles, "a major achievement in the history of Buddhist private printing."Şablon:Sfn It was further expanded during the Yuan.Şablon:Sfn

Buddhism thrived during the Jin, both in its relation with the imperial court and in society in general.Şablon:Sfn Many sutras were also carved on stone tablets.Şablon:Sfn The donors who funded such inscriptions included members of the Jin imperial family, high officials, common people, and Buddhist priests.Şablon:Sfn Some sutras have only survived from these carvings, which are thus highly valuable to the study of Chinese Buddhism.Şablon:Sfn At the same time, the Jin court sold monk certificates for revenue. This practice was initiated in 1162 by Shizong to fund his wars, and stopped three years later when war was over.Şablon:Sfn His successor Zhanzong used the same method to raise military funds in 1197 and one year later to raise money to fight famine in the Western Capital.Şablon:Sfn The same practice was used again in 1207 (to fight the Song and more famine) as well as under the reigns of emperors Weishao (r. 1209–1213) and Xuanzong (r. 1213–1224) to fight the Mongols.Şablon:Sfn

List of emperors

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Sovereigns of the Jin dynasty 1115–1234
Temple name
Posthumous name
Birth name
Years of
Era name(s)
and Years
Convention: "Jin" + temple name or posthumous name
(1) Āgǔdǎ
Wányán Min
1115–1123 Shōuguó (收國, 1115–1116) 
Tiānfǔ (天輔, 1117–1123)
(1) Wúqǐmǎi
Wányán Shèng
1123–1135 Tiānhuì (天會, 1123–1135)
(1) Hélá
Wányán Dǎn
1135–1149 Tiānhuì (天會, 1135–1138) 
Tiānjuàn (天眷, 1138–1141) 
Huángtǒng (皇統, 1141–1149)
(2) Prince Yáng of Hǎilíng
Wányán Liàng
1149–1161 Tiāndé (天德, 1149–1153) 
Zhènyuán (貞元, 1153–1156) 
Zhènglóng (正隆, 1156–1161)
(1) Wūlù
Wányán Yōng
1161–1189 Dàdìng (大定, 1161–1189)
(1) Mádágě
Wányán Jǐng
1189–1208 Míngchāng (明昌, 1190–1196) 
Chéng'ān (承安, 1196–1200) 
Tàihé (泰和, 1200–1208)
(2) Prince Shào of Wèi
Wányán Yǒngjì
1208–1213 Dà'ān
(1) Wúdúbǔ
Wányán Xún
1213–1224 Zhēnyòu
(1) Níngjiǎsù
Wányán Shǒuxù
1224–1234 Zhèngdà
Emperor Mò
Wányán Chénglín
1234 (2)
  • (1) Too long. Normally not used when referring to this sovereign.
  • (2) Did not exist

Emperors family tree

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See also






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